"Sgt. Fury," "Ghost Rider" Artist Dick Ayers Passes Away at Age 90

Dick Ayers, distinguished for a decades-spanning career as a penciler and inker, has passed away at age 90, according to multiple industry reports.

Ayers is perhaps best known for his 10-year run on "Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos," illustrating Nick Fury's pre-S.H.I.E.L.D. days as commanding officer of his own World War II unit. Ayers took over the series from character co-creator Jack Kirby with issue #8, embarking on a largely uninterrupted run stretching to 1974's "Sgt. Fury" #120. Kirby and Ayers worked extensively together, with Ayers inking Kirby on legendary Silver Age Marvel titles like "Fantastic Four" and "Journey Into Mystery."

With Gary Friedrich and Roy Thomas, Ayers co-created Marvel's original Ghost Rider, a western hero named Carter Slade who first appeared in 1967's "Ghost Rider" #1, five years before the motorcycle-riding modern incarnation. That Ghost Rider, known in subsequent appearances as "Phantom Rider," was based on an earlier character introduced in 1949's "Tim Holt" #11, also co-created by Ayers.

"Tim Holt," a western series from Magazine Enterprises, was his earliest published work, according to ComicBookDB.com. In 1952, he started work at Marvel precursor Atlas Comics, including a contribution to "Journey Into Mystery" #1, the series that would later introduce Marvel's version of Thor. With Kirby and Stan Lee, Ayers also co-created "Guardians of the Galaxy" character Groot, who first appeared in 1960's "Tales to Astonish" #13.

Ayers turned 90 just one week ago, on April 28. J. David Spurlock, the founder of art book publisher Vanguard Productions, stated on Facebook that Ayers had been suffering in the past year from complications due to Parkinson's disease. Spurlock shared a photo of himself with Ayers, along with some words about the artist's career and legacy.

There have never been sweeter people than Dick and his wife Lindy. Here is a photo from one of my recent visits in which Dick and I collaborated on a few recreations of early, Marvel covers by the team of Kirby and Ayers. Dick had been suffering the last year, from complications of Parkinsons disease.

"Amazing Spider-Man" writer Dan Slott, who worked with Ayers on early '90s series "The Original Ghost Rider," shared his memories of the artist on Twitter.

All of us who are working in this industry today-- we only get to do this because we stand on the shoulders of giants. I consider myself extra lucky that I had the chance not just to work with one who was so talented, but who was also a man that was kind and thoughtful.

Ayers illustrated titles featuring Archie's Red Circle superhero characters in the '80s, and remained active into the 2000s, including appearances at conventions. In 2007, Ayers was inducted into the Will Eisner Hall of Fame.

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