I’ll see you guys next week.
Ty the Guy Out.
Nick Cardy was a pillar of DC Comics during my childhood, and a great deal of my love of comics manifested itself while reading comics that he drew. Especially comics he drew the covers of…
This is a couple of pages from the first DC Comic I ever read: Teen Titans #6. I probably knew who Batman was from the TV show, but I had this comic because Robin was in it. I was five years old, and Robin and the Teen Titans were HUGE in my life when I was very little. This sequence, where Speedy shoots at his friends while BLINDFOLDED was incredibly exciting when I was five. I still own this comic. It’s missing its cover and some of the pages are scribbled on, but I’ve never lost it.
This comic scared the HELL out of a year later. Not only does Robin visit the GRAVES of his friends (complete with ghosts!), but for some bizarre reason, he takes off his costume and mask and spends half of the story in his underwear. It’s such an odd sequence that it stuck in my head for years.
Then THIS Titans vs. a Giant Book cover came out. Again, I’m about six years old when I saw this, but something weird happened when I did….I think I understood the difference between a striking and clever composition and regular old comics right then and there. Cardy was doing something outstanding here and I could recognize it. Look at that cover, who could MISS it? I still own my copy of this one, but it has the damn cover. It’s actually in pretty good shape. The little kid in me didn’t want that cover harmed in any way.
In the 70s, when I was about twelve years old, I finally figured out I could subscribe to comic books and get them in the mail! I think I subscribed to about twenty series, and constantly asked for subscriptions for birthdays and Christmases. This issue of Superman (with that magnificent Cardy cover) was the first comic book that ever arrived in the mail at my house. It was folded in half, which I didn’t like, but it was magical to get a new comic book or two at my front door about every other day. Most of them had Cardy covers.
Speaking of Christmas, long time readers of this blog know my affection for this particular comic book. I put this Nick Cardy cover up online for all to see every Christmas, and the tradition will likely continue for years to come. This image is as close to joy in a line drawing as my nostalgic brain can wish for.
At this point, I’m going to be quiet, and let you enjoy a treasury of the man’s work. 93 years old is a great run at this planet, and he left us SO much gorgeous comic art. I envy you folks if you’re seeing any of it for the first time.
Thanks Nick. You were an intimidating inspiration to this aspiring artist when I was growing up. Every cover I ever draw, I’m conscious of wishing it was half as good as your stuff.
This issue of Teen Titans:
…was an impossible dream when I was a kid. Neal Adams wrote the script, and did the layouts and Nick Cardy did the finished art. Two of my favourite DC artists of all time, working together on the favourite series of my youth.
I own a couple of pages of the original artwork from this issue, given to me (because of a story too long to tell here) by the very generous Neal Adams. So there’s a little Nick Cardy in my house this very moment, and there always will be.
And then there’s this:
I’m in the “so-late-with-my-latest-Marvel-project” zone that the clocks do nothing but terrify me, and have to spend the weekend catching up….(I want to have a job next month, you know.)
So…the Bun Toon had to be drawn in Stick Figure form this week, just to save time.
Of course, with the idea being that this was supposed to SAVE me time, the Jack Kirby and Frank Miller mock-ups took me EXACTLY as long as most Bun Toons do….sigh.
Of course, your Bonus Moment is the greatest Stick Figure Comic of all time:
Didja read yesterday’s Bun Toon? Didja?
It’s up there as a link to yesterday. Read that and then come back and read this:
Your Bonus Moment isn’t a happy one… A Bun Toon from a little over a year ago…
The great Kim Thompson passed away this week.
Along with Gary Groth and Fantagraphics, he made the 80s a rich, exciting time to read comics. Love and Rockets, Neat Stuff, Bitchy Bitch, Critters, Usagi Yojimbo, Fission Chicken…Fantagraphics was the coolest, bestest comics publisher in the whole world, and half the reason comic stores were an exciting new idea back then.
