Dick Giordano: A Legacy Remembered

Dick Giordano: A Legacy Remembered

The sad news began spreading Saturday through those most modern of delivery systems. Emails, Facebook pages, blog postings, and breaking news pieces began to inform fandom at large that another legend had passed. Dick Giordano cuts an impressive figure in comics’ history, and it’s worth taking the time to look back at a body of work that spans decades and influenced generations.

Getting Started

Giordano was born in New York in 1932. It’s appropriate, one supposes, that Giordano was born in Manhattan, a location that’s been one of the central fictional and business flashpoints for comics. Twenty years later, he got started as an artist for Charlton. Over the next several years, Charlton would be known for horror titles (a couple of which were acquired from Fawcett) and other publishing interests, including super-heroes.

Those super-heroes got a bigger boost at Giordano became Editor-in-Chief in 1965. Though Captain Atom first appeared in 1960, Giordano incorporated him into a new line in 1966 that crystallized around the arrival of Steve Ditko. Ditko had just left Marvel after the huge success of Spider-Man, and Giordano seized the opportunity to put him at the forefront of an “Action Hero” super-hero expansion that included the likes of a new Blue Beetle (Ted Kord, drawn by Ditko), The Question, Peacemaker, Judo Master, and Pete Cannon…Thunderbolt.

In addition to making smart use of the superstar Ditko and spearheading a proliferating stable of characters, Giordano became known as a prime finder of talent. The list of creators making their debuts or having their breakout success during his tenure reads like a Hall of Fame ballot. You’re talking John Byrne, Jim Aparo, and Denny O’Neil, among others.

DC, Round One

In 1967, artist and DC editor Carmine Infantino hired Giordano away from Charlton. A number of the creators on his watch would eventually follow, leading to huge things from DC in the next decade. He edited books like Deadman and Bat Lash, frequently putting out series that gained positive attention, if not stellar sales figures.

During that period, Giordano contributed some truly legendary art to the company, inking Neal Adams on Batman and Green Lantern/Green Arrow. This period and these stories are remembered as some of the greatest work that DC has ever produced, and Giordano’s inks added weight to the already sharp work of Adams.

Continuity and More

Adams became more than just an artistic partner; by 1971, he was Giordano’s business partner. The pair formed Continuity Associates studios. Continuity still exists, and has over time done everything from movie storyboards to computer aided design. Fandom knows them primarily as art packagers, and they did give breaks to a veritable army of artists. That roster reads like another Hall of Fame ballot, and includes Howard Chaykin, Bob Layton, Larry Hama, Jim Starlin, Walt Simonson, Carl Potts, Bob Wiacek, Terry Austin, Pat Broderick, Al Milgrom, Bob McLeod, and many more.

In this time, Giordano would also do work for Marvel, Continuity Comics (of course), and others. At Marvel, he worked on the likes of “Sons of the Tiger” in Deadly Hands of Kung-Fu and Savage Sword of Conan.

DC, Round Two

The advent of the ‘80s brought Giordano back to DC. He was the Batman editor in 1980, moved up to managing editor in 1981 and became Vice-President/Executive Editor in 1983. What can you say about DC Comics in the next ten years? Giordano was part and parcel of a creative renaissance that helped shake and shape the entire industry. Not only did he lend inks to some issues of Crisis on Infinite Earths (on top of the literally endless list of books he inked), he was present and part of DC’s entire relaunch, the acquisition/reintroduction of the Charlton super-heroes into the DC Universe, the recruiting of British creators like Alan Moore and Neil Gaiman, and the laying of the foundation of what would become Vertigo.

Even with all of that, there was a large class of fans that really felt they knew Giordano due to his “Meanwhile . . .” column that ran in each DC book. Fans may recall seeing creative announcements and shake-ups, early word on the 1989 “Batman” film, and more. Even better, his sign-off “Thank you and good afternoon” was frequently something you’d hear from him in person. If you grew up reading comics in the ‘70s and ‘80s, Giordano was part of your life and childhood.

In 1993, Giordano entered semi-retirement, but did not stop working. He still inked, and took assignments like the Modesty Blaise graphic novel. With Bob Layton and David Michelinie, he launched Future Comics in 2002. Giordano drew the debut issue of the first book, Freemind. Though future closed in 2004, Giordano kept working, drawing various projects and serving on the board of directors of The Hero Initiative. With F+W, he published Drawing Comics with Dick Giordano in 2006.

Incalculable Influence

Where would comics be without Giordano? He broke new talent. He helped companies break new ground. He penciled, he inked, he wrote, he edited. The people that he hired and mentored number among those that have redefined the medium. Comics without Giordano? Unthinkable. And now, a world without Giordano? Frankly, that’s impossible. He may have moved on, but the work, the students, and therefore, the legacy, remain.

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