20th Jun2022

A Memoriam in Four Colours: Tim Sale

by Ian Wells

Last week we lost Tim Sale, at this time my condolences are with his family and friends… He has pulled his seat up to the great drawing board in the sky much too soon.

On a personal level, the work of Tim Sale greatly influenced my early days of collecting comics. Firstly I remember in the build-up to the release of the first X-Men film I was watching a comic book hour on QVC. One book that kept coming up in the show was Batman: The Long Halloween. The next day I went to a book shop in the local shopping centre, not knowing the best places to buy comics. Also not knowing the prices of comics I found The Long Halloween to be out of my price range. It would be a few years before I finally read a copy from my local library and a few more years before I owned a copy of my own. It pleased me greatly that so much of the story made it into The Batman and I hope it would have brought him some pleasure too. Fast forward a few years when I had become a bot more knowledgable about comics and after seeing the Daredevil movie I wanted to try out the comics. Of all the places I could have started with that character something about Daredevil Yellow stood out to me and the rest is history, I was fully on board for The Man Without Fear.

Tim Sale was born in Ithaca, New York. He was raised in Seattle and during his formative years attended the University of Washington. Later Sale would return to New York to attend and graduate from the School of Visual Arts. Whilst attending SVA in the 1970s he also completed a comic workshop run by industry icon John Buscema. This is a snapshot of a bygone era of comics history. The course itself ran ads in Marvel Comics and was held in a NYC hotel. While SVA would have held him in good stead you can only imagine how much of an experience the course would have on him, leading to him becoming one of the most influential artists to grace the four-colour format. Through the ’80s he contributed art for the fantasy world series MythAdventures and Thieves’ World. In 1989 Grendel at Comico was the first character Sale would have success on, despite taking over the ongoing title for the last seven issues before cancellation. He would return to the character time and again for mini-series like Devil’s Reign, Cycle and Black, White & Red. 1991 would prove a fruitful year, providing art on eleven issues of Jim Lee’s Deathblow at Image. Next up was his first DC work and his first team-up with Jeph Loeb, the duo presented the Challengers of The Unknown for a new generation in an eight-issue series. Sale and Loeb would go on to have great success at both Marvel and DC. At Marvel with their ‘colour’ series of stories, Daredevil Yellow, Spider-Man Blue, Hulk Grey and Captain America White they provided a refreshing, retelling of the early days of Marvel’s biggest characters. His Spider-Man should be mentioned in the same breath as some of the biggest artists to work on ‘ol webhead. The way he depicts the classic rogues and New York City itself is simply beautiful. With Daredevil Yellow the original costume has never looked cooler and I really love the retro vibe, again making the early rogues pop on the page. At DC Superman For All Seasons is a work similar in tone to that of the ‘colour series’ and again it is the Kansas skylines that still the show. Perhaps he is best known for his work on Batman. The Long Halloween and its Sequel Dark Victory have influenced and continue to influence a whole wrath of creators. The first takes the approach of a year 2/3 story for Batman and a cleaned-up version of Two Faces origin story, Dark Victory acts as a retelling of Dick Grayson’s origin as Robin. All the great rogues are present and correct and Sale has unique, visually pleasing takes on them all. Like his Spider-Man, Sale’s Batman needs to be spoken about more in the top echelons of great Batman visuals. In 2016 he would return to the character as part of the ‘Rebirth Era’ providing variant covers for 31 of the very popular Tom King run on Batman. In 2006 he worked on the TV show Heroes. His art featured heavily in the first series as the in-story art work of Issac Mendez. The show brought his work and comic book storytelling sensibilities to a whole new audience. There was a time between the start of that show and its second series when it was the zeitgeist of comic conventions across the world. While his career may not be as extensive as some of his contemporaries of the time it has left a very long-lasting legacy. The Long Halloween, for example, has had the animated movie treatment, maybe we will get Dark Victory too and like I said many elements of it have made their way into The Batman. Grendel is coming to Netflix in the very near future and while the question of royalties will raise their ugly head again I at least expect to see a commemorative screen cap attached to one of the episodes. In his career Tim Sale has worked on all the biggest characters at both Marvel and DC and worked with a wide array of the industry’s top talent. He will be missed both as a creative, visually inspiring force and as an all-round good guy.

Tim Sale RIP
May 1st 1956 – June 16th 2022


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