Gone But Not Forgotten, 2011 Edition

19 Comic-Related Professionals Who Left Us in 2011

rip2011-joesimon
1. Joe Simon (b. 1913)
He’ll be forever remembered as the man who, with artist Jack Kirby, created Captain America for Timely Comics in the early 1940s, a time when America was in need of a few good patriots. Of course, Cap and Bucky were just two of the many characters Simon and Kirby created during the Golden Age; together, the legendary writer-and-artist team dreamed up the Boy Commandos, the Newsboy Legion, the Golden Age Sandman, Manhunter, Blue Bolt, and many others. Later, they would go on to create the first successful romance comic (Young Romance) and such fondly remembered series as Boy’s RanchFighting American and Adventures of the Fly. In later years, Simon brought a bit of whimsy into the DC universe, creating offbeat characters like Prez, Brother Power the Geek, and the Green Team. Aside from his creative endeavours, Simon will also be remembered as an early pioneer in the creators’ rights movement; in a 2011 interview, he cited Young Romance as a high point in his career, as he and Kirby negotiated with publishers to own half the untested property — something almost unheard of at the time. “I’d like to think that we showed today’s comic book writers and artists how they can do more than just make a living producing comic books and hold on to the fruits of their labors,” he said. Died Dec. 14 after a short illness

2. Jerry Robinson (b. 1922)
“We live in a world of popular art… Jerry Robinson helped invent that world.” So said novelist Michael Chabon in Jerry Robinson: Ambassador of Comics, a 2010 book celebrating Robinson’s contributions to comics. Hard to disagree. Robinson was hired by Batman artist Bob Kane in 1939, and is widely credited with conceiving the Joker. Together with Kane and Bill Finger, Robinson would go on to create or co-create much of the Batman mythos that readers know today: Alfred, Two-Face and the probably-coincidentally-named-but-probably-not addition of Robin to the cast. Like Simon, Robinson was also a vocal advocate for artists’ rights, helping Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in their attempts to seek compensation for their character. But despite his many contributions to comics, Robinson never saw himself as just a comic-book artist; he started drawing decades of political cartoons in the 1950s, taught at New York’s School of Visual Arts and served as president of both the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists and the National Cartoonists Society. And if that wasn’t enough, he curated a number of major art exhibitions and wrote more than two dozen books on comics as art. “While my time on Batman was important and exciting and notable considering the characters that came out of it, it was really just the start of my life,” he said. Died in his sleep Dec. 7

3. Gene Colan (b. 1926)
The first thing about Colan’s career that impresses is the length of it: receiving his first professional assignment in 1944, Colan was still drawing in 2009, when he did the lead feature for Captain America #601. The second is the sheer volume of work he produced, literally hundreds of issues of Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Tomb of Dracula, Howard the Duck, Batman, Detective Comics, Night Force, and dozens of other titles. He’ll most likely be remembered for his work during Marvel’s Silver Age, when his fluid figures and subtle, shadow-filled artwork stood in stark contrast to the more bombastic Kirby- or Ditko-style art that Marvel editor Stan Lee encouraged in his artists at the time. “I’d tell [Lee] if you want Stevie Ditko, then you’ll have to get Stevie Ditko. I can’t do it, I have to be myself,” Colan told an interviewer in 2003. “So he left me alone…. He knew I meant it and that I couldn’t do it and there was no point in trying to force me to do it.” Died June 23 following following complications from liver disease and a broken hip received in a fall

4. Dwayne McDuffie (b. 1962)
Fittingly, news of McDuffie’s death came on the same day All-Star Superman, an animated direct-to-DVD film with a screenplay McDuffie adapted from the acclaimed Grant Morrison comic series, hit store shelves. Though his first job in comics was assistant editor at Marvel Comics, McDuffie gained many fans for his animation work, writing, producing or story-editing 69 out of 91 episodes of Justice League and Justice League Unlimited (in addition to numerous credits for Static Shock, Teen Titans, What’s New Scooby Doo?, Ben 10: Alien Force, and Ben 10: Ultimate Alien). In between Marvel and animation, McDuffie struck a blow for diversity by co-founding Milestone Media, an imprint showcasing characters who more accurately reflected the diverse face of America than the mostly white casts over at Marvel and DC. Personal anecdote: McDuffie was the first actual comic professional I ever conversed with; long ago, when I wrote an online piece that mentioned Damage Control, one of the series he wrote for Marvel, he wrote me to say a few people, including him, almost lost their jobs over a cover that showed Wolverine getting pied in the face. Needless to say, I was impressed that a pro like him would take the time to send a few kind words to some random geek on the web, and many of his colleagues noted that same spirit of generosity in the days after his death. (Died Feb. 21 of complications from emergency heart surgery)

