Friday, October 16, 2009

Breaking News: George Tuska Dead at 93

Marvel Comics and comic fans in general lost a giant of the industry today with the passing of artist George Tuska. Tuska, who was 93, is best known for his work in the 1970's on Iron Man and for helping to create the Marvel house style of art.

Tuska began working in comics 70 years ago, landing a gig as an assistant on the newspaper strip Scorchy Smith in 1939. He broke into comics as a member of the legendary Eisner & Iger studios and worked on such comics as Captain Marvel Adventures and Jungle Comics before eventually providing art for the Lev Gleason's groundbreaking series Crime Does Not Pay.

Tuska is best known, though, for his work at Marvel Comics in the 1960's and 70's. Though he provided art for such titles as Power Man, Ghost Rider, Sub-Mariner and X-Men, his lasting contribution is as the definitive Iron Man artist; though his stint was occasionally interrupted by fill-ins and guest pencils, he lasted as the book's primary artist for over a hundred issues, from #5 in September of 1968 until #106 in January of 1978.

During that period he became associated with what is ironically probably his most memorable creation: Iron Man's metal beak. As the apocryphal story goes, the perpetually distracted Stan lee happened to glance at an issue of Iron Man one day and exclaimed "Why doesn't Iron Man have a nose?", apparently forgetting that iron Man has never had a nose. Being Stan Lee, however, this innocent question caused an uproar, and the editors at the time rushed to issue a mandate insisting that Iron Man henceforth be drawn with a nose. Some time later, of course, Stan saw a new issue of Iron Man with the nose and exclaimed "Why does Iron Man have a nose? That looks terrible!" And thus they immediately removed the nose.

Whether or not this is true is unknown, but thanks to this relatively brief era, George Tuska has been somewhat unfairly associated with the joke that is Iron Man's nose, just as he is also associated by many with Iron Man's roller skates. The Marvel Style of writing aside, the guy was just drawing what he was told to draw, because if there's one thing Tuska proved over the decades it's that he was a consummate professional. And if the powers that be wanted a dumb looking nose on Iron Man, then so be it.

In his later career, Tuska worked for DC on titles like Superboy, but for most he will be forever remembered for his work at Marvel, on Iron Man and for Iron Man's metal nose. He also leaves an impressive body of work and a lasting legacy as one of the pillars of the Marvel style of art that helped propel the company to greatness. He will be missed by friends and fans alike.

Bookmark and Share