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Month of Art Stars: Artist’s Choice – Irv Novick

Every day this month I’m going to feature the work of a great artist, only instead of me picking the artist to feature, they will be picked by their peers, fellow professional comic book artists who are picking out artists (from the past and present) who they think deserve special attention. Do note that most artists I asked about this gave me multiple answers and I picked out one choice out of a number of suggestions, so these are not definitive answers, like “Artist X likes Artist Y and he thinks all other Artists are terrible!” Here is an archive of the artists featured so far!

Today, we have the pick of Stuart Sayger, creator of the independent comic, Shiver in the Dark and artist on Lego/DC Comics’ insanely popular Bionicle comics (very likely the first introduction to comic books for thousands of young children). Stuart also happens to have a forum on CBR, so we CBR-ians stick together! Check out Stuart’s website here (and you can come check him out on CBR’s forums here).

Stuart’s pick is Irv Novick.

Irving “Irv” Novick worked in comics for almost fifty years before poor eyesight ended his career in the 1990s.

His first comic work came when he was in his late 20s, working for MLJ (later Archie) Comics, where he introduced the first patriotic superhero, The Shield, in Pep Comics #1!

Novick was the most popular superhero artist at MLJ/Archie, but by the end of World War II, Archie was getting away from superheroes, and Novick spent five years or so working in advertisement and comic strips.

He joined DC in the early 1950s, where he began a professional relationship with Robert Kanigher that ran for basically the next two decades, drawing Wonder Woman covers (a book Kanigher wrote and edited)…

but mostly becoming one of DC’s amazingly talented group of war artists. Novick began with drawing Our World at War…

then All-American Men of War…

and even a short-lived new series, Capt. Storm….

Novick mostly stayed out superheroes until the very end of the decade, which certainly is ONE of the reasons that he is less well known than his contemporaries.

He eventually spent the late 1960s and all of the 1970s (and even the early 1980s) drawing superheroes, primarily a notable run on Batman (but never really a consistent run – just filling in on either Batman or Detective – whichever book needed an artist that month)…

but also a long run on the Flash…

Novick’s “problem” was that he was drawing Batman at the same time as Neal Adams, Jim Aparo and, to a lesser extent, Don Newton, all of whom are great artists who tended to get a bit more attention than Novick (especially Adams – how must it feel to be Novick and have your work stuck in the middle of an Adams storyline – as great as Novick was, fans were likely, “Hey! Where’s Adams?!?!”)

Novick’s work is marked by a wonderful sense of storytelling, but also the ability to come up with striking panel designs that would practically leap off of the page.

Here’s a rare Superman story by Novick…

Novick’s last DC comic (that I’m aware of) was 1990′s Flash 50th Anniversary Special #1…

Novick passed away in 2004.

Thanks to Stuart for the pick!

21 Comments

I was a big fan of Novick, mostly through reprints and late career work, and one of his biggest strengths to me is his ability to evolve with the times. Even some of the all time greats like Ditko and Kirby and Infantino had styles that didn’t always evolve well with the times and looked like anachonisms in their later years. Novick, however, always did great work in the style of whatever era he was in without looking derivative or losing his uniqueness. His early work was similar in crudeness and raw energy to Joe Shuster and Bill Everett, his early Silver Age had that clean, elegant line of a Curt Swan or Infantino, his 70s stuff was up there with Ernie Colon, Neal Adams and Jim Aparo…yet he always had his own style at the same time.

I’m with T. You’d never know the Shield and Flash pages were drawn by the same man. It’s amazing how he was able to fit his style to the book he was working on.

Irv Novick was a great storyteller– the acting, the composition, the mood, the lighting. The’re a great “real world” sense of shadows and depth and solidity. Everytime anyone holds that glowing Batman statue you can tell exactly how much it weighs.

What a great evolution in art style!

Seems to fit the decade he was drawing in!

I loved his Flash and was disappointed when Rich Buckler took over.

Even when paired with some mediocre writers in DC Comics presents, most of his work was and still is readable.

Irv Novick, Bob Brown, Neal Adams – with writer Frank Robbins they created the best Batman ever.

Brian you’re actually resoundingly wrong on one point: While Novick was a Batman fill-in artist for a lot of the ’70s, he was the regular penciller on Batman’s own book from 1979-1981, where he drew 29 consecutive issues. That’s a lot more than a fill-in job!

One of the things that frustrated me about the 1970s was– even though I adore his work– how much of a stranglehold Curt Swan had on both Superman books, because I would have given anything to see Irv Novick or Dick Dillin become a regular penciller on one of them. Both of them drew amazing versions of the Man of Steel that were fresh and dynamic.

Some really nice composition here. That Captain Storm! What a dude.

I always figured the Shield’s outfit must be uncomfortable to wear, because it seems so solid and pointy– but the art for his newest incarnation makes it look like spandex, and I find that disappointing.