5. Eduardo Barreto (b. 1954)
Like a lot of comic fans, my first exposure to Eduardo Barreto’s artwork was his run on 1984’s The New Teen Titans, the direct-sales series he pencilled for several years after artist and New Teen Titans co-creator George Perez moved on to other projects. Though not as intricately detailed as Perez’s layouts, Barreto’s clean lines served him well on Teen Titans, as well as other DC projects like Atari Force, The Shadow Strikes!, and Lex Luthor: The Unauthorized Biography, easily one of the best Lex Luthor stories of the post-Crisis era. In the years leading up to his death, he was the lead artist for the Judge Parker newspaper strip, but it’s likely he would have counted his children as his greatest contribution to the comic world; his son, Diego, is a cartoonist who filled in for him on the Judge Parker strip, and his daughter, Andrea, is a colorist. Died Dec. 15 from what’s believed to be complications related to meningitis

6. Mick Anglo (b. 1916)
Born Maurice Anglovitz in London, Anglo drew his first cartoons for SEAC, the official British army newspaper for South East Asia Command, and then for Singapore papers, during the Second World War. After the war, he went into advertising  while writing Westerns and gangster novels under his own name and the pseudonym Johnny Dekker. After his publishers noticed his artistic skills (he drew a cover for one of his novels), they suggested he try his hand at creating comic strips for their line of comics; his Gower Studios imprint appeared on many of the British strips in the late 1940s and 1950s. In 1954, the British publisher that held the rights to Captain Marvel’s adventures in the U.K. was forced to give up the property because of DC’s court victory against Fawcett; Anglo was asked if he had any ideas to replace the Big Red Cheese. Marvelman went on to become the most popular British superhero of the 1950s, starring in three titles alongside his companions Kid Marvelman and Young Marvelman. The series was cancelled in 1963 and revived in 1982 by Alan Moore, who gave the hero a darker edge in the British comic series Warrior. Anglo had little to do with the Marvelman (later renamed Miracleman to avoid legal troubles with Marvel) reboot, but he stayed active in publishing and comics until his retirement in 1985. Died Oct. 31 at the age of 96  

7. Joanne Siegel (b. 1913)
During the Great Depression, she was an aspiring model in Cleveland who allowed a young artist to sketch her likeness; soon after, she would marry that artist’s writing partner and help both of them take on the company that made billions off their ideas. Of course, the artist was Joe Shuster and his partner was Jerry Siegel, the men behind Superman, and long after both men had passed on (Shuster died in 1992, Siegel in 1996), Joanne (Kovacs) Siegel continued their fight for compensation, scoring a victory in 2008 when a U.S. federal judge restored Siegel’s co-authorship share of the original Superman copyrights. Long before those legal battles, though, there was just Joanne, Joe, and Jerry alone in a room, with Joe turning Joanne’s hair and facial features into the first-ever likeness of Lois Lane and Jerry leaping off couches to inspire the first sketches of Superman. Quoted in the New York Times, Marc Toberoff, lawyer for both the Siegel and Shuster families, had this to say about Joanne: “All her life she carried the torch for Jerry and Joe — and other artists. There was a lot of Lois Lane in Joanne Siegel.” Died Feb. 12 at the age of 93

   
8-11. Michael Gough (b. 1916), Jackie Cooper (b. 1922), Cliff Robertson (b. 1923), Susannah York (b. 1939)
It was a tough year for fans of parental figures and mentors in superhero films. On January 15, Susannah York, the British star of stage and film who portrayed Kal-El’s Kryptonian mother in the Superman movies, died of bone marrow cancer; on March 17, British actor Michael Gough, best known to American audiences as Alfred in the first four Batman movies, died after a brief illness; on May 3, Jackie Cooper, who played editor Perry White in the first four Superman movies, did the same; and on September 10, fans of Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man films were saddened to hear of Cliff “Uncle Ben” Robertson’s death just one day after his 88th birthday (a prolific film and TV actor, he also played the Western villain Shame in the 1960s Batman TV series).