When I worked at Vortex Comics, putting out Stig’s Inferno and Mister X, there was no secret to the idea that we were trying to be the Fantagraphics of Canada. Hell, we even hired away the Hernandez Brothers to do the first four issues of Mister X. We had Jamie envy.
But my experience at Vortex ended badly, and my experience at Eclipse ended badly (for completely different reasons – neither my fault), and in 1986, my comic book partner and best friend, Klaus Shoenefeld passed away at the age of 24. It was a very low point in my life.
That’s when Kim Thompson called me on the phone and asked if I wanted to do some stories for Fantagraphics.
Literally, at the moment I was re-considering doing comics as a way to make a living, the coolest, bestest, comics publisher in the world thought I was worth a call.
What follows is the first story Kim ever bought off of me. (click on the images to enlarge if they’re hard to read. It’s eight pages long, so settle in with a lunch…)
Yes, it’s a weak-sauce Walk Kelly pastiche….but it was the first thing I did for Critters. Kim talked me into doing funny animals comics when I thought there was no value in them. He introduced me to the work of Carl Barks and MADE me read his duck stuff, even when I didn’t want to. Kim convinced me I was good at what I did when I was young enough to have trouble believing it. He introduced me to Alan Moore (over the phone) and put us together on a project that included a rock and roll single that Moore and I traded A and B sides on. That’s the cover to Critters #23 above and to the left…here’s the single being played on a RECORD PLAYER! (I’m old.)
Kim was the biggest champion of great comics you ever met, and Fantagraphics published comics that cost them money because they believed in those creators and projects like no other publisher. Who does that?
Those long ago years when I did a handful of stories with Kim Thompson at Fantagraphics are what told me I was actually in a comics industry worth being in. I never had an editor or publisher be so nice to me, or be so supportive, or “get” comics like Kim.
F*** you, cancer.
Seventy Five years old! Great Rao!
I have a lovely essay that I wrote on the occasion of Superman’s 70th Birthday, and rather than rethink it, I’ll just link to it below. Click on the image and you’ll be taken to a much larger and readable version of the article. When you’re done (or once you’ve ignored the article and scrolled below it), you can rejoin the regular blog, still in progress.
What I said still holds true (unless the upcoming movie REALLY sucks).
I’ve had a long and unexpected association with Superman through the years, and I consider it quite an honour to have contributed to the great character’s legacy. Working out of the Superman office in the late 80s and early 90s gave me the whooping-giggle thrill of collaborating with some of the legends of this comics industry. I got ink over such childhood heroes as Jim Mooney:
And John Byrne…
…and the definitive Superman artist for a generation: Curt Swan.
…as well as a dozen other artists working out Mike Carlin’s Superman office. My single favourite image I contributed to while I was a Superman inker was this cover for Superboy: The Comic Book #4…penciled by Kevin Maguire and rendered by your humble blogger. I rarely put my own artwork up on the walls of my house, but I consider this a Kevin piece anyway, so it sat on my wall for years.
Superman was on hand the first time I co-wrote a story with my pal Dan Slott. Though we’d worked together as a writer/artist team a few times, this was our first collaboration as co-writers, and our little tale featured Krypto and his big flyin’ master. Go find a copy and read it, you’ll let go of a few honest tears when it’s done. I’m proud of this one.
I got to work with Jerry Seinfeld because of Superman. I was asked to design the look of Superman for a series of Seinfeld/American Express animated commercials, as well as creating some odd Jerry and Superman scenes for billboards and print ads.
The original photo is Jerry grabbing at “no one” in the air, and I had to draw Superman to fit where Jerry’s hand was. Kal-el is supposed to be saying “this guy’s crazy”, but it looks equally like he’s tickling the comedian.
Is there any better job than being paid to illustrate Krypto starting a bromance?
