Wednesday, September 8, 2010


In the original post, I reported that Russ Heath would be appearing at Up Up and Away in Cheviot from 4-6 pm on Friday, September 16th. That appearance has been cancelled due to a change in Mr. Heath's traveling schedule. He will still be appearing at the Comic Expo.

Comic book legend Russ Heath is coming to Cincinnati this weekend. He is being brought in as a marquee guest for the Cincinnati Comic Expo being held September 18th at the Cintas Center. The genial Heath has worked in every genre of comics, but is best known for his work on DC Comics' war titles and his stories of Sgt. Rock, the Haunted Tank and the War That Time Forgot. His work may also be on more comic covers than any other, well, back covers, that is. Heath drew two toy ads that appeared on the backs of many comics for years (see above picture).

Heath's career reaches back over six decades, starting out drawing Westerns for Marvel in the late 1940s. When Marvel tried to revive their superhero line in the early 50s, Heath was right in there, drawing the first appearance of Marvel Boy, a character who's been revived in the past few years. Heath also added a steady diet of science fiction and war comics to his resume. While he worked almost exclusively for Marvel, he did do one story for EC in the first issue of Frontline Combat. In 1954, he began drawing war stories for DC while still doing work for Marvel, over the next five years this gradually shifted until he was doing all DC work. His last regular Marvel story appeared in 1959. Heath drew a nice string of Robin Hood stories in the early issues of "Brave & the Bold", but it was the war books where he was the most prolific, appearing in all of their long running titles, sometimes doing five six-page stories a month!

While the war books were mostly anthologies he shared with other artists, for a year he had his own series, "Sea Devils", about a group of underwater adventurers. Also during this time he was assisting Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder on the "Little Annie Fanny" comic strip for Playboy. Gradually, the bastions of the war genre that had been his bread and butter fell one by one until only "Sgt. Rock" was left standing in the '70s.

Heath's comics career was sporadic after that. He did some work for the short-lived Atlas/Seaboard company as well as stories for the Warren magazines. In 1989 he came back to Marvel for a couple of Punisher stories. He also did some work for Marvel's war series "The 'Nam" and their Vietnam graphic novel "Hearts and Minds". Over at DC he did a story arc for "Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight". After the mid-90s industry bust we saw very little of Russ Heath.

Over the past decade he's popped up here and there, most recently doing covers for Dave Sim's humorous/historical "Glamourpuss" series. His highest profile project has been "Legend", Howard Chaykin's adaptation of the Philip Wylie's 1930 novel "Gladiator", about the world's first superhuman. Fortunately, publishers have been somewhat reprint-happy and there's some Heath gold in those collections. DC Comics has issued most of his Haunted Tank and Enemy Ace work via their "Showcase Presents" series of black and white collections. Marvel has reprinted some of his 1950s work in their "Marvel Masterworks: Atlas Era" color hardcovers. And while he only has one story in it, the Blazing Combat collection is now in paperback from Fantagraphics and has our highest recommendation.

If you're in town, come meet the man who draws this amazing art!

1 comment:

The Fan With No Name!!! said...

...look forward to meeting Mr. Heath again this weekend Matt!!! I posted this on your FB Wall but here's a link to pictures taken by an attendee to last Sunday's C.A.P.S. Banquet honoring Russ! Also the latest Sgt. Rock DC Shwocase Td. Pbk. (Vol. 3 I believe?!) contains quite a few Rock stories by Heath!!!