Friday, September 3, 2010

Artist Spotlight - Art Saaf

Having grown up in a comic book family, I am always interested to hear the stories of other people who have had family in the industry. One such person I have been fortunate to converse with is Steve Saaf, the son of the incredibly talented romance artist -- Art Saaf. Among other things, Steve has put together a highly informative website -- artsaaf.com, about his father. The site features a bio (my abbreviated version below), detailed indexes and galleries.

Art Saaf
(1921-2007)
Romance comic book artist extraordinaire!

Art Saaf was born in Brooklyn on December 4th, 1921 to parents of Czech and Swedish ancestry. Like many artists, his interest in drawing developed early, and his talents were nurtured at P.S. 26. Art made his way as a young man during the Great Depression by working as a messenger on Wall Street and by proof-reading bonds for the American Bank Note Company. He began his art career by freelancing for McFadden Publishing in the late 1930s, and started his formal training soon after at the Pratt Institute -- which he attended from January 1941 through April 1942. Art refined his technique at both the School of Arts and Mechanics and the Art Students League.

During World War II, Art worked for various studios honing his illustrative work as well as freelancing. After the war, he did work for Timely and Dell, and took on full-time work for Standard Comics in 1946. In the mid-1950s, Art began a career in the blossoming television industry as an art director on storyboards for such programs as The Jackie Gleason Show. In the late '50s, Art could be found freelancing as a storyboard artist -- primarily for television advertisements.

Art returned to comics in the late 1960s and was assigned by DC to work his magic on war, horror and superhero titles, and of course -- romance comic books! His artwork can be seen in issues of most every DC romance title of the late '60s/early '70s, and it sure is lovely!

Cover pencils by Saaf, inks by Dick Giordano
Girls' Love Stories #160
(July 1971)

Steve Saaf has done a really thorough job of tracking down the stories his father worked on and identifying his artwork -- much to the benefit of us all! During an email conversation, Steve told me he became engrossed in identifying his father's work when Art began coping with the effects of Parkinson's disease. After years of distance, the two reconnected and Steve instantly delved into learning more about his father's career.

"Too Old for Love!"
Penciled by Saaf and inked by Colletta
Falling in Love #122 (April 1971)

Creating the indexes identifying his father's comic work was what Steve described to me as a "step-by-step hunt for everything he did." Since Steve was relatively new to the comic book world, he sought out field experts such as Michelle Nolan to assist with the identification of Art's romance work. Steve learned to recognize his father's style and purchased comic books for reference. Steve's identifications were also aided by the fact that he had not only pages of original art by his father to go off of, but many of Art's financial records and invoices from his comic book days as well.

Below are various examples of Art Saaf's later DC romance work, inked by a variety of artists. Personally, I am most drawn to the Saaf pencils accompanied by Colletta inks.

"A Little Kiss for Big Sister!"
Penciled by Saaf, inker unknown
Young Love #84 (January/February 1971)

"I Gave My Love Away"
Penciled by Saaf, inked by Colletta
Falling in Love #121 (February 1971)

"...he should be known for what he achieved and his artistry. He didn't work on all the top hero characters (maybe that's why he isn't known), but with his skills he could have!"
-Steve Saaf

"You're Not My Type... Mr. Winslow!"
Penciled and inked by Saaf
Heart Throbs #129
(December/January 1971)

"Sweet... and Simple!"
Pencils by Saaf and inked by Vince Colletta
Girls' Love Stories #159 (May 1971)

"Too Clumsy to Love"
Penciled by Saaf and inked by Mike Esposito
Girls' Love Stories #168 (April 1972)

Steve disclosed that his main motivation for going through the painstaking process of identifying his father's work was that it "was not recognized" and in his opinion (and many others), he could "keep up with 'acclaimed' best of his contemporaries." I wholeheartedly concur!

I am really grateful and truly inspired by Steve's diligence in preserving his father's legacy. Steve's experiences serve as an excellent reminder of the importance of gathering the stories of comic book creators before those pieces of information become distant memories or worse yet, lost altogether.

10 comments:

  1. Great overview of an overlooked comics artist. The two panels from "Sweet ... and Simple" brought back memories, because they originally appeared in one of the first romance comics I ever read. The rest of the issue remains forgotten but that story ingrained itself in my memory (even years after I learned that it plagiraized an earlier story from the Simon and Kirby studio. Since it's only 3 or 4 pages, is it possible that you might post it sometime? Thanks for all the work you put into this site!

    ReplyDelete
  2. The inks on Falling in Love #121 are Vinnie Colletta, note the muscles on the fighters, the girls' hair and, above all, those Colletta eyelashes.

    Nice post. Art Saaf also drew some superhero stuff for DC, I think. He was a solid veteran.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Nice post. The Mr. Saaf left a comment on a post I did a couple of months ago about a Supergirl comic his father had pencilled. It's good of you to highlight his efforts to keep his Dad in the comics consciousness.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Very nice look at a neglected artist. There's a very salient point above, that it's much harder to draw realistic material than it is SF or fantasy, to say nothing of superhero work, because you can't fall back on the "it's imaginary" saw. The cars have to look like cars, the people have to look like people, and the clothes are not skin tight, so you must understand draping.
    I'll add some notes on Al Saaf to my Comics History class.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Nice work, Jacque! Wow, could Saaf draw. I love the eyes he gave his women - such life. And as for the female form, well, suffice to say he could really draw a woman walking away. And what a fantastic life story! I am most curious about his time working in television in the 1950s. The jackie Gleason Show! I bet Mr. Saaf had more than a couple of stories about those years!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thanks everyone! I am glad you enjoyed this post!

    Anonymous: I will have to post "Sweet... and Simple" sometime -- you may have to remind me! :)

    Anonymous: It does look like Colletta, doesn't it?

    Jared: Steve Saaf is really good at keeping up with the comic book community -- it is pretty cool! I wouldn't have known about his dad unless he had contacted me.

    Diana: Glad its useful for your class! I have got to see a syllabus!!!

    Mykal: He definitely knew how to draw women -- he especially seemed to have the chest area down pat! I don't know how much Steve knows about his television career, but it sure would be interesting to hear more about that!

    ReplyDelete
  7. A few points: "Girls' Love" cover inked by Giordano, backgrounds maaayybe by Klaus Janson who I believe was assisting DG at the time.

    Saaf's superhero work, at least at DC in the early 70s, was limited to a few Supergirls and Teen Titans. Also, IIRC (questionable :) ) did some mystery/horror stories at DC in the early 70s.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Jacque,

    The Girls' Love cover appears to be inked by Dick Giordano. "A Little Kiss for Big Sister" has a Wally Wood-sih quality to the inks, although I'm not certain it is Wood. And I agree with Anonymous about the Colletta ID.

    Nick C.

    ReplyDelete
  9. theseditionist: Good call on Giordano. You did recall correctly, and according to the indexes on the Saaf website, Saaf did do some covers for The Unexpected, The Witching Hour, etc.

    Nick: Thank you for the reminder about the Colletta ID -- I totally forgot to change it. Changed and thank you to anonymous for catching that too!!!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I only really know Art Saaf from his gorgeous superhero work, so it's wonderful to see more. Steve Saaf can be very proud of his dad for his career, and himself for this project.

    ReplyDelete

Comic Blog Elite