Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Happy Birthday, Dick Dillin!

One of the first comic book artists whose style I could recognize was the great Dick Dillin. When I first started reading comic-books he was the artist of JUSTICE LEAGUE, which was the book I started with and which opened my eyes to the whole wide comic-book world.

Dick Dillin was born on December 17, 1929. He had worked as an artist for years before I came upon him in 1974. He had started after World War II at Quality and Fawcett, drawing such now-minor characters as Ibis The Invincible and Blackhawk. When these secondary publishers went out of business in the late 1950s, Dillin moved to DC, where he spent the rest of his life.

Originally Dillin drew THE BLACKHAWKS, which DC had acquired from Quality, but in 1968 he was given the book JUSTICE LEAGUE after the original artist, Mike Sekowsky, decided to leave. Dillin started on JLA #64 (Aug 1968) and stayed on the book until JLA #183 (Oct 1980). This was a span of fifteen years, in which time he only missed two issues, and those that were scheduled reprint "specials."

Aquaman in JLA #112
Along the way he also found time to draw such various characters or series as HAWKMAN, Green Arrow, WORLD'S FINEST, Superman, Robin, The Atom, and many others.

At the time of his death I was not a fan of Dick Dillin's work. This hurts me to write, as he was one of the main reasons I got into comics in the first place. However, for the last five years of his life his art had a steady decline in quality; instead of inspiring, it sometimes looked down-right pedestrian. Now, whether this was because of his pencil work declining due to his health, or was due to the effect of his long-time inker, Frank McGlaughlin, or the crappy paper DC was printing on at that time, I don't know. All I can say is that if you compare the first issue I ever read, JLA #112, with his last issue, JLA #183, you will see a huge difference. JLA #112 is bright and exciting; JLA #183 is dark and foreboding. And that isn't just because of the story of each issue.

Now, of course, through the genius of hindsight and many more years of reading crappy artists, I see that even though there is a difference, there is still a huge amount of talent. Dick Dillin's "not so great" is still light-years ahead of many of today's super-star hacks' best! It really is true; "you don't know what you have until it's gone." I miss Dick Dillin. I miss his exciting poses and yes, his reliability. Mr. Dillin, I hope you are resting in peace up there in the JLA mailroom in the sky.

Happy Birthday, Dick Dillin! 
Dick Dillin's first issue (and cover!) JLA #64

My first JLA (#112)

Another of my favorites, JLA #146
Dillin's JLA, plus Firestorm, who joined only a few issues before the end

2-Page Spread from Dillin's last issue JLA #183

Dick Dillin's last issue, JLA #183

1 comment:

  1. Just looking for images of Justice League Of America #112, and ended up running across your page about Dick Dillin. 112 was my first issue of the Justice Leagues Of America also. Just wanted to say I agree with most your post. Dillin's work defined the JLA for quite a while. Glad to see he's appreciated.