Russ Heath .com


Russ Heath was born September 29, 1926 in New York City, NY. He would become mainly known for his DC comic book work, and was particularly noted for his war stories for them over several decades. He also did some 1960s art for some of Playboy magazine's featurettes of Little Annie Fanny, a strip created by Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder.

A couple of his commercial art pieces, depicting Roman and Revolutionary War battle scenes for toy soldier sets, became highly familiar bits of Americana, being printed on the back covers of comic books from the early '60s to the early '70s. Heath's drawing of a fighter jet being blown up (from DC comics' All American Men of War #89, Feb. 1962, was also the basis for pop artist Roy Lichtenstein's 1962 oil painting titled Blam.

Raised in New Jersey as an only child, Heath became interested in drawing at an early age. "My father used to be a cowboy, so as a little kid I was influenced by Western artists of the time. Will James was one, an artist-writer - I had most of his books. Charlie Russell was my favorite because his work was absolutely authentic, because he drew what he lived."

Largely self-taught, Heath began freelancing for comics during one or two summers while he was in high school, inking the naval feature "Hammerhead Hawley," drawn by penciler Charles Quinlan in Holyoke Publishing's Captain Aero Comics.

It is unclear if Heath, anxious to fight in World War II, graduated high school; in a 2004 interview, he recalls going "into the Air Force in my senior year of high school, in 1945," after having been "put in an accelerated class so I could get through with high school. I almost made it, but then the Air Force called me and in and I went."

He served stateside for nine months, drawing cartoons for his camp newspaper, but due to a clerical error, he said, he was on neither the military payroll nor any official duty roster for a significant portion of his time. Upon his discharge, he lived at home on a one-year military stipend of $20 a week before working as a lifeguard at a swim club, where he met his future wife.

While spending several weeks arranging appointments with artists, seeking an assistant's job, Heath was hired as an office "gofer" for the large Manhattan advertising agency Benton & Bowles, earning $35 weekly. He continued looking for work as an artist on his lunch hour, and in 1947, landed a $75 a week staff position at Timely Comics, the 1940s predecessor of Marvel Comics.

Heath said in 2004 that he believed his initial work for Timely was a Western story featuring the Two-Gun Kid. Comics historians have tentatively identified a Kid Colt story in the omnibus series Wild Western #4 (Nov. 1948); the second Two-Gun Kid story in Two-Gun Kid #5 (Dec. 1948), "Guns Blast in Thunder Pass"; and the Two-Gun Kid story in Wild Western #5 (Dec. 1948), while confirming Heath art on the Kid Colt story that same issue.

Sea Devils 5.
(Click pic to enlarge.)
Copyright © 1963 DC Comics

Heath's first superhero story is tentatively identified as the seven-page Witness story, "Fate Fixed a Fight", in Captain America Comics #71 (March 1949). Timely let virtually all of its staff go in 1948 during an industry downturn, before hiring some of them back a few years later. By even before Timely trimmed their staff, Heath had gone freelance, doing art both for Timely and for ad agencies.

During the 1950s, when Westerns hit it big, Heath drew a corral-full of cowboy stories for such Timely comics as Wild Western, All Western Winners, Arizona Kid, Black Rider, Western Outlaws, and Reno Browne, Hollywood's Greatest Cowgirl. As Timely evolved into Marvel's 1950s version, known as Atlas Comics, Heath expanded into other genres.

He drew the December 1950 premiere of the two-issue superhero series Marvel Boy, as well as scattered science fiction anthology stories (in Venus, Journey Into Unknown Worlds, and Men's Adventures); crime drama (Justice); horror stories and covers (Adventures Into Terror, Marvel Tales, Menace, Mystic, Spellbound, Strange Tales, Uncanny Tales, the cover of Journey Into Mystery #1), satiric humor (Wild), and - ironically, given his short stateside military service - the genre that would become his specialty, war stories.

Heath produced a plethora of combat stories both for the wide line of Timely war titles but also for the first issue (Aug. 1951) of EC Comics' celebrated Frontline Combat. Heath later did the first of many decades' worth of war work for DC Comics, with Our Army at War #23 and Star Spangled War Stories #22, both cover-dated June 1954.

Other 1950s work includes an issue of 3-D Comics from St. John Publications, and the story "The Return of the Human Torch" (minus the opening page, drawn by character-creator Carl Burgos) in Young Men #24 (Dec. 1953), the flagship of Atlas' ill-fated effort to revive superheroes, which had fallen out of fashion in the postwar U.S.

He co-created with writer-editor Robert Kanigher the feature "The Haunted Tank", which headlined many issues of DC Comics' G.I. Combat. Also with Kanigher, Heath co-created and drew the first issues of DC's Sea Devils, about a team of scuba-diving adventurers.

Heath's accolades include a Comic-Con International Inkpot Award in 1997, and induction into the Eisner Awards Hall Of Fame in 2009.


Russ Heath at Karlen's Blog
Russ Heath at Toonopedia
Russ Heath at Lambiek .net
Russ Heath Two Morrows Interview (Excerpt)
Russ Heath at Barnes And Noble

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