Possibly the most influential American artist of the second half of the 20th Century died two weeks ago, and just about nobody – zip, zilch, nada – knew his name.
We’re talking about Russ Heath, a true master of comic book – and strip – art, who lent his brilliant touch of exaggerated realism to pages published by every major comics house in the U.S. including EC, DC, Marvel, Warren, National Lampoon, and many more including Playboy.
The thing about Heath is that although he wasn’t a big star under his own name, his work affected hundreds of thousands of comics fans and millions of members of the general public…because one of the fans of Heath’s comics was Roy Lichtenstein, who based much of his groundbreaking pop artwork on Heath’s panels…never acknowledging their source publicly or financially.
We meant to write about the situation along with an “RIP Russ Heath” piece in August, but two things prevented us.
One was that the past month has been filled with the deaths of talented artists, writers, actors, musicians, and although our editor, Munchman, isn’t known for his sensitivity, he just couldn’t face so many losses.
The other reason we didn’t say anything about Heath and his career is that Heath himself did it better than we ever could in the following piece for Hero Initiative, an organization that supplies financial and other aid to “comic creators in need.” Here’s Heath’s short remembrance of the way he was fucked over…and also the way he survived: