I hate it when someone living is referred to as being an industry ‘legend’. That word is tossed around far too freely for it to have any form of impact these days, and most people, with few exceptions, often get tarred with the brush and haven’t done anywhere near as much as they need to in order to earn the title. I say, ‘with few exceptions’, because the general consensus is that some people can be rightly be called an industry legend without fear of someone laughing in your face or questioning your mental status. Names like Neal Adams, Roy Thomas and Stan Lee can safely be called legends as everyone would agree on it. And there’s one person who can also be called a Legend, with a capitol ‘L’: Dick Giordano.
Dick started in comics in 1951 with the famous Iger Shop, pumping out Sheena pages for Fiction House. Neatly sixty years later he’s still going strong, producing pages and commissions which show that he’s lost none of his skills. Indeed, if anything, he only gets better with age, like a select few of his peers, a person has to wonder which crossroad Dick visited as a kid and what deal did he cut. From Iger he moved to Charlton and that’s where the Life and Career of Dick Giordano really began. Initially hired as a freelancer by Al Fago, Dick soon moved up the ladder to a staff position and became the liaison between Charlton and the then powerful Comics Code. “It was my job to bring completed books to the code and later make changes,” says Dick, “often on their premises, to allow them to approve the material.” Despite this staff position life wasn’t all peaches and cream for Dick. “Rates were low, work was scarce and long hours at a drawing board were necessary if you had a family to feed,” Dick recalls, “and by then, I did. Even though Charlton’s rates were the lowest in the field, there was no limit on the amount of work we could get.” However, Dick soon displayed the qualities that would elevate him above the bulk of his (then) peers. One of those qualities was an ability to observe, absorb and learn. “I learned to be fast and good and learned my craft into the bargain,” says Dick, “After a while work in the industry became more plentiful and I added to my Charlton earnings by getting other, better paying work from Timely (my introduction to Stan Lee), Dell and others. And I learned the skills that would lead to my becoming Charlton’s editor- in -chief and later joining DC’s editorial staff.” In this manner Dick rose from freelance artist at Charlton to Editor-In-Chief in a few short years.
While at Charlton, Dick decided to make his mark by introducing the Action Heroes line of titles. This saw him overseeing the creation of characters such as captain Atom, The Question and The Blue Beetle, all of whom would benefit greatly from an artist/writer that Giordano managed to lure from Marvel Comics, Steve Ditko; then hot off his work on The Amazing Spider-Man and Dr Strange, both characters he’d helped create and establish. Giordano was also instrumental in hiring names that would feature in comics for decades to come, Jim Aparo, Steve Skates and Denny O’Neil, just to name a few. Ditko would repay the faith, and freedom, he was afforded at Charlton by recommending Giordano as an editor/artist to DC when he (Ditko) crossed over to that company. Becoming disillusioned with what he termed as ‘micromanaging’ at DC, Dick left the company and moved back into the life of a freelance artist once more. It wasn’t to remain like that though.
By the early 1970 Dick had made another move, this time one of the most important of his life. He left DC to form Continuity with Neal Adams. “Neal thought we should open an art service immediately,” says Dick, “but I was still smarting from the events that caused me to resign and told Neal that I wanted to sit in a corner and lick my wounds for a while. He let me do so. But about a year later, sensing that I was becoming bored inking pages in my basement studio, Neal called and made a specific offer that sounded like more fun than what I was doing at that moment. And Continuity Associates was born. Our clients were mostly advertising agencies and film studios but we always had a comic job or two hanging around. We were lucky and started off at a dead run and although we encountered speed bumps along the way, things moved along quite briskly. My role was mostly taking care of business.” During all of this Dick was establishing himself as not only a dependable artist, but one who possessed that rarest of all inking skills, the ability to bring out the best in any job he touched. Be it Neal Adams, Frank Brunner or Gene Colan, Dick worked with the best the industry had to offer and somehow they all looked better under Dick’s beautifully rendered lines.
After his time with Continuity and freelancing for Marvel, Dick returned to DC where he nurtured and mentored a new generation of artists, the bulk of whom still work in the industry today. It can be argued that what John Romita is to Marvel, Dick Giordano is to DC. Dick was, and remains, a true giant in the field. It doesn’t matter what he does – he can draw, he can write, he can edit, he can run studios and comic book companies alike, and he generally does it better than anyone else. If you’re an artist then you’d benefit from having Dick Giordano in your corner. If he’s not assisting you with the art, then his sheer knowledge and insight would be more than enough.
You could forgive an artist for wanting to retire after being in an industry for fifty years, but that’s not Dick. In 2001, exactly fifty years after he started at Charlton, he formed Future Comics with Bob Layton. Future Comics isn’t your standard comic book company, they publish their works on-line for the world to see and it’s one of the few such ventures that has lasted the distance. Since 2001 many other publishers have come and gone, but Future remains. In just over a year 2011 will see Dick Giordano enjoy his sixtieth year in the comic book industry. Knowing Dick he’ll accept the praise that’ll rightfully come his way and just keep on doing what he does best – producing quality work.
