Gone But Not Forgotten, 2016 Edition

32 Comics People We Said Goodbye To In 2016

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1. Darwyn Cooke (b. 1962)
Goddamn, 2016. You didn’t pull any punches, did you? Never mind all the political fooforaw and other reasons people felt bummed out this year. Prince. David Bowie. Leonard Cohen. Muhammad Ali. Gene Wilder. Alan Rickman. Glenn Frey. Harper Lee. Garry Shandling. Merle Haggard. Gordie Howe. Arnold Palmer. George Michael. Carrie Fisher (ohmygod2016whatthehell). And that’s just the beginning of this year’s extra-long “In Memoriam” reel. This has been a brutal 12 months for anyone who appreciates the work of talented people. But with all due respect to fans of film, music or sports, this has been an especially rough year for comic fans. Case in point: this is the year we lost Darwyn Cooke, an artist I would easily count among the top three comic creators from the past 20 years.

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Born in Toronto and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada, Cooke’s first professional comic work was a five-page crime story he wrote and drew for DC’s New Talent Showcase #19 (1985). The low pay and his slow production rate convinced him he couldn’t count on comic work to make a living, so he spent the next 15 years working as a magazine art director and graphic designer. When he heard that Warner Bros. was hiring storyboard artists for its Batman and Superman animated shows, he sent in a 14-page pitch that would later be published in 2000 as Batman: Ego. The success of that project (as well as his work in animation, including Batman Beyond and Men in Black: TAS) led to more freelance jobs for Marvel and DC, but it’s his work with Ed Brubaker on 2001’s Catwoman — a title that saw the character undergo a complete revamp — and his follow-up graphic novel, Selina’s Big Score, that marked him as an artist to watch.

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And oh, how blessed we were to be glancing his way in 2004, when he came out with DC: The New Frontier. The six-issue mini-series bridged the gap between the end of DC’s Golden Age and the start of its Silver Age by having DC’s Silver Age heroes debut in the “real world” in the same years they first appeared in comics (e.g., in the story Barry Allen becomes the Flash in 1956, while Superman and Wonder Woman have been active since before the Second World War). In doing so, Cooke was able to tell a story that wasn’t just about overcoming prejudices or fighting an alien invasion, but also why these heroes exist in our world in the first place. And that’s key: Cooke was a storyteller, a writer who had something to say about the characters he put in his stories. His art style was also something that was indisputably his own: it was reminiscent of classic Kirby and the simple lines of other Golden Age greats, but somehow also timeless with its economical design, dashes of humor and above all a sense of hope about what the future will bring. (Just look at the beaming smiles in the image above, from 2015’s Graphic Ink: The Art of Darwyn Cooke, and tell me you don’t feel like you’re joining old friends for a coffee.) “His work made you happy, and made you remember why you fell in love with comics in the first place,” wrote The Washington Post’s David Betancourt in a moving tribute. “He not only made great comics; he also made comics great.” Died May 14

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2. Steve Dillon (b. 1962)
Speaking of guys who made comics great. I took a break from reading new comics from the mid- to late ’90s, so I missed out on Dillon’s work on titles like Hellblazer and Preacher when it first came out. Because of that, my initial exposure to his artwork was Welcome Back, Frank, the first story arc in the 2000 Punisher series written by Dillon’s frequent collaborator, Garth Ennis. I had heard some online chatter about how “the Punisher was back” and I thought I should check it out, but I wasn’t expecting that much. I mean, it’s the Punisher. He shoots bad guys, they try to kill him back, “fight fight fight/fight fight fight/The Itchy and Scratchy Shoooow,” etc. But here’s the thing: this Punisher was funny. Hysterically funny, even. Here was a Frank Castle I had never seen before: a guy who’s still on his mission of vengeance, but having a wickedly dark sense of humor about it — and surrounded by a cast of kooky characters, good guys and bad, who provide brilliant reactions to his idea of justice. Dillon was a master of the reaction shot, and he instinctively got what a lot of other contemporary artists don’t; namely, it’s all in the face:

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A London lad, Dillon began his professional career at the tender age of 16 with the debut of Hulk Weekly for Marvel UK. Credits in Doctor Who, 2000 AD and the Warrior anthology followed before he co-created with Brett Ewins the comic magazine Deadline in 1988. His North American breakout came when he and Ennis partnered up to work on DC’s Hellblazer, followed up by 1995’s Preacher, their critically acclaimed book about a preacher on a literal search for God. “I remember drawing the first issue thinking, ‘This is either going to bomb completely or enough people will get it to make it a cult success,'” Dillon told Entertainment Weekly around the time AMC premiered its TV series based on the book. “Luckily, enough readers did get it and realized where we were coming from with it.” When his younger brother, himself an accomplished artist, announced Dillon’s unexpected death on social media, the tributes and outpouring of grief from fans and fellow comic artists was immediate. From DC group editor Marie Javins: “I worked with him from 1991, long before Preacher, up to his most recent covers for Sixpack and Dogwelder, but his impact on the comics industry resonated most through his interpretation of Jesse Custer and company. His name, along with writer Garth Ennis, is practically synonymous with Preacher, but I know him as a lovable wisecracker who enjoyed New York, and he could always be depended on to deliver a sly remark. Steve had a great sense of humor; it’s fitting his last work for DC was a cover of a tin-foil Dogwelder.” Died October 22

