Happy Wednesday! Today, remembering Comic Book Artist/Illustrator Russ Heath on his Birthday (September 29, 1926 – August 23, 2018)!
"Russ Heath was born in New York just before the rise of the golden age of comics. By the time he was 16 he was doing professional comics work on "Hammerhead Hawley". By 1946 he was employed at timely comics (now Marvel Comics), doing everything from love stories to science fiction comics. Heath's most renown work was on his Westerns, which included Arizona Kid and Kid Colt Outlaw. He joined National Comics in 1950 and worked on such varied features as Silent Knight, Sgt. Rock, Sea Devils and Golden Gladiator, where his photorealistic drawing style and mastery of light and texture won him wide acclaim.
"Writer Mark Evanier described Heath making the most of one such assignment:"
"One time when deadlines were nearing meltdown, Harvey Kurtzman called Heath in to assist in a marathon work session at the Playboy Mansion in Chicago. Russ flew in and was given a room there, and spent many days aiding Kurtzman and artist Will Elder in getting one installment done of the strip. When it was completed, Kurtzman and Elder left ... but Heath just stayed. And stayed. And stayed some more. He had a free room as well as free meals whenever he wanted them from Hef's 24-hour kitchen. He also had access to whatever young ladies were lounging about ... so he thought, 'Why leave?' He decided to live there until someone told him to get out ... and for months, no one did. Everyone just kind of assumed he belonged there. It took quite a while before someone realized he didn't and threw him and his drawing table out."-wikipedia
While I was working on my first Artist Within book, someone passed me Russ's number to call and see if he would be available for a portrait in his studio, So I called, and went into my regular spiel, "hi my name is Greg and I am working on a project photographing artists in their studios" Russ stopped me right there and said, "I know who you are" and "I'm not interested", I was dumbfounded! I asked why, and he said that it seemed that after I made portraits of several artists, "They died". So, upon trying to figure out what he was talking about, apparently I was the last person to make portraits of several of the artists that I photographed, Jack Kirby, Carl Barks, Burne Hogarth, and probably a few more, and a rumor had started that I was kind of the grim reaper, lol! I was like, "those weren't my fault" and "I had nothing to do with that" He started laughing and and I was kind of laughing too, anyway he did finally agree to let me photograph him in his home studio in Southern California, and later on whenever I would see him at conventions, we would have a good laugh about that. Here's that shot, have a look around...
art © Russ Heath
Photo © Greg Preston