2022 has been an eventful year for comic-book-oriented media worldwide. The year began with the much anticipated “The Batman” and ended with “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever,” both of which pushed the genre’s boundaries further. This year also saw great success in the small-screen adaptations of some cult classic comics in the “The Sandman,” “Peacemaker,” and “Moon Knight” series and in print media as well, with a number of notable works getting released. Despite being one of the most successful years for comic-book media content in recent times, 2022 will be remembered as the year of mourning for fans and creators, as we have lost several creative talents and legends associated with this visual art form. These writers and artists shaped the imaginary fields of entire generations and, in the process, revolutionized the landscape of the comic book as a literary form. We will take this opportunity to pay our respects to them by memorializing their immense contributions to the medium.
Prolific editor and occasional comic book writer Brian Augustyn started his editing career under “NOW Comics” and moved to DC in the late 80s. During his tenure as editor, he brought writer Mark Waid to write Flash titles which began the legendary run spanning eight years, which to date is considered to be the definitive run of the character. He collaborated with Mark Waid to initiate the extremely popular ‘Elseworlds’ imprint of DC, with Brian Augustyn, Mike Mignola, and P. Craig Russell’s “Gotham by Gaslight” being the first story of the line. “Gotham by Gaslight” went on to become one of the most popular one-shot Batman comics and was adapted into an animated movie in 2018. As DC Comics’ editor, he also supervised their ‘Impact’ imprint, which included superheroes who were licensed from Archie Comics. His friendship with Mark Waid continued for three decades, and befittingly, it was Waid who made the news of Brian’s demise public at the request of his family. Brian Augustyn’s presence left a significant impact on the Imprint lines of DC Comics as well on the lore of the protégé scarlet speedster, Wally West.
Jean Claude Mézières
The legendary Franco-Belgian artist Jean Claude Mézières enriched the sci-fi genre through his detailed, distinct style. During his teenage years at art college, he befriended another legendary artist, Jean Giraud, aka Moebius, and the duo shared a lifelong friendship over their mutual interest in sci-fi and westerns. Mézières teamed up with writer Pierre Christin (his childhood friend) to create the cult-classic space adventure epic “Valerian” in 1967, a saga that used space mythology as an allegory of real-world political scenarios, set against the backdrop of vividly detailed alien worlds. If this sounds familiar, that is due to Star Wars lore being heavily inspired by “Valerian,” to the point that even the depiction of some characters was similar. He and Moebius were also approached by director Luc Besson for his sci-fi movie “The Fifth Element,” and he served as a chief illustrator. Throughout his lifetime, Mézières had worked on numerous comic strips, illustrations, and production designs for movies and television series, and his monumental contribution to the science fiction genre was recognized through the accolades he received worldwide.
Legendary comic-book artist Neal Adams popularized the kinetic art style in comics. His proportionate, articulate figure sketches combined with bold use of color and shadow evoked a certain aesthetic that marked the 1970s “silver age” of comics. He paired up with legendary writer Dennis O’Neil and the celebrated creative team went on to revitalize Batman for the modern audience, creating a “Green Arrow/Green Lantern” definitive run that is considered to be the game-changer by the inclusion of real-world politics in comics, among many other notable works. O’Neil/Adams’ Batman is regarded as the best version of the character across all media forms. His works inspired art legends like Alex Ross and Bill Sienkiewicz. Aside from being a master illustrator, Neal Adams famously championed creative rights, pension rights, and unionized creators against corporations by creating the Comics Creators Guild. He helped Superman’s creators, the Siegel and Shuster families, secure royalties and pensions and also mentored young talents by founding art schools. Till the very end, he organized fundraisers for charitable purposes and fought for the rights of the creators. The legacy of Neal Adams can better be understood by the fact that his contribution has revolutionized the entire comic industry.
Another legendary comic book artist left us when veteran artist George Perez passed away this year. Known for his photorealistic art style and incredible attention to detail, George Perez was known as the “Master of the Big Comic Moment.” He was one of the very few artists in the industry who had been associated with numerous masterpieces of both big comic franchises – DC and Marvel. Along with writer Kurt Busiek, he launched a new volume of “Avengers” in the 90s, and the duo again paired up for the biggest crossover event in comic-book history, as they created “JLA/Avengers,” which saw the clash and subsequent team-up of DC and Marvel superheroes. George Perez revamped Wonder Woman in his iconic run of the character and solidified her roots even more in mythology, a run that is touted as the definitive one. He joined writer Marv Wolfman to create a seminal run of “The New Teen Titans,” which made the teenage superteam a fan favorite through decades. However, his magnum opus was “Crisis on the Infinite Earths,” co-created with Marv Wolfman, a comic-book epic series that saw almost every DC character banding together to stop a cosmic threat. George was known for drawing distinctive character ensembles set against gigantic backdrops, and this series was a brilliant testament to that. Aside from his artistic talents, George Perez was known for his active role in the creative rights movement. He founded the “Hero Initiative,” which targeted the aid of creators through fundraising and the sale of art prints and commissions. He was diagnosed with incurable pancreatic cancer and spent his last days with his family. During his last days, he organized a fundraiser by reprinting the “JLA/Avengers” for the Hero Initiative, to which both comic franchises contributed, and months prior to his demise, both Marvel and DC shared their respect for the legend’s craft by sharing tribute panels.