rip-jackdavis3. Jack Davis (b. 1924)
When my smart-aleck younger self discovered MAD in the early ’80s, there was no turning back. And I have every reason to believe Jack Davis would have been proud of the part he played in the moral corruption of millions of impressionable kids like me. All kidding aside, Davis was not just one of the founding cartoonists of the greatest humor magazine of all time and one of the most distinctive (and imitated) movie poster artists in the business and a regular contributor to TV Guide’s cover caricatures and by all reports a swell guy who won every award in the cartooning business and was widely respected by his peers. No, on top of all that he was also one of the original artists in EC’s all-star line-up, a fellow who could easily jump from war to horror to humor and back again without breaking a sweat. From the wiki: “Davis was particularly noted for his depiction of the Crypt-Keeper in the horror comics, revamping the character’s appearance from the more simplistic Al Feldstein version to a tougher, craggier, mangier man with hairy warts, salivating mouth and oversized hands and feet, who usually didn’t wear shoes.” Fans of EC’s classic horror tales will recognize him as the artist behind such ghoulish delights as “Foul Play,” which earned a mention in Fredric Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent for its gruesome depiction of a “strange baseball game” you won’t see on ESPN…

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Born in Atlanta, Davis’s first published work was a small sketch he sent in to Tip Top Comics at the age of 12. He drew all through high school and while serving in the U.S. Navy, where he contributed to the daily Navy News. Moving to New York City to continue his cartooning career, in 1950 he began freelancing for EC Comics’ William Gaines, contributing to the company’s growing line of war, horror and sci-fi titles and gaining a reputation among editors as one of the fastest artists in the business. Davis excelled at all the genres assigned to him, but his knack for creating wacky characters made him a natural fit for Harvey Kurtzman’s MAD when it launched in 1952. Davis followed Kurtzman when he left EC to work on other humor magazines, but by the mid-1960s Davis was back at MAD and from then on appeared in almost every single issue for the next couple of decades. When he wasn’t working on material for the magazine, he found a steady demand for his work in animation, movie posters, magazines, album covers, advertisements, and even the sports mascot design business (the College of Coastal Georgia based their Capt. Jack mascot on his sketches). “He was a burlesque artist who liked to paint jowls and knuckles, brows and cheekbones; his noses look punched up out of clay,” wrote Robert Lloyd of the Los Angeles Times. “His work is muscular and lumpy. His clothing bunches and wrinkles; his shoes seem to have been beaten out of shape. It was a knockabout style, an American style — proletarian, energetic, good-humored and not unflattering (or for that matter flattering) to its subjects.” Died July 27

rip-gaspar-saladino4. Gaspar Saladino (b. 1927)
To get a sense of how important guys like Gaspar Saladino are to the comic business, try to imagine every word in your favorite comic written in the same Times New Roman font. Or Helvetica. Or (shudder) Comic Sans. For more than 50 years, Saladino was one of the industry’s top letterers, grabbing readers’ attention with nothing more than beautifully drawn text and logos. Swamp Thing. Vigilante. Phantom Stranger. Metal Men. Adam Strange. House of Mystery. House of Secrets. Unknown Soldier. Updated logos for Green Lantern, The Avengers, Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos, and Captain America. These and many more were his handiwork, along with blurbs and captions for hundreds of interior pages and house ads. (You can see a collection of his best logos and blurbs on this tribute page.) A Brooklyn boy, Saladino made money inking comics while still in school. After a stint in the army, in 1949 he showed his portfolio to Julius Schwartz at DC, who was reportedly unimpressed with the art but liked his lettering. Starting out on DC’s Western books, he spent much of the 1950s and ’60s as Schwartz’s main go-to guy for his books (Strange Adventures, Justice League of America, The Flash, Showcase, among others). When Carmine Infantino became DC’s art director in the late ’60s, he gradually shifted most high-profile lettering tasks (logos, cover lettering, house ads) from lettering veteran Ira Schnapp to Saladino. When Saladino lettered the interiors for Swamp Thing in the early 1970s, he created the concept of character-designated fonts by depicting Swamp Thing’s thoughts and dialogue in the creature’s distinctive “drippy” format, as seen here:

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Later in the 1970s, Saladino (who always lettered by hand) would do lettering for DC’s war titles and high-profile projects (Superman vs. The Amazing Spider-Man and Superman vs. Muhammad Ali), while finding time to freelance for Marvel, Atlas and other publishers. Fellow letterer Todd Klein, in a moving tribute to the man he considered a mentor and a friend, had this to say: “Gaspar was testy at times about the fact that so many letterers tried to copy his work, but he needn’t have worried. We could never copy his innate brilliance and talent.” Died August 4

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5. Paul Ryan (b. 1949)
If you have dreams of becoming a comic artist but you’re afraid you waited too long to get into the game, let Paul Ryan be your inspiration. Graduating from the Massachusetts College of Art in 1971 with a BFA in Graphic Design, Ryan spent the next 11 years working in the graphics department at a Boston engineering firm. In 1983, when he was well into his 30s, he wrote and drew his first comic story, “Breed,” in response to an “open audition” from Charlton Comics. That story, eventually published in 1984’s Starmasters #1, led to him attracting the attention of artist Bob Layton, who hired him as an assistant and introduced him to editors and staff at Marvel. Starting with inking assignments on The Thing, Ryan and his classically clean style moved on to the Fantastic Four (where he did an impressive five-year stint), Spider-Man (including the 1987 wedding issue), the Avengers, the Eternals and Iron Man, as well as new titles like QuasarRavage 2099 and DP7.  He followed his Marvel gigs with work on Superman, Batman and other DC characters before moving into newspaper strips, most notably The Phantom, which he drew from 2005 until his death. Writer Larry Hama, who worked with Ryan at Marvel and DC, paid tribute to his late colleague on Facebook: “I always knew that a plot I sent him would be drawn with a keen attention to detail, aspects of the story would be improved upon, and my mistakes would be corrected. I will miss him as a valued collaborator, and I mourn him as a friend.” Died March 7

