Category Archives: obit

Nick Cardy 1920-2013

A big chunk of my comics childhood has passed away. Nick Cardy, born Nicolas Viscardi, was perhaps the first influential artist on Aquaman and Teen Titans, but most importantly, he illustrated almost every DC Comics cover in the early 1970s. To me, Nick Cardy’s versions of the DC superheroes were the definitive versions, as those were the ones I saw all throughout my childhood, and even on the covers of books I didn’t read. And he was damn good. Nick Cardy passed away this weekend.

Here is the official press release from DC Comics:

“We are saddened to learn of the passing of Nick Cardy, one of the industry’s greatest artists. A talented draftsman with a knack for layout and energetic cover design, Cardy’s art leapt off the page and helped redefine some of DC Comics’ most lasting characters for a new age.

“Like many early comic pros, Cardy began his career working under the tutelage of the legendary Will Eisner, as part of the Eisner and Iger studio. But it was his arrival at DC Comics in 1950 that saw the artist begin to show signs of the legend that would soon form around him.

“Cardy’s smooth line and dynamic sense of action graced the first appearance of the Teen Titans in THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD #60, not to mention almost 40 issues of AQUAMAN during the character’s initial Silver Age solo series.

“Cardy continued his relationship with DC’s teen team for the entirety of TEEN TITANS 43-issue Silver Age run, redefining the collection of sidekicks through his innovative and yet still classical brushstroke, with a dash of post-modernist design and 60s swagger.

“Cardy was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame in 2005.

“We’ve lost one of the artistic pillars here at DC,” said Diane Nelson, President of DC Entertainment. “Nick’s work on Aquaman, Teen Titans and beyond helped define how we look at these characters today. Our thoughts go out to his family, friends and many fans.”

“Nick Cardy was a wonderful artist and person, but I’ll always remember his amazing covers,” said Dan DiDio, DC Entertainment Co-Publisher. “From the classic “Is This My Foe?” AQUAMAN #42 image that featured a victorious Black Manta hoisting Aquaman above him to the first appearance of the Teen Titans, Cardy just knew how to get a reader’s attention – and that is a talent that can never be understated. He was my definitive DC cover artist for the 60s.”

“Nick Cardy’s work helped define some of the things we see in comics today and take for granted,” said Jim Lee, DC Entertainment Co-Publisher. “He broke out of the mold in terms of covers and layout and created a truly interactive experience for the reader that directly points back to his time with the Eisner studio. His versions of Aquaman, the Teen Titans and Bat Lash – to name a few – remain iconic today. Our sympathies go out to his family during this difficult time.”

When I think of the Teen Titans, I think not of Marv Wolfman and George Perez’ wonderful New Teen Titans, I think of Nick Cardy’s Titans. The heroes of the comic my big sister read, on which I learned to read, the ones that even taught me about Shakespeare, and slavery, and the Civil War, and the civil rights movement. We have lost a comics legend, and I have lost a piece of my childhood.

To see a few more of Nick Cardy’s covers, check out my Tumblr here.

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RIP Lou Reed

RIP Lou Scheimer

Lou Scheimer, the father of Filmation, and the king of American television animation for many of our childhoods, has passed away at the age of 84.

Filmation was a small animation studio, one of the few still doing animation in the United States, rather than shipping it overseas. Founded by Scheimer, Hal Sutherland, and Norm Prescott in 1962, they did some little known cartoons like “Rod Rocket.” They really caught fire when they licensed the DC Comics characters in 1966.

Beginning with “The New Adventures of Superman,” they began to expand to shorts that featured other characters like Superboy, Aquaman, Batman and Robin, and later the Justice League of America and the Teen Titans, as well as those groups’ individual members. These cartoons were, along with the 1966 “Batman” TV series on ABC, my gateway drug into comic books. My love of Aquaman, Superboy, and others sprang from early viewings.

The DC deal brought another comics company to Filmation’s offices, and Archie came to Saturday morning animation for years under their guidance. Later in the 1970s, Filmation became a major player in the animation game, producing cartoons of “The Brady Kids,” “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids,” and “Star Trek: The Animated Series” among many others.