12. Clément Sauvé (b. 1977)
Born and raised in Montreal, Sauvé studied graphic design before starting his comic book career as an assistant to Yanick Paquette on such titles as Gambit, Superman, and Codename: Knockout. His first solo job was DC Comics’ Human Defense Corps. He then moved on to other projects, including DC’s JLA Secret Files and Stormwatch, and issues of G.I. Joe, Infantry and Voltron for Devil’s Due Publishing; he also served as a character designer for the animated series G.I. Joe: Renegades. Ty Templeton, who collaborated with Sauvé on Human Defense Corps, said on his blog he couldn’t have asked for a more faithful version of his scripts: “As each page came in, I was elated at the work, and a little jealous that Clément was so much better at drawing than I was.” An episode of the animated series G.I. Joe: Renegades was dedicated to his memory. Died Jan. 26 after a brief bout with cancer

13. Minck Oosterveer (b. 1961)
Although he was born in the Netherlands and grew up surrounded by European comics, Oosterveer was infatuated with the American comic-strip masters at an early age, with Alex Raymond, Milton Caniff and Will Eisner among his early influences. It seems only fitting, then, he was one of the few Dutch artists to break into the U.S. comic market, with Boom! Studio’s Zombie Tales #4 (2008) featuring his first North American work. Of course, long before his North American debut European audiences were well acquainted with his work on such strips as Tintin, Zodiak, Arachna, Speedball Nation, Jack Pott, and Nicky Saxx, his most successful strip with longtime collaborator Willem Ritstier. Died Sept. 17 in a motorcycle accident

14. Dylan Williams (b. 1970)
Some publishers succeed because they go where the trends take them; others succeed because they publish what they love. Williams was definitely in the latter group. In 2007, on the fifth anniversary of Sparkplug Comic Books, Williams had this to say about his firm: “Most of the work Sparkplug and I’ve published over the past five years has been put to print because I liked it, more than any other reason.” Fortunately for comic fans, Williams liked a lot of good stuff; without him, artists like Chris Wright, Dave Kiersh, Edie Fake and Jason Shiga would have had a harder time finding an audience. Because of business practices that put artistic integrity ahead of commercial considerations, Williams earned the respect of artists and publishers alike. “Dylan really just published what he liked, for the sake of it, with virtually no concern for his own bottom line. If he had faith in the work, that was enough,” Fantagraphics publisher Eric Reynolds said to Comics Reporter. “Look at his quiet devotion to the comics format — the pamphlet format — in the face of all logic. I doubt anyone in comics had better and more honest intentions as a publisher than Dylan.” Died Sept. 10 from complications due to cancer

15. Dave Hoover (b. 1955)
An instructor at the Art Institute of Philadelphia at the time of his death, Hoover started out in animation in the late ’70s, lending his talents to such shows as The Super Friends, The Smurfs, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, The Archie Show, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, and several others. His work can also be seen in two animated feature films, Fire and Ice (1983) and Starchaser: The Legend of Orin (1985). From 1987 to about 1995, he worked on various Marvel and DC titles, adding stints on The Wanderers, Starman and Captain America to this CV. In later years, he established himself as one of the top “good girl” artists of the modern age, contributing to adult comic series like Wilde Knight and Jungle Love and giving away many sketches of comely comic ladies to appreciative fans. Died Sept. 4 at age 56

16. Jeffrey Catherine Jones (b. 1944)
Artists exist to transcend boundaries; Jones was no exception. A fantasy artist who provided more than 150 covers for books through the 1960s and ’70s, Jones (who started life as male and began to live as a woman in 1998) branched out into fine art and painting later in her career; no less an authority than Frank Frazetta called her “the greatest living painter.” While she produced the strip Idyl for National Lampoon magazine in the 1970s and did work for Heavy Metal in the early 1980s, she was known more for her painting and prints than her comic work. Still, through her work with The Studio, a group of cartoonists/illustrators that included such comic trailblazers as Mike Kaluta, Bernie Wrightson and Barry Windsor-Smith, Jones is widely credited for introducing fine art and illustration influences to comics in the ’70s. In the words of industry journalist Tom Spurgeon, who wrote an obituary for Jones in The Comics Reporter, “Jones leaves behind a legacy of image-making and comics creation of high craft quality and sincere, personal expression, of making comics fans reconsider the value of art as a narrative device and of making illustration fans aware of the mix of word and picture, of story, always story.” Died May 19 of complications from emphysema and bronchitis

