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CSBG Archive

Saturday Reminiscing With a Master



That master being Mr. Nick Cardy.

When I was first starting to read comics, back in 1968 and ’69, Nick Cardy was just beginning his reign as DC’s primary cover artist.

I had just barely missed his glory days on Teen Titans and Aquaman (though the fans were still talking about his work there in the letter columns of the time) but man, those covers.

Over the next seven years or so, Nick Cardy’s cover work sold me a LOT of comics. Here’s a quick sampling…



I was mostly a story guy even then, I don’t think I ever bought a comic just for the art… but Cardy’s covers had the knack of posing questions I HAD to know the answer to. Who WAS the Creature that Devoured Detroit? What made that giant footprint? How the hell is that football guy hitting Superman without a hand?

Even after I’d drifted over to being a mostly-Marvel reader in the mid-1970s, the right Cardy cover could still bring me back.

But that was mostly unconscious. I didn’t really develop an appreciation for Nick Cardy as an artist until I discovered his actual penciled pages in reprints and back issues. Usually Teen Titans stories in the back of DC’s 100-pagers, stuff like that.

In recent years, I’ve come to appreciate how good he really was all over again, seeing his work in black-and-white in the Showcase Presents volumes featuring Aquaman and Bat Lash.

I got to meet Nick Cardy twice, both times at the San Diego Comic-Con. The first time was when he was promoting his book The Art of Nick Cardy, which is a wonderful book by the way. I was very poor at the time and could only sigh wistfully at the book, and then my friend Chris Kohler unexpectedly presented me with a copy, in a gesture of kindness that still blows me away whenever I think about it.

Mr. Cardy signed it, cheerfully patient with my tongue-tied nerdity. Here is a snapshot of Cardy and me that the book’s author John Coates took– that was Mr. Coates’ idea, I would never have dared to ask. You can see my look of starstruck disbelief at being right there with Nick Goddamned Cardy!!

The second time was a few years later, doing press for CBR. I had Julie with me and she had come with me to this panel, a reminiscence about the Eisner studio days. (Back when I was doing press for CBR at Comic-Con, I was usually the utility infielder covering the stuff that no one else wanted like CrossGen’s comics-on-DVD rollout, so Jonah would throw me a bone by letting me write up what my colleagues referred to as “Hatcher’s old-guy panels.”)

At one point, Mr. Cardy made a joke about how when he heard fans talking about manga, all he could think about was his Italian family and his mother’s urging the kids to Mange! Mange! The joke was lost on most folks — tough room — but Julie loved it, being from a large Italian family herself on her mother’s side. So afterwards, we sought out Mr. Cardy in Artist’s Alley where he and Julie immediately bonded, talking about their favorite Italian recipes for the better part of half an hour. (I suspect he was relieved at meeting someone who wanted to talk to him about something besides Aquaman or Bat Lash.)

I’m going on and on about all this because it exemplifies one of my favorite things about comic books and fan gatherings– we can actually talk to the people who were there at the beginning. That’s a real gift– consider comics alongside TV or movies or music, and think about an equivalent event. There’s never been anything comparable to a comic-con in other areas of the arts; the closest you get is nerdlebrity things like the Hollywood Collectors Show or Star Wars Celebration. Imagine a general-interest film-fans convention the size of San Diego, with a “Director’s Alley” where you got to casually chat with movie pioneers like Alfred Hitchcock or John Ford or Billy Wilder. That’s what we have with comic books. It’s an extraordinary privilege.

In recent years, we are losing more and more of these folks, and the thought that in another ten or twenty years they’ll mostly be gone is an incredibly bleak one. Mark Evanier has had to patiently explain, more than once, that he doesn’t host the “Golden Age” panels at the San Diego Con any more because there are so few pros left from those days that are able to appear on one. It often gravels me that, apart from specialty-press outfits like TwoMorrows, very little effort is made to talk to the pioneers of our artform and get them on the record about the old days… not just about the comics they drew, but also the history they’ve lived through.