–Daniel Best, 10/01/2010
Getting to know Dick Giordano while working at Continuity Studios in the mid-1970 was quite the humbling affair. From the beginning, I was thrust into Crusty Bunker inking work on the Charlton magazines Continuity was producing, such as Space 1999 and Six Million Dollar Man. At first, it was thought that because I’m a penciler, I’d be suitable for inking secondary characters. What was soon discovered was that my inking was quite crude for the studio look and that, unlike penciling which I’d been practicing since childhood; I had no experience to speak of as an inker. After the first few attempts, Neal suggested that I pull out a lot of Dick Giordano reference and re-acquaint myself with how to approach diverging textures and forms in ink.
I spent a lot of time doing just that in those early days. But even better than the reference, Dick himself had a vibrant and daily presence at the studio. For the most part he was inking the various studio projects at his desk. From time to time, he’d take time off for business consultations with Neal. But Dick was always available to talk about his approach to inking, storytelling and comics in general. Such conversations between us were of the most informative and eye-opening for me from that period. I may never have become an adequate studio inker, but working so close to Dick Giordano revealed an entire world about the craft that I was in dire need of knowing and understanding at such an early stage of my career.
Dick is the consummate professional in all he does. He was able to adapt from the Charlton days and take on the inking of the profoundly illustrative style of Neal Adams, and arguably become the best inker to have embellished his pencils. Dick’s approach to life and art is one of grace, rhythm, and eloquence – qualities which make him such a wonderful artist of the fairer sex. To round out the artist in the man, Dick Giordano the businessman conducted managerial affairs with the same grace as he endowed onto his art. It was in no small measure to his credit that Continuity Studios rose to the surface of NY corporate advertising, from a small two man studio when he began his partnership with Neal, to a multi-million dollar business venture employing tens of artists, and becoming a hub for the comics community of its time.
It is nothing less than a great privilege to have worked with and to know Dick Giordano, a legendary artist and one of the comics most significant and notable contributors. These words cannot begin to balance the debt owed him for the invaluable guidance he bestowed on this aspiring comics artist, and on so many more of our era.
— Michael Netzer, Jerusalem, 12/3/2009
“Dick Giordano has done it all in the comics field, except perhaps writing. He is a superb penciler, as witness his Sarge Steel at Charlton, the Jonni Thunder he did with Dann and me at DC, and the Dracula adaptation that he and I produced for Marvel over a period of thirty years, beginning in the mid-1970s and finishing in the middle of this decade. That’s persistence as well as talent! In addition, I worked for him when he was an editor–both of individual titles such as Arak, Son of Thunder and later when he became managing editor of the entire DC line–and he was a joy to work with and for. As an editor, he believes strongly in finding good people to write and draw a comic, then leaving them alone to do their thing… merely reining them in when they go a tat too far, or giving them a pep talk (or a dressing-down) on occasion when they need it. And of course his inking–I can’t say enough about his inking, not only of Neal Adams but of Gene Colan (who considers Dick one of the best people to embellish his work), John Buscema, and many another. We’ll not see his like again–so it’s a good thing he’s still around, hale and hearty!”
— Roy Thomas
Dick Giordano was one of the very first DC people I ever met, and I took an instant liking to the man. I was pleased to find that he must’ve liked my work, for shortly after our meeting, I got my first Detective Comics gig.
Aside from the big role he played for me (and the comics industry in general) as an editor, however, Dick’s artistic abilities alone could’ve cemented his position in our minds, of course. He’s an icon among comics artists, and back when I was a young comics fan I measured all others against his and a few others’ talents. He’s a consummate professional, and if the comics industry has a pantheon of gods, Dick must be a member.
Having met him and spoken to him many times as an adult, I’m pleased to know Dick as a very congenial human being, as well. He’s always been fair and wise and very friendly with me, something I wish we could say about everyone, everywhere.”
— Norm Breyfogle
“Dick was always very open and informative about drawing and art in general. He said the following to me one day after some instruction on a piece I did, “I’d rather work with someone who was passionate about the craft than a person who is technically correct.” I never forgot those words or great books he did.”
— Steven Bove
“Dick Giordano has been a “quiet rebel” in contemporary comic history.
“While we can extol his contributions as an artist, with few being his equal, I’ve always been in awe of his innovative and risk-taking business acumen. It’s part of the public record that he has profoundly influenced my career as an artist, businessman, mentor and friend over the thirty-plus years of our association.
“But he’s also taught me invaluable lessons about having the courage to take chances, to “think outside the box” and to try to contribute something to our industry that will invoke positive change. He made a indelible mark early in his career with the innovative approach to publishing at Charlton and continued to open up new avenues of editorial content during his long tenure at DC. And when we sat down in 2001 to create a business plan for our independent publishing company, Future Comics, it was Dickie who suggested the bold step to attempt self-distribution–a first in comics history. I remember him saying that “There’s only one way that three, seasoned veteran comic creators (actually, he referred to us as “dinosaurs”) are going to be perceived as publishing rebels–and that’s if we do something revolutionary on the business side of our plan.”
“I know the perception of Dick Giordano is anything but as a rebel in our industry, but that’s how I know him. To me, he is a fellow who has never been afraid to take chances and to tackle impossible tasks with a positive attitude and rebellious zeal.”