R.I.P. Nick Cardy

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Like many comic-book fans and professionals, I was saddened by the news of Nick Cardy’s death on Sunday. His beautifully designed covers for DC – particularly during the late 1960s – taught me to appreciate how strong imagery can make or break a comic-book story.

Here are just a few of my favorites ….

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Cardy’s career encompassed more than DC comics covers. He broke into the industry in 1940 as part of the Eisner and Iger Studio and penciled numerous features for Fiction House. He also worked on Eisner’s Lady Luck feature for the syndicated Spirit section.

Cardy served overseas during World War II and even earned two Purple Hearts for wounds suffered in combat. A compilation of his wartime sketches were recently published by Titan Books.

He settled in at DC after the war and enjoyed a long career at the company illustrating such titles as Aquaman, Bat Lash and the Teen Titans. Cardy left comics in 1970 to become a commercial artist.

In remembrance of Cardy, here’s one of his earlier efforts for Fiction House. Although the art is cruder than his DC work, his staging and choreography clearly show the potential that Cardy ultimately fulfilled in his justly hallowed career.

From Fight Comics #26 (Fiction House, June 1943), here’s the beautiful and deadly Senorita Rio. The script is not credited, but the art is by Cardy under his birth name, Nick Viscardi.

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Carmine Infantino, 1925-2013

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Like many comic-book fans of my generation, I was initially exposed to the late Carmine Infantino’s work through Batman, Flash and Adam Strange reprints DC published as back-up features in the early 1970s.

hateofthehoodedhangmanStories like “Hate Of The Hooded Hangman” introduced me to an artist whose work looked modern no matter how long ago it had been published.

At this point in my fanboy evolution, I had taken an interest in the creators behind my favorite heroes.  I looked through my DC collection for other pieces by Infantino and discovered the artist had become the company’s publisher.

I was 10 years old and didn’t really know any better, so I sent a letter to Infantino pitching my Batman knock-off, “Night Man,” as DC’s newest superstar. (Not the most original concept, I admit, but at least my character beat Steve Englehart to the name by 20 years!)

As you might expect, Night Man – and his teen sidekick, “Kid Comet” (!)  – weren’t destined for stardom. However, I did receive a kind letter from Infantino that let me down easily and encouraged I continued honing my craft.

(Sadly, I later learned there was little craft to hone. But that’s another story …)

27767Even though I stupidly lost Infantino’s letter, I always remembered his words fondly and followed the artist’s career after he moved to Marvel and drew such faves as Spider-Woman, Nova and Star Wars. He also returned to The Flash in time for Cary Bates and DC to wrap up the character that jump-started the Silver Age in the first place.

(Like many other seemingly unalterable deaths, Barry Allen eventually got better. Again, that’s a different story.)

The greatest compliment I can pay Infantino is that his best work – which spanned decades – still stands up today.

A good summation of Infantino’s legendary career can be found here. As for this very small corner of the comics-o-sphere, I’d like to pay tribute to his work by posting several stories from Infantino’s bibliography.

Like many of his contemporaries, Infantino was greatly influenced by the work of Milton Caniff. The following tale, which was originally published in 1947, shows that Infantino had already mastered Caniff’s trick of mixing aesthetically pleasing art with gritty, he-man action.

The story, entitled “Mr. Bedlam Hires A Killer,” first appeared in Airboy Comics Vol. 4 #3 (Hillman, April 1947). The hero of the tale, “Rackman,” can best be thought of as Marvel’s Stilt-Man re-imagined as a hard-boiled P.I.

The art is by Infantino and Bernard Sachs.

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Our second story demonstrates how far Infantino’s skill had progressed in the span of two years. His slicker style proved a good match for the romance genre, as shown in this tale from Hollywood Confessions #2 (St. John, 1949). “The Scandal I Had To Confess” was written by Robert Bernstein and drawn by Infantino.

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Carmine Infantino is best known, of course, for his long tenure at DC Comics. Here’s a story featuring the Golden Age Flash. Although Infantino’s art  – and John Broome’s story – are more sophisticated than most super-hero stories of the era, “The Rival Flash” marked the final issue of Flash Comics until the “Flash” concept was revamped and redesigned by Infantino, Broome and Robert Kanigher seven years later.

The resulting character, Barry Allen, proved popular enough to jump-start the Silver Age of super-hero comics. The boom in sales also led to the revival of the Jay Garrick Flash as well, bringing everything full circle.

From Flash Comics Vol. 1, #104 (DC Comics, February 1949), here’s “The Rival Flash” by Broome, Infantino and Sachs.

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When Infantino returned to active freelance work, his style had grown looser but remained vivid. Here’s a story from his tenure at Warren Publications that also demonstrates his long mastery of the sci-fi genre.

“Stand-In,” written by Bruce Jones and inked by Dick Giordano, is primarily about cheating death. Through his lifelong contributions to the comic book industry and its fans, Infantino has achieved an immortality of his own.

The story originally appeared in Vampirella #57 (Warren, January 1977).

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My deepest condolences to Mr. Infantino’s family, friends and fans.

Remembering Joe Kubert

Like many comic-book fans, I was greatly saddened to hear that Joe Kubert passed away today at the age of 85. He was truly one of the medium’s greatest talents, easily standing alongside the likes of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Bill Everett, Jack Cole and any other legend one would care to mention.

I first encountered his work through DC’s Bronze Age war titles like Sgt. Rock and Blitzkrieg, but soon discovered his equally revelatory stints on the Golden- and Silver-Age Hawkman via reprints. Every so often, I’d run across a Viking Prince back-up or a Ragman cover and further marvel at the man’s ability to draw a striking and exciting comic.

