Dick Ayers is part of two “Greatest Generations”: that which defeated the Axis in World War II, and that which helped build the comics industry as we know it. Though unheard of now, Dick’s art is equally famous across multiple genres, including War, Western, Monsters and Superheroes. He picked up a brush early, in the Army Air Corps, painting insignias on planes and seeing his first comics work published in an Army newspaper. Beginning in 1947, his professional skill-set entered the field and never let up.
Dick literally and figuratively made his mark in comics history throughout his career, from Siegel and Shuster’s first post-Superman feature, Funnyman, to the now-unknown first post-Comics Code superhero, The Avenger. He worked primarily on westerns, including co-creating the original Ghost Rider from Magazine Enterprises. More work followed with M.E., Prize, Charlton and St. John. He entered newspapers as an inker on Dave Wood and Jack Kirby’s Skymasters strip. He briefly trained under Burne Hogarth during night classes at the Cartoonists And Illustrators School (later SVA).
But when Dick joined Marvel (then Timely) in 1951 to ink the solo Human Torch, an association began that would last for decades and link him forever with more characters than most of his peers . He drew or embellished additional western classics with the Rawhide Kid, Outlaw Kid, Two-Gun Kid and a revised Ghost Rider.
Dick became Jack Kirby’s ink partner on the wacky and warmly-remembered Stan Lee monster tales like Googam, Son Of Goom, Xemu and Fin Fang Foom, and later on most every superhero during the “Marvel Age of Comics” in the 1960s. Dick was there on the first Ant Man along with early Hulk, Iron Man, Fantastic Four, and the Avengers, eventually pencilling or inking every one of their major and many minor characters.
He also mastered the war genre by inking the first issue of the iconic Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos over co-creator Jack Kirby and later the brilliant John Severin, and pencilled many more.
If you connected every line and panel border inked and drawn over Dick Ayers’ 60-plus year career, it would stretch from Earth to Saturn, with enough left over to cover the rings with his distinctive brushwork. His legendary status is as indelible as his line.
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