Filmation delved into live-action with shows like “Isis,” “Space Academy” and Shazam.” While the studio began to get a reputation for repeating backgrounds, limited animation, recycling designs, rapid jump cuts, and using the same music over again, they had also produced some real quality programming as well.

In the 1980s Filmation produced some of its most well known shows like “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe,” which featured, like many of the previous shows, a lesson at the end of every episode. Before closing up shop in 1989, Filmation also produced over the years some very cool versions of Flash Gordon, Tarzan, and the Lone Ranger, using then fairly new rotoscoping techniques.

With the loss of Lou Scheimer on Friday, we have lost one the legends of animation, and for me, a big chunk of my childhood. He’ll be missed.

RIP Neil Armstrong

We have lost another great man. Last week, astronaut, explorer, hero, Neil Armstrong passed away at the age of 82. He was the first man to walk on the moon way back in 1969.

Wait a second. Didn’t he die last year? Groan. Is anyone else tired of these Twitter and Facebook delayed and fake deaths? How about those folks who read something on the internet and don’t check the date? Yeah, exactly. That said, Neil Armstrong was still a good man, a great man, and he should be remembered.

While I don’t precisely remember the event, Armstrong walking on the moon, as I was quite young, I was glued to the TV for all of the Apollo missions that followed. NASA, Apollo, space, the moon, astronauts – it was an American past time, it was hysteria, it was like Beatlemania, or Batmania, only real.

Some of my first and most beloved toys were space and astronaut themed. We were all drinking Tang and eating Space Food Sticks, and racing home from school to see the splashdowns. And to many of us, Neil Armstrong was the guy who started it. Godspeed. A year later, and forward.

Author Frederik Pohl Passes at 93

There was a time in junior high school when I was devouring all the classic science fiction at the local small town library, or at least trying to. I was fascinated by Bradbury, found Asimov and Clarke far too obtuse, loved Ellison to death, dug Heinlein and Dick, and also really liked Frederik Pohl.

Besides Harlan Ellison, Pohl was one that entranced me into reading more of his work immediately. I spent some time exploring Gateway, Jem, and the secrets and stories of the Heechee. Fantastic stuff. I should give it another read after all this time. Two days ago, Pohl passed away at the age of 93. He’ll be missed.

RIP Elmore Leonard

We have lost another living legend, this time a god among writers, award-winning novelist Elmore Leonard has passed away. He’s written over fifty novels, a handful of short stories and screenplays. Movies and television shows have been made for dozens of his works.

Among his writings are some of the subtle masterpieces of our time, including Rum Punch (filmed as Jackie Brown), Gold Coast, The Big Bounce, Get Shorty, Be Cool, the short story 3:10 to Yuma (filmed twice), Out of Sight, 52 Pick-Up, Hombre, Mr. Majestyk, Riding the Rap, and more than a few novels that inspire the TV series “Justified.”

When I think of the written western or crime fiction I think of Leonard as the master. When I was in college, and stubbornly insisting I wanted to be a writer, a professor told me, “If you want to write fiction, read Elmore Leonard,” suggesting it was education by example.

I can’t get it together to say much more. We have lost one of the greats. Click here and I’ll share his ten rules of writing, quite possibly the best writing advice ever given. Elmore Leonard was one of the masters, and there’ll never be another like him.

RIP Karen Black

Earlier today I found out that actress Karen Black had passed away via a Tweet from my good friend Andy Burns, also editor-in-chief of Biff Bam Pop!. Another Tweeter’s response was that he had no words. That’s how I feel. We’ve lost one of the good ones, a legend of the genre. Karen Black died yesterday in Los Angeles from ampullary cancer at the age of 74.

When I said genre, I am of course talking about the horror genre. Karen Black probably most remembered film is one where she played a tour de force of four characters in Dan Curtis’ TV movie of the week Trilogy of Terror. It was at the aforementioned Andy Burns’ website, Biff Bam Pop!, that I talked about how that film still scares the crap outta me. You can read that here.

While it’s true she made her share of horror films, notably Trilogy, and Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses among others, it’s a fact she never stopped making movies. But of all the films Ms. Black has made, it is the movies of the 1970s that defne her. Hell, one could even say that Karen Black defined film in the 1970s. She changed the way women and sexuality were portrayed on the big screen.