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6. Richard “Sparky” Moore (b. 1925)
Born in Philadelphia, Richard Moore had two passions early in life: drawing and horses. After serving in World War II (where he picked up his “Sparky” nickname from his job as a radio operator), he started his art career in the late 1940s. Things took off for him in 1952 when he started drawing for Western Publishing, putting his passion for horses to good use by producing hundreds of Western comics for its Dell books and providing artwork for the company’s coloring books, puzzles and toys. Word of his versatility got around and he was soon also doing movie/TV tie-ins (Rin Tin Tin, Lassie, Zorro) and funny-animal strips, particularly books based on Disney-based properties like The Aristokittens and Winnie the Pooh. From the mid-1960s to the early ’80s, his Disney work expanded to include books for foreign markets and daily newspaper strips following the adventures of Scamp and Winnie the Pooh. And if that weren’t enough, he also worked as a layout artist for Hanna-Barbera and other animators on Jonny Quest, Spider-Man, Space Ghost and a few other fondly remembered series. In his later years, he returned to his first passion, Western art, and spent his days on his California ranch, tending to his horses and working in his art studio. Died September 7

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7. George Wildman (b. 1927)
No, please, go ahead and call Charlton Comics a third-rate publisher; you’ll only be repeating what many people who worked there have already said. All kidding aside, Charlton — infamous among artists as one of the lowest-paying outfits in the industry — had a pretty decent run (1945-1986) and boasted a lot of talented people on its payroll, including cartoonist/editor George Wildman. Born in Connecticut, Wildman served in the U.S. Navy during World War II and the Korean War before returning home to work as a cartoonist and commercial artist. He found his way to Charlton where he drew several features, most notably Popeye when Charlton took over the book from King Features in 1969. Hired on in 1971 as an assistant editor, he would later become the company’s top editor; the updated Charlton logo he’s holding in the picture was his design. While working at Charlton and after his retirement in 1985, he freelanced for other publishers, including Western (when they re-acquired the rights to Popeye), Marvel (Heathcliff, Mighty Mouse) and DC (Looney Tunes, Animaniacs). His talent lives on in his son, with whom he ran a commercial art studio in his later years. “A true Renaissance man through and through, George’s career was something that few can boast about,” wrote Jackie Zbuska, director of the documentary Charlton Comics: The Movie. “Here was a cartoonist who took his background in advertising and molded it to suit the needs of a comic book company that few others saw potential in.” Died May 23

rip-jackchick18. Jack Chick (b. 1924)
Reportedly too shy to communicate other than through his comics — his last known interview was in 1975 — Jack Chick  was a reclusive cartoonist whose penchant for privacy makes Steve Ditko look like a screaming exhibitionist. But if his face wasn’t everywhere, his “Chick tracts” certainly were; by some estimates, almost 900 million of his wallet-sized cartoons have been printed and sold in 102 languages to missionaries, churches, youth groups and other Christian organizations around the world. Born and raised in California, Chick was a World War II veteran and aspiring actor when he had a religious experience listening to a Baptist radio show. He self-published his first mini-comic Why No Revival? in 1960, and he incorporated Chick Publications in 1970 to distribute his comics worldwide. The list of threats to Christianity denounced in his comics grew longer as the years passed: Islam, Judaism, evolution, abortion, homosexuality, rock music, the Roman Catholic Church, Mormonism, Halloween, updated translations of the Bible — even reading a Harry Potter novel was enough to send you to hell in the world according to Chick. While he amassed a following of Christians who shared his extremist beliefs, he also developed an ironic fanbase who couldn’t get enough of his tone-deaf dialogue and over-the-top storylines that revealed such “truths” as Dungeons & Dragons is actually a tool used to recruit impressionable youngsters into Satanism. No surprise, his work was often the subject of boycotts and his books were regularly singled out as hate speech. But whatever your opinion of his beliefs, it’s hard to deny the man’s passion for his mission — or his wisdom in choosing comics to spread the word. Died October 23

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9. Leonard Brenner (b. circa 1930)
The Usual Gang of Idiots lost another of their own when former MAD production manager and art director Leonard Brenner passed away. Though he wasn’t a writer or artist, he touched almost every single MAD page between 1958 (when he joined the magazine) and his retirement in 1995; with the exception of publisher William Gaines, his name appeared on MAD‘s masthead more than anyone else’s. Sometimes it wasn’t just his name that appeared in the magazine; that’s him in an ad parody from 1964’s MAD #84, a spoof of a famous 1960s ad for tomato paste that claimed they “put eight great tomatoes in each little bitty can.” This was one of many photo gags and fake ads that “The Beard” appeared in over the years, making his one of the more famous non-Alfred E. Neuman faces most MAD readers never even realized they knew. Here’s a clip of him from the documentary When We Went MAD in which he admits he lied in his job interview about his technical skills. Considering how things worked out, I think we can forgive him for that. Died April 9

