In Memoriam: Tim Sale

By | December 27th, 2022
Posted in Columns | % Comments

Halfway through high school, early on in my serious comic book collecting days, there were a handful of characters that I gravitated towards heavily, mostly ones that I loved deeply as a young child. Batman, of course, was at the top of the pile. My horizons were expanding in terms of what I wanted to get out of my comic book reading, and a lot of that was looking to artists who broke the mold of the typical extremely clean and hyper-real art styles that were flooding the market. One of the artists that really drew my eye as soon as I saw his stuff was Tim Sale. His work was so different from the Jim Lee or Todd McFarlane of it all (no shade to those legends), and I wanted to explore everything he was working on.

I feverishly picked up books like “Batman: The Long Halloween/Dark Victory,” “Spider-Man: Blue,” “Hulk: Gray,” and others. Not to age myself, but all were either brand new or just a few years old at the time. His use of negative space, light, and shadow was unlike anything else I had in my collection, and I honestly could not get enough. His work is a masterclass in noir and superhero comics, and when he blends the two styles, it is nothing short of sublime.

Sale is one of the most influential Batman artists/storytellers of all time, and his reach through comics and related pop culture as a whole is truly astounding. Having his art in some of the best comic books of the last 40 years helped skyrocket Sale to fame amongst us comic readers. With the majority of his stuff in books published by DC, Marvel, and Dark Horse Comics, all eyes have been on him for decades.

Born in 1956, Sale spent the majority of his life in Seattle, Washington. He went on to become one of the most influential comic book artists in history and win an Eisner award, one of the most prestigious industry awards, for Best Artist/Penciler/Inker in 1999. Outside of comic books proper, his talent has played a key role in some film and television projects, including 2006’s Heroes, in which Sale created paintings for the character Isaac Mendez, who could paint the future. They could not have found a better style to match the show”s aesthetic. His work on “Batman” has also made its way into nearly every modern film starring the Caped Crusader, and his Marvel works, also with Jeph Loeb, have been brought to life in some great moments of the MCU.

As someone who has a degree in art and design, and at one time planned to go into the art field as a career, I can’t understate how much Tim’s work affected so much of my own over the years. I even shamelessly ripped him off for a few college projects (purely out of love and reverie for the man and his work). In 2018, I was able to meet him at NYCC and was thankfully able share a few minutes with him. I told him what a huge fan I was and how much his work changed my life. He was nothing short of purely humble and as kind as one would hope. I could feel my heart break upon hearing the news of his death and I will forever be grateful for that time with him. During this exchange, I picked up an original pencil, charcoal, and pastel Batman piece which he hand-signed (and accidentally marked up the margin with his thumbprint) before handing it over to me. It is one of my most prized possessions.

Tim Sale passed away due to kidney failure on June 16, 2022. He is survived by his family and leaves us with one of the great comic book legacies of the modern age.

//TAGS | 2022 Year in Review

Christopher Egan

Chris lives in New Jersey with his wife, daughter, two cats, and ever-growing comic book and film collection. He is an occasional guest on various podcasts, writes movie reviews on his own time, and enjoys trying new foods. He can be found on Instagram. if you want to see pictures of all that and more!


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