Gone But Not Forgotten, 2013 Edition

21+ Comic-Related Professionals and Things We Said Goodbye to in 2013

carmine-infantino1. Carmine Infantino (b. 1925)
In the words of Wikipedia: “Carmine Michael Infantino was an American comic book artist and editor who was a major force in the Silver Age of Comic Books.” This is somewhat akin to saying Mount Everest is a slightly noticeable speed bump between Tibet and Nepal. Infantino was there at the beginning, providing the pencils for that 1956 issue of Showcase that would re-introduce the Flash to readers and jump-start DC’s second wave of superheroes (and Marvel’s, and every other company that got on the bandwagon). Before that landmark issue, he freelanced for all the major comic companies (and plenty of smaller ones) during the 1940s, co-creating the Black Canary for an issue of DC’s Flash Comics; after that issue, he went on to design the “New Look” Batman in the 1960s, got promoted to DC’s editorial director (hiring dozens of new artists and bringing plenty of established ones on board, like rip-infantino-albumDick Giordano and Jack Kirby, all of whom would lead DC’s creative renaissance in the 1970s), and collaborated with Marvel on the historic Superman vs. the Amazing Spider-Man in 1976. After he was replaced as publisher by Jenette Kahn, he returned to his artist roots, producing pencils for such titles as Star Wars, The Daring New Adventures of Supergirl and, fittingly, the final issues of the first Flash series. Bonus fun fact: Infantino also produced the album art for They’re Everywhere, a 2003 album by Jim’s Big Ego, a group founded by his singer/songwriter nephew, Jim Infantino. Artist George Pérez said on his Facebook page that Infantino was one of the great influential artists in the history of the medium: “I will always look upon his Adam Strange, Flash and Space Museum stories as wondrous examples of fantasy made even more magical at the hands of a master. RIP, Carmine.” Died April 4 at age 87

nick-cardy
2. Nick Cardy (b. 1920)
Born Nicholas Viscardi, Cardy was one of the many young artists who got their start working for the Eisner & Iger Studio in the 1940s, pumping out pre-packaged artwork for books like Fight Comics and Jungle Comics; he also wrote and drew the Lady Luck back-up strip for Eisner’s Spirit Section newspaper supplement. Following a tour of duty as a tank driver during World War II, he worked in advertising and drew the Tarzan daily newspaper strip while beginning his long association with DC Comics in the 1950s, drawing titles like Tomahawk, Aquaman, House of Mystery and the 1960s Teen Titans book (which he was best known for at the time). Cardy also produced the character sheets for animators when Aquaman was optioned by Filmation for a Saturday morning cartoon in the late 1960s, influencing the look of one of DC’s earliest forays into TV animation. “During the [1960s], his work grew more distinctive and his brilliant design sense made his covers true standouts,” wrote editor Robert Greenberger in tribute to Cardy. “Under editorial director Carmine Infantino, Cardy grew in value to the company. Through the early 1970s, Cardy became the line’s premier cover artist, giving the line a unified house style that was highly commercial.” Died November 3 from congestive heart failure

1004647_167807606751053_402298744_n.jpg3. Al Plastino (b. 1921)
“Versatile” is a word that got a lot of use when people heard that Al Plastino had died, and with good reason. Penciler, inker, writer, editor, letterer — Plastino did it all, in comic books as well as newspaper strips. Comic fans will probably best remember him for his Superman art during the 1950s, a time when he and fellow Superman illustrators Wayne Boring and Curt Swan were the three main artists working on DC’s Man of Steel at that time; among Plastino’s high points were the debuts of Supergirl (Action Comics #252), Brainiac (Action Comics #252 again) and the Legion of Super-Heroes (Adventure Comics #247). He also drew the wordless Ferd’nand newspaper strip from 1970 until 1989, and his talent for mimicking other artists’ styles almost landed him the Peanuts strip when Charles Schulz was in contract negotiations with his syndicate. Shortly before he died, Plastino launched a lawsuit over the original artwork he drew for a comic book featuring Superman and President John F. Kennedy, claiming it was stolen instead of being donated to JFK’s memorial library, as he was promised. That story had been scheduled to appear in Superman #168, which would have gone on sale three months after JFK’s assassination; it was delayed for two months, appearing in Superman #170 with a newly drawn Plastino splash page that showed a spectral JFK watching over Superman. Died of prostate cancer November 25

