Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Late Great Dick Giordano

Comic book artist and editor Dick Giordano passed today at the age of 77. The cause was complications from pneumonia.

Richard Giordano was born on July 10, 1932 in Manhattan. He was still very young when he was introduced to comic books by one of the first true comic books to exist: Famous Funnies. He would go onto become a huge fan of the character Batman. He was particularly impressed by Batman #1, spring 1940, which featured the first appearance of The Joker, a character who frightened the young Mr. Giordano. It also convinced him he want to work in the field of comic books. He also enjoyed the characters of Blackhawk and Captain America. He was an avid fan of radio shows, in particular The Lone Ranger, Inner Sanctum, and Jack Armstrong, the All American Boy. He started drawing while very young, encouraged a good deal by his parents. It was his eighth grade art teacher who advised he enrol at New York's School of Industrial Arts. He did so when he was fourteen.

Dick Giordano graduated from the School of Industrial Arts in 1950. He then looked for a job within the comic book industry. In 1951, after months of rejections, Mr. Giordano went to what he thought was the office of a comic book company, only to find out it had moved. Only one person remained, a man who claimed to be a comic book writer. He looked over Mr. Giordano's portfolio and told him he should visit comics packager Jerry Iger. The Iger Studio was a firm which was hired by comic book companies to letter and ink comic book panels. During the Golden Age they had worked for Quality Comics, Fox Comics, and others. By the Fifties they created content for Fiction House, the publisher of the popular Sheena, Queen of the Jungle (created by Will Eisner and Jerry Iger himself). Mr. Giordano started out more or less as an errand boy in the Iger Studio office, before finally graduating to inking. Among the comic books he inked was Sheena, Queen of the Jungle.

Dick Giordano's next job would come as the result of his father, a cab driver. One of his father's fellow cab drivers, Harold Philips, was brother in law to Charlton Comics editor Al Fago, creator of such funny animal characters as Atomic Mouse. Philips invited both Mr. Giordano and Fago to his New Year's Party, knowing Mr. Giordano was a comic book artist. Fago was impressed by Mr. Giordano's work and promised to start assigning him freelance work. He received enough work from Charlton Comics to quit his job at Iger Studio. At Charlton Mr. Giordano worked on such comic books as Racket Squad in ActionSpace Adventures, and  Hot Rods and Racing Cars. In 1955 Charlton Comics was restructured, at which point he ceased to be a freelancer and became one of Charlton's staff. During this period Mr. Giordano worked on such titles as Scotland Yard and Wyatt Earp, as well the company's brief 1955 revival of The Blue Beetle. After Al Fago left Charlton over a disagreement with management, Dick Giordano was made the assistant to new editor Pat Masulli. After a year in the position Mr. Giordano was unhappy, so Masulli offered him a deal whereby he could freelance for Charlton under various pseudonyms (this was done because Charlton's management would not have liked such an arrangement).

In the early Sixties, without Charlton's management knowing, Dick Giordano also accepted freelance work from Stan Lee of Atlas Comics (soon to be renamed Marvel Comics) and other companies. With his brother in law Sal Trapiani, Mr. Giordano did freelance work for Dell, DC, and the American Comics Group. He worked on such titles as Dr. Who, Hogan's Heroes, Get Smart, and the little known Beatles comic book published by Dell. He did his first work for DC at this time, on The Brave and the Bold #65, May 1965, which teamed up The Flash and The Doom Patrol. By 1965 Mr. Giordano was the managing editor at Charlton Comics. It while he was editor that he introduced Charlton Comics' "Action Hero" line, which included such characters as a new version of The Blue Beetle, Sarge Steel, The Question, Peacemaker, Judomaster,  and Peter Cannon...Thunderbolt.

It was in 1968 that Mr. Giordano became part of DC Comics' staff. Initially he worked on such titles at DC as Aquaman, The Secret Six, The Creeper, The Teen Titans, and Young Love, among others. He would later ink a few issues of Denny O'Neil and Neal Adams' groundbreaking Green Lantern/Green Arrow. in 1971 Dick Giordano left DC Comics to found Continuity Associates with Neal Adams. Continuity Associates was a packager which provided storyboards for movies and advertising art, but also provided content for Charlton Comics and Marvel Comics. During this period Dick Giordano would work for DC on Batman and Wonder Woman. He also provided the Sons of the Tiger feature for Marvel's black and white magazine The Deadly Hands of Kung Fu.

It was in 1980 that new publisher Jeanette Kahn brought Dick Giordano back to DC Comics. Initially he edited the Batman line of comic books. In 1981 he was made managing editor at DC and in 1983 Vice President/Executive Editor. With editor Paul Levitz and Jeanette Kahn, Giordano remade DC Comics by reenvigorating such features as Batman, Justice League of America, Superman, Teen Titans, and Wonder Woman. By 1993 Mr. Giordano, Levitz, and Kahn would launch the Vertigo imprint. Mr. Giordano continued to ink, including work on Crisis on Infinite Earths and The Man of Steel miniseries. By the mid-Eighties Mr. Giordano became a outspoken champion for creator's rights.

In 1993 Dick Giordano went into semi-retirement. He inked the Modesty Blaise graphic novel for DC in 1994, issues of Birds of Prey, Catwoman and Batman: Gotham Knights, and The Power of Shazam graphic novel. He drew several issues of The Phantom published in Europe and Austrailia, and helped Bob Layton launch Future Comics in 2002. He wrote the book Drawing Comics with Dick Giordano, outlining his artistic techniques.

Dick Giordano is rightfully called a comic book legend. As an editor he encouraged the careers of Denny O'Neil, Jim Aparo, John Byrne, Steve Skeates, and many others.  As an inker he was among the best in the business. His style would influence such artists as Terry Austin, Bob Layton, Mike DeCarlo, Joe Rubenstein, and others. Mike Gold even referred to him as the "..the godfather of modern inking style." Dick Giordano also always maintained a strong connection with the fans, through the letters columns of the various comic books he edited over the years and his monthly "Meanwhile..." column in DC titles during his tenure as managing editor and later Executive Editor there. From the testimony of his fellow artists and writers in the comic book industry and fans alike, he was also one of the kindest, most considerate gentlemen one could ever hope to meet. Quite simply Dick Giordano was not just a great artist and great editor, he was also a great human being.

1 comment:

Aaron said...

Wow...this is depressing. Mr. Giordano was huge when I was a kid. He was MR DC! I recall More than once Mr. G and his counterpart Jim Shooter appearing at comic shows here in Ohio. A nice guy. Thanks again for letting folks know about great people just off the beaten path.