rip-don-edwing10. Don Edwing (b. 1934) 
Another MAD alum taken from us this year, Brooklyn native Don “Duck” Edwing died on Boxing Day, one day after pop legend George Michael and one day before Carrie “Princess Leia” Fisher. (Have I mentioned it’s been one of those years?) His tenure with Mad spanned six decades, beginning with two gag cartoons in Mad #70 (April 1962) and ending with a piece in the magazine’s 515th issue in 2012. In between, he wrote the Spy vs. Spy strip for 12 years,  worked as an uncredited writer for Don Martin strips and other features, contributed cover gags, did “punch-ups” for other contributors’ work, and collaborated with fellow MAD artist Paul Coker Jr. on two comic strips, Lancelot and Horace and Buggy. In addition to his MAD work, he had cartoons published in Plop!, Help!, Playboy, Look and The Saturday Evening Post, among others. In his later years, he wrote novels, designed slot machines, wrote questions for TV quiz shows, revelled in the cornball jokes and groaner puns that paid his bills for decades, you name it. “I always believed that when you choose your field, you should specialize,” Edwing told a reporter in 2007. “You never deviate. “I chose ‘sick puppy.'” Died December 26

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11. Augie Scotto (b. 1927)
A Navy vet who served on the USS Tarawa during World War II, Augie Scotto was never shy about his voicing his opinions. During the final 20 or so years of his life, he was a front-row fixture at council meetings in Hamilton Township, NJ, where he would pepper councillors with questions about local matters, and the active member of the Hamilton Township Seniors Club and the Hamilton Republicans would happily bend the ear of any politician who came within his sights. Long before his civic activism, though, he was active in comics as an artist for Timely/Atlas, Eastern Color, Hillman, Cross Publications and other publishers, working mainly in crime features. The Brooklyn native was also a longtime illustrator for Will Eisner’s PS, The Preventive Maintenance Monthly magazine and worked with the Wally Wood studio. He returned to comics in the late 1970s as an inker for DC and Marvel, contributing to G.I. Combat, House of Secrets, Green Lantern and a few other titles. You can see a retrospective of his 1950s work hereDied March 15

rip-lindsay-walker12. Lindsay Walker (b. 1982)
An Australian artist who in recent years worked on several Phantom comic-book projects, Lindsay Walker took her own life on Sept. 27 — shortly after her first-ever cover for the Australian edition of The Phantom (issue #1764, “The Crying Idol”) went on sale. A transgender woman, she first came to the attention of Phantom fans when she produced two covers for Moonstone Graphics‘ relaunched version of The Phantom: Ghost Who Walks comic book in 2009 and 2010 (these early works were attributed to her former name, Mick Collins). Walker, who chose her new surname to honour the Phantom’s alter ego, produced several private and commissioned pieces depicting the Phantom. An inspiration to others in Australia’s transgender community, her loss was also mourned by comic fans who would never see future projects come to light. “If only the right authors would come along and be brave enough to tackle [LGBTQ] issues in the Phantom’s world,” she said in a 2012 interview. “In Uganda, for example, you’d receive the death penalty for homosexuality. This year they had their first gay pride parade. Now that’s bravery. There’s definitely a story there to be told. I’d love to illustrate that book.” Died September 27

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13. He Youzhi (b. 1922)
A self-taught artist, He Youzhi is considered one of the giants of Chinese comics. Born in Shanghai, he started drawing in 1949 when he was the artist and editor at Shanghai People’s Fine Arts Publishing House. He published more than 100 comic books; among the most popular were Shanxiang Jubian (adapted from Zhou Libo’s fictional story about changes in Chinese rural areas), Bai Guang (adapted from Lu Xun’s fictional story of the same name) and 360 Craftsmen in Old Shanghai. His distinctive style, known as “He-style line drawing,” integrates modern art perspectives into classical Chinese painting to depict the daily life of normal people. He was given a Life Achievement Award by the Chinese Ministry of Culture in 2010 for his contribution to Chinese fine art, and he remains the only Chinese artist whose portrait tile is included in the plaza of the Musée de la Bande Dessinée in Angouleme, France. Died March 16

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14. Angel Gabriele (b. 1956)
Not a lot of people can list both “comic artist” and “professional wrestling manager” on their CV, but Pasquale Demetrio Angelo Gabriele — “Angel” to his friends — wasn’t like most people. The Brooklyn-born artist learned the basics from sci-fi/fantasy artist Kelly Freas in the early 1970s; from there he went to New York to assist Rich Buckler on uncredited work at Marvel. By 1975, he was producing covers and splash pages for Marvel’s British department; his first credited work (as Pat Gabriele) was DC’s Kobra #4 in 1976. In 1978, he relocated to Indiana and bought the merchandising rights to The Space Giants, a U.S. adaptation of Osamu Tezuka’s Magma Taishi (“Ambassador Magma”); he published a comic book adaptation of the first four episodes of The Space Giants the following year. After a few years working as a wrestler (“The Dark Angel”) and a wrestling promoter throughout the Midwest, he returned to comics in the 1990s to work with Denys Cowan on the Milestone imprint and produce covers for DC titles. “Angel was a fighter, literally and figuratively,” wrote his friend and collaborator Paul Kupperberg. “I know he went by Dark Angel, but once you got to know the guy it was hard to believe there could possibly be anything dark about him.” Died February 23

