In recent years there’s been something of a renaissance regarding the collectability of Silver and Bronze age cover art.
After a long period during which cover art from this period was, more or less, ignored, a new found interest in these covers can be attested to by reference to the rising prices on otherwise not very important Superman and Batman comics with standout covers by artists like Neal Adams.
While I’m a great admirer of Neal Adams (and have written in praise of his skill, here), when I think of DC cover art from the late sixties and into the mid -1970s, I can’t help but think of Nick Cardy.
Nick Cardy was DC’s undisputed king of cover art throughout the late Silver Age and into the Bronze Age. In this post, I’ll list what I consider to be his best work.
Born Nicholas Viscardi on October 20, 1920 in New York City, the artist who would produce some of DC’s most memorable covers for titles like Aquaman, The Teen Titans and Legion of Super-heroes (along with many others), started early. Cardy’s first work was published in various newspapers before he began taking on professional paid work as an illustrator. His first professional work was produced after he gained employment at Will Eisner and Jerry Iger’s ‘Eisner & Iger Co.’ in 1940.
Like many artists of his generation, Cardy’s career was interrupted by America’s entry into WW II. After the War, Cardy did work in both comics and advertising before getting hired full time by DC in 1950. Cardy’s first ever cover was actually for Quality Comics, for the book Hit Comics #5 (November 1940). His earliest work for DC was featured in Gang Busters and Tomahawk, but by the early sixties he hit his stride contributing cover after cover for DC.
Cardy drew the first 39 issues of Aquaman (beginning in 1962 up until 1968). He was the natural choice to illustrate the character, having drawn him already for years in the pages of the Adventure Comics title. Throughout the course of his six year run on Aquaman, Cardy contributed a fair share of iconic and standout covers. Of these covers, one of his best is the cover to issue #42 featuring one of Aquaman’s most sinister opponents the Black Manta. These covers are in the process of gaining attention once again thanks in part to the great success of the recent ‘Aquaman’ movie. The current FMV of Aquaman #42 in 9.8 certified condition is $1,950.00.
It’s hard to believe that there was a time when Cardy’s work was only acknowledged by fans of DC comics. Such an excellent draftsman as Cardy deserved a wider audience and it’s nice to see more people recognizing his talent in recent years. As evidence, we can cite the premium prices that Cardy’s horror work can fetch at auctions. Among that work there’s no better sample than HOM # 174. A certified 9.4 copy of HOM #174 sold for $794.00 on March 10, 2018 on eBay. This issue is the one that marks this title’s return to the Mystery-Horror genre, and I can’t think of a cover that could better beckon a reader to take a look inside its pages than the iconic one produced by Cardy for this issue.
This cover features Cardy at his most psychedelic. If you’re a fan of the Spectre, this cover is a must have. It also highlights another of Cardy’s strengths: his line work. The fact that he could move from supple and loose curves and contrasts, to strong lines bears testimony a dynamic quality in his art that is the mark of an artist of high caliber.
Cardy drew the Silver Age Teen Titans from their debut solo issue, and was basically the original go to artist for all things Titans in the 1960s and 70s. In issue #23 of the original TT series, Cardy redesigned Wonder Girls costume. During his active period Cardy was actually known for his celebration of the female form. That’s in evidence here in his lively depiction of Donna Troy.
Cardy’s naturalism when drawing bodies and his easy, loose, style in portraying action is nowhere better reflected than in this almost perfect cover that he drew for BB #91. This is one of my favorite BB covers and the juxtaposition of the Batman and Black Canary characters sprawled out, looking close to death, with the road sign exclaiming ‘Welcome to Fun City’ is a perfect study in the use of contrast.
In his later years, Cardy left the comic book industry to take up better paying work in advertising as well as contracts designing promotional artwork, including movie posters. Cardy was the recipient of the Inkpot award in 1998 and was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2000. He died, in Florida, on November 3, 2013.