Thursday, June 17, 2010

Al Williamson, R.I.P.

Classic comic book artist Al Williamson passed away a few days ago at age 79.  You can read a lot more about his life and work from people who met him like John Fleskes, Steve Bissette, Rick Veitch, Ty Templeton, Mark Evanier and many more.

I've posted previously about a few of Williamson's EC stories.
Fish Story
The Thing In the 'Glades

And about some of his Flash Gordon work here and here.

I think the first place I noticed Williamson's work was the adaptation of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK that he did with Archie Goodwin back in 1980.  Even with the less than ideal mass-market paperback format that I had the comic in it was some great stuff, perfectly suited to his style.

(Williamson C3P0 sketch from Vanguard's AL WILLIAMSON SKETCHBOOK [1998], a great little book)

I think the next thing I saw was the "Cliff Hanger" backup he did in the back of SOMERSET HOLMES with Bruce Jones. A great classic adventure story in six parts.

(from the reprint of "Cliff Hanger" in ISG's AL WILLIAMSON ADVENTURES [2003], an excellent collection of Williamson's later work with a variety of writers, with most of his full art jobs from the later years not in the movie adaptation or comic strip vein excellently reproduced in a large size)

I would later discover a lot of his other work, of course.  It's gratifying to see the Goodwin/Williamson "The Success Story" from CREEPY #1 singled out so often in writings about Williamson this past week.  That was the first story I read when I heard about Williamson's passing, as it was the first one I read when I heard about Archie Goodwin's passing in 1998.  A highlight from a pair of creators with careers full of highlights.

(panel from "The Success Story", CREEPY #1 [1964])

And while it was a minor part of his career, I really liked the brief time in the mid-1980s when he inked about a dozen Superman comics over Curt Swan. It was probably the best sustained run of quality inking that Swan had since Murphy Anderson in the early 1970s.

(Williamson over Swan from DC COMICS PRESENTS #87 [1985])

Williamson spent much of the last two decades of his career inking other artists, and not surprisingly he generally made the work all the better for it.  There was some great looking work over Bret Blevins, Lee Weeks and Pat Olliffe, and of course a classic Superman/Swamp Thing crossover over Rick Veitch.  To close, Al Williamson inking Mark Schultz drawing a dinosaur and a giant penny. With some incidental Batman...


Williamson's family requests donations in his memory can be made to

The Joe Kubert School
37 Myrtle Avenue
Dover, NJ 07801
Attn: Al Williamson Scholarship Fund


Yesteryears Day Program
2801 Wayne Street
Endwell, NY 13760

1 comment:

  1. I was very saddened when I found out about his death a couple of weeks after his departure.
    He was one of my all-time favorites. I was also introduced to him by the "Empire" adaptation. Being then a very little child, I remember being annoyed even by the slightest differences between the movie and the comic book (ignoring what a nightmare are adaptations).
    Looking back to it now, I must admit it still stand out today as one of the best ever made (together with Danny O'Neil and Jrrry Ordway's adaptation of Tim Burton's Batman).
    But Williamson was great for many reasons. His Fleash Gordon, his X-9, his astonishing works as a Inker (especially on Rick Leonardi)...
    he will be missed


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