Dick Giordano: Changing Comics, One Day At A Time
by Michael Eury
As an artist, Dick Giordano is a distinguished, skilled craftsman and seemingly well loved by his colleagues as a man. But either by choice•several of those colleagues comment here on his lack of a knack for self promotion•or luck of the draw, he has never really been associated with one fan-favorite character, the way we might think of a Dick Sprang Batman or a Curt Swan Superman. He•s perhaps best known for his skill at illustrating beautiful women such as the Thorn and as an inker working with his longtime friend Neal Adams, the late Mike Sekowsky and a cast of thousands. Judging from Changing Comics, One Day At A Time, it•s apparently in Giordano•s nature to approach his work as •what needs to be done• rather than •what do I want to do.• As a result, it may be that his place in comic book history derives from more than the sum of its parts.
After starting as an artist with DC in the ’60s , he eventually attained-I was going to say “rose to”, but that is perhaps debatable–the position of editor. He then left the company in 1970 after clashing badly with the then-editorial director, respected artist Carmine Infantino. But this was not the end of Giordano’s association with the DC superheroes; indeed he helped define them to •the outside world• for several years in the •70s. Forging a partnership with Adams in the commercial art studio Continuity, he provided artwork for products featuring the DC characters on his own or in tandem with Adams and others. Samples provided here include the Peter Pan company •book and record sets•, birthday cards, Clark Bar or Post cereal advertisements and other intersections with my childhood. Probably yours, too.
My own •golden age• of comic book reading•which is whenever you•re about 10 and a half–•roughly coincided with the beginnings of Dick Giordano•s return to DC as editorial director in the 1980s. He had his name on, and hands in to greater and lesser degrees, many of the books I remember most fondly from those years. And as company spokesperson in the •Meanwhile•• columns which ran in DC comics of the day, he presented a charming •face• for the organization. Not as much of a showman as Marvel•s Stan Lee•who could be?•in that company•s Bullpen Bulletins, Giordano gave a seemingly •inside• view of day-to-day editorial operations around the office, ending all such missives with his trademark phrase, “Thank you and good afternoon.”
In a larger sense (than just my own preferences) Giordano can be said to have •grandfathered• some of the finest comic books in history during this stage of his career. The Dark Night Returns, Watchmen and Sandman all got significant support from Giordano at their beginnings and went on to become some of the most acclaimed and influential comics of the past 20 years.
This book is an entirely agreeable tribute to Giordano and his work, but I couldn•t quite shake the feeling that there was another story to be read between the lines, or that I was seeing only the tip of an iceberg. I don•t mean that I think there are any deep, dark secrets lying beneath the surface here. I take Adams at his foreword when he says Giordano is one of the nicest people in comics. But the lack of any but the mildest spice gives the book a sometimes subdued feeling that could have been alleviated with just a bit more detail on a few points. Perhaps including interviews with those apparently rare souls who have had genuine disagreements with Giordano would have given it some of this missing texture–not dirt, texture. Infantino, or Mike. W. Barr–whom Giordano fired as a DC editor for criticizing the company–or Frank Miller might have had some valuable insight.
Word geek moment: Michael Eury•s writing is often prosaic but is mostly readable; however there were a few moments where I wondered if I spoke the same language. He refers to •potentially unpublished• art several times when I think he means possibly. Later he describes a Batman story as being about how •the Dark Knight persuades a desperate older gentleman from taking his own life.• Surely •dissuades• is correct. Finally and marginally more seriously, Eury defines •swiping• in comic book art here as •parroting another artist•s style,• a technique Giordano endorses when filling in for a long-running artist. I•m under the impression that swiping implies more than that, being the act of actually copying a specific character pose or •camera angle• from another artist rather than making a pastiche of their style.
But these are nitpicks. This may not be the most valuable contribution to the library of books about comics ever made, and Dick Giordano may not be the most talented editor/illustrator/inker the field has ever seen•although that is perhaps arguable in the inker category. Given his apparently self-effeacing nature, he’d probably agree. But he•s well deserving of tribute, and this book will be worthwhile for both serious and casual fans.