41 Favorites: #6

DC covers by Nick Cardy have long been among my favorite things.

Kids sitting on townhouse stoop reading a copy of Action Comics as one of them points towards Superman flying above

I didn’t always know him by name.

More than one of the few books about comics accessible during my childhood in the ’70s, on which I’ve written before, referred to “The Good Duck Artist”. Past generations who read tales of Donald, his nephews, and his Uncle Scrooge in Disney comics before most creators were credited — and before admirers, collectors, and scholars could
easily share information far and wide — didn’t know him by name. Yet many of them found his contributions so obviously head-and-shoulders above other artists’ that the appellation “The Good Artist” became an acknowledged shorthand in fandom. When context was needed: “The Good Duck Artist”. “The Good Duck Artist” turned out, I learned from these same books, to be a gentleman named Carl Barks.

Superman amidst members of the Justice League and Justice Society, proclaiming 'For the Earth to live one of us must die!'

Also during those years, I noticed that certain DC titles sported covers that were so distinct and so appealing to me I could only think of the fellow who drew them as “The Good Cover Artist”. He turned out to be a gentleman born Nicholas Peter Viscardi, by then known professionally as Nick Cardy.

Hero shots of Wonder Woman standing and Wildcat on motorcycle in front of scenes from their origins

I’m not calling every other cover artist bad. Several appealed to me — Jim Aparo,
Ernie Chua/Chan, and Bob Oksner readily come to mind — although I didn’t know all their names at the time either. But covers by Cardy, in particular on issues of Action and World’s Finest Comics featuring the Super-Sons, were actively searched for on spinner racks as well as in the longboxes of back issues set out at flea markets. As luck would have it, Cardy’s tenure as one of DC’s go-to cover artists peaked shortly before my comics devotion kicked into gear.

Santa Claus with Superman, Batman, Shazam / Captain Marvel, and Teen Titans, above text promoting stories and other contents including a Giant 1975 Super-Calendar

I can’t say exactly when I discovered his name, because I was still so young that I lack
a good grasp of how long it was before I did so; time passes slowly at five, six, seven years old. Most of Cardy’s covers weren’t signed, and if they were signed the signature was often what I now know is a stylized “NC” rather than the “Cardy” that he also used. The name didn’t matter much anyway, since my comics-collecting friends were understandably even less focused on the people behind the stories and pictures than I was — it takes a level of rational thought beyond most kindergarteners to leverage one’s chances of enjoying an issue that one is buying (or trading for) based not just on the art or the characters involved but the credit of a writer who’s written stuff one liked in the past. What does the name of an artist matter as long as you know on sight whether you like or their his work?

Batman alongside vignettes touting a pair of Two-Face stories and copy promoting 100 pages for only 50 cents

Everything that I needed to peg Cardy’s identity was actually there in one of my most cherished artifacts: Limited Collectors’ Edition #C-34, a tabloid-sized anthology presenting Christmas with the Super-Heroes.

Dated Feb.-Mar. 1975 in the indicia, but released in November of the previous year,
its reprints included the 1967 Teen Titans classic “A Swingin’ Christmas Carol!”. Writer Bob Haney, artist Nick Cardy, and editor George Kashdan are credited on the splash page, and Cardy signed the cover clearly; it’s entirely possible that I didn’t make the connection at first through some combination of not really noticing the cover signature and not particularly caring about associating a name with “The Good Cover Artist”. Especially in the days before I ever set foot in a dedicated comics shop, after all, none of the stores at which I bought new comics or the bazaars hosted by local shopping malls that I scoured for older ones were run by anybody who’d know if they had issues with Nick Cardy covers. I had to eyeball them on my own, besides which — as I’ve probably driven into the ground by now — I wasn’t amassing covers done by “The Good Cover Artist” because of an inherent value attached to his name but due to visceral, personal aesthetics.

Freedom Fighters with their hands on globe conjuring members of Justice League and Justice Society

Once I did start visiting comics shops and going to conventions, Nick Cardy covers
were pretty much my only creator-related interest regarding back issues in the early days. I tended to prefer DCs, and of those I had a special zeal for issues with so-called Imaginary Stories, Earth-One/Earth-Two crossovers, and Golden or Silver Age reprints; finding a Cardy cover on one of those was a perfect storm of comics awesomeness.