truth_red_white_black4. Robert Morales (b. 1959)
Robert Morales wrote a few issues of Captain America in 2004 and contributed some pieces to Heavy Metal in the ’80s, but the writer and entertainment journalist will be most remembered by comic fans for his Truth: Red, White & Black, a 2002 mini-series that asked the question: What if Steve Rogers wasn’t the first to receive the Super-Soldier serum? Inspired in part by the infamous Tuskagee Experiments, Truth (which was illustrated by Kyle Baker) tells the tale of black American soldiers who were forced to act as test subjects in a military program to perfect the serum. Speaking with Entertainment Weekly in 2002, Morales described the process of pitching the story to Marvel: “I wrote a proposal that was so staggeringly depressing I was certain they’d turn it down. But they didn’t.” Instead, the story turned out to be so powerful and thought-provoking it was written into Captain America’s official continuity, with Rogers meeting the sole survivor of those experiments in a later story. In memorializing Morales, online commentator Joseph Hughes of Comic Book Alliance had this to say: “As a fan who at times feels unwanted or unwelcome in an industry I love, this book remains significant. It was a comic I could show my mother when she questioned, perhaps rightfully, why I cared so much about an industry that often seems to care so little about me.” Died April 18

kim-thompson
5. Kim Thompson (b. 1956)
If Kim Thompson’s name doesn’t ring a bell, here are a few that might: Hate’s Peter Bagge, Eightball’s Dan Clowes, Acme Novelty Library’s Chris Ware, Palestine‘s Joe Sacco, Love And Rockets’ Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez. That’s just a fraction of the many artists whose careers were nurtured by Thompson, a writer and editor who (along with partner Gary Groth) turned Seattle-based Fantagraphics into one of the most influential and innovative champions of the graphic form. A native of Denmark, Thompson was already heavily involved in comics when he moved to the U.S. in 1977; while Groth made a name for himself with his outspoken opinion pieces in The Comics Journal, Thompson made it his mission to promote alternative comics, especially the many European books he imported for American readers. Which isn’t to say he turned up his nose at the mainstream stuff; from 1982-92, he also edited Amazing Heroes, a magazine that brought a quiet and constructively critical eye to the superhero books. “While Gary’s the in-your-face ballbuster, Kim was the quiet ballbuster,” said Jaime Hernandez via Twitter shortly after Thompson’s death. “Both were needed to save comics. Good job, Kim.” Died June 19 after a brief battle with lung cancer

bobclarke
6. Bob Clarke (b. 1926)
In typically humble fashion, Bob Clarke had this to say about his work for MAD: “I was known as the ‘thing’ artist. Whether it was a telephone or a slot machine or whatever, I would draw the things.” Editor Al Feldstein had another word to describe what Clarke did: “godsend.” He started out in his teens as an uncredited assistant on the Ripley’s Believe It or Not! newspaper feature (which he would lampoon later in the pages of MAD as “Believe It or Nuts!”), then served in the army and worked in advertising before joining MAD’s “usual gang of idiots.” His years in the ad business served him well; during his forty-plus years with MAD, he could whip up an ad parody like nobody’s business and had a real knack for imitating other artists’ styles. “He seemed to be able to work in any style effortlessly, and that ability made him invaluable to MAD, as he could spoof almost any subject or genre from comic strips to children’s books to movie posters to advertising,” wrote fellow MAD contributor Tom Richmond. “He’ll be missed, but his legacy of work is one to be envied.” Died of pneumonia March 31

dan-adkins7. Dan Adkins (b. 1937)
When Dan Adkins was 11, he suffered a bout of rheumatic fever that left him paralyzed from the waist down for six months; he spent a lot of that time reading comic books. That led to a career as a commercial artist and freelance illustrator for science-fiction magazines, which in turn led to him joining Wally Wood’s studio as an art assistant in 1964. Starting with Tower Comics’ T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, his work as penciler and inker appeared in more than 800 Silver Age books, including covers and stories for Marvel’s X-Men, Doctor Strange and Tales to Astonish. In the 1970s, while he focused most of his attention as an art director on Marvel’s line of black-and-white magazines, he ran a studio from his home to assist him with his comic work; Val Mayerik and Don Newton were among his aides who went on to productive careers in comics. Though he never quite achieved superstar status, he had the great fortune to be teamed up with many of the greats during his five decades as a professional artist, and he can take pride in the many careers he helped launch. Died May 8 

