Rest in peace, Tim Sale

The artist of Batman: The Long Halloween, Grendel, and many other iconic characters and comics has passed away at the age of 66.

Tim Sale, the Eisner-award winning artist of Batman: The Long Halloween, Superman for All Season, Spider-Man: Blue and Catwoman: When In Rome, has passed away at the age of 66.

The sad news was reported on his Twitter feed earlier today. “It’s with a heavy sadness that I must announce that Tim Sale passed away today. He passed with the love of his life beside him, and loves all of you very much,” the tweet said.

While no cause of death was identified, earlier this week Jim Lee had tweeted that Sale was admitted to the hospital with “severe health issues.”

Sale was born in Ithaca, New York in 1956, then after living in Massachusetts for a few years moved to Seattle with his family at the age of six. It was on that drive when they moved that his father bought him his first comics, “to amuse me in the car, because we drove. He didn’t know anything about them. He knew I liked adventure stuff,” he told the Comic Book Historians podcast. In his 20s, he saw a reprint of Amazing Spider-Man Annual #2 on a spinner rack, which he said brought back a “wave of nostalgia” from that car trip.

He attended the University of Washington prior to moving back to New York to attend the School of Visual Arts, where he would also sit under the learning tree of legendary Marvel artist John Buscema, who ran his own comics workshop that also included instruction from John Romita and Marie Severin.

Sale’s first published work was in MythAdventures, an adaptation of the books written by Robert Asprin that were drawn by Phil Foglio and published by WaRP Graphics in the 1980s, the company owned by Elfquest creators Richard and Wendy Pini. Sale would go on to draw an adaptation of Asprin’s Thieves World book series as well.

In the late 1980s, Sale began working with Matt Wagner on his signature creator, Grendel, when it was being published by Comico. He did other work for Comico as well as several other independent companies around that time, including Eclipse, Wonder Comix and Dark Horse, who published the four-issue series Billi 99 that Sale created with writer Sarah Byam.

Grendel by Tim Sale

It was in the early 1990s that he began working for DC, inking Norm Breyfogle’s work on an issue of Batman before drawing a new Challengers of the Unknown series written by Jeph Loeb, who would become his creative partner for many years and projects to come. The covers jumped off the shelf at you with Sale’s iconic artwork:

Together Sale and Loeb helped redefine Batman and several of his villains in their Long Halloween series, which sired many spinoffs and specials, and led to the duo creating additional series for Superman, Daredevil, Spider-Man, Hulk and Captain America. Having the Loeb/Sale names on a book was pretty much an event in itself — no crossover required.

“I think it really holds up,” Sale told CBR about Long Halloween several years after it was published. “One of the things that interests me is that, on a personal note, I very strongly look back on how excited Jeph and I were to be doing this. How concerned Jeph was about the plot and mystery, since he doesn’t consider himself a plot guy. The big fear that we both had was that people would have figured out who it is and stopped buying the book. It turned out it all worked great. I can look at the book and see how I grew as an artist on the project. In issue 10 and 11 my art is much different than the beginning. It was a very important, real turning point for me.”

It’s notable that Sale was featured in the first issue of DC’s Solo series, which showcased the artwork and storytelling of some of their greatest artists at the time.

In 2006, Sale would work with another legendary creator, Darwyn Cooke, on a story for the anthology series Superman Confidential. His work also appeared in Vampirella: Rebirth, JSA: All Stars, DeathBlow, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Tales of the Slayers, in addition to providing covers for everything from Batman to Queen & Country. His story with Wagner for the anthology Grendel: Black, White & Red in 1999 won the Eisner award for “Best Short Story.” Outside of comics, Sale’s artwork was featured on the NBC TV show Heroes.

“Tim contributed innovative ideas to every project he worked on,” said DC Editor in Chief Marie Javins. “His work always surprised with artful compositions and graphic use of contrast and negative space. I especially loved his Batman villains, whose attributes Tim sometimes highlighted through exaggeration and caricature. We will miss Tim, and we consider ourselves lucky to be a partner in his legacy.”

Creators, publishers and fans have taken to social media to share their remembrances of Sale and their appreciation for his talent and art:

https://twitter.com/Danielirizarri/status/1537512541450031104

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