Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is one of the great inexplicable pop phenomenons of our time, a creation that began as a one-note joke between friends, and went on to conquer the world. It's a franchise that's proven to be endlessly adaptable, appearing in endless variations in numerous media, with an appeal that spans generations and a fanbase that continues to expand with each passing year.
Patrick A. Reed
The huge, sprawling tapestry that is the Marvel Universe has been built by hundreds upon hundreds of talented creators over the years, so it's sometimes hard to remember that the entire affair was begun by just a small handful of people trying to turn out a line of comics under tight restrictions from the Comics Code and even tighter deadlines. And in those formative days, the vast majority of the fledgeling company's visuals were provided by a core four consisting of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Don Heck, and Dick Ayers.
Dick Ayers was born in Ossining, New York on April 28, 1924. His interest in art was encouraged by his parents from an early age. He began contributing comic strips to military newspapers while serving in the Army Air Corps in World War II, and upon leaving the service, studied with Burne Hogarth at New York's Cartoonists And Illustrators School, and launched his professional career working for Superman co-creator Joe Shuster in the late 1940s. He found employment at a number of publishers over the next decade, working at Magazine Enterprises (for whom he co-created the supernatural western hero Ghost Rider), Charlton, Prize, and Atlas (soon to be renamed Marvel).
George Tuska was one of those rare artists who could truly do it all; one of the comics industry's most prolific illustrators, who took on countless series and characters in a career that spanned six decades. But while his professional trademarks of adaptability, consistency, and longevity guaranteed him regular assignments, a devoted fanbase, and consistent employment for the length of his life, they also make him an easily-overlooked figure when trying to condense the history of comics into simple, slimmed-down narratives.
In the initial "Golden Age Of Comics", new revolutions were occurring on a monthly basis --- a host of writers and artists were helping create the landscape for all that would follow, unleashing countless colorful characters onto newsstands across America.
One of the most important milestones of that formative era was the launch of a title that established Martin Goodman's Timely Comics as a major player in the industry: Marvel Comics #1. The issue featured the first appearances of a half-dozen characters (Bill Everett's Sub-Mariner chief among them), but it was Carl Burgos' Human Torch, an android with the ability to burst into flame, who snagged the coveted headline slot.
A teenage girl who sleeps with a mutant kangaroo and has a fetish for military hardware. A virtual cartoon band that have sold millions of (actual) records. An era-defining hit single about class warfare. These are but three of the concepts that Jamie Hewlett has visually constructed, over the course of a career that has spanned comics, music, fashion, and numerous other facets of popular culture.
Illustrator supreme. Inker extraoardinaire. Member of the Eisner Hall Of Fame. Al Williamson's skill was matched only by his imagination, and in a career that spanned seven decades, he established himself as not just one of the greatest artists the comics industry has ever seen, but one of the most sympathetic and versatile collaborators, who brought an extra element of inspiration to everything he touched, and helped those around him to achieve new heights.
He's drawn absurd animal comics, invented innumerable impossible items, and been responsible for mutilating the back covers of many millions of magazines. He's won the highest honors that the medium of comics has to offer, authored best-selling books, and appeared in more issues of Mad Magazine than any other contributor. He's Al Jaffee, one of America's best-known and most beloved cartoonists, and this past weekened marked his 95th birthday.
War hero. Secret agent. Government stooge. Machiavellian mastermind. Washed-up antique. Ageless warrior. Man out of time. Roughneck brawler. Unyielding patriot. Intergalactic assassin.
Nick Fury has been all these things, and many more, since his first appearance on March 5th 1963. He's a universal plot device, a character that can be adjusted and adapted to fit whatever a given story needs. He's been young, he's been old, he's been dead, he's been everywhere at once, he's been in hiding, he's been blindsided by corruption, he's been dead again, and he's been secretly behind the scenes the whole time. He's even been replaced by robot duplicates more times than anyone can remember.
Horror. Crime. Science Fiction. War. Suspense. Oddball humor. Incisive writing. Eye-popping art. These are the elements that made EC Comics irresistible to readers of the 1950s. Their titles were produced by some of the finest creators the comic industry has ever seen.
When the bubble burst, and EC's line of comics fell before a squalling mob of censors, Senators, sinister psychiatrists and simple-minded puritans, one series managed to escape, transform itself into a full-size black-and-white magazine, and go on to turn American culture upside-down with its cleverly absurd approach to humor. And through it all, there was one constant figure lurking behind the scenes: publisher, co-editor, troubleshooter, troublemaker, and visionary William M. Gaines.
Comic artists come in many different varieties: stylists, technicians, craftsmen, visual revolutionaries. Some draw on real life, some experiment and push off into spectacular flights of fantasy. There are those who hone and improve on existing approaches, and those who look for something new and different.
The amazing thing about Milton Caniff is that he was all of the above, and a whole lot more. He was the best-known and most popular cartoonist of his day. His narrative and artistic innovations expanded the comic vocabulary, and reinvented the form of the adventure strip. And his influence was felt both by his contemporaries in the comic field, and by the generations that followed.