On June 16, artist Tim Sale passed away from kidney failure at age 66. His thin-lined illustrative style brought a new energy to DC comics, especially in his collaborations with writer Jeph Loeb.
For me, I will always know him for the look he brought to one of my favorite Batman sagas of all time: The Long Halloween.
When the original The Long Halloween series came out, my husband and I were living in a small town, about an hour-and-a-half away from the nearest comic book shop. This meant the monthly trek into the “big city” to get our books was a welcome retreat. The Long Halloween’s first issue came out in October of 1996, the start of a monthly yearlong story, basically running from “Halloween to Halloween.” There would be, appropriately enough, 13 issues, that I soon couldn’t wait to tackle each month. We were hooked by the first issue, written by Loeb and illustrated by Sale.
The book provided a gritty, noir look at Gotham’s organized crime underbelly with a killer mystery to boot. This was Loeb’s storytelling at its best, and I loved Sale’s art so much I used to try and mimic it in drawings. I especially loved the covers, and even carved my own replica of the now iconic “bat emblem” jack-o-lantern several years in a row. I eventually put in on one of these fake pumpkins so I could put it out every year. If you don’t read anything else featuring Sale’s work, I urge you to pick up a trade paperback version of this saga.
Sale is only the latest in a string of comic book, science fiction, and pop culture illustrator and painters we have lost in 2022 — and it isn’t even July. Here’s a very brief look at the others who have left us in the past couple of months alone.
Perez died from a battle with cancer in May at age 67. He contributed to DC, Marvel and other comic labels since the early 1970s. I loved his knack for creating multiple characters scenes in detailed depth in series like Infinite Earth, Wonder Woman, New Teen Titans and more.
Kelly died at age 79 on June 3. His realistic paintings are the epitome of fantasy art, and even those who don’t know his name may recognize his work on everything from comics to rock albums. His KISS album cover for Destoyer is a standout, but I own of his covers from the Dark Horse Comics era of Star Wars.
Bama died in April, just a few days before his 96th birthday, but he left a legacy of hyper-realistic paintings from westerns to war images. He’s contributed to several magazines, including his pulp covers for Doc Strange, but if you’re a Universal Monster fan like me you’ll recognize his box covers of Aurora’s monster kits.
Adams is another longtime artist who has had left his mark on DC, Marvel, Archie and other labels. He’s been inducted in several comic art Hall of Fames, and if you love Batman, he also helped bring introduce some of Batman’s lesser known foes to live including Deadman and Man-Bat. He died at age 80 on April 28.
One of the only positives to ever come out of the death of an artist, especially in this era of social media, is those who knew their work tend to share a favorite image or two from them. Likewise, others who weren’t familiar with them, can now discover the work of an artist they may not have otherwise known.
I have been a comic book junkie since I was a kid, but after the death of these artists, especially Perez and Sale, people have been posting art by them I never knew existed. For example, this beautiful Rocketeer image by Sale:
It is such an unfortunate reality we have to come to the end of someone’s life to discover and rediscover their work, but at least it is a reminder the legacy and work they left behind will always be with us.