Monday, November 4, 2013

That DC Cover Guy: A Look Back at Nick Cardy

There's nothing that'll make you feel old more than the passing of people from your youth.

Well, that's kind of a bummer of a note to start on.

Well, it was a kind of a bummer of a news item that greeted me this morning. Nick Cardy had died yesterday (Sunday, November 3rd) at the age of 93.

I'll direct you to here where Mark Evanier in his own special way comments on the life and the legacy of the man who came into this world as Nicholas Viscardi back in 1920.  And you can click here for a summary of observations from other comics professionals as they reflect on the passing of Nick Cardy and the impact his art had on them.  

Me, it seems like only yesterday I was a young kid exploring through the extra-squeaky spinner rack at Dameron Drug Store on Main Street as I was first moving from occasional comic reader to embarking on this mad and wonderful journey that occupies my time and my bank account lo so many years later. Of course the cover was the deciding factor of whether I would pick up a book and determine if it was worth my limited and hard earned change. And no covers enticed me on a more consistent basis that those of Nick Cardy.

Below are the covers to the first three issues of Superman I ever bought. Two of them do not even have Clark in the super suit and the third one has Batgirl more prominently displayed than the title's actual star. Yet all three grabbed my attention with characters in motion: Clark hurling his costume away; a man falling outside the window as Clark and Lois turn to look on in horror; Batgirl plummeting downward as Superman zips upward.  Cardy's covers always displayed heightened levels of action or drama or both. 

Back in the mid-70's, DC put out these big 100 page titles which necessitated a lot of smaller images than one would normally see on a comic book cover. In the case of Nick Cardy, the power of his work tended to be a bit diminished by these boxed in cover drawings but that power was still there. 

I took this cover to an issue of Justice League of America and highlighted the main portion of the cover and stripped away the color. Even with the art reduced to an approximation of a rough sketch, the energy that Cardy put into this drawing is amazing.  The speed lines and explosive power of the creature as he bursts forward is eye catching.


If there isn't a book out there with Cardy's cover art unencumbered by the shrunken boxes and cover blurbs, there needs to be and I would buy it.

As a young novice in the world of comic books, I often wondered what Nick Cardy's artwork would look like on the inside of a comic book.  Would it be as amazing and dynamic as his covers? Of course, as a young novice, I was not aware of Nick Cardy's history as a comic book artist. I would only later discover Cardy's innovating storytelling in titles such as Aquaman and Teen Titans. When I later discovered reprints and back issues of Cardy's interior work, I was as impressed as I was by his covers. 

Sadly, Nick Cardy's turn as DC's go-to guy for covers would soon be over and he would move on to other things. Other artists would take on DC's covers: Bob Oskner, Ernie Chan, Jose Luis Garcia Lopez, Ross Andru and others. All talented artists but none captured the unique style and vision of a Nick Cardy cover. It's been many, many years since I was a little boy but looking back on those first comic books I bought, I am still entranced by the magic of Nick Cardy's astonishing covers. 

Rest in peace, Nicholas Viscardi. And thank you from this life long comic book fan for your most significant part of getting me started on this journey.

Monday, November 4th, 2013


Amended Tuesday, November 5th, 2013:

Click here for an excellent post from Brian Cronin at Comic Book Resources on the art of Nick Cardy

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