Mar 31, 2010

MEANWHILE... RIP Dick Giordano, 1932-2010

Dick Giordano has passed away. Long live Dick Giordano.

As a kid growing up in the 80s and 90s, I can't possibly relate the first time I saw Dick Giordano's work. He was so prolific, and he was just everywhere, doing so many things and wearing so many hats, alternating between inker, artist, editor, and vice president.

I will happily point out, however, the first time that Dick Giordano's work first stood out to me. It didn't even come in a comic book itself. It came in a book called How to Draw and Sell Comic Strips by Alan McKenzie, which I read in the late 80s. A very informative book, it contained a lot of examples to showcase techniques and devices used by many artists at the time. This was the book in which I was first exposed to the works of Neal Adams, Alan Moore, Alan Davis, Frank Miller, David Lloyd, and many others.

But the one example that truly blew me away is the one below, from Detective Comics #457, dated 1976.

The story is entitled There Is No Hope in Crime Alley! (which inspired the Batman: TAS episode, "Appointment in Crime Alley") and has ever since that day been the prime example for me of a perfect splash page. Note how it perfectly sets the mood, how it introduces you to two of the main characters right off the bat, and to show just what's on the Batman's mind through a clever device that could never work as effectively in any other medium. Looking at it now, the color balance is perfect as well. Enclosing Leslie Thompkins in a sea of blue (even the night sky is blue) truly makes her purple dress stand out, and further emphasizes the ominous feeling her shadow gets across. Of course, in the book, the page was reproduced in black and white, and even then, I thought it was perfect.

It did not escape me then that Dick Giordano was the artist in this case. Until that day, I pretty much saw him credited mainly as inker and editor. And yet, here he was, in 1976, drawing a splash page that was as good as anything Neal Adams was doing at the time. Dick Giordano wore many hats, and it is our loss as comics fans that penciling was never something pursued past the 1960s.

As someone who has tried to draw his own comics, and as someone who has tried inking several times, I consider Dick Giordano to be one of the greatest -- if not the greatest -- inker in the history of the medium. The truth is that Dick could go over anyone's lines and never overshadow them (as some inkers are wont to do), make them look bad (as some are also wont to do), or omit something that they've put on the page (as many are wont to do). A good inker should make his work effortless, should make it so that it looks like he didn't do anything, because, contrary to what a lot of people think, it is so easy to get it wrong. Here are just a few examples. Note how, in each case, he preserves the impact, integrity, and linework of each penciler.

Ross Andru:

Neal Adams:

Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez:

Neal Adams again:

The sheer power in each of these pages is outstanding, and Dick never once imposes his style on his penciler.

Going even beyond his inking, Dick also practically carried Charlton Comics in the 1960s, writing a column called "Meanwhile..." to detail his activities there in addition to drawing and inking stories of just about every genre.

And in the 1980s, as vice president and editor of DC Comics, he was instrumental in many projects. He was very instrumental in bringing the Charlton characters over to DC Comics, and so is the reason that a little project called Watchmen got off the ground at all. For that, among many other things, I will always be grateful to him.

At this point, he continued to write his "Meanwhile..." columns, which were a staple of every DC Comic in the day. As a tribute, DC Comics released one last column in his honor this past week.

I never got to read There Is No Hope in Crime Alley until about two decades after I first saw that perfect splash page in Alan McKenzie's book. The story loses none of its power, not thirty-five years after it was written, and not twenty years after I first heard of it. Though one of Batman's more "realistic" stories, it is a tale that superheroes are and have always been best equipped to give us: a tale of hope, of bright lights, of uplifting behavior and courage through the hardest times and the darkest places. At the end of the day, Batman smiles in his sleep, and in the hands of any other artist, it would be a campy and laughable image. In the hands of Dick Giordano, it is a fitting ending to a truly historic and inspiring chapter in the Batman's storied career.

It is because of Dick Giordano that the story written by Denny O'Neil was so effective, leading me to still believe, even thirty-five years after it was written, that if there can be hope in Crime Alley, there can be hope anywhere.

Rest in peace, Mr. Giordano. As a comics fan, I thank you for all of your contributions to the industry I love, and congratulate you on an unparalleled, exemplary career.

Thank you, sir. Thank you.

1 comment:

Jay said...

Amen. Dick Giordano is and will forever be a legend. What a sad day for comics.

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