I didn’t know Dick Giordano. It’s possible I was introduced to him once, but I don’t think so. By the time I had migrated from Marvel to DC earlier in my career, Dick had already left staff. But without Dick’s contributions as an artist, editor and executive , the comic industry would not be what it is today. When Dick passed away over the weekend at age 77, this business lost one of its giants, one of its true gentlemen. That would be the case if he was judged merely on his artistic accomplishments, which are rightfully legendary. But Dick’s editorial contributions at Charlton, Continuity Associates and DC Comics are also worthy of landmark status. His stint as DC’s executive editor (1983-1993) coincided with one of the most fertile and exciting periods in the history of comics. I always think of 1986 as the year that comics grew up.
I didn’t know Dick, but I know a laundry list of people who knew him well. And not one of them ever had a disparaging word to say about Dick. He mentored a generation of inkers, including Terry Austin, Klaus Janson, Joe Rubenstein, Bob Layton and Al Milgrom. He steered DC’s ship during a decade of unprecedented creative accomplishment. And he was a hell of a nice guy.
I think comics as a whole tend to forget previous generations, both the work and the people. It brings to mind the true story of a Marvel editor, a number of years ago, who had no idea who Al Williamson was, and wanted him to send in samples of his inks. Comics should never forget guys like Dick Giordano, because comics can never have enough guys like Dick Giordano.
Dick’s passing prompted me to think about an experience I had – or didn’t have – early in my career. This was at one of the first San Diego conventions I attended, back when it was not yet the monster it is now, back when the con was still mostly about comics (if you can imagine that). I can’t remember the specific year, 1992 or 1993. I was writing Silver Surfer, the first monthly I’d been handed. I ran into my editor, Craig Anderson, in one of the aisles – yes, back then you could actually walk through the aisles at the con. He told me he’d just come from seeing Jack Kirby, who was set up at his own booth a few aisles over. Craig offered to take me over to Jack and introduce me. But I demurred, telling Craig I’d make it over that way later in the day. In truth, I was hesitant to bother the great man. I thought he’d probably had people pestering him all day, and I didn’t want to add to it just so I could tell him how his work had inspired me. I knew he’d heard it all before, tens of thousands of times. I didn’t want to impose upon Kirby, just so I could thank him for all he’d created, which was very literally allowing me to have a job at that point.
For that reason, and maybe also because I didn’t want to seem like another awkward fan in front of Jack Kirby, I never made it over to his booth. It was the last chance I’d ever get to do so. Jack died in 1994. So all the things I wanted to say to him were left unsaid. That’s easily my biggest regret in two decades of writing comics.
I didn’t get a chance to say thanks to Dick Giordano either. I’d like to make sure that doesn’t happen with any of the other creators upon whose shoulders I stand. And I’d urge you to do the same. The next time you have a chance to tell someone what their work has meant to you, make sure you do it. It might be the last chance you get.