8. Janice Valleau Winkleman (b. 1923)
Winkleman’s daughter, Ellie, had this to say to a reporter for The Florida Times-Union shortly after her mother died: “She janice-valleauwas very modest about her accomplishments, for sure. I used to read Archie comics growing up, and it wasn’t until I was 8 or 9… that she told me she actually drew them.” Born in the New Jersey suburbs around New York City, Janice Valleau (who often signed her work as Ginger or Janice S.) was one of the few female pencilers and inkers working for the Golden Age publishers. She studied commercial art and went to work for MLJ (Archie) Publications right away, and later freelanced for outfits like Quality, Novelty and Charlton. She’s probably best known to Golden Age fans for her work on Toni Gayle, a strip featuring a glamorous model-detective that appeared in Novelty’s Young King Cole comics, but she was a regular artist in 1940s Archie comics, drawing stories starring Betty & Veronica, Ginger and Gloomy Gus. Like many other artists, she left the comics business in the post-Wertham era when jobs were scarce, but returned to art in her 60s and painted recreationally until well into her 80s.  Died in hospice December 8

9. George Gladir (b. 1925)
The funniest part of the story behind how George Gladir’s most famous creation got her name? It wasn’t even the right name of the person he was thinking of. “When it came to naming Sabrina, I decided to name her after a woman I recalled from my junior high school days,” he told an interviewer in 2007. “Some years later I recalled the woman’s name was not george_gladirSabrina, but actually Sabra Holbrook.” Would a book titled Sabra the Teenage Witch have been just as successful? Who can say? What we do know is that the spellbinding gal that Gladir co-created with Dan DeCarlo went on to become one of Archie’s most popular characters, spawning a hit sitcom, two animated series and (as far as I know) at least one serious attempt to bring her to the big screen. Gladir started in comics in 1943 when, at age 17, he landed an apprentice-type job at the Eisner & Iger studio. After serving in the army (and ending up a POW) during World War II, he held a variety of jobs while sending gag lines to various publishers; he started writing full-time for Archie in 1959 and was still at it five decades later. And when he wasn’t cranking out endless punchlines for Archie and the gang, he stayed busy writing copy for thousands of pages of Cracked (many of them illustrated by his friend and partner in zaniness, John Severin) over more than 30 years. The man knew his funny, is what I’m saying. Died April 3 at age 87

don-payne10. Don Payne (b. 1964)
Together with writing partner John Frink, Don Payne wrote scripts for several short-lived sitcoms before joining the writing staff at The Simpsons in 1998. With four shared Emmys and a Writers Guild of America award for the 2005 episode “Fraudcast News” in his back pocket, he moved on to screenplays for such feature films as Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Thor and Thor: The Dark World (which is dedicated to his memory). “Much to my wife’s chagrin, I am a superhero geek,” Payne told The Los Angeles Times in 2006 while talking about his first film, My Super Ex-Girlfriend. “Definitely growing up I was into comics and became a comedy writer as an adult, so I put the two things together.” Died of bone cancer March 26.

scott-clark11. Scott Clark (b. 1970)
From DC’s head office: “The entire DC Entertainment family is saddened by the news of artist Scott Clark’s passing. Scott was an extremely talented creator and an important part of The New 52. From the beginning of his career working at WildStorm through his most recent output on titles like Grifter, Batman, Inc. and Manhunter, Clark earned a reputation as an extremely talented and professional artist.” Jim Lee added that Clark, whose career started in the early ’90s with pencils on titles like Marvel’s Power Pack and What If…?, was one of the first artists he brought into his WildStorm studio back in 1993: “I’m stunned and saddened by this news and at a loss for words. Scott was a great talent, a terrific guy, and a friend. He was one of the regular crew of artists who worked well into the night (every night), took dinner at Denny’s at 2 a.m. and played ping-pong in between drawing pages. We will all miss him dearly.” Died February 21 after a period of illness

jessesantos
12. Jesse Santos (b. 1930)
Jesse Santos spent his youthful years as a sidewalk artist drawing portraits of U.S. servicemen stationed in the Philippines during the Second World War. His work caught the attention of Tony Velasquez, widely regarded as the godfather of the Filipino comics industry, and he was soon drawing for Halakhak Komiks, the first serialized comic book published in his country, and DI-13, probably his best-known work. After he emigrated with his family to Los Angeles in 1969, he was selling drawings to tourists at a farmer’s market when two men from Gold Key Comics happened to notice his sci-fi paintings on display. That led to a second career in comics for Santos, working on titles like Dagar the Invincible, Brothers of the Spear, Tragg and the Sky Gods, and The Occult Files of Dr. Spektor; he moved on to animation design (Jem, Blackstar, Dino-Riders, Tiny Toon Adventures) after Western shut down its comic line in 1984. “He was a jolly man who clearly loved to draw and I think that’s evident in his work, much of which has recently been reprinted by Dark Horse Comics,” wrote comic writer Mark Evanier on his blog. “I’ll bet it’s around for a long time.” Died April 27