Working for Superman offered me to opportunity to design collectable action figures:
and crayon boxes, and puzzles and t-shirts and colouring books and darn near anything with an S on it. Of the many many images of Superman I’ve drawn for DC Comics over my career, this is my favourite:
I know there’s other characters on this JLU cover, but there’s something about the Superman figure that sits just right with me. His proportions, his expression, even the colours of his costume, all came together in this image and I didn’t screw any of it up. I actually don’t hate this cover and my wife will tell you how rare that is for me. I might be wrong, but I think it’s the last time I drew Superman for the mother corporation…once I get it correct, I scoot off and don’t do it again.
So happy birthday Mr. Cape. You’ve been a delightful character to read as a child, to work on as a young adult, and to come back to every few years like a comfortable trip back home. I hope I get another chance at him someday…and I treasure the time we spent together.
I’m always a little jealous when he dates someone else.
Here now, your BONUS Superman Moment- You knew this one was coming.
In 1947, Infantino drew his first story for DC Comics at the age of 22. It was a Johnny Thunder back-up story in FLASH COMICS # 86. It happened to introduce the world to the BLACK CANARY, a character still popular sixty-five years later.
You need more history? Okay, the entire comics industry as it exists today, is built (essentially) from this single issue from 1956:
When Carmine Infantino and Bob Kanigher (along with Julie Schwartz) re-imagined the moribund character of The Flash in Showcase #4, they started the Silver Age of comics. Adopting the new, science fiction style of the atomic age, they made the modern super-hero streamlined, slick, sexy, and a huge hit. Soon followed Green Lantern, then the Justice League, then the Fantastic Four and Marvel Comics and us all getting into the hobby, and you reading this blog. The floodgates started here.
And any time you think Batman was rescued from obscurity by Frank Miller graphic novels in the 80s, you should know that Carmine Infantino was the first one to pull that re-designing the Dark Knight voodo-kung-fu s*** back in the early 60s. Before Infantino, The Caped Crusader was doing this:
Carmine’s “New Look” Batman, saved us from Rainbow Batman, Zebra Batman, Monkey Batman and the Ghost of Batman-Monkey of Rainbow Zebra World with this kind of thing:
That image is so iconic, we stole it for a cover of Batman and Robin Adventures I worked on.
But hey, it’s not like we were the only ones to do this cover…
Now a few more of my favorite things:
We’ve barely skipped over the surface of this man’s long and very impressive career, and there are more qualified writers out there to tell the details of that story. I didn’t know Carmine Infantino personally, but he was such a huge presence in the comics that shaped my love of this art form, I had to say thank you in my own way on the occasion of his passing away.
Even though it’s too late to do any good.
So thank you, Mr. Infantino. You made so much of it wonderful.
Earlier in the same day, beloved film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times, Roger Ebert also died.
I didn’t know Roger Ebert personally, either, but apparently he’d read some of my Batman comic books, and had come across one of my Bun Toons or something and he sent me a facebook friend request a couple of years ago. After determining that it was, indeed, the real Roger Ebert, I was delighted to accept, and ended up having a few little IM chats with him over the next couple of years. Not often, and never anything long or meaningful, but I did get the chance to tell him how much I loved his writing, and greatly admired his courage in continuing to be a public person after losing his jaw to cancer.
When I heard he’d died yesterday, I was quite sad, of course…but I also had this strange joy that I lived in the internet age and that I had actually gotten a rare chance to tell Mr. Ebert directly how much I appreciated him, instead of saying so only in a posthumous blog post like I just did with Carmine Infantino.
What a world.
Bonus Carmine Infantino Moments:
That Batman and Robin Adventures cover wasn’t the ONLY time I was involved in swiping stuff from Mr. Infantino… I stole a Flash cover from him for an issue of Marvel’s MAD DOG:
When I was drawing my ELONGATED MAN issue of Secret Origins (many moons ago), I stole the layout style (as well as a few more cover compositions shown here) from the way Carmine used to cut up a page. Those three ‘n’ three panel layout pages were very Infantino.
Here’s me doing an Infantino-style Justice League cover for the Silver Age Month that DC Comics did a dozen years ago.
Damn, that was cool.