Those traits would even translate to his earliest, more primitive Golden-Age efforts.

I’ll leave the biographical details and emotional tributes to those who had the pleasure to know and work with Kubert. For now, let’s just remember the man through his astounding body of work.

From Cat-Man Comics #10 (Holyoke, May 1942), here’s an example of early Kubert art starring the electrical super-hero known as Volton!

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By the time a few years had passed, Kubert’s style progressed considerably. The difference can readily be seen in this Hawkman feature that was first printed in a “Wheaties Miniature Edition” of Flash Comics (DC Comics, April 1946). “The Scavenger Of The Skies” was written by Gardner Fox.

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In the 1950s, Joe Kubert became managing editor of the small St. John imprint, which had already published some of the better comics of the era despite its relative obscurity to such titans as DC.

Kubert created one of his most enduring characters at St. John: Tor. As it was obviously a labor of love, the artist would revive the character several times in subsequent years for a variety of publishers.

Here is Tor’s first appearance in One Million Years Ago #1 (St. John, September 1953). The story is written and drawn by Joe Kubert. Note how his art has essentially evolved to what we recognize today as the classic Kubert style.

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My sincerest condolences to Joe Kubert’s family, friends and fans. He will definitely be missed.

Remembering John Severin

A portrait of John Severin by his equally renowned sister, Marie. The image is taken from the TCJ site but originally appeared in Graphic Story Magazine #13.

John Severin, who passed away earlier this week, wasn’t as celebrated by fanboys and girls as Jack Kirby, Neal Adams or Wally Wood. Yet, his work easily belongs alongside those individuals and select others as among the best oeuvres to ever grace the medium of comic books.

His easily recognizable style served gritty realism and outré humor equally well, a feat that seemed effortless in Severin’s hands but was never really equalled by his contemporaries or successors.

How many other artists can you name who could master media parodies for humor magazines like Cracked, brutal war adventures for such titles as Sgt. Fury & His Howling Commandos and Blazing Combat and memorable chillers for Warren’s famed Creepy and Eerie publications.

Severin also maintained a strong work ethic throughout his entire career – which spanned a good 60 years or so –  without a notable drop in quality.

You’d think an artist with such a resume would only be discussed in hushed tones, but the sad fact is the genres where Severin left indelible marks don’t quite carry the same cachet in the Direct Market as funny-books featuring mutants in long underwear.

Fortunately, the sheer amount of quality work Severin left behind coupled with the sincere expressions of appreciation found throughout the Blogosphere and Twitterverse the past few days ensure his efforts will never truly be forgotten.

From Prize Comics Western #110 (Prize, March-April 1955), American Eagle tackles “Red Slavers” in a amazingly non-stereotypical Western drawn by Severin early in his career.

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Let’s jump ahead a few years for a tale about an “Abominable Snowman” from Creepy #6 (Warren, December 1965). This story was written by Bill Pearson and illustrated by Severin.

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Finally, here’s a parody of Alien from the magazine where I first encountered Severin’s work, Cracked. The humor may not have aged particularly well – it was a bit of a hoot when I was 17 – but I still find the Severin’s art as captivating as ever.

“Allien And How To Watch It” originally appeared in Cracked #149 (Major Publications, November 1979).

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No Ordinary Joe

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The comic-book world lost one of its greatest innovators this week. Joe Simon, the co-creator of Captain America and – heck – entire genres of comics with Jack Kirby passed away Wednesday at the age of 98.

Although many tributes have already mentioned Simon & Kirby’s most prominent creation – a certain star-spangled Avenger – Joe Simon will always hold a unique spot in my geeked-out heart for his whacked out masterpieces of the late ‘6os and early ‘70s: Brother Power The Geek and Prez.

I have to admit that both series warped my young, impressionable mind and helped me realize how comics could communicate more outré concepts than costumed musclemen beating the crap out of one another.

Simon, of course, was responsible for much more than DC oddities. Along with his famous partner, he created such landmark titles as Boy Explorers and Young Romance. Simon also founded and edited one of the more interested Mad knock-offs, Sick Magazine.

While the creation Captain America alone would enough for most writer-artists to consider themselves successful, Joe Simon and Jack Kirby’s accomplishments are proof positive of just how great an impact two visionaries can have on an art form.

Simon and Kirby, after all, did far more than create characters. They created the back-bone of an entire industry.

From Black Cat #6 (Harvey Comics, June-July 1947) here’s a brilliant, off-beat tale by Joe Simon starring “His Highness, The Duke Of Broadway.” The story is entitled “Fear.”

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Jerry Robinson (1922-2011)

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Jerry Robinson passed away today, leaving behind a legendary body of work that includes the co-creation of Robin The Boy Wonder and The Joker, arguably the greatest villain to ever appear in a comic book.

Although those two characters alone outstrip the entire output of many creators, Robinson accomplished more in his long and celebrated career than toiling anonymously for Bob Kane.

With his good friend Mort Meskin, Robinson formed a studio that produced some of the Golden Age’s best work for such publishers as Better/Standard/Nedor and Spark.

He also wrote a near definitive history of comic strips and was a tireless advocate of creators rights, campaigning loudly for such hard-luck legends as Bill Finger and  – most notably – Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster.

In tribute to Robinson, The Comics Journal has reposted its epic interview with the creator. The Time Bullet, for its part, is presenting the origin of one of Robinson’s more memorable – if short-lived – super-heroes, Atoman.

Although the comic, and its now-obscure publisher, didn’t last too long, Atoman apparently made enough of an impression on a young Steve Ditko to influence the original character design of this still active super-hero…

From Atoman Comics #1 (Spark Publications, February 1946), here’s “The Making Of The Mightiest Man!”

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