Rest in peace, Don Perlin

The co-creator of Moon Knight and Bloodshot and artist of countless comics passed away at the age of 94.

Don Perlin, the veteran comics artist who co-created Moon Knight and Bloodshot, passed away May 14 at the age of 94, his daughter confirmed on social media.

“I am devastated to report the death of an amazing man. My father Don Perlin passed away peacefully yesterday at the age of 94,” Elaine Perlin wrote on Facebook. “He was an amazing father, husband, grandfather and great-grandfather. We will all miss him terribly. He was an amazing artist and considered a legend in the comic world. To me he was my best friend. I will miss him so much.”

Born in New York City and raised in Brooklyn, Perlin began pursuing his career in high school when he began taking classes from Burne Hogarth, who worked on the Tarzan comic strip and wrote several anatomy books aimed at artists.

“I always wanted to draw and I always like to draw cartoons,” he told Nerd Team 30 back in 2018. “While I was in high school, Burne Hogarth had put an ad in some of the high school papers about a class he’d be having on Saturday mornings in Manhattan. I showed it to my dad and he called Hogarth. We went to his apartment and showed him some of the things I’d done, and he accepted me into to the class. There I started learning about comic books and comic strips and the ‘how-to’ part of things.  From there on I started trying to get into the business and slowly I managed to.”

Perlin’s first job in comics came after he graduated high school, as he began drawing comics for Fox Features Syndicate until “they went belly-up.” Perlin worked for several publishers in those years, including Ziff-Davis, Hillman Periodicals, Stanley Morse, Harvey Comics, St. John Publications, Comic Media and Atlas Comics, which would later morph into Marvel Comics.

In 1953, Perlin was drafted into the army, and after serving he tried to return to comics, but found it hard to find work. So he moved into technical illustrating and package design for several years., while still doing some comic work in the evenings — mainly for Charlton, but also for Dell and DC on occasion.

In the early 1970s, Marvel was looking for artists, which led to Perlin’s second big break in comics and a longtime relationship with the publisher.

“I was going for a job interview with another company to do paste-ups and mechanicals,” Perlin told Nerd Team 30. “This was before computers. I was going in on Monday morning and Sunday morning I got a call from Roy Thomas. I’d been doing some comic book work in the evenings when I got home from working at the different day jobs that I had. Roy had seen some of the horror stories that I had done for DC. He told me about two books that they were looking for artists for and asked if would I be interested? One of them was Werewolf by Night and the other was Morbius, the Living Vampire. When I went to Marvel and spoke to them I was told that Werewolf was a monthly and Morbius was a bi-monthly so I took the monthly book deciding that would be a great job.”

Perlin drew more than 20 issues of Werewolf by Night, including issue #32, where he and writer Doug Moench introduced Moon Knight. Perlin’s early work at Marvel included other supernatural characters, including Man-Thing, The Defenders and Ghost Rider. He had a long run on the latter, which he began working on with Jim Shooter.

Shooter recounted on his blog how Perlin was reluctant to work on the character because “Don didn’t want the hassle of drawing motorcycles,” which of course was a big part of the job:

“Anyway, I tried to psych Don up, convince him we could do something special with the character. Didn’t have to,” Shooter said. “Don always gave his best to everything. Right away he had ideas. The few issues we did together were great fun. Working with someone who gets it, who is enthusiastic, who cares, who contributes…well, isn’t that how it’s supposed to be?”

The same enthusiasm followed on his work on The Defenders.

“When I started working with him on Defenders in 1980, Don had been in the business for decades—he started in the late 1940s—but he never let the difference in our age or experience come between us: never talked down to me, never pulled rank,” said writer J.M. DeMatteis. “In fact, Don was such an enthusiastic collaborator, so bubbling with creative energy, that it sometimes seemed he was the wide-eyed new recruit, not me. We’d talk on the phone regularly and soon became friends: two kids from Brooklyn, separated by decades, but united by a love of comic books. If you’re working on a monthly series, you hope for an artist who’s a skilled visual storyteller. Don was certainly that—but he was also a warm, genuine human being.”

Perlin’s work in the Marvel Universe also included a run on Captain America, the Beauty and the Beast miniseries featuring Beast and Dazzler, and the licensed title Transformers. Known mainly as an artist, he did write and draw issue #22 of Conan the Barbarian.

He also did numerous covers for the publisher, and served as Marvel’s managing art director from 1987-1991. He left that position to follow Shooter over to the fledgling Valiant, where he worked on Solar: Man of the Atom, co-created Bloodshot and edited several titles.

“Don insisted on coming to work with me at Valiant,” Shooter said on his blog. “He did great work with me. I think his pencils on Solar: Man of the Atom were amazing. He made tremendous creative contributions to that and everything else. He had a hand in the creation of many characters: Rai, the Geomancer and Archer and Armstrong and more. He helped train the young artists. He was wonderful. We couldn’t have done it without him.”

After Valiant was bought by Acclaim, Perlin remained with them for a bit before going into semi-retirement. He occasionally did comics work, including a Scooby Doo story at DC and a new Bloodshot story for the revived Valiant in 2012, as well as commissions for fans.

“Marvel is saddened by the loss of Don Perlin, the co-creator of Moon Knight and iconic artist behind series like Werewolf by Night, Ghost Rider, Defenders, and more,” Marvel posted on social media. “Don’s legacy will be a creative aspiration for generations, and our hearts are with his family and loved ones.”

“Today, we mourn the loss of Donald ‘Don’ Perlin, a true legend in the comic book world. As a co-creator of Bloodshot at Valiant Comics in the 1990s, his artistic vision helped shape the Valiant Universe as we know it today,” Valiant posted.

His fellow creators shared memories of him on social media as well:

Pat Brosseau: R.I.P., artist Don Perlin at 94 years old. One of the first lettering jobs I ever had was an issue of Transformers that he had penciled. I remember dropping off the pages to him when we were both at Marvel. A really nice guy.

Francesco Francavilla: Saddened to hear about the passing of legendary comic creator/artist Don Perlin, co-creator of MOON KNIGHT and BLOODSHOT and known for his notable work on GHOST RIDER, THE DEFENDERS, and WEREWOLF BY NIGHT. He was 94. Rest easy, Maestro.

Jimmy Palmiotti: So bummed to hear about the passing of artist Don Perlin. A lovely sweet man that always had time to pass on some wisdom. I loved talking to him about art . Rest in Peace.

Kelley Jones: This page of the Defenders was drawn by Don Perlin. I inked the first five pages of it. This little gig got me hired by Marvel as an inker albeit for the Micronauts Don passed away today at 94 and I’m really grateful he liked my work enough to give me a career in comics. Bye Don

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