Superman Jr. tearing poster of Superman and Batman on wall as Batman Jr. exclaims 'We're going to run our own lives -- and you can't stop us, Super-Dads!'

The style that Cardy used penciling and inking Aquaman and Teen Titans during the ’60s was rounder and rougher than the crisply delineated covers of his that captivated me in the early ’70s. I admire his interior work a great deal, yet it’s those covers that came to mind when I brainstormed a few dozen favorite things for these posts, owing not only to nostalgia but to the flat-out excellence. Carmine Infantino — DC’s publisher at the time, renowned for era-defining runs on Flash and Batman — often provided artists with cover-design sketches; his approach is identifiable on many of Cardy’s most iconic covers, although Cardy was able to compose scenes beautifully in his own right.
I loved and still love Cardy’s technique, from its general look of precision to such specifics as the way he rendered Superman’s insignia and spitcurl. He could draw the most enticingly absurd scene on one cover, a come-on to some featured story within the issue at hand, while in the next turn in the kind of striking wordless illustration that made him, in my estimation, the Norman Rockwell of superhero comics.

Superman throwing a mighty punch at stomach of unmoving Abominable Snowman

Much later I would realize that Cardy had contributed covers to DC’s supernatural
titles as copiously as he did to its line of costumed crimefighters. Back then I was unaware of those efforts, just as I was of his work on romance series and the idiosyncratic, short-lived but highly acclaimed Western Bat Lash. I largely ignored such fare as Ghosts, The Unexpected, and Forbidden Tales of Dark Mansion on the spinner rack in favor of Action Comics, Batman, and Justice League of America.

Right now I have a loose moratorium on adding to my collection — partly because I’m still cataloguing and getting it all in order, partly because dearths of both space and funds mean that I simply can’t in good conscience keep taking in more old comics than I sell off. I hope over the coming years to pare down my hoard to a choice selection of treasures. So long as issues exhibiting the telltale talent of “The Good Cover Artist” remain out there, however, I know that my collection is almost thrillingly incomplete.

Superman confronting fellow in chair projecting 'Life-File of Superman alias Clark Kent' on wall, asking 'How can you know everything about me... all my secrets...?'

Covers to (in order of display) Action Comics #425, Justice League of America #102,
Secret Origins #3, Limited Collectors’ Edition #C-34, 100-Page Super-Spectacular #DC-20,
Justice League of America #107, World’s Finest Comics #215, Superman #266, and Action
© 1972, 1973, 1974 DC Comics. Logos and characters
TM/® DC Comics.

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Related: DC in ’76
Shelf Obsession Nick Cardy 1920-2013


  1. My 70s DC kung-fu is relatively weak (the Golden/Silver Age stuff I know better, thanks to stuff like the Showcase and Chronicles reprints, while the later 80s stuff is when I started reading DC in earnest back in the day), so I know Cardy best from his Aquaman/Titans interior work. Though judging just from the covers you posted, he does indeed do a nice spitcurl for Superman.

    it takes a level of rational thought beyond most kindergarteners to leverage one's chances of enjoying an issue that one is buying (or trading for) based not just on the art or the characters involved but the credit of a writer who's written stuff one liked in the past.

    That's a really intriguing idea. I'm trying to remember the point at which I became aware of specific writers/artists. There was certainly art I liked more than other art, but I can't remember the point at which I began to associate the respective art styles with specific individuals (I do recall, for as long as I've read comics, being irritated when a story was interrupted by fill-in art, no matter how good it may have been).


  2. he does indeed do a nice spitcurl for Superman

    Ha! I'm glad you agree. Frankly I've always been more in the tousled-hair forelock camp than the intentional-spitcurl camp, but when it's done right it's pretty snazzy — at least on the page; it's never really worked in live-action on screen.

    I'm trying to remember the point at which I became aware of specific writers/artists.

    You know, I can't really pinpoint it myself, other than that it must've happened young and it probably happened with covers first. Aside from Cardy, Ernie Chan (a.k.a. Ernie Chua at the time) was a big force on the DC covers, and while he was far more uneven he turned in a lot of nostalgic faves. The distinctive styles of a Kirby or a Jim Aparo or a Frank Springer were certainly recognizable before their names were, but since I was reading and not just looking at the comics so early I don't know when the association actually began.