Tim Sale, the award-winning and beloved comic book artist has passed away today, after a brief stay in hospital.
Batman, Catwoman and Superman along with Spider-Man, Daredevil, Captain America and Hulk are some of the most important and most well-known pop culture superheroes in the world. Tim Sale, one of the great artists in the history of the comic book medium had distinct, definitive and memorable turns with each of them, among many others. Not many illustrators in the industry can boast that.
Sale’s animated linework and use of dark shadows and extreme plays with light is second to none. Viewers know an illustration is from the hand of Tim Sale as soon as it’s glanced upon. There are many influences, for sure, but no one drew like Tim Sale. He was absolutely distinctive.
Tim Sale’s style is somewhat akin to the school of Frank Miller in that it pays homage to bulky, noirish visuals. Still, even in exaggerated and expressive forms that echoed the personality traits of individual characters, there is a fluidity in his muscular gestures that reminisce the works of Frank Frazetta, Boris Vellejo and John Buscema and those legendary artist’s pulpy heroes and villains. Sale’s Batman is an overly brawny dark avenger, his Spider-Man is supple and full of pent-up energy, his Hulk is a mountainous monstrosity and his Catwoman is lithe in her muscled and sinewy sexiness. They were prefect and singular imaginings for those characters and it made Sale’s art stand out from contemporaries.
Best known for his works alongside writer and producer Jeph Loeb, Sale famously illustrated the fan and critical favourite graphic novels Batman: The Long Halloween, Batman: Dark Victory, Daredevil: Yellow, Spider-Man: Blue, Hulk: Gray and Captain America: White, among many others. He won an Eisner Award in 1999 in the Best Artist/Penciller/Inker category and his Batman-related work would go on to inform the story and visuals of the recent The Batman (2022) film.
A frequent guest of comic book conventions across the country, Tim Sale was kind with his time, engaging with fans while also contributing when he could to charities like The Hero Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping comic book writers and artists in need.
I was lucky enough to be able to meet the cool-as-all-hell artist at Toronto’s Fan Expo in 2008. He had long, salt and pepper hair that hung perfectly uncombed. A single hoop earring, a stubbled face and a steely, determined gaze showcased his rock star sensibilities. His appearance was intimidating, to be sure, but he was also quite humble and spent time talking about art, his Batman work, and, of course, comic books – all the while sketching a charity Catwoman that is proudly part of my art collection. The line-up of fans to meet him, donating money for his illustrative efforts, was enormous and Sale was dedicated to accomplishing as many sketches as he possible could for The Hero Initiative cause.
Tim Sale was admitted to hospital on Monday, June 13 with severe health issues and passed away peacefully, earlier today. His art is distinct and timeless and his works will remain memorable and meaningful for both the industry and for his legion of fans.
Biff Bam Pop! offers condolences and well wishes to Tim Sale’s family and his friends in the days and weeks to come.