[Header artwork from Palmer’s cover for “Avengers” #402 (September 1996)]
Marvel Comics shares that longtime inker and artist Tom Palmer died earlier this month; he was 80 years old. Palmer inked countless issues of “The Avengers,” “Star Wars,” “Doctor Strange,” “The Incredible Hulk,” and more, as well as numerous DC Comics titles like “Batman,” and Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s creator-owned comic “Kick-Ass.” He also contributed cover art for various books, and pin-ups for Marvel’s infamous 1991 “Swimsuit Issue.”
Thomas John Palmer was born in Queens, New York, on July 13, 1942, and attended the Frank J. Reilly School of Art in the 1960s. He was apprenticed to artist Jack Kamen and then Wally Wood, whom he penciled a “Jungle Jim” story for, before joining DC Comics as a background inker. He made his debut at Marvel in 1968 penciling “Doctor Strange” #171, and continued as an inker on the book when Gene Colan took over with the next issue. Palmer proved to be a great match for Colan, whose artwork’s use of gray textures had proven difficult for others to ink properly, and they reteamed on “Daredevil” and “Tomb of Dracula.”
He collaborated with Neal Adams on “X-Men,” and John Buscema on “The Avengers,” where he was reunited with Adams for the ‘Kree-Skrull War’ saga in 1971. Palmer proved to be the most prolific inker for Earth’s Mightiest Heroes during the original 402 issue run; his contributions included the 1986 classic ‘Under Siege,’ also penciled by Buscema. He would ink the series, uninterupted, until it was relaunched as part of ‘Heroes Reborn’ in 1996.
Palmer subsequently inked John Byrne’s “X-Men: The Hidden Years” in 1999, and many more Marvel titles until he retired in 2020 with Kurt Busiek and Staz Johnson’s one-shot “Avengers: Marvels Snapshots.” He inked “Kick-Ass” as it was published at the time by Marvel’s creator-owned imprint Icon, and his work with Romita was subsequently used in an animated segment of the movie version. He also worked for IDW and Valiant, and in advertising, illustrating for clients like Hertz, American Cyanamid, Winsor & Newton, and Panasonic.
During his lifetime, Palmer was honored with two Inkwell Awards, an Alley Award, and a Comic Fan Art Award. He is survived by his family, including his son, journalist and former DC Comics editor Tom Palmer Jr. Marvel comments, “Palmer’s greatest contribution […] may be the guidance and warmth he offered to his collaborators within the company. He was a mentor to some, and a friend to all. Marvel sends our hearts and condolences to Palmer’s family, friends, and fans all over the world. He was truly a legendary figure in Marvel’s history, and he will never be forgotten.” You can learn more about Palmer’s life and work at his official website.