This year was hard for a number of reasons, not least of which because of — you know — the massive global pandemic sweeping humanity. But among the reasons why 2020 is one that we’re glad to leave behind, for those in the comic community, this year was one that saw incredible losses to some of the most influential creators in the industry.
The beauty of comics, however, is that even when their creators pass on, we as fans can come together to mourn and remember while celebrating the immense talents of such cultural icons. So while 2020 may have taken some of the greats — enough, unfortunately, that I cannot come close to doing them all justice in this article — let’s take a minute to instead celebrate the influence and astonishing bodies of work that those are no longer with us were able to give in the time for which we had them.
Albert Uderzo (1927-2020), Co-Creator of Asterix
First making their debut in the Franco-Belgian comics magazine Pilote in 1959, Uderzo’s plump, funny, and adventurous characters have since brought joy worldwide with over 38 volumes published in over 100 languages. Centered around Asterix, a warrior in the only village in Gaul to have no surrendered to the invading Romans, the village’s holdout continues thanks to a secret potion created by the village druid Getafix (also known as Paranormix for the less well-humored American audience) which makes the villagers inhumanly strong…for a while. Over it’s many volumes, the lessons and laughs continue throughout several periods of iconic history and never limit themselves to what you’d normally see in the history books. Through jokes and history, Uderzo’s cartooning brought culture and a love of comics and history to an invaluable number of lives. He died of a heart attack on March 24th at the age of 92 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France.
Mort Drucker (1929-2020), Comic Artist and Caricaturist for MAD Magazine
When we think of MAD Magazine, we think of funny; we think of satire and delightfully barbed commentary. Without Mort Drucker, it’s a fair bet that you wouldn’t have that association at all. Having worked with several comic book publishers through the 1950s (Atlas, Dell, and DC Comics to name a few), Drucker found himself plopped into the lap of MAD Magazine, where his name became synonymous with top-tier caricature work and a biting wit. The gold doesn’t stop there, however with Drucker’s credits also seeping into the film, music, and literary industries, including the poster for George Lucas’ American Graffiti, Anthrax’s album State of Euphoria, and a number of children’s books.
In his lifetime, Drucker received much-deserved recognition by being inducted into the Society of Illustrators hall of Fame, being given the Medal of Honor for lifetime achievement, and the deeply-sought-after recognitions from the National Society of Cartoonists. Drucker passed away on April 9th at the age of 91 in Woodbury, New York.
Joe Sinnott (1926-2020), Marvel Comics Inker
A WWII Navy veteran, family man, and truly legendary inker, Joe Sinnott is arguably the name that comes to mind when you picture the Fantastic Four. Creating art right up until the time of his death, Sinnott was one of the last remaining “Titans of the Silver Age”; best noted for working with Jack Kirby to ink the Fantastic Four and creating the inking styles through the early 1980s that would become iconic and unique to the publishing house’s name. Though Sinnott has retired from commissioned comic book work by the early 1990s, he continued to ink the Sunday Spider-Man comic strip for King Features until it’s last run in 2019 with the same ease and talent that he had been brining for over sixty years. He passed June 25th in New York at the age of 93.
Allen Bellman (1924-2020), Marvel “Golden Age” Artist
To say that Allen Bellman has been creating comics since God was a boy is not much of a misnomer, having begun his career after answering a newspaper ad for artists at Timely and Atlas comics before they even began to become a twinkle in the eye of what would become the comic monolith of Marvel Comics. With one of his first assignments being Captain America, there was nowhere to go but up — especially in the pre-Comics Code Authority days of horror, crime, and westerns in the “Golden Era” of comics; all to which Bellman was able to lend his talent.
After his retirement from the comic book world, Bellman went on to self-publish a book on his career titled Timely Confidential: When the Golden Age of Comic Books was Young in 2017. He also avidly continued to attend comic book conventions well into his 90s, where he always encouraged the up and coming generations of comic fans and creators. Bellman died on of illness in March 9th at the age of 95.
Denny O’Neil (1939-2020) Comic Book Writer and Editor
You can’t throw a stone into the Batman or Green Lantern fandoms without hitting someone who is in the middle of saying “Denny O’Neil is the greatest” — and honestly, they’re not wrong. O’Neil found himself firmly planted as a staple of the comic community thanks to his work on Green Lantern/Green Arrow, as well as Batman with Neal Adams, which is now known as the birthplace of Batman’s famed foe, Ra’s al Ghul. Among many other things, O’Neil also became known for his work on The Question with Denys Cowan, and The Shadow with Michael Kaluta; as well as teaching at Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts, and editing several Batman titles until his retirement. O’Neil passed away in June 11th of cardiac arrest.
Richard Corben (1940-2020) Comic Book Artist and Illustrator
There are few that would refuse the idea of Richard Corben being an absolute legend who could spin a story like no other. He is remembered for his “Den” stories that, for many, were the first glimpse into what Heavy Metal would be all about for decades to come. Starting his career as an animator and indie comics creator, Corben eventually found himself a home working on Will Eisner’s The Spirit and Vampirella. He was later able to move on to bigger work, focusing on projects from Marvel, DC Comics, IDW, and Dark Horse; such as the much-beloved Hellboy B.P.R.D.: The Crooked Man with Mike Mignola. But through every project, every hero, and every publisher, Corben lives on in the idea that in sci-fi, you can do anything. He died on December 2nd following heart surgery.
Juan Giménez (1943—2020) Writer, Artist, and Co-Creator of Metabarons
Known primarily for his work with the incomparable Alejandro Jodorowsky on Metabarons, Giménez offered a take on science fiction art that still goes unsurpassed. An Argentinian artist who lived in Spain, Giménez worked on a number of well-known Italian and Spanish comics, including his smash hit Leo Roa, which tells the story of its eponymous protagonist looking for journalism scoops in a grand and bizarre galaxy of adventures. After teaming up with Jodorowsky in the 1990s, Giménez also worked as a storyboard and concept artist. Truly, when looking at the scope of sci-fi visuals and complex concepts of otherworldly storytelling, Giménez offered some of the best — with exhaustively thorough machinery, stunning characters, and breathtaking attention to grace and detail. He passed away on April 2nd from complications with COVID-19.