Friday, October 20, 2006

Happy birthday, Nick Cardy

Today, Comic Art Friday salutes artist Nicholas Viscardi, a.k.a. Nick Cardy, a member of the Comic Book Hall of Fame and one of the truly great talents of the comic industry's Gold, Silver, and Bronze Ages. This week, Mr. Cardy celebrates — depending upon the resource you check — his 85th or 86th birthday. Whichever figure is correct, he's been a legend in comics for a good long while.

The last time I heard, Cardy was still making occasional appearances at comic conventions in the vicinity of his Florida home. As recently as 2004, he was still turning out beautiful artwork, such as this captivating bust of my favorite Amazon.

Cardy is probably best known to modern comic book readers as the longtime pencil artist on DC Comics' Aquaman and Teen Titans. He was also one of DC's most prominent and prolific cover artists for the better part of three decades. His lush and illustrative — though never overdone — drawing style adapted perfectly to almost any character he was called upon to render. And, as typified by this cover to Aquaman #33, Cardy also drew some of the most gorgeous women in comics at the time... not that I noticed.

Aside from his Silver Age DC oeuvre, Cardy holds a special place in my comic history appreciation because of his work on one of my favorite superheroes of the 1940s, Will Eisner's Lady Luck. Aficionados recall that the artist most closely identified with Lady Luck is the great Klaus Nordling, who drew most of her adventures in Eisner's Spirit Sunday newspaper supplements. Cardy, however, also drew Lady Luck for about a year in the early '40s, and is probably the artist most associated with the feature after Nordling.

I admire Lady Luck for three reasons:
  1. I see her very much as the female counterpart of The Spirit, Eisner's greatest creation, and I suspect that Eisner created her with exactly that thought in mind. Like The Spirit, Lady Luck had no superhuman powers, but relied upon her wits and her brilliant detective skills in her battle against urban crime.
  2. Lady Luck was one of the first female characters to headline her own strip, appearing for years as the backup feature in those fondly remembered Spirit supplements.
  3. I'm fond of her marvelously quaint, classically 1940s character design — her costume consisting of a simple green cocktail dress, opera gloves, a cape, and a stylish broad-brimmed hat, with her face masked by a translucent green veil.
Sadly, I don't have a Cardy Lady Luck in my collection, although if I had the opportunity to attend a show where Mr. Cardy was sketching, I would love to have him draw her for me. Instead, we'll make do with this striking, Cardyesque pinup by one of my favorite "good girl" artists, Michael Dooney.

Lady Luck also makes a showing in one of my Common Elements commissions, a piece I've titled "The Hat Squad." Here, artist Anthony Carpenter pairs Lady Luck with DC's sorceress supreme Zatanna, who also is easily recognized by her hat.

Happy birthday, Mr. Cardy. I hope you're enjoying your well-earned retirement. Thanks for all the amazing visuals.

And for the rest of us, that's Comic Art Friday.


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