yakashi-yanase
13.
Takashi Yanase (b. 1919)
For those of you not up on your Japanese culture, an anpan is a sweet, bean-filled pastry that’s a popular snack treat in that country. Takashi Yanase said he was inspired to create Anpanman, his most famous creation, by the dreams he had of eating anpan during the Second World War when food was scarce. Anpanman debuted as a picture book series in 1973 and went on to sell more than 50 million copies; the long-running anime adaptation (debuted in 1988, still airing today) is one of the most popular shows for young children in Japan. Anpanman characters also appear on virtually every children’s product you can imagine, from clothes to video games to toys to snack foods. Not bad for a fellow who once dreamed of nothing more than a satisfying bean-filled snack. Died of heart failure October 13

george-olesen14. George Olesen (b. 1924)
George Olesen’s story is similar to that of many other artists from his generation; after serving as a B-24 pilot in Southeast Asia during World War II, Olesen returned home to earn a degree in illustration. This led to design work at several Madison Avenue advertising agencies as well as freelancing gigs with some of the smaller comic publishers of the early 1950s. He also worked for NBC-TV for several years as a graphic artist while ghosting strips like Red Ryder and Ozark Ike, and while producing art for pulp magazines like Fantastic Adventures. But Olesen will always be best known for the forty-plus years he spent as penciler for the popular newspaper strip The Phantom, working on the Sunday strips beginning in 1962 and then the dailies in 1980, continuing until his retirement in 2005. By all accounts, Olesen approached his retirement years the same way he did his working life, with his obituary noting he could often be seen on the tennis courts at a resort near his Palm City, Fla., home well into his mid-80s. “All during my working period, I had two full-time jobs and they always seemed to work out,” he told an interviewer. “It was a lot of fun, and I liked work.” Died October 15

mike-dimayuga15. Mike Dimayuga (b. 1974)
On his deviantART page, Mike Dimayuga had this to say about himself: “i draw comics, read books and play video games. i watch too much TV and movies.” His colleagues had a little more to add when they wrote about his passing. Tim Seeley, who worked with Dimayuga on the webcomic Colt Noble and the Megalords and Hack/Slash #23, had this to say on Facebook: “I met up with Mike at San Diego Comic-Con for the release of Colt Noble at the Image Comics booth, and was really surprised to find he was suffering from MS. It had clearly not slowed him down at all artistically, and hadn’t put any kind of damper on his attitude. Via the Con, Mike became friendly with all my collaborators: Steve Seeley, Mike Moreci, Mike Norton … everyone liked the dude immediately.” James Asmus, who penned a story in the Action DoubleFeature digital comic that was illustrated by Dimayuga, wrote on Twitter: “Comics lost one of the kindest, most dedicated pros I’ve ever known. Mike Dimayuga’s passing is a genuine loss.” Died of cardiac arrest September 16

henry-polic  scarecrow      michael-ansara  mrfreeze
16-17. Henry Polic II (b. 1945)/Michael Ansara (b. 1922)
Another reason why the ’90s Batman cartoon was so perfect in every way? The impeccable voice casting, courtesy of Andrea Romano, who saw box-office gold in hiring Luke Skywalker to be the Joker and getting the tall guy from Night Court to play the definitive Two-Face. Two more casting coups we can credit her for: giving the roles of Scarecrow and Mister Freeze to veteran character actors Henry Polic II and Michael Ansara. Polic, who scored guest roles on pretty much every ’80s prime-time show you can name, first earned fame in the ’70s as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Mel Brooks’ Robin Hood spoof When Things Were Rotten; he also enjoyed a long career as a voice actor, game-show celebrity contestant (The $25,000 Pyramid), and frequent charity event host. Ansara, whose Syrian complexion led to him being cast as a Native American and other ethnic roles during the early years of his career (he played Cochise in the 1956 TV show Broken Arrow and an Egyptian taskmaster in The Ten Commandments), is best known to sci-fi fans as Kane from 1979’s Buck Rogers in the 25th Century and Commander Kang in three Star Trek series, making him one of only a handful of actors to play the same character in three different Trek series. Polic, died August 13 of cancer; Ansara, died July 31 after a long illness