Known for his gothic, art-deco Tim Burton-esque art style, Eisner Award-winning artist Tim Sale brought uniqueness to the visual, literary genre. Throughout his career, he had partnered with writer Jeph Loeb, and the creative team was responsible for a number of iconic titles. The famous Batman duology “The Long Halloween” and “Dark Victory,” which were influential to Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Trilogy” and Matt Reeves’s “The Batman,” – was created by them. His Batman issues perfectly emulated the noir vibes intended by the storyline. During their tenure at Marvel, the duo created the “color” series: “Daredevil: Yellow,” “Spider-Man: Blue,” “Hulk: Gray,” and “Captain America: White.” Tim Sale’s impressionist art style imbued the titular characters with their characteristic essence, something not many artists have since been able to replicate.
Kim Jung Gi
South Korean illustrator, cartoonist, and Manhwa artist Kim Jung Gi were known as an artist with an astounding photographic memory, something he acquired from observing his environment over a significant amount of time. Without using any reference, he had the ability to draw geometrically proportionate, artistically vibrant, and quirky sprawling landscapes filled with characters, creatures, and automatons. This unique, almost superhuman skill made it possible for him to conduct hours of live drawings worldwide. Aside from numerous sketch collections, he had often collaborated with several art exhibition studios, comic franchises, and animated media productions as an illustrator and cover artist. A genius at his craft, his artistic capabilities inspired a slew of Asian artists to adopt a more individualistic style instead of the popular manga art style.
Legendary mangaka Motoo Abiko, better known by his pen name Fujiko A. Fujio, was famously known as the co-creator of Japan’s cultural icon, Doraemon. He paired up with Hiroshi Fujimoto, and their creative team was known as Fujiko Fujio, and the duo created iconic comedy manga like “Obake no Q-taro,” “Kaibutsu-Kun,” and lastly, “Doraemon,” which became extremely popular among children worldwide. Later, as the partnership dissolved, Abiko created darker, more mature audience-oriented works such as “Shonen Jidai” and “Kuroi Salesman.” “Perman” and “Ninja Hattori-Kun” were among a few other children’s classics created by Abiko.
A name that needs no introduction among pop-culture fandom, legendary voice actor Kevin Conroy’s sudden demise shocked the world. Most famously known for lending an iconic, signature deep-raspy voice to Batman across animated projects, games, and various other mediums, Kevin Conroy had become almost synonymous with the character. After portraying the character for three decades, Kevin Conroy was the only actor to become associated with a comic-book character for such a long period of time. Conroy’s journey with the Caped Crusader began in the classic “Batman the Animated Series” (BTAS) and went on to numerous other animated shows related to the DC Animated Universe (DCAU), animated movies, and notably the famous Arkham series of games. His utterance of the iconic line “I am Vengeance!” from BTAS became an overnight cultural phenomenon and has been referenced throughout the character’s lore ever since. During 2019’s “Crisis on Infinite Earths” event, he got the chance to portray the character in live action, as Bruce Wayne of Earth-99. Conroy had a great rapport with actor Mark Hamill who has been the definitive voice of the Joker since a long time. Aside from lending a voice to a superhero, Conroy himself was as heroic in real life. During the events of 9/11, he volunteered to organize kitchens for emergency workers. On multiple occasions, he used his identity as the character to help people in a number of ways. In DC’s Pride Month 2022 release, Kevin wrote an autobiographical comic titled “Finding Batman,” where he recalled his struggles of coming out as gay and the impact it had on his personal and professional life. By his own admission, he looked to Batman as an inspiration at this juncture, as the superhero was forced to live a dual life. The dichotomy of identity translated from his performance to real life, and he was deeply motivated by that. Later in his life, he was diagnosed with cancer, information he never made public, and he continued to tirelessly entertain fans at conventions, something which conveys how much he adored portraying the character and the fan community itself. No matter who else gets to portray the role across different media forms in the future, Kevin Conroy will always be Batman for us.
These creators and artists fanned the flame of imagination among millions of admirers and inspired many to take up the noble profession of composing art. Without them, the creative barrenness would have been unimaginable, and it really can’t be quantified how much of an impact they have made on a larger scale. They have already been immortalized through their work, which will continue to influence future generations. The least we can do when we feel appreciative of any particular content is to respect and recognize the creators, something that has become a lost tradition nowadays.