by KC Carlson
Originally scheduled for release in May 2013, DC Comics’ Silver Age Teen Titans Archive Volume 2 is available today (13 Nov 13) in comic shops and a week later everywhere else. Much of the artwork in this volume is by Nick Cardy, who passed away a little over a week ago on 3 Nov 13 at the age of 93 (or 94, depending on whom you ask). Fans and commentators have been mourning his loss by discussing his best work — both stories and covers — and much of what is being talked about is right here in this eerily well-timed volume.
CARDY COVERS IT ALL!
This 400-page hardcover collects the original Teen Titans #6-20 plus The Brave and The Bold #83 (a Batman/TT team-up drawn by Neal Adams), all from the late 1960s. All of the covers for the Teen Titans issues are by Cardy, and many of them are among not only Cardy’s but DC Comics’ very best. The covers for Teen Titans #13 (A Christmas Happening!), #14 (Requiem For a Titan!), and #16 (The Dimensional Caper!) are all classics, and #11 (Twang! Speedy’s Back!), #12 (Titans in Space!), #17 (Mad Mod Returns!), and #20 (Titans Fit the Battle of Jericho!) are not too shabby either!
The layout and design of these covers are exceptional. As you’re looking at them, be conscious of how Nick’s layout pulls your eye directly into the main focal point — and then leads it around the cover for more detail. Issue #16’s cover is one of the best. You first see the three running male Titans (from left to right) leading your eye directly to the right, where Wonder Girl is being grabbed up by one of the aliens. Only then do you look up to see the mass of creepy aliens crawling out of the top of… what the heck IS that? A giant book! Weird! (And check out Nick’s “hidden” signature to find out what his middle name is!)
Note also the experimentation with color on issues #14 and 17 with early color holds and expressionistic coloring. These were most likely in collaboration with DC’s amazing color artist/production manager Jack Adler.
SOMETHING SPECIAL UNDER THE COVERS
Cardy’s interior work for most of the Teen Titans issues offers up additional surprises. He excels in the moody “The TT’s Swingin’ Christmas Carol!” in #13, altering his regular style slightly to reflect the Dickensesque flavor of the story. And Nick also exercises his ability to design distinctive caricatures, as the characters are drawn in an older style suitable for the classically-inspired tale. (That’s something he would return to frequently in his acclaimed work on Bat Lash.) TT #13 was Nick’s first full (pencils and inks) art job on the series in a while, since he only inked Irv Novick’s pencils for the previous few issues.
Teen Titans #16 was the first full issue under the editorship of the very creative Dick Giordano, and Cardy responded with one of his best issues of the series, full of alien adventure and great humor. (It should be noted that most of these TT stories are written by the master of fake teen slang, Bob Haney.) Even the letterer gets in on the fun — Cardy draws the splash page at an unusual angle, and the word balloons and captions are tilted to match the art!
TT #17 is another great complete art job by Nick. I love studying his line weights when he inks his own pencils, and this issue (featuring the Mad Mod) is wonderful for that. Also, Robin is noticeably absent in this issue until the end — he’s accidentally locked in the Tower of London! Check out how much character and storytelling there is in the drawing of Robin in the last panel — you can tell how angry and frustrated he is from his body language, and Nick doesn’t even draw his face (his back is to the reader).
THE BATTLE OF “JERICHO”
The last story in the collection (from TT #20) is a complicated tale. What we see printed in the book is actually the second version of the story, written and penciled by Neal Adams and inked by Nick Cardy — a quite unusual art pairing, which really looks incredible, despite this being a rush job. The story behind this story is that the original script was early work by Marv Wolfman and Len Wein that aimed to introduce DC’s first prominent black superhero, Jericho.
There were a number of early concerns about the script being too preachy, or perhaps the subject matter was too advanced for the novice writers, but then-publisher Irwin Donenfeld gave the story a go-ahead (and even reportedly asked for it to be a two-parter), and so Nick Cardy penciled 23 pages and was beginning to spot ink them. People who have seen this art describe it as the best work that Cardy had done, as Nick felt it was a very important story and put extra effort into his artwork.
Unfortunately, DC Comics was undergoing major management changes at the time, as Donenfeld unexpectedly resigned and former Flash artist Carmine Infantino was selected as Donenfeld’s successor. Infantino, possibly afraid that the book wouldn’t sell in the South, rejected the book outright and returned the finished pages to editor Giordano.
Artist Neal Adams was in the DC office when this happened and volunteered to help if he could. He first tried to re-edit, and then rewrote the script, but both were also rejected. Finally, he started over from scratch, making Jericho a white man and creating an entirely new story. Reportedly, Adams was able to retain about five pages from the original (plus the cover, which was recolored by DC so that the black people on it were not identifiable as such). With Adams penciling and Cardy inking the new pages, the second (published) version was completed in about a week.
Author/historian Jon B. Cooke wrote about this situation in the very first issue of Comic Book Artist (Spring 1998). At that time, he was attempting to seek out the pages of the original story. He claims that the original can’t be fairly judged until either the missing pages of art or the original script can be found and published. Asked Cooke, “Did Marv and Len go ‘overboard’ with virulent racist dialogue, or was (DC) management ‘gun-shy’ about dealing with the racial issues (and what would have been DC’s first black super-hero) in comic books?” So far, we don’t have definitive answers for any of it, as only nine pages have surfaced to date.
This webpage of Titans Tower has those unpublished original Jericho pages, as well as a reprint of Cooke’s original article from Comic Book Artist #1.
Hopefully, more Silver Age Teen Titans Archives will be scheduled in the future, as there’s still some classic Cardy artwork not yet reprinted, including more Neal Adams/Nick Cardy art collaborations, the original (and first-in-a-series-of) Origin of Wonder Girl story/stories (this first one drawn by Gil Kane and inked by Cardy, and includes a major — and popular — makeover for the character), and the intriguing (and lengthy for the era) Mr. Jupiter storyline, where most of the Titans give up their superheroic identities for many issues of the series.
For more information about this volume, Bob Greenberger provided a complete rundown and even more behind-the-scenes information about this great reprint Archive, back when it was originally solicited.
For more great Nick Cardy artwork, the entire run of the classic Bat Lash series is still available — in glorious black & white (better to study the linework!) — in Showcase Presents Bat Lash. Plus, there are three volumes of Showcase Presents Aquaman with wonderful artwork by both Nick and Ramona Fradon.
KC CARLSON SEZ: Nick Cardy was one of my favorite artists long before I even knew his name. Thank goodness this industry eventually woke up and started crediting its creative talent. Thanks also for all the wonderful people who wrote about and shared their love for Nick’s amazing artwork over the years.
Rest easy, Nick. You did real good.
Classic comic covers from the Grand Comics Database.