Blessedly, someone’s done something about that.

Nick Cardy: The Artist At War is an amazing hardcover that faithfully reproduces all the sketches that Cardy did throughout his time in World War II. Renee Witterstaetter is the one that shepherded it into print, beginning almost from the moment Cardy showed the original sketchbook to her– she instantly realized what an extraordinary collection of work this was and determined then and there to get it out into the world where other people could see it. Together, she and Cardy have turned that beat-up old sketchpad into a lavishly-produced art book, including not just the drawings but also Cardy’s reminiscences about the circumstances under which each one was done.

There’s also a photo section with pictures Cardy took at the time, and those are filled with Cardy’s wartime memories as well. But the real star is the art.

I love this book because of the art and the history. Julie loves it because she says reading it’s exactly like talking to Mr. Cardy in person, who she remembers as “just the sweetest man, completely adorable.” And it’s true that it doesn’t feel like you’re reading a history book, or even an art book, so much as it does like you’re just listening to a favorite old uncle telling stories.

But most of all, I love that someone took the time to do a book like this in the first place. It’d be a great read even if you weren’t a fan of Nick Cardy’s work at all, but if you are, then this will immediately become one of your favorite Cardy books of all time. Seriously. I can’t recommend it enough.

I hope it sells through the roof and starts a trend. I’d love it if this was the first of many volumes about the greats of comics and what their actual lives were about. These guys have great stories to tell, and we should get them told.

See you next week.

22 Comments

Greg,

All those Cardy covers are from my favorite time of comics. Between his covers and Neal Adams covers I think that was the bulk of DC’s cover artists from 68-72. They did a lot of them. I’ll have to keep an eye out for the book you showcased. Looks interesting and great art. Thanks for posting about it.

I’m a huge Nick Cardy fan, so I imagine I’ll pick up this new book sooner or later. In the meantime, it behooves me to point out that the two color Teen Titans pages Greg posted are pencilled by Neal Adams and *inked* by Cardy. Credit where due and all that.

Nick Cardy is one of the all-time greats. A real genius at covers in particular. It’s a real shame that most fans today don’t know his name, because he should be a household name in any comics household.

In the meantime, it behooves me to point out that the two color Teen Titans pages Greg posted are pencilled by Neal Adams and *inked* by Cardy. Credit where due and all that.

Fixed… found an example I liked better anyway.

nice i agree that its sad that no one now a days it trying to make sure legends like nick finaly get to put there stories of the old days on the record for future fans. before its too late because as mark evainer has pointed on not to many of the old school from the early days of comics are around any more and soon will not be at all.

Is the guy still around?

http://oldscrolls.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/f-van-wyck-mason%E2%80%99s-captain-north-mysteries/
http://spyguysandgals.com/sgShowChar.asp?ScanName=North_Hugh

The Hugh North strip never sold but was drawn by Nick Cardy. You can see samples of the North Strip (MAJOR NORTH) in THE ART OF NICK CARDY in the MASTERWORKS series.

Is the guy still around?

Yes he is, he was just at MegaCon in Florida. Here is a great picture of him and Renee at a show.

How do you leave out maybe the greatest DC cover ever? Bat Lash hiding behind the tombstone with the little girl as the injuns prowl?

@Greg
Thanks–I’d like to meet him at some point.

See you at Emerald City next week.

How do you leave out maybe the greatest DC cover ever? Bat Lash hiding behind the tombstone with the little girl as the injuns prowl?

I was trying to keep it to the Cardy DC covers of books I actually bought new off the stands. Believe it or not, I didn’t get to Bat Lash till he got his own Showcase Presents… where I found the book really was as awesome as everyone said.

Cardy did a lot of brilliant covers for the horror books, too… Witching Hour, Tales of the Unexpected, and so on. I didn’t buy those books and so didn’t run them in today’s piece either, but they’re well worth a look.

