A Tribute to Manny Popoca from PopCultHQ’s Writers (Past & Present)

As many of you are aware by now, last Sunday, June 26th, the founder of PopCultHQ, Manny Popoca, passed away. After discussing exactly what to do with PopCultHQ, we have decided to move forward with this media site that Manny created. His dream. And what will be his legacy.

We at PopCultHQ wanted to share our words, feelings, and memories of the man who took us in. Who believed in us and was a champion for his team. He led by example and we hope to do his hard work justice by continuing on the way he would have wanted to see. PopCultHQ has compiled words from all of its writers, past and present, in remembering Manny Popoca.

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PopCultHQ’s living logo Reptile drawing a bead on his creator Manny Popoca at Wizard World

a3Amanda Gomez:

“I was writing for another site (which I won’t mention) when Kimmy, a fellow writer, told me that I should contact Manny who was starting his own pop culture blog. So I did. And right away, I noticed a huge difference between the two writing gigs. Manny was professional. And above all else, passionate. I dropped that first writing site and joined Manny’s team. Never have I encountered someone so driven. I love pop culture but Manny lived and breathed it. I am glad to have been just a small part in his large dream. You were taken too soon, boss. I hope we make you proud.”

 


a7Andrew Smith:

“Manny was a people person who could strike a conversation with anyone about anything. In one of those conversations, he gave me a shot at helping him bring his vision to life. He knew how to inspire and share in other’s excitement in a way no one else I’ve met could. Thank you for everything, Manny. May you inspire others in the next life much like you did in this one.”

 


a8April Widrick:

“My husband and I first met Manny in 2014 at C2E2. We were just coming in from photographing Groot (Guardians of the Galaxy) playing in the fountain and Manny high-fived Groot, sending a shower of water everywhere. A few days later, Manny tracked my husband down on Facebook and asked if he could use our C2E2 photos for Moviepilot, to which of course we said yes.

That November, Manny had posted that he was looking for geek writers and I contacted him. We hit it off well and before I knew it I was writing article for him on a website. By January, we didn’t like where the site was going and we started talking about moving away from them. With the help of Kimmy and myself, a name was decided and together we got PopCultHQ started. We were just the writers, Manny was the driving force. He was the energy behind PopCultHQ that made it what it is today. It was his perseverance and his gun-ho attitude that pushed the rest of us to do more and be more for the site.

z2But I do feel good knowing I’m doing it MY way and no one is telling me to do what I do, it’s all me. I know I’ll get my dues and I’m earning the respect from a lot of people in the right places,  not [about] the money. As long as I do it with honor and integrity, everything will keep falling into place as it has been going.“

However it wasn’t things falling into place, it was Manny pushing stuff around until they slid into place. If he wanted something, he went for it. He approached the conventions the same way. It always amazed me how much he managed to do in one day at the convention. There is no way I could ever manage to keep up with Manny at conventions. You’d see him across the hall approaching you and the next thing you knew he was on the other side of the hall, halfway through an interview.

C2E2 2015, I met Manny downstairs just as the convention was opening to get some comic books from him and at that point he only had vague plans and no interviews lined up. I went upstairs to finish getting into my cosplay. I had barely started putting my makeup on when Manny text me with his interview lineup…he had two interviews lined up before noon and three more in the afternoon, and despite all those interviews, he still found time to shop for comics.

Manny was more than just the owner of PopCultHQ, he was our friend and inspiration. He was the cattle prod when we needed a kick in the butt and an ear when we needed to talk. Above everything, he was our friend and he will be missed.”


a5Christian Kern:

“Manny hounded me for months and I had completely brushed him off. When I finally caved and agreed to join the start of Pop Culture [PopCultHQ], Manny surprised me. His drive and his motivation was something to behold. He was fast becoming a voice in a large industry. If only but a whisper but in time with his determination he could have achieved so much more. His reviews and editorials will be greatly missed for sure.”

 


a6Jason Bennett:

“Next Tuesday (July 6) will be exactly 2 years since I first spoke with Manny. We were both a part of a comic book buying/selling page on Facebook (well, many actually). In looking back over our entire history in Facebook messaging, we instantly hit it off and were buying and selling from another from the get-go. Mostly smaller items, but Manny knew my obsession of comic books featuring covers with artwork by Alex Ross. Whenever he came across an Alex Ross item (poster, artwork portfolio, autographed merchandise), he immediately thought of me. He was honest, fair, and so easily likable. But what stood out for me was the fact that he wasn’t trying to sell me all of this Alex Ross merchandise to just make some money… he knew I was a collector and fan of Ross’ and it meant a lot for him to help me out and see me happy with each thing he came across. It wasn’t about him. For him, it was about me. That showed me something about his character.