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15. Carlos Nine (b. 1944)
When news of Carlos Nine’s passing came out, the tributes from fellow artists on social media came fast and furious. “There’s no one to compare him to.” “A magician of the colour technique.” “In the French comics circles, Nine is a god.” “A giant.” “The best has departed.” The son of a shoe salesman, the Argentine illustrator, writer, cartoonist and sculptor left behind a large body of work, including his work in the 1980s on Argentine magazines, where he created such popular characters as the magician Keko and Saubón the Duck while offering a satirical take on Argentina’s transition to democracy. he wrote and illustrated Crímenes y Castigos (1991), Fantagas (1995), Gesta Dei (2006) and his award-winning Oh Merde, Les Lapins! (Shit, the Rabbits!) in 2005. In 2012, he received the Platinum Konex Award as Argentina’s best illustrator of the decade. Died July 16 

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16. Gary Reed (b. 1956)
“Gary was independent comics,” said comic writer and editor Joe Pruett. “He gave anybody who’s anybody in this business today their start.” Indeed, the Detroit native and avid comic fan launched Caliber Comics in 1989, helping some of today’s top comics talents (Ed Brubaker, Brian Michael Bendis, James O’Barr, among many others) get exposure at the start of their careers. He was also the writer behind such titles as  Saint Germaine, Baker Street and Deadworld. In 1984, while still a graduate student, he launched Detroit’s King Kon Comic & Fantasy Convention, in addition to running four used bookstore/comic shops in the Detroit area. He later served as vice-president of McFarlane Toys for the first three years (1994-97) of that company’s existence. Though he sold the last of his comic shops and ceased publishing in 2000 to focus on teaching, he still found time for writing, bringing back Caliber titles through Image Comics. While he did many things in support of the comic industry, former colleague Kevin VanHook told the Detroit News Reed should be remembered most for his commitment to diversity: “He was very open to anything, from things that were slightly anime to hardcore realism to fantasy to science fiction. He didn’t really particularly care about how commercial something was. If he thought it was a good product, it was something worth publishing, he did it regardless if he thought it would make any money.” Died October 2

rip-ted-benoit17. Ted Benoit (b. 1947)
Born in Niort, France, Thierry “Ted” Benoit was a prominent figure in the Franco-Belgian ligne claire (clear line) revival of the 1980s. Among his more prominent works are Ray Banana, a noir strip starring a sunglasses-wearing anti-hero, and his revival of the classic Blake & Mortimer series. A film fan, Benoit studied cinematography and started his career as an assistant producer in French television. In 1971, he joined the editorial team of Actuel, an alternative magazine in which he published his first comics. His style evolved as he joined other artists in the formation of École de Pigalle, a gathering of Paris-area artists heavily influenced by such ligne claire artists as Hergé (Tintin) and Edgar P. Jacobs (creator of the Blake & Mortimer series). In the early 1990s, he and writer Jean Van Hamme revived Blake & Mortimer (Jacobs died in 1987), bringing back Jacobs’ British scientist and MI5 captain in the story L’Affaire Francis Blake in 1996. After returning to the characters with the more science-fiction story L’Étrange Rendez-Vous in 2001, Benoit focused on book illustrations and advertising art until his death. Died September 30

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18. John Fantucchio (b. 1938)
Try, if you can, to imagine back to those dark days, before all this internet stuff came along. Before you could search Lambiek.net for artist biographies. Before you could call up comics.org to find out who pencilled which issue in your favorite run. Before you could check out a dozen or so online sources to see what people are paying for a hard-to-find comic these days. In those primitive times, comic fans had to put some effort into learning more about their favorite creators, companies and characters, and a lot of those fans found what they were looking for in the fanzines, those early publications with artist interviews, character histories, checklists and anything else comic fans wanted to share with each otherfantucchio-buyersguideRocket’s Blast Comicollector, The Collector, Fantastic Fanzine, Comic Crusader… a lot of fanzines popped up in the 1960s and ’70s, and John Fantucchio did covers for most of them, including the first issue of The Buyer’s Guide for Comic’s Fandom (shown here), which would later become the Comic Buyers Guide. His contributions added a sheen of professionalism to amateur publications that were just beginning to explore the possibilities in comic criticism and journalism. Born in Massachusetts, Fantucchio moved to Arlington, Va., in 1964, and it was there from his home studio that he produced hundreds of paintings, drawings, illustrations, cartoons and designs over the decades. He was noted for his versatility and wide range of materials and surfaces, creating two- and three-dimensional works of art for numerous private collections. He also taught art classes and contributed artwork to a handful of comic series, including Warren’s Vampirella and Creepy. This Facebook post by Bill Schelly offers a number of fans reminiscing about his work; this tribute fan-site goes into great detail about his fanzine work and his impact on early comic fandom. “He was always somewhat enigmatic, then and now, playing things close to his vest,” wrote Gary Groth, an early fanzine creator who would go on to found The Comics Journal. “He had a sophisticated technique, a unique stylization, and knew precisely how his work should be presented; there was an exacting aesthetic certitude to every aspect of his work.” Died August 4

