Sunday, October 18, 2009

George Tuska, 1919-2009

I've always said that I was lucky to get into comic books when I did. The giants of the Golden and Silver Ages were still working and I was getting to work with them. One of my earliest jobs for Charlton Comics was drawn by Steve Ditko, and once I got to DC Comics, my scripts would be handed to the likes of Curt Swan, Gil Kane, Kurt Schaffenberger, Carmine Infantino, Irv Novick, Rick Estrada, Bill Draut, Don Heck, George Evans, Dick Giordano, Jim Aparo, Jerry Grandenetti, Jose Delbo, Dick Ayers, Win Mortimer...

...Or George Tuska.

George was, without doubt, one of the greats. Pete Morisi, a Golden and Silver Age great himself better known as the creator of Charlton's Peter Cannon Thunderbolt under the pseudonym P.A.M., told me how in the early-1950s, George was the artist to emulate (i.e., copy) by younger artists. Pete felt that he had taken so much from George that it was only right to go to the veteran artist and ask if he minded, homage. George did not mind.

You'll read details of George's resume in obituaries elsewhere. For me, George Tuska was Marvel's Iron Man (1968-1978) and, later, collaborator on a couple of extended projects at DC: the He-Man and the Masters of the Universe comic book miniseries, and the Superman syndicated newspaper strip. I knew how Pete Morisi must have felt looking at George's work for Lev Gleason's Crime Does Not Pay and on such syndicated strips as Scorchy Smith and Buck Rogers. His line was simple and direct, his style a mix of cartoony (in the best sense of the word) and dynamic action, with an ability to lay out a page -- or a comic strip tier -- and tell the story that was usually pitch perfect. He might have gotten the costume details wrong (reference just slowed him down), but he drew the hell out of every page and made me happy to see what he had done with my scripts.

George Tuska died last week. He was a sweet man and a giant in the industry (literally and figuratively; George was very tall). I will miss his presence in this world, but I'm glad that his work, and our brief collaborations, remain behind to remind me of the man and his talent.

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