We make a regular practice at ComicsAlliance of spotlighting particular artists or specific bodies of work, as well as the special qualities of comic book storytelling, but because cartoonists, illustrators and their fans share countless numbers of great pinups, fan art and other illustrations on sites like Flickr, Tumblr, DeviantArt and seemingly infinite art blogs that we’ve created Best Art Ever (This Week), a weekly depository for just some of the pieces of especially compelling artwork that we come across in our regular travels across the Web. Some of it’s new, some of it’s old, some of it’s created by working professionals, some of it’s created by future stars, some of it’s created by talented fans, awnd some of it’s endearingly silly. All of it is awesome.
With six decades of work under his belt, Russ Heath is arguably one of the most important creators in comics. It was his art that was, to put it charitably, "adapted" by Roy Lichtenstein for the pop art pieces that made him famous. Of course, as is unfortunately so often the case for hard-working creators in comics, while Lichtenstein made millions lightboxing panels Heath had drawn in the pages of DC's romance and war comics, Heath himself never saw a dime, despite continuing a career that saw him become one of the most respected elder statesmen of the industry.
Now, at the age of 84, Heath has written and drawn a short comic (with colors and lettering by Darwyn Cooke) about his experience not only with Lichtenstein, but with the Hero Initiative and how they've helped his life as well.
A good number of of the old comics which continue to influence the aesthetic interests of this website were first discovered by me in 2001, during an epic quest into the deepest, darkest parts of the convention floor at San Diego Comic-Con. I'd pledged to identify and purchase as many hardcover collections, paperbacks, graphic novels or other comics-with-spines as I could, so long as they were things I'd never heard of before (this was very easy to do for a child of the '90s, since Wizard was unlikely to devote any time to anything useful like that). I bought so many comics that year that even today, some remain in my "unread" pile.
One of the books I discovered was The Shadow: 1941, a hardcover graphic novel by the great Denny O'Neil and Michael Kaluta with Russ Heath and Mark Chiarello, published by Marvel. Despite the auspicious pedigree of its creators, I'd never heard of the book, had no idea Marvel ever published Shadow comics, and didn't really know anything about the character anyway. As such, it was exactly the sort of forgotten, out-of-print gem I was looking for.
Subtitled Hitler's Astrologer, this Shadow book is exactly the dark, globe-trotting adventure of war and mysticism that its title and cover suggest. It's a gorgeous pleasure of a comic book, and more than two decades since it was originally released, Dynamite Entertainment are reissuing it this week.