In the beginning of 2015, I went through some rough times and was in a transitional period in my life. Manny was there for me. He listened, he shared, we bonded. We connected even deeper due to our backgrounds, our trials, our heartache, and our perseverance. I admired him for that. In February of 2015, I saw Manny posting on Facebook about looking for writers, putting a site together, and contemplating a name. For some reason, be it God or destiny or kismet, I decided to message Manny regarding this upstart venture he seemed to be pursuing. Here’s what the conversation looked like…

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Not only was I excited about entering this new realm, this appealing endeavor and unique role for me, I was fascinated by his words. He understood hard work, likely because that’s all he knew, and he had a dream. Now while most people have dreams, myself included, Manny lived it out. He didn’t settle for dreams to just linger. He actively pursued them. He believed in himself and was confident. Not many people exude that kind of drive. And he exuded it in spades.

To help out, I tried my hand at writing. In retrospect, my early work pales in comparison to today, but Manny still saw something in me. He drew it out of me. He inspired me to work harder and show what I have inside. As 2015 rolled on, I covered more topics from all over the pop culture spectrum: movies, television, comic books, sci-fi, fantasy, conventions, cosplay, and more. It was he who made it possible for me to attend a Wizard World convention as a media representative. Getting in for free was sweet enough, but something stirred in me. I had an opportunity to represent PopCultHQ at a convention by providing coverage through pictures, videos, interviews, and utilizing social media to engage our readers. It was then that I wanted to seize this opportunity and approach it how Manny would. My first interview (ever) was with legendary artist Neal Adams. Now I know there are people who have had bad experiences with Neal and  I typically see people as loving him or hating him. All I knew was I respected him. As a writer, I needed to unbiased as I met and interviewed Neal. Thankfully Manny gave me a pretty sweet tip when I called him from the con. He said, “Whatever you do, don’t kiss his ass because of who he is. He HATES that.” Perhaps that’s the reason my experience with Neal Adams was favorable. I treated him like an artist and a person. This was all due to Manny’s tutelage.

When things got hectic for Manny, or was overwhelmed with work, I asked him to pass things off to me so I could carry that for him. As the months rolled on, we grew even closer; on a business and a personal level. I began doing a few comic book reviews for him. And then a few more. Then I felt like I actually became the official comic book reviewer for PopCultHQ, willing to accept that role.

So we go from unknown comic book collectors, to a boss/employee relationship (not that confining however), to a mentor/apprentice relationship. Through reviewing comic books for PopCultHQ, which is all due in part to Manny’s guidance and belief in me, I was approached by an indie comic book publisher to become their project editor. In the span of 16 months, Manny fulfilled his promise from that private message on Facebook (above) when he said,

“… it will be tough going at first but I promise to make us all successful!”

He truly did that for me. There were times that were difficult. Times I wanted to quit. There were times I just didn’t know what I wanted to do with PopCultHQ, let alone my life. But through all of the nonsense, all of the uncertainty, all of my mess, Manny never gave up on me. He helped me achieve greatness I likely would never have seen. I have had the opportunity to meet some amazing people in the comic book community, the convention circuit, cosplayers, artists, writers, publishers, PR reps for pop culture sites, and have one of my comic book reviews quoted and printed on an indie publisher’s graphic novel about to release any day, along with PopCultHQ’s name on it. Seeing Manny’s business’ name in print on the cover of a graphic novel is just the beginning of what is in store for PopCultHQ. We will continue this site and work had for it just as Manny worked hard for us. He will continue to be recognized, mentioned, and remembered posthumously as we dedicate all of our work from here on to continuing and preserving his legacy.

Thank you Manny Popoca. You encouraged me, you believed in me, and for following you, I have a life that I have not only dreamed of, but one that’s finally worth living.”


a4Justice Carmon:

“I’ve been asked to say what Manny meant to me personally. You want to know what he was to me? He was my J. Jonah Jameson, that’s what he was. Full of vitality and verve, he demanded hard work, good work.

