March 4, 2010

Golden Age Artist Spotlight -- Irwin Hasen

Irwin Hasen was born in 1918 on the west side of Manhattan, and lived around 110th Street and Amsterdam Ave.  Like many of the other creators profiled on this site, Hasen was always drawing as a child (and then as a teenager).  He devoured the Sunday comics, and appreciated the artistic talents of legends like Roy Crane (of Wash Tubbs fame) and Milton Caniff.  A graduate of DeWitt Clinton High School, Hasen had the fortunate circumstances of a supportive mom and the National Academy of Design across the street.  A class in drawing turned into three years of drawing instruction and attendance at the Art Students League (also in Manhattan). 

Hasen started out as a boxing cartoonist, doing caricatures, action poses and blurbs, which were then sold to Madison Square Garden as pre-fight public relations for the weekly fights.   This association with boxing probably led to the creation (with the golden age legendary writer Bill Finger) of Wildcat, whose alter ego is Ted Grant (no relation to the anchorman who worked with Mary Tyler Moore, presumably) and whose dayjob was heavyweight boxing champion of the world.   Hasen went fully into comic books in 1940, working on such titles as The Green Hornet, The Fox, Secret Agent Z-2, Bob Preston, Explorer, Cat-Man, and The Flash, through the Harry 'A' Chesler shop. While at All American Comics/DC, in addition to Wildcat, Hasen drew stories and covers for Green Lantern, The Flash, Wonder Woman, and All-Star Comics.   Under the editorship of Sheldon Mayer (who will get his own spotlight here soon), Hasen contributed many memorable works, including being the only artist who drew a complete 38 page All-Star comic (they were generally divided up among artists to concentrate on individual characters, with another artist doing the wrap-around story as well).  He was also able to work as a contemporary with young artists like Alex Toth and Joe Kubert, and noted their incredible talent right off the bat.   Unfortunately, with a change in editorial direction, Hasen, like other artists responsible for the birth of the golden age, was unceremoniously let go by D.C.  A bachelor in his thirties, Hasen took this opportunity to travel the great cities of Europe and expand his horizons.

It was another trip to Europe, this time Germany, during the Korean War, to draw for the troops as part of a USO contingent, that Hasen encountered another opportunity, after meeting Gus Edson, to be a regular artist on a daily strip, to be named Dondi.   An adventure strip about a young boy, the collaboration started in 1955, and lasted until discontinuation in 1986.  

Post-Dondi, Hasen went into semi-retirement, but even now, in his early nineties, he continues to create and teach.   A long-established senior instructor at the Joe Kubert School, and despite a stroke in the spring of 2007, Hasen has just recently produced an entertaining 128 page graphic novel, semi-autographical, called Loverboy, and available directly from the publisher Vanguard here (and via Amazon here).  A regular featured guest at conventions, Hasen continues to provide a living legacy of the golden age.   He might be short in stature (topping out at 5'2"), but he stands tall as a creator.   It seems appropriate that Hasen is most proud of his tenure as the editor and publisher of the Fort Dix Post, a military base newspaper in New Jersey, during World War II.  He virtually handled every single aspect of the publication, from editing, writing, interviewing celebrities, taking to the printers, distribution, to of course, handling the comic page.  He worked so hard on the job that he ended up in the hospital.   That's dedication to serving others, including his country, before himself.   


So, if you see him at a convention, at the Joe Kubert School, or on the street, remember to thank him.  

Enjoy the covers!

1 comment:

  1. I wish I knew he did that slicing up the U.S. cover last time I talked to him. That cover is forties fire.