I’m not sure if the Shield’s outfit is actually pointy and stiff or if it’s just an illusion created by the pattern of the design and the stockiness of the character.

Ah, Captain Cold and Golden Glider.

You know how to sell an artist, Brian! I have a weird fondness for those characters.

Also, as everyone else mentioned, Novick’s evolution as an artist is as impressive as his pages, and those are some very solid pages. I keep coming back to the shot of Jay getting hit with an “atomic-punch.” The poses there pretty much define dynamic anatomy. “Ka-Boooom,” indeed.

I have fond memories of Novick’s Flash and Batman. I own that Flash story. I can’t beleive he’s been around since the Golden Age. That makes him even more impressive. I look at these Batman an Falsh pages now, and remain impressed — just as cool as I remember them.

Keep this feature up!

It is funny, because until I read this post I never thought of Irv Novick as having a style. His pencils in conjunction with Dick Giordano’s inks were DC Comics for me growing up. To this day, those characters look in my mind’s eye the way Novick and Giordano drew them.

DC had a much clearer house artistic style than Marvel in the ’70s and early ’80s. You could kind of tell a DC book without knowing the characters by clean look of the art. I kind of miss those days as a fan, but it certainly makes you overlook the talent of the people producing those pages.

Great art, great artist, great choice!

I think Novick’s last work was a Batman Fill-In issue during the “Invasion” cross-over. inked by Steve Mitchell, if I recall.

Novick was “THE” Flash Artist in my mind, as he was drawing the book when I started reading it (inked by Frank McLaughlin). As I collected, I heard about the amazing Carmine Infantino, and when he came back to the book, I couldn’t see what the big deal was. Of course his style had changed so much that it wasn’t the same artist at all.

Irv’s Superman wasn’t my favorite, as he made Supes look too “normal” to me. Garcia Lopez was (and is) my standard for Superman.

In looking at reprints of Irv’s Batman work, I do see Adams influences- not direct swipes, but similar enough to make me think Irv had seen a pose and it stuck in the back of his head- Gordan’s head on page 2 second panel looks like an Adams pose.

Some inkers weren’t the best fit for Novick (Colletta loses some of the polish of Irv’s work). Evan Calnan on the Superman pages changes Irv’s pencils a bit, reducing the line work, and squaring up Superman’s head a bit. (Calnan was the regular penciller on Batman when I fisrt started buying it, inked by Tex Blaisdel who inked Irv a few times).

God, I can’t beleive I remember all this.

Novick was the regular penciller on Batman when Len Wein was writing it in the late 70′s, again inked by McLaughlin. I prefer Giordano, but these were strong issues artistically- even if the stories were more of a 1950′s vibe to them.

Novick on Batman, Newton on Detective and Aparo on Brave and Bold. These were good times.

Nice to see some of the young turks give some lovin to the masters of the past.

I think Novick’s last work was a Batman Fill-In issue during the “Invasion” cross-over. inked by Steve Mitchell, if I recall

It’s possible that the Flash story was drawn before the Invasion story, but the Flash story came out almost two years after the Invasion story, so I’d imagine that the Flash story was done last.

But, like I said, it’s possible that the Flash story was in the can for a long time already.

Irv Novick’s Batman is still as good to me as Neal Adams or Jim Aparo’s, especially when inked by Dick Giordano. They made an excellent art team together.

I read all of the comments with great interest, and was quite pleased to see how many folks not only appreaciatd Irv’s work, but actually spent time studying it.

The observation by many that his work evolved is entirerly correct. The reason is that my father evolved.
He was not a man who remained static in any aspect of his life – intellectual, emotion, education – he progressed constantly. He was an incredibly interesting man, not just an artist.

Irv Novick is the only definitive comic book artist for me. I grew up with the late 70′s/early 80′s Batman, and those comics had a huge influence over me, including Irv’s artwork.

Once he left the Batman comics, I lost interest myself. As good as Don Newton and Gene Colan were, who replaced Novick at that time, to me they didn’t have that special touch that Irv had.

I’m glad this webpage is a tribute to him. Irv Novick was a legend in my eyes!

For me, the Novick/Giordano Batman is the best ever – dramatic, poised, atmospheric, dynamic, powerful, agile, fluid.

Couple of P.S.’s –

1) I guess the colorists work forms part of the atmosphere of the Novick/ Giodano Batman too; not sure if one of them did it themselves sometimes or not (maybe Giordano), but whoever’s work it was, it certainly deserves a mention, contributing substantially to the look and feel; I love the coloring of every Novick/Giordano Batman work I’ve seen.

2) Thanks for this interesting article on Novick!

Irv Novick was the definitive Batman artist to me. Neal Adams got all the accolades but Novick and Dick Giordano were the best!!!!

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