As the youngest of his family, Manny showed a drive to prove to himself and to others what he could do. He built a website and entertainment news site with a handful of talented writers and drive. He interviewed countless celebrities and got to speak with the big names in the movie and comics industry. By age 38, he not only had made a name for himself- I’ve always loved the “Popoca = PopCult” pun – he was poised to move into the movie business as a screenwriter being picked out of several promising students by a pro in the industry. As a minority, he knew nothing would be easy if he was going to succeed. He put in the time to do just that. He was tireless, demanding of himself and others, and kept his joy in doing what he loved, never giving up or slowing down.

Manny gave me that insight into his life. He also gave me a platform to broadcast on. More than once I have said with pride, “You can read my article on PopCultHQ!” to some fellow geek I’ve been chatting with.

Through him and PopCultHQ, I got to speak about how the Christian faith is embedded in our culture. I suspect I am the only pastor/Bible teacher in North America who thinks Deadpool is a biblical film. I am also the only geek in North America who thought Batman v Superman was an epic film, worthy of praise. Manny had the exact opposite opinion – and published my article anyway. In fact, he was proud to do so.

Manny didn’t just want to succeed. He also wanted you to succeed.

I am so very glad to have known him. I am glad I helped him with his dream, just a little. I mourn his passing. There is one strange caveat however. I hesitate to mention it for I may cross some line in someone’s heart. I will share it so you can ponder it and perhaps even pray about it.

In the last year of his life, Vincent Van Gogh produced far more work than he ever had before. His output was astounding. Though his death was untimely, he left a fabulous legacy. It was as if he was suddenly released to create fearlessly, magnificently.

I see that same glory, effort and creativity in these last few months of Manny’s life. He blazed. He glowed. He wrestled. He conquered. He produced. Articles, screenplays, interviews.

Perhaps God, in knowing Manny’s time was near, gave him his dreams – and the power to do them. Like Van Gogh, he leaves a legacy of all he sought to accomplish. It is us, his friends and fellow writers, editors and entertainment specialists who must carry it out. I say this because though we are fascinated with what pop culture is today, we must remember the souls it impacts.

Perhaps Manny loved pop culture because it was a meeting ground for all peoples, all faiths, all races and ethnic groups. A place where a deaf bodybuilder could become a superhero icon or a piece of pulp fiction could rise up to create a multi-billion dollar industry. You never could tell what would happen and every day was different.

Manny’s life gave us a surprise ending, the same month my favorite TV show Person of Interest did its finale, where one of my favorite characters dies heroically. I suspect I will forever connect the two.

I think Manny would like that. He loved pop culture. He loved his geek brethren and we, of course, could not help but help love him back for all he gave us.

Amen.”


a2Marcus Patch:

“Today I come at you all from the heart.  I woke up a few mornings ago to go about my normal routine, I proceed to go on social media (Facebook) only to find out that Manny had passed away. Although Manny and I had never gotten the chance to meet face to face, we were great friends. It started off close to three years ago now when I first discovered you could be in groups on Facebook.  I kept getting these invites to ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ pages from Manny, which I had assumed Facebook had generated based off items I had liked that were in my profile. So I finally messaged Manny to see what it was all about and he gave me a rundown of what he did for a living and what he was trying to establish.  We continued to have weekly discussions of life, its ups and downs, and Manny would always give some great advice; considering our age difference, he had been through a lot of what I have.  Eventually we started discussing comics and pop culture movies that were upcoming; little did I know that Manny was slowly molding me into a position to join his crew.  In 2015, Manny approached me to join his team of writers, which had already been established, who had made their name in the industry and were growing.  For me, this was a dream come true considering my writings were okay, not great by any means. I needed work and I’m still learning to this day, but Manny had seen the potential in me and always gave me encouragement when no one else would. Our times of long talks and comic trades were appreciated and I wouldn’t have traded it for anything. Thank you, Manny and R.I.P.  Your legacy will live out through our writings. Thank you for making me a part of something bigger then myself.”


Kimmy Watts:a1

“Manny was a true leader — a motivator, an inspiration, a force to be reckoned with, but most of all, he was a kind and understanding friend. One we will never forget.”

 

 


Thank you Manny for all you have done in the pop culture world. PopCultHQ will live on to preserve your creation, a combination of hard work, determination, and zeal. You will forever be in our hearts and we bring you with us on this journey of achieving the greatness for PopCultHQ. In your name. This is for Manny.

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About Jason Bennett 2451 Articles

Jason Bennett is PopCultHQ’s chief editor, a contributing writer, and comic book reviewer/reporter. One with the Force. Browncoats Unite! So say we all!

Follow Jason on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram: @TahoeJBennett

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