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Comic Book Legend Russ Heath Passes Away At Age 91

Legendary artist Russ Heath, remembered for such work as Playboy's "Little Annie Fanny" and DC's Our Army At War, passed away Thursday night at age 91. His death was confirmed by his grandson Lee Kosa.

"His mastery of the craft of illustration encouraged me to pursue the arts and it is a joy to see my son now filling his own sketchbooks," Kosa wrote today on Twitter. "Thank you for passing along the joys of drawing and storytelling."

Heath is perhaps most closely associated with the 1950s heyday of war and Western comics, like Arizona Kid and Two-Gun Kid from Marvel predecessor Timely Comics and DC's Our Army At War and G.I. Combat. Panels from his story in DC's All-American Men of War #89 were famously used by pop artist Roy Lichtenstein for his oil paintings Blam and Brattata.

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Born Sept. 29, 1926, in New York City and raised in New Jersey, Heath was a self-taught artist who, following his discharge from the U.S. Air Force, who worked as an assistant in an advertising office before, in 1947, landing a staff position at Timely Comics for $75 a week. His earliest work for the company has been identified as Kid Colt and Two-Gun Kid strips published in 1948.

Although some consider Heath to have produced his best work in the Western genre, he's also widely known for his war stories, including Sgt. Rock, to say nothing of sci-fi, romance and adventure. He created DC's Haunted Tank with writer-editor Robert Kanigher, although he later said he wasn't particularly fond of those stories, as well as the scuba-diving Sea Devils.

In the 1960s, Heath also famously drew commercial illustrations of Roman and Revolutionary War battles used as ads for mail-in toys that appeared on the back of comic books throughout the next decade.

Heath, who was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2009, continued to produce art into this decade, penciling a four-page flashback in 2009 for Marvel's The Immortal Iron Fist #20, providing cover art the following year for Aardvark-Vanaheim's glamourpuss #11–13, and an illustration in 2011 for That Russ Heath Girl #4.

 

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