Tom Palmer, one of the last remaining comics creators from Marvel’s iconic 1960s heyday, has passed away at the age of 80.
Palmer is best known for two iconic stints that have Neal Adams written all over them Avengers and X but in the late 1960s/early 1970s, plus a long and award-winning run with Gene Colan on Dracula’s Tomband a more than ten-year-long effort that concludes on Avengers in the 1980s and 1990s.
Born in New York City in 1942, Tom Palmer studied art under painter Frank Reilly in the mid-1960s, while also working freelance at an advertising art studio. Palmer was a fan of photorealist painters such as Norman Rockwell and James Bama, but he was also a big comic book fan, with EC artists such as Wallace Wood and Jack Davis being among his favourites. As luck would have it, former EC great Jack Kamen worked at the same studio and took the young Palmer under his wing. Kamen, who had dropped out of comics when EC’s comics line shut down in the wake of the formation of the Comics Code Authority, initially discouraged his protégé from pursuing a career in comics for fear that he would end his schooling, but when Reilly tragically died in 1967, Kamen agreed to help Palmer break into comics by introducing Palmer to Wallace Wood.
When Palmer impressed Wood enough to get a gig, Wood passed his name on to other artists such as Joe Orlando and Mike Esposito, until Marvel’s Sol Brodsky saw Palmer’s work and gave him a job writing a question about Doctor Strange. When Palmer went to see if he could do another issue, he was told that Gene Colan was now the penciller on the book, but Palmer could print it. Because of his collaboration with Kamen and others at the advertising studio, Palmer was more than comfortable writing rather than penciling.
Gene Colan was not an easy penciler to type due to his heavy use of pencil tones on top of straight pencil drawing, but Palmer was more than up to the task and everyone at Marvel noticed.
In 1969, Palmer was paired with another younger artist, Neal Adams X but. Palmer explained his initial reaction to Adams’ work in TwoMorrows’ comic artist #3, “The first issue of X but is what I remember most vividly. The first three to five pages, with the Sphinx in the background, the rocket car – I just wanted to sit back and marvel at these beautiful renderings. In Neal’s second issue with the picture of King Faisal where he’s pointing – you can see Neal used a photo – I was just amazed at the rendering of that pencil drawing. It’s easy for me to describe from my eyes or my memory from that time, but to sit there and look at those things – I don’t mean to make it sound too much like a religious experience, but that’s what it would be close to.”
The two teamed up again The Avengers a year later he worked again with writer Roy Thomas, and Palmer was more accustomed to Adams’ style by this time, so the work was even more beautiful. Palmer was a lush and detailed colorist who always added a little something to even the most detailed pencils like Adams.
By this time, Palmer had also done something Avengers problems with John Buscema, and when Buscema was just going broke, Palmer was able to exert more influence on the art through his finishes and inks (“finishers” meaning that Palmer would finish penciling the story first, and then press the last piece with pencil) . Palmer told The Comics Journal, “I did some penciling over John’s breakdown to loosely find light and shadow, he had the structure in place, and all I needed to complete the page was to finish what he started. John Buscema had a grand style that was easily recognizable in its raw form.”
In 1972, Palmer joined Gene Colan on Dracula’s Tomb with his third number. Marv Wolfman began writing the series with #7. The three men then worked on the award-winning series for over 60 issues together, ending their run in 1979. Palmer recalled, “Dracula’s Tomb It was probably the best work we did together, at least from my point of view, it suited both of us at the time.”
Starting with the 1985s Avengers #255, where Palmer was back to make ends on John Buscema’s breakdown, Palmer then remained on the series until it ended with Avengers #402 in the summer of 1996. Along the way, he gave the book a consistent feel while working with Buscema, Paul Ryan, Steve Epting, and Mike Deodato (often finishing with those artists as well).
He continued as a freelance inker right up until his passing, with a notable stint with John Romita Jr. at Mark Millar’s Kick ass and Hit Girl.
His son, Tom Palmer Jr. followed his father into comics, being a recognized comics editor at DC after a memorable stint as an editor at Wizard Magazine.