Saturday, 14 March 2015
The Late Great Irwin Hasen: DC's Last Golden Age Artist
Irwin Hasen was born in Manhattan on July 8 1918. He attended DeWitt Clinton High School.in New York City. Immediately upon graduating high school he enrolled at the National Academy of Design, one of the oldest and most prestigious art schools in the nation. While attending the National Academy of design he sold drawings of prize fighters to the Madison Square Garden Corporation. Mr. Hasen's drawings would then be printed in various newspapers and magazines. After attending the National Academy of Design for three years, he enrolled in the Art Students League of New York.
During World War II Irwin Hasen served as a prison guard in the United States Army at Fort Dix, New Jersey. He edited the Fort Dix Post, as well as wrote the comic strip Sgt. Round-Step O'Malley and columns for the paper. He even set the type himself. Mr. Hasen would later say that it was his proudest achievement.
While working at All-American Publications Irwin Hasen drew The Goldbergs, a comic strip based on the popular radio show of the same name, that was published in The New York Post from 1944 to 1945. It was in 1954 that Irwin Hasen, as a member of the National Caroonists Society, went on a USO tour of Korea along with five other cartoonists, among them Gus Edson (creator of The Gumps). Messrs. Edison and Hasen struck up a friendship during the trip. The two of them then created the long running comic strip Dondi.
Dondi proved very popular. At its peak it appeared in over 100 major newspapers. In 1961 a film based on the comic strip was released. Unfortunately the film is often counted among the worst ever made and failed at the box office. Fortunately the film did not hurt the comic strip at all. In all Dondi ran for nearly 31 years. Having debuted on September 25 1955, it ended its run on June 8 1986.
Following the demise of Dondi Mr. Hasen became a familiar figure at comic book conventions. In 2009 he published a memoir, Loverboy An Irwin Hasen Story PB. Dan Makara directed a documentary short, Irwin: A New York Story, in which the nonagenarian discussed his work and his life. It debuted in 2010.
Ultimately it must be said that Irwin Hasen was not only the last of DC Comic's major artists from the Golden Age, but also one the best artists of all time. He had a clear, crisp style that at the same time did not sacrifice detail. Indeed, his work on the various All-American titles look more like something one might see in the better newspaper comic strips of the time. At the time perhaps only Alex Toth and Joe Kubert could match Irwin Hasen as an artist.
Of course, beyond Irwin Hasen's talent as an artist there is also the fact that he co-created characters with lasting appeal. Wildcat would prove to be one of the most popular characters at All-American Publications, one who has managed to survive well into the 21st Century. Indeed, the character even made his live action television debut last year in an episode of Arrow. The various supervillains that Mr. Hasen co-created (Sportsmaster, Icicle, Per Degaton, and so on ) would also prove to have lasting power. When National Periodical Publications brought back the Golden Age versions of The Flash, Green Lantern, The Atom, and so on in the Sixties, they brought back the supervilllains as well. Per Degaton alone would continue to appear well into the Naughts. Beyond his work in comic books, it must be pointed out that Dondi ran for a little over three decades, much longer than many comic strips. Compilations of the Dondi comic strips are still being published to this day. Ultimately Irwin Hasen proved to be not only one of the longest living artists of the Golden Age, but one of the most successful. He created some lasting characters and later transitioned into a newspaper comic strip where he also created a character with a good deal of longevity.