lou-scheimer18. Lou Scheimer (b. 1928)
If, like me, you were a child of the late ’70s/early ’80s who spent a lot of time in front of the TV (and I mean a lot), try to imagine what your childhood would have been like without shows like BraveStarr, He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, She-Ra: Princess of Power, Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, Jason of Star Command, the animated Star Trek series, The New Adventures of Batman… Filmation did them all, and Filmation was Lou Scheimer. Family legend has it that Scheimer’s father had to leave Germany in the 1920s after knocking out a young Adolf Hitler in a bar fight; if that was true, then his son inherited that brand of moxie, opening an animation studio that by the early ’80s was the largest in the U.S. based on the number of artists it employed. The studio’s first big hit was The New Adventures of Superman in 1966; shows starring Aquaman, Batman, Tarzan, Captain Marvel and the Archie gang soon followed. Critics scoffed at the cheap look of the final products, especially the limited animation of the characters (Star Trek’s flipped-cel reaction shots are worthy of a drinking game), but there’s no denying Filmation gave a lot of work to a lot of artists over the years, and created a lot of Saturday-morning memories for millions of kids who frankly didn’t notice that He-Man always looked funny when he ran. Died of Parkinson’s Disease October 17

MALACHI THRONE19. Malachi Throne (b. 1928)
It’s almost a shame that so many Internet reports of Malachi Throne’s death led with a headline like “R.I.P. Batman actor Malachi Throne,” since the star of stage and television enjoyed a long career in television, making appearances in shows like Star Trek, It Takes a Thief and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in the 1960s all the way up to The West Wing in the 2000s. He also gathered an impressive résumé as a voice actor, lending his pipes to Batman Beyond, The New Batman Adventures, Avatar: The Last Airbender and the 2009 direct-to-video DVD Green Lantern: First Flight. But his role as False Face in the 1960s Batman series is how most pop culture fans will remember him, even if his face was hidden behind a plastic mask the entire time he was on camera. Rumor has it he was steamed about never getting a big unmasking scene — making him the only Batman guest star to not have his face shown — as well as the producers’ decision to heighten the mystery surrounding the character by showing a “?” in the “special guest villain” opening credits. (He got a shout-out in the end credits of his second episode, though). Died of lung cancer March 13

comics-buyers-guide
20. Comic Buyer’s Guide
Was anyone really surprised when Krause Publications announced in January (via a blog post, no less) that it was cancelling Comic Buyer’s Guide? Probably not. Established in 1971, the publication originally known as The Buyer’s Guide For Comic Fandom served a growing community of fans and retailers that was becoming more organized and demanding more information about back issues and upcoming titles. Longtime contributors Don and Maggie Thompson were hired on as editors in 1983, and they oversaw the weekly newspaper’s transition to a monthly magazine format, cramming its pages with columns by a roster of talented writers (including comic professionals like Peter David, Tony Isabella and Mark Evanier) and providing a much-needed platform for discussing important issues like artists’ rights. Shortly after the news broke, Maggie Thompson (her husband died in 1994) had this to say: “In the time since the announcement, editor Brent Frankenhoff and I have been inundated by messages from people who are telling us (some for the first time) of the changes CBG has made in their (personal and professional) lives. I’m proud that CBG was able to help those who needed it for more than four decades.” Ceased publication with its March 2013 issue, seen above

man-of-steel-buildings
21+. About 5,000 residents of Metropolis (and a small slice of our collective innocence)
Once upon a time, you could have a movie where Superman battles a trio of Kryptonian super-villains in the middle of Metropolis and have fun with it. Remember the blown-over phone booth in Superman II that went sailing down the street with its occupant still trying to complete his call? Innocent times. This summer’s Man of Steel didn’t quite go that route; in fact, many film critics and online commentators made it clear they weren’t at all pleased with how Superman (whose defining trait has always been the immense value he places on protecting lives) didn’t do much of anything to contain the damage wrought by Zod and his forces; in fact, in some scenes Superman added to the carnage by using entire blocks of Metropolis real estate to batter Zod. When asked at a fan event how many fictional Metropolis residents died in those final fight scenes, Man of Steel director Zack Snyder estimated about 5,000, or roughly 2,000 more than everyone killed during the 9/11 attacks. To his credit, he didn’t shy away from the question of whether all that implied carnage was really necessary, saying there had to be a “human price” for Superman to struggle with. Not good enough, argued comic writer Mark Waid, who spoke for many fans when he deemed the film “disaster porn” in a blog post: “I’m not suggesting he stop in the middle of a super-powered brawl to save a kitten from a tree, but even Brandon Routh [in 2006’s Superman Returns] thought to use his heat vision on the fly to disintegrate deadly falling debris after a sonic boom. From everything shown to us from the moment he put on the suit, Superman rarely if ever bothered to give the safety and welfare of the people around him one bit of thought.” That might be how heroes are supposed to roll in a leaner, meaner, post-9/11 landscape… but that doesn’t mean we as an audience have to like it.

 

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