Legendary illustrator Al Williamson passes away

Although there's no official confirmation, reports are widely circulating online that renowned artist Al Williamson passed away on Sunday at age 79.

Born on March 21, 1931, in New York City, Williamson took art classes in the mid-'40s with legendary Tarzan artist Burne Hogarth and, later, at Hogarth's Cartoonists and Illustrators School in New York City. He assisted Hogarth on some Tarzan Sunday pages and, at age 17, made his professional debut working on series like Eastern Color's Famous Funnies and Standard Comics' Wonder Comics.

In 1952, Williamson began working for EC Comics, where he was the youngest member, and "kid brother," of the "EC Family." He primarily contributed to the company's science fiction titles like Weird Science and Weird Fantasy, often collaborating with Frank Frazetta, Roy Krenkel and Angelo Torres. In the mid- to late '50s, he produced hundreds of pages of short stories -- Westerns, mostly -- for Atlas Comics. By the next decade, Williamson was assisting John Prentice on the Rip Kirby comic strip before helping Warren Publishing to launch its Creepy and Eerie horror magazines and contributing to Blazing Combat.

With writer Archie Goodwin, he also took over the Alex Raymond-created Secret Agent X-9 comic strip, which was renamed Secret Agent Corrigan. He remained on the strip from 1967 to 1980.

In the early to mid-1980s, Williamson illustrated high-profile movie adaptations like The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi and Blade Runner for Marvel and Flash Gordon for Western Publishing, as well as the Star Wars newspaper strip. During the latter part of the decade, he became almost exclusively an inker, working with artists like Curt Swan, John Romita Jr., Rick Leonardi and Mike Mignola.

Williamson remained active throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s, inking adaptations of Star Wars: The Phantom Menace and A New Hope for Dark Horse, collaborating with Mark Schultz on a Flash Gordon miniseries for Marvel and, more recently, inking Spider-Girl and Spider-Man 2099 for Marvel.

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