I’m a fan of Cardy’s as well. Thanks for this post and for sharing that story about meeting him. You’re so right about how cool it is to be able to meet these ‘founding fathers’ and big names – a few years ago I met and briefly talked to Howard Chaykin when he was attending a comics show here in Zagreb. That was really a thrill since he’s one of my favorite artists. He even drew me a sketch of Monark Starstalker for free!
Anyway, I really, really want that Cardy art book. I really love those (water-color?) painted sketches. Simply beautiful.

Yeah, I’m gonna have to get that book. I love Cardy’s art; his work really shines with the black & white Showcase presentation. The years in which most of the DC covers were by Cardy, Adams, and Ernie Chan contributed some of my all-time favorite covers.

"O" the Humanatee!

February 24, 2013 at 4:30 pm

Nice appreciation of Cardy, Greg. That drawing of a (soldier’s?) face in the “War” book looks really lovely, if incomplete. One minor correction: On the cover of Batman #255, only the four small inset pictures are by Cardy; I’m 99% certain the bigger image, of Batman and the Werewolf, is by Neal Adams.

On a road trip to Wisconsin, I found the Bat Lash Showcase Presents and seeing as it was $10 and I like Westerns, I snapped it right up. Man, what a great, great read. I was astonished that in the pre-superstar creator era, DC basically gave Cardy complete control of the character. That’s amazing!

I just might snap this book up, Greg; thanks for pointing it out. And are there any other Cardy comic works you’d recommend?

Wow… I have never heard of this guy somehow and these are amazing…

I was lucky enough to meet Cardy back at a con in 2001. Very nice gentleman and SUPREMELY talented. JLA #102 is still one of my all-time favorite covers.

I know Cardy is an influence on Colleen Doran, and based on that Art of cover, I can see it. And what a beautiful Wonder Girl!

Totally get what you’re saying about being lucky about meeting the old greats and chatting. I’m so very glad I got to meet and talk with Joe Kubert at the Boston Comic Con 2 years ago (even though I ticked him off…).

Speaking of… in Joe Kubert Presents from DC, Sam Glanzman is doing a series of WWII era stories about his time in the service (Navy, I think), and it seems to be sort of the same territory as the new Cardy book. Plus, the paper for that comic feels neat.

Nick Cardy is an amazing artist. And he draws very lovely women. His depiction of Wonder Girl is breathtaking.

So, what *was* the secret of the Phantom Quarterback? Was this a really prescient commentary on future NFL one-time hotshot Tim Tebow? :)

So, what *was* the secret of the Phantom Quarterback?

It was the debut of Steve Lombard, actually. More here.

“I’m going on and on about all this because it exemplifies one of my favorite things about comic books and fan gatherings– we can actually talk to the people who were there at the beginning. That’s a real gift…”

Very well said!!!

I live in Connecticut. A few years back I made a point of hitting conventions in NYC that featured some of the Silver Age greats. Because of that I got to meet Arnold Drake, Joe Kubert, Russ Heath, Carmine Infantino, Murphy Anderson, Julie Schwartz and Ramona Fradon.

The Schwartz encounter still sticks with me. I think it was one of the first such conventions I’d attended, and I’m thinking I’ll have to wait in a long line and barely have a chance to talk to the man.

But I got to his table and there was maybe one other person there. No one else. He kindly signed a few comics. We shared a few words. He asked me what I did for a living. I was so poorly prepared to have all of this time to talk to the guy. Still, it was a memorable experience, even if I wish I’d been able to interact better.

But that experience also continues to blow my mind. Schwartz as an editor was so crucial to the revival of the modern superhero and the creation of the DC icons of today – The Flash, Green Lantern, The Atom, Hawkman. Even folks who aren’t comicbook fans have likely been touched in some way by Schwartz. Heck, you could argue there would be no Avengers movie without DC’s superhero renaissance of the 1960s.

To have been able to just walk up to the man still amazes me.

Thanks for the link, Greg!

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