Among her films are some of the best or at least most memorable of the decade, including Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, The Great Gatsby, Capricorn One, In Praise of Older Women, Hitchcock’s last movie Family Plot, and Robert Altman’s Nashville. She also starred on stage and on television as well as film. She was a composer, screenwriter, producer, and author of children’s books.

I met her once a few years back, at a Chiller convention near the Meadowlands. We were about to leave and I saw this seemingly crazy woman screaming at people to get her something or other. The men surrounding her scrambled. I realized it was Karen Black. She was holding court in the lobby of the hotel.

I was either brave or stupid, so I approached her and told her she was great in Easy Rider and Nashville, and that I loved her in Trilogy, even though she scared me to death in it. She was kind, and soft spoken, and thanked me, even shook my hand. Moments later she was barking at underlings again, but to me, and other fans who approached her she was an angel.

That’s how I will remember Karen Black – a kind loving woman who adored her fans. Not the psychopath possessed by a Zuni fetish doll. And that’s probably for the best. We’ve lost one of Hollywood’s great actresses, and she will be missed.

Glee Star Dead at 31

Over the weekend, “Glee” star Cory Monteith was found dead in Vancouver, he was 31. Recently released from rehab, drugs are suspected but unconfirmed.

Acting since he was a child, he rose quickly to stardom on Fox’s “Glee” a few years back playing Finn, high school footballer who joins the glee club. The musical comedy drama experienced great success in the first couple seasons, but then fell victim to what does in most high school shows – graduation. Trapped between following popular cast to college and introducing new characters, “Glee” has floundered. Finn recently returned to a bigger role as a co-teacher of the glee club.

The Canadian actor and singer had been in a relationship with “Glee” co-star Lea Michelle for a time before his death. He will be missed.

Richard Matheson 1926-2013

We have truly lost one of the legends of the writing game. Celebrated multiple award-winning author Richard Matheson passed away this weekend, surrounded by family and friends. He was 87.

Even if you didn’t know his name (shame on you!), you know his work. Here is just a sampler – the following movies are all based on his work – The Incredible Shrinking Man, Somewhere in Time, What Dreams May Come, Real Steel, Trilogy of Terror, The Box, Loose Cannons, The Legend of Hell House Burn Witch Burn, Jaws 3-D (hey, a paycheck is a paycheck), and the these last three, all based on the same novel, The Last Man on Earth, The Omega Man, and I Am Legend.

That’s not all, all of the good “Twilight Zone” episodes that weren’t written by Rod Serling, they’re all Matheson too. He wrote hundreds of short stories and books, and countless hours of television in many different genres, including episodes for “Star Trek,” “Combat!,” “Have Gun Will Travel,” “Thriller,” and “The Alfred Hitchcock Hour.” Other than “The Twilight Zone,” possibly his two greatest contributions to television were the Steven Spielberg-directed Duel and The Night Stalker, which became a fondly remembered cult TV series.

We have lost another legend.

James Gandolfini Dead at 51

Actor James Gandolfini died today in Italy from a massive heart attack, he was 51. The three time Lead Actor in a Drama Emmy winner was best known for playing bipolar modern gangster and family man Tony Soprano in HBO’s “The Sopranos.” He was also a producer, and a star of stage and screen, besides his television work.

I first became aware of the man when he played a very evil piece of work in Tony Scott and Quentin Tarantino’s True Romance. His menacing presence made him perfect for the complex character of Tony Soprano in my opinion.

“The Sopranos” first entered my wheelhouse during its second season. I had written a still unpublished novel with hyper-violent overtones. Two beta-readers told me I needed a balance between the violence and the drama of everyday life, and both, separately suggested that I had to see “The Sopranos” so I could see how it’s supposed to be done. I got HBO, and was blown away. I quickly caught up, and was addicted to the show until its end.

Most of the reason the show was so successful was Gandolfini’s talent and presence. If we did not believe Gandolfini as Tony, the show falls apart. He was the show in many ways.

The man was perhaps the best lead in perhaps the best show ever made for TV.   It is so sad to lose such a talent so young. Who knows what might have been in his future. James Gandolfini will be missed.