Eisner Hall of Fame: How I Voted (Part 2 of 2)

At the start of this week I took a leaf from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America members (who publish their annual balloting for induction into the Cooperstown, New York Hall of Fame that preserves the history of America’s national pastime) by discussing my votes to fill the four remaining vacancies in the Eisner Hall of Fame’s Class of 2024. Out of the list of sixteen eligible, influential talents — Gus Arriola, Eddie Campbell, Mike Friedrich, Don Heck, Klaus Janson, Abe Kanegson, Jim Lee, Mike Mignola, Tom Palmer, Bob Powell, Mike Royer, Ira Schnapp, Phil Seuling, Leonard Starr, Jill Thompson, and Angelo Torres — I made my selections for Don Heck, Phil Seuling — and these two worthy gentlemen:

Tom Palmer

Palmer is a foundational Marvel Comics talent, though he also lent his inking talents to many DC Comics projects in later years. In addition, he contributed to such early-2000s projects as the creator-owned Kick-Ass, working with Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.

Like Don Heck, my perspective is that Tom deserves to be enshrined in the Hall along with his Marvel peers. He is nearly-universally acknowledged to be Gene Colan’s best inker; they collaborated on projects ranging from Doctor Strange (in both its 1960s and 1970s incarnations), Daredevil, Tomb of Dracula, and the Stewart the Rat graphic novel. “Palmer quickly developed a unique combination of pen and brushwork,” wrote J. David Spurlock in 2014. “[He added] lines, strokes, and textures, which he further augmented with a healthy dose of Zip-a-Tone shading film.” Spurlock’s remarks were made in support of Tom’s induction into the Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame for inkers, maintained by the Inkwell Awards association.

What may not be well remembered about the first phase of Palmer’s career is that he also colored many of the comic books he inked. As an indication of how highly his talents were regarded in the Silver Age Marvel offices, while he was still a relative newcomer to the business, he was assigned to ink many of Marvel’s “big guns” of that time: Colan, Steranko, Neal Adams, and John Buscema (with whom he also had a long and successful artistic collaboration). The selection below is a small sample of those results:

Gus Arriola

Though he started his career in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer animation department, Gustavo “Gus” Arriola is remembered for his work as a newspaper strip creator, having spent forty-four years producing the warm, humanist Gordo. The strip was set in and about Mexico, transcending its earliest stereotypes to weave a colorful tapestry reflecting that country’s people and their culture. “I realized that I’m depicting a real group of people here,” Gus once said with regard to the evolution of his approach. “My main goal was to maintain a positive awareness of Mexico through all the years, every day, without being political. [In 1941, when Gordo launched], words like ‘burrito’ were unknown in the United States.” As a result of his efforts, Gus also said, his titular character “became an accidental ambassador … People would write and tell me that they went to Mexico because of reading about it in the strip.”

As the years unfolded, Arriola built a reputation as one of those “cartoonist’s cartoonist,” an artist whose peers recognized him as representing the best the art form had to offer. Friend of LOAC Bill Chadbourne and I discussed Arriola, and he told me, with a touch of modesty thrown in, that his own military strip was affected by Gordo’s father: “[Gus Arriola] influenced me with his Sunday strips. They were a design delight, with Mexican motifs floating through the panels. I was stumbling along, trying to improve my Captain Comet strip, which was actually a travelogue to encourage our readers to get off base and see the ‘real Japan.’ I tried to do something similar to Gordo, dropping in Japanese ‘things,’ but I don’t remember ever succeeding.”

Especially in these days, when discussions of geographic, political, racial, and religious divisions so often include the prefix “anti-” and the suffix “-phobia” to describe extremist reactions, it seems likely the world could use a few more features like Gordo. And a few more talented creators like Gus Arriola.

That’s how I called it — your mileage may vary, of course, and certainly there are no right or wrong choices to be made regarding this list of deserving talents. Did the thinking of my voting peers align with my own? We’ll all find out in July, when the final four Eisner Hall of Fame inductees are announced …

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