Nick Cardy, R.I.P.
Another sad loss for those of us who love great comic book creators of the past. Nick Cardy died this evening from congestive heart failure. He turned 93 a few weeks ago.
Nicholas Viscardi was born October 20, 1920 so he was 18 when he went to work for Will Eisner's studio in the dawn of comics. He'd studied at the Art Students League and Eisner always said that when Nick walked in with his samples, he was an instant hire. His drawing was that good. He did many jobs for Eisner but was probably best known for drawing and usually writing the Lady Luck feature that ran as a back-up in Eisner's famous newspaper comic sections of The Spirit. Nick signed some of his early works "Nick Cardi" before settling down to Cardy.
He served in World War II and won two Purple Hearts for injuries which, he would later joke, were nothing compared to what he endured working for some editors. Once home from the war, he worked in advertising and in newspaper comics (including a stint illustrating the Tarzan daily) before he began working in 1950 for DC Comics, an association that would last twenty-five years. His artistry was seen in dozens of different comics but he's probably best remembered for a long stint drawing Aquaman and shorter but memorable runs on Teen Titans and a wonderful western comic called Bat Lash. In the early seventies, DC used him as one of their main cover artists across most of the line. He drew unusually handsome heroes and extraordinarily attractive women, and you could tell the work was always done with great care and pride.
Nick later said he left comics because he was bored with the form and eager to try new areas and to paint. Some of us recall his departure as being due to business disputes he later chose to forget. Whatever the reason, he went back to "Cardi" and enjoyed great success as a commercial artist, painting posters (and not necessarily the only ones) for many hit movies including Movie Movie, California Suite and Apocalypse Now. For a long time, he shunned comic books but was eventually lured back into the field to do a few covers.
He was also lured onto the convention circuit, an honor he had long declined. In 1998, after refusing for years, Nick finally agreed to be a Guest of Honor at the Comic-Con International in San Diego. Nervously, he set down all sorts of conditions: His table had to be next to the table of his friend, Colleen Doran; he had to be free to flee the autograph area if the crowds got to him, etc. He balked at doing a panel/interview but finally agreed on the condition that others would be up there with him so they could talk if he froze in front of the audience. I was his interrogator and I brought Colleen, Sergio Aragonés and Marv Wolfman up there with him…needlessly, it turned out. Once Nick got to talking, you couldn't shut him up and the audience loved every word he said. Partial transcripts of that panel may be read here and here.
Nick had the best time in San Diego that year. He always had a long line of folks eager to meet him and to thank him for all the great comics and a lot of those who queued up were top professionals who thanked him for the inspiration. He was the kind of man who cried if you told him you loved his tie so there were a lot of happy tears that weekend. Thereafter, he attended San Diego and other conventions whenever his health and budget would allow. He called me to chat every month or two and when he did, I always knew I'd be on the phone for at least an hour and that I'd love every minute of it. Those who appreciate fine comic art will treasure his work forever…and those of us who knew him will never forget that dear, sweet man.