Though perhaps not celebrated as widely as some of his peers, penciller, inker and editor Dick Giordano is one of the key figures in the history of superhero comics.

Richard Joseph "Dick" Giordano was born in Manhattan on July 20, 1932. He attended the School of Industrial Art in Manhattan, and at the age of 20 he got a job pencilling for Charlton Comics. He drew for Charlton for over a decade, and one of his panels from a 1964 Strange Suspense Stories issue was used by Roy Lichtenstein as the basis for his Brushstrokes series of paintings.

In 1965, Giordano became an editor at Charlton, and from that position he oversaw the company's most creatively fruitful and memorable period. Giordano oversaw the Action Heroes line, which included Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, Peacemaker, Judomaster, Thunderbolt, Nightshade, and the Question. Obviously these superheroes never reached the heights of the ones at Marvel and DC (and indeed were eventually purchased by the latter company), but they featured work by Steve DitkoJim Aparo, Dennis O'Neil, and Steve Skeates.

 

Steve Ditko and Various Artists

 

To be sure, Charlton was never a top-tier comics publisher. But with Giordano at the helm, it produced superhero comics that are remembered to this day. Versions of Captain Atom, Blue Beetle, and the Question still feature prominently in the DC Universe.

DC hired Giordano as an editor in 1968. He came recommended by Charlton alum Steve Ditko, which may be the one documented case of Ditko doing a favor for someone. Giordano took pencilling and inking jobs at DC even as he was an editor there, and became especially associated with Neal Adams, whose pencils he inked on both Batman and Green Lantern/Green Arrow, perhaps the two DC books Adams is more famous for.

 

Dick Giordano

 

He left DC in 1971 to co-found Continuity Associates with Neal Adams, an art and illustration studio that helped launch the careers of artists like Terry Austin, Howard Chaykin, Al Milgrom, Walt Simonson, and Jim Starlin, getting their work out to comics publishers and other companies in need of dynamic illustrations.

In 1980 Giordano returned to DC as editor of the Batman books, but soon become managing editor, and then vice president/executive editor of DC Comics, a title he kept until 1993. He spent the '80s as the elder statesman of DC, still pencilling and inking books here and there, contributing to anniversary issues like Detective Comics #500, Justice League of America #200, and Wonder Woman #300.

 

Dick Giordano

 

As executive editor he oversaw the relaunch of the entire DC Universe with Crisis on Infinite Earths, and arguably the reinvention of comics as a concept with Dark Knight Returns and WatchmanThe heroes in that latter book, of course, were inspired by the Charlton Action Heroes that Giordano was in charge of twenty years earlier. He also inked Crisis on Infinite Earths, John Byrne's Man of Steel, and even a few issues of Sandman.

In the 1980s, Giordano had a column called "Meanwhile" that appeared in every DC comic. In contrast to the hyperbolic salesmanship of "Stan's Soapbox" over at Marvel, "Meanwhile" was written in a warm, straightforward tone that read much more like the friendly words of a real person. Whereas Stan ended each column with "Excelsior," Giordano ended his with, "Thank You and Good Afternoon." By all accounts, that's the sort of guy Dick Giordano was.

He retired from DC in 1993, but never stopped freelancing as an artist until his death in 2010. He's one of those figures in comics history who's not discussed as often as a Jack Kirby or a Steve Gerber, but there's no doubt that comics would look nothing like they do today if not for his influence.

 

Dick Giordano