19. Krip-ken-barren Barr (b. 1933)
Born in Scotland to a sign-painter father, Ken Barr served in Egypt with the British Army before returning to the UK to establish himself as a commercial artist. After his first covers for the sci-fi magazine Nebula in the 1950s, he produced a wide range of book covers and film postersand more than 200 issues for Commando magazine. He moved to the U.S. in 1968 where he became a regular penciller/inker and occasionally writer of strips for DC’s various war comics, including Our Army At War, Our Fighting Forces, Battle Album and Star Spangled War Stories. He also produced covers and back-up features for Warren’s Eerie, Creepy and Vampirella (1970-72) before becoming a regular cover artist for Marvel, working on full-color covers for Doc Savage, Rampaging Hulk, The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu and other black-and-white magazines. From the mid-1970s to his retirement in 1987, he found more lucrative work in book covers and film posters, mostly in the sci-fi and fantasy markets. “He was born too late to be a pulp artist, but he made up for lost time by providing amazing covers for these magazines,” wrote fan M.D. Jackson for Amazing Stories. The Beast Within: The Art of Ken Barr was published in 2007. Died March 25

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20. Janine “Nine” Culliford (b. 1930)
Smurfs fans around the world may not know it, but they owe Nine Culliford a huge debt. The wife of Pierre Culliford (Peyo), the man who introduced the Smurfs to the world in 1958, it was she — in her role as his colourist — who suggested his fantastical little creatures be given the unique blue tinge we all know today. The problem was Peyo didn’t want them to look too human, so any colour close to human skin tones was out; green was dismissed because they would blend too much into the forest backgrounds; red was ruled out because they would stand out too much. Yellow? Forget about it. According to the legend, that left Culliford to suggest the only other option left: blue. Peyo agreed, and it was left to Nine to find the right shade. She acted as the Smurfs’ official colourist from their first appearance in the medieval fantasy strip Johan et Pirlouit in 1958 until Peyo’s death in 1992; she continued to stay active on Smurf projects after their son and daughter took over the family business. “Nine was a true lady,” said Jordan Kerner, who knew her through the three live-action Smurfs movies he produced (the third, The Lost Village, comes out next year). “She was generous, beautiful and strong. She is with Peyo now, no doubt enjoying a village and friends awash in the blue she loved so much.” (Died July 5)

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21. Noel Neill (b. 1920)
It takes a certain quality to play the most famous fictional woman in all of comics. Margot Kidder had it. Kate Bosworth didn’t have it. Amy Adams could have it if someone would give her a decent script. Call it spunk, call it moxie, call it what you want; all I know is Noel Neill, the first actress to play Lois Lane on the big screen, had it in spades. Born in Minneapolis, she spent her teen years dancing and singing at county fairs across the Midwest. When casting Lois Lane for Columbia’s 1948 Superman serial, producer Sam Katzman recalled her ease with playing a newshawk in a previous film role and signed her up. She played Lois in that serial and in 1950’s Atom Man vs. Superman, both opposite Kirk Alyn. She returned to the role when Phyllis Coates left TV’s Adventures of Superman after the first season, playing opposite George Reeves for five seasons before the show went off the air in 1958. Where Coates left acting and distanced herself from the role that made her famous, Neill embraced the character by appearing on college campuses and at comic conventions; she would later make cameo appearances in other Superman productions, including one as Lois’s mother in 1978’s Superman. Her portrayal of an independent career woman in 1950s America hit a chord with many of the young women she met on college campuses in the 1970s, she once said in an interview. “They said that’s how they got into journalism. It was very flattering that the character inspired them.”  On June 15, 2010, the city of Metropolis, Ill., unveiled a bronze statue of Lois Lane modeled on Neill’s likeness. Died July 3

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22. Van Williams (b. 1934)
The massive popularity of 1966’s Batman had ABC Television begging executive producer William Dozier for another hit, and he found his next star in the Green Hornet, the masked crimefighter who debuted in a Detroit radio drama in 1936. But who to cast as the newspaper publisher-slash-fedora-wearing vigilante? Casting Kato was easy; Dozier knew Bruce Lee from a martial arts rip-van-williams2competition in Long Beach in 1964 and had previously cast him in an unaired pilot named Number One Son. The job of filling the Green Hornet’s shoes would eventually fall on Van Williams, a dashing Texas-born fellow who was working as a diving instructor in Hawaii when Hollywood producer Mike Todd discovered him in 1957. Williams got his big acting break in 1959’s Bourbon Street Beat and 1960’s Surfside 6, both on ABC, and he appeared in a handful of other TV shows and films before landing the role of the Green Hornet. Though the show never reached the heights of Bat-mania — it lasted only one season on ABC, with 26 episodes from September 1966 to March 1967 — it introduced millions of new fans to the Green Hornet and breathed new life into the character through comics and merchandising. Lee went on to become an international film star while Williams chose a different path, scoring roles in shows like Gunsmoke, The Rockford Files and The Streets of San Francisco before retiring from acting in 1982 to focus on his business interests (though he did return to acting for a cameo as “Green Hornet Director” in 1993’s Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story). If we can trust the internet, Seth Rogen and the other filmmakers behind 2011’s The Green Hornet hoped he would do a cameo as a cemetery guard, but his wife told reporters he “wanted nothing to do with that movie.” (Smart move, Van.) Died November 28