17. Jack Adler (b. 1917)
While most of the glory in the comics biz goes to the writers and artists (with a little bit thrown at the editors from time to time), it takes a lot of talented professionals to bring a book together, and the passing of Jack Adler is as good a time as any to salute the many colorists who have brought our books to retina-pleasing life. Starting in DC’s production department in 1946 (his first professional credit was Funny Folks #2), Adler worked his way up the ranks to head DC’s coloring department and serve as production manager; he retired as DC’s vice-president of production in 1981. Along the way, he colored thousands of DC books and provided cover art for many classic Silver Age titles, including issues of Green Lantern, Sea Devils and G.I. Combat. Alan Kupperberg, who apprenticed under Adler when he started at DC in 1971, had this to say about him: “When [colorists] Tommy Nicoletti, Jerry Serpe, or Paul Reinman would deliver the color guides for a Jack Kirby book, Adler would review it, as he did all their efforts. Adler would often ‘throw’ a YRB2 (red brown) or a YBR2 (dark green) into a panel behind a three-quarter character close-up with an open background. A touch as small as this would invariably make an already sizzling Kirby page pop like a firecracker.” Died Sept. 18 at age 94

18. Les Daniels (b. 1943)
Over the course of his career, Daniels wrote 10 non-fiction books and five works of fiction, the latter revolving around the adventures of a time-traveling vampire. But he’s probably best known for his 1971 work Comix: A History of Comic Books in America, one of the first volumes to document the entirety of the comic book industry from its pulp-fiction origins to the counterculture movement of the 1960s. Later, he was the go-to guy when comic publishers wanted to commission books about their companies and characters, including massive volumes chronicling the histories of DC and Marvel and their characters in the 1990s; his Wonder Woman: The Complete History won him an Eisner Award in 2000. Comic writer and historian Mark Evanier told the New York Times “nobody thought to write the history of the industry” before Daniels: “He produced major works upon which all future histories will be built.” Died Nov. 5 of a heart attack

19. The Comics Code Authority (created 1954)
Finally, a departure we can all feel a little happy about. Established as part of the Comics Magazine Association of America, the Comics Code Authority was created by comics publishers to ward off government censorship back when they were under tremendous pressure to do something about the supposed epidemic of comic-influenced crime. In theory, the CCA ensured all comics sold in the U.S. followed guidelines that made them acceptable reading material for younger audiences; in practice, it was a classic over-reaction, with publishers forced to go to ludicrous lengths to ensure their comics were “safe” for all readers. Comic artists did their best to work within the Code, but as time went on it was clear the Code wasn’t working. The Code was also becoming increasingly irrelevant through the ’80s and ’90s, as more comics were sold directly to readers and comic shops, bypassing traditional distribution channels and distributors who insisted on the code to protect them from legal action. Most independent publishers never even bothered submitting their books for Code approval; in 2001, Marvel announced it was dropping the CCA in favour of its own ratings system. In January 2011, DC and Archie, the last two holdout members, announced they were dropping the Code, effectively killing it. On Sept. 29, the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund said it had acquired the rights to the Comics Code seal (seen here) from the defunct CMAA, with plans to license products with the Code seal on them. As the Fund’s Charles Brownstein put it: “As we reflect upon the challenges facing intellectual freedom during Banned Books Week, the Comics Code Seal is a reminder that it’s possible for an entire creative field to have those rights curtailed because of government, public and market pressures.” Too true.

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2 responses to “Gone But Not Forgotten, 2011 Edition

  1. We also lost Alvin Schwartz this year. He was one of the most prominent comics writers of the 1940s and 1950s, and also wrote the Superman and Batman newspaper strips. He created Bizarro, worked in an amazing number of fields, wrote the first beat novel and other novels of literally mind-expanding quality.

  2. Thank you for making this list. A lot of people from from the comic book world went to the great beyond this year. They will be missed.

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