Look! Under the fold! It’s an artist! It’s a comics legend! It’s…
203. Curt Swan
Curt Swan, who has drawn Superman bending steel in his bare hands and changing the flow of mighty rivers! Curt Swan, the man who drew Superman over a span of decades! Curt Swan, the definitive Super-artist!
Born in 1920, Swan was the right age to find himself drafted into the army during the second World War. It was here that he began to seriously consider making a career out of his art, and found himself working for DC Comics once he returned to civilian life. He started out on features like Boy Commandos and Tommy Tomorrow, but it was a fill-in job on Superman that sparked his lengthy, legendary run on the character. Editor Mort Weisinger saw something in Swan that led him to choose the new kid as the leading Superman artist in the mid-’50s. Curt brought some changes to the character– smoothing him out, softening his appearance, and bringing added realism to his world. His Superman would become the model for the character for the next three decades.
During his run on the character, Mr. Swan drew a host of classic stories. The Death of Superman! The Luthor/Brainiac team! The Amazing Story of Superman Red and Superman Blue! His style evolved over time as he grew into the character and began to instill more life and emotion into ol’ Supes. His art changed with the times (and also with the inker) and became better and better. When Superman was given that slight revamp from Denny O’Neil in 1971, Swan remained on the books as that one constant that saw Big Blue through.
In 1986, the big DCU reboot had arrived, and Curt drew his “Swan” song on Superman, the much-acclaimed Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?, the “last” Superman story. It was quite fitting for the artist who had drawn the character so well, and for so long, to draw his final adventure. After this, Curt went into a sort of retirement, though he’d return to the character again, in the Earth Stealers graphic novel and in a recurring feature in Action Comics Weekly. He’d also contribute pages to the milestone 700th issue of Action Comics. It’s in these last two that he worked with Roger Stern, a great comics writer who seems to read this blog. I’d love to hear any Swan remembrances Mr. Stern may have.
Unfortunately, Curt Swan passed away in 1996. His final comics work appeared posthumously in the Superman Wedding Album, as Clark and Lois tied the knot. We lost a great artist when Curt Swan died, and Superman will never be the same again.
Good-bye, Curt. We’ll miss you.
As a young lad, I never got into Curt’s artwork– I was into other styles. I get it now, though, I see what I so foolishly overlooked. Curt’s comics were filled with brilliantly realized characters who displayed a terrific range of emotions. He brought life and verve to Superman and his enemies and supporting cast. He made Superman real. And I, for one, will treasure his artwork for quite a long time to come.
To read Curt’s story from the man himself, read his “Drawing Superman” article hosted at a fantastic Superman site I forgot to mention, Superman Thru the Ages. I’ve got them to thank for the sequentials that appeared in today’s entry.
Thankfully, there’s a legion of Curt Swan fans across the internet who remember him and pay tribute to him. You can read these fine remembrances from Paul Gravett, Dial B for Blog, the Superman Super Site, and Superman Thru the Ages. They’re all lovely pieces.
That’s all for today. And yes, I didn’t put an archive link above the fold, so feel free to use this one.