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23. John Duncan (b. 1923)
He wasn’t the first actor to put on Robin’s tights; that would have been Douglas Croft, who starred alongside Lewis Wilson in Columbia’s 1943 Batman serial. But as he told the story, the Missouri native nailed the role for the 1949 sequel by not brushing his hair. As he recalled, Batman co-creator Bob Kane had wanted a 16-year-old to play Robin, but Columbia producer Sam Katzman thought Duncan would be perfect for the part — even though he was 26 at the time. “So Sam called me and says, ‘Hey, John, you know, wear some jeans or something and a sweater and look as young as you can, and for God’s sake don’t comb your hair. Just come on over.’ So I did. And so when I walked in the door, before I was even introduced, Kane says, ‘Hey, that’s Robin.’ So that’s how I got the part.” Duncan learned to tap dance at an early age; he was discovered at age 15 by a 20th Century Fox talent scout while on tour with a dance troupe, and he and his family drove west to Hollywood. Aside from Batman, Duncan appeared in The East Side KidsThirty Seconds Over Tokyo, The Caine Mutiny, Ronald Reagan’s Bedtime for Bonzo, Ed Wood’s infamous Plan Nine from Outer Space and 1960’s Spartacus, his last film. He made occasional appearances at movie conventions right up until his death, happy to sign photos from The East Side Kids and Batman and Robin for the fans. Died February 8

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24. Leslie Martinson (b. 1915)
Burton, Schumacher, Nolan, Snyder: pikers, every one of them. You want to make audiences believe in a man who carries around cans of Shark Repellent Bat-Spray just in case, then you turn to a real director like Leslie Martinson. A Boston boy, Martinson worked as a journalist and script clerk at MGM before getting the chance to direct TV Westerns in the 1950s. He alternated between TV movies and series episodes well into the 1980s, collecting credits for such series as Maverick, Mission: Impossible, Mannix, Dallas, The Bionic Woman, CHiPs, and Fantasy Island. Comic fans might recognize his name in the directing credits for episodes of Wonder Woman, The Green Hornet and Batman, in addition to 1966’s Batman theatrical film, the first feature-length appearance of the Not-Quite-Dark Knight. His advice to aspiring directors was simple: “If you want to be a director, you can start studying before you’re anywhere near a set,” he said in a 2003 interview with the Archive of American Television. “Every time you watch a television show, you’re learning your craft. You don’t watch a show for entertainment, you watch to study.” Died September 3

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25. Janet Waldo (b. 1920)
Born in Washington state in 1920, Janet Waldo got her start as a professional actor after winning an award as part of a theatre group at the University Of Washington. She caught Bing Crosby’s attention, and she was soon signed to a contract with Paramount. She made appearances in a number of films, but she found her niche doing voice work, starring in the radio series Meet Corliss Archer for eight years while popping up on the radio version of The Adventures Of Ozzie And Harriet, Edward G. Robinson’s Big Town, and Cecil B. DeMille’s Lux Radio. From there it was a hop and a skip into animation voice acting, where Waldo played literally hundreds of roles, with some of the more prominent Josie on Josie and the Pussycats, Penelope Pitstop on Wacky Races, Morticia Addams on the 1973 Addams Family cartoon, Princess on Battle of the Planets and — most famously — Judy Jetson on The Jetsons. “There’s always something new and every time it happens I think, ‘Hey, we did that on The Jetsons,'” she once said. “I think that is the true appeal of The Jetsons, the technology. It intrigued so many people. I hope that flying car really happens.” Died June 12

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26. Alan Young (b. 1919)
Born in England, raised in British Columbia, later moved to Toronto and then New York City for his radio career… maybe there’s a reason why Alan Young identified with the globe-trotting Scrooge McDuck. As a child, Young fell in love with radio and hosted his own radio show on CBC while still a teenager; after a stint in the Royal Canadian Navy, he moved to Toronto and then New York to resume his radio career. He easily transitioned into television, where he hosted The Alan Young Show (1950-53) and later became a national sensation as the owner of Mister Ed (1961-66), a talking horse who only spoke up when Young’s character (“Wil-burrrrr“) was alone in the room. Following the cancellation of that show, Young retired from acting for a few years, but later found a new calling as a voice actor in Scooby Doo and Scrappy Doo, The Plastic Man Comedy/Adventure Show, Trollkins, Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, Battle of the Planets (as Keyop and 7-Zark-7), Alvin and the Chipmunks, The Smurfs and several other animated classics of the ’70s and ’80s. But starting with 1983’s Mickey’s Christmas Carol, he’ll forever be remembered as the voice of Scrooge McDuck. Though Duckburg’s richest duck once appeared in a 1960s animated short teaching his grand-nephews about money, Disney’s retelling of the Dickens classic was his first speaking role in a Disney production, and Young would reprise the role several more times in video games, animated shorts and — most famously — 100 episodes of DuckTales (1987-90). In a 2009 interview, Young talked about how he saw Scrooge: “Scrooge was a nasty fellow in the comics. But for the cartoon, they had to make him more likable or audiences wouldn’t have taken to him. He was still miserly and grumpy, but he loved his nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie.” Died May 19 

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27. Robert Vaughn (b. 1932)
Fun fact: Robert Vaughn, who’s most famous for playing suave super-agent Napoleon Solo on TV’s The Man From U.N.C.L.E., also played the villainous businessman Ross Webster in Superman III. Henry Cavill, who’s most famous for portraying Superman in two films (so far), played Napoleon Solo in the 2015 film based on the TV show. Coincidence? Probably. Vaughn came by his acting talents naturally; he was born in New York City to a radio actor and a stage actress. Moving to Los Angeles where he earned a degree in theatre at Los Angeles State College of Applied Arts and Sciences, his first TV role was a doctor on Medic in 1955; he later added Gunsmoke, Father Knows Best, Wagon Train and The Dick Van Dyke Show to his credits. He also appeared in high-profile films like The Magnificent Seven (as one of the titular seven) and The Young Philadelphians (for which he earned an Oscar nomination), but his big break was arguably his starring role in The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (1964-68). He followed that up with roles in films like Bullitt, The Towering Inferno, The Delta Force… and Superman III, in which he gnawed on more than a few pieces of scenery as a power-mad CEO. Enjoy this 1983 clip in which Vaughn discusses the film with movie critic Gene Shalit: “I love [playing a villain], particularly this kind of villain. I mean, anyone who tries to kill Superman… (laughs) My seven-year-old is going to have a lot of trouble trying to explain it at school.” Died November 11

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28. Michael Massee (b. 1955)
You go into acting, you get a rep. It’s not a bad thing; in fact, it can be downright lucrative if you play your cards right. Successful character actors can enjoy long careers playing nosy neighbors or grizzled cops on show after show, while others look at their IMDb pages and see long lists of “oddball co-worker” or “sexy femme fatale” parts filling out their filmography. And then there’s Michael Massee, whose growling voice and intimidating visage made him Hollywood’s go-to guy for mobsters, villains, serial killers and other not-nice people. No surprise, when news of his death came out many of his colleagues praised him as the kindest, gentlest fellow they had ever worked with. Aside from meaty bad-guy roles on TV’s 24 and Revelations, Massee is perhaps best remembered for his parts in comic-based movies like in 1993’s The Crow, 2004’s Catwoman (where he played the evil henchman Armando, seen above), and The Amazing Spider-Man and The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (as “The Gentleman”). Died October 20 

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29. Pat Harrington, Jr. (b. 1929)
Let’s be clear: Brandon Routh is doing a fine enough job portraying Ray “The Atom” Palmer on Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow. But homage must be paid to the very first fellow to give voice to the Atom outside the comic pages: Pat Harrington, Jr., who played the Atom in both the hero’s solo adventures and in the Justice League of America segments that aired during CBS’s The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure from 1967 to 1968. Harrington came by his talents honestly — his father was a song-and-dance man who worked in vaudeville. After completing a tour of duty in Korea, he began a long career on stage and television, where he’s probably best known for his role as Schneider on the long-running sitcom One Day at a Time (1975-1984). In addition to the Atom, his other voice acting roles included Roy Harper/Speedy in The Superman/Aquaman Hour of Adventure, Moe Howard in The New Scooby Doo Movies and “William Shakesbear” in Yo Yogi! Died January 6

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30. Jewel Kats (b. 1978)
At the age of nine, a car accident left Jewel Kats (real name Michelle Katyal) with limited use of her legs. From that moment on, she needed a wheelchair to get around, and her daily struggles inspired her to devote her life to activism on behalf of people with disabilities. She worked with disabled children at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto and wrote children’s books starring kids with autism, cerebral palsy, or in a wheelchair like Kats herself. An avid Archie fan, she met Archie writer and artist Dan Parent at a local comic convention in 2013, and she asked him why Riverdale didn’t have any disabled people living there. Her arguments for including one in the Archie books won Parent over, and the two collaborated to develop the new character: Harper Lodge, a stylish and eccentric cousin of Veronica who just happens to use a wheelchair. After Kats died from complications following surgery, her mother told the Toronto Star her daughter always believed in giving children with disabilities the strength to follow their dreams. “She wanted to spread the message over and over and over for the young kids: do not give up,” she said. “[She said] reach for the stars, even if you have to grab on to them differently.” Died January 7

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31. Mary Henderson (b. 1936)
First, the obvious: giant conventions don’t just happen. It takes a lot of effort from dedicated organizers and volunteers to make them a reality. And that goes double for a major event like San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Gene and Mary Henderson are two of the people who have been there right from the beginning (1970), doing whatever they could to help make sure everything runs smoothly. “Gene has been mostly involved with archiving the convention’s history, making sure the Art Show was run properly, and with coordinating the annual Russ Manning Award to recognize new talent,” wrote comic and TV writer Mark Evanier. “Mary aided him with all that, plus for many years she was the con’s Guest Coordinator, arranging for guests to get there, welcoming them, helping them while they were there. Both were occasional trouble shooters when they were needed… and they were often needed.” Fellow conventioneer Jackie Estrada agreed: “She was always at Gene’s side, helping him out in his many tasks, from being Comic-Con archivist to coordinating the Russ Manning Award. We miss you, Miss Mary.” Died March 12

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32. Harris Publications (est. 1977)
Founded in 1977 by Stanley Harris, New York City-based Harris Publications published a number of magazines across a wide range of interests; some of its long-running titles included SLAM, Guitar World, XXL, King, Revolver and Woman. In 1983, Harris acquired the assets of the defunct Warren Publishing, including its horror magazines Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella. Legal wrangling prevented Harris from putting out more than one copy of Creepy, but it revived the Vampirella character in a number of series and formats between 1991 and 2007. Harris Comics also published several non-Vampirella superhero and science-fiction comics, with its 2002 imprint Anarchy Studio publishing manga comics featuring the characters Vampi and Xin. Harris Publications shuttered its comic division in 2008, and Dynamite Entertainment acquired the Vampirella property in 2010. Citing competition from digital media and changing consumer preferences, Harris Publications ceased operations April 28.

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