Welcome, comic fan!
Russ Heath is certainly one of the most well respected and talented artists ever to draw comics.
Even the greatest artists have to start somewhere, and today we will look at the first comic book art ever created by Russ Heath!
The year is 1942, and Russ heath is only 16 years old, still in high school!
He manages to get a freelance job working for Holyoke Comics, drawing a character called "Hammerhead" Hawley. The feature appeared in CAPTAIN AERO COMICS #8, 9, 10,11, 13, and 14 between 1942 and 1944. According to russheath.com and wikipedia sometimes Heath would be inking over the pencils of artist Charles Quinlan, but at least 2 or 3 times Heath did the art chores entirely by himself. Those are the stories we will look at here today, from issues #8, 13, and 14. The artwork in the other "Hammerhead" Hawley stories is likely Heath on inks, and does not quite match up to these Heath solo ventures, especially the last two stories which are clearly signed by Heath.
The art in these stories give a glimpse of the future greatness that is to come.
Heath went into the Air Force at the end of high school and in 1947 began his career in earnest at Atlas/Marvel Comics, and would later become one of DC Comics highest esteemed war comics artists.
(Warning! These comics present racial stereotypes that may now be considered "politically incorrect")
-click to enlarge-
From CAPTAIN AERO COMICS #8, 1942
The above story marked the initial appearance of "Hammerhead" Hawley, and according to wikipedia and the GCD (which may or may not be accurate) was entirely by Heath. There does appear to be the initials R.H. on the last page, and we can presume that Heath did ink the story at the very least. If not entirely representing the familiar Heath art style, there are certainly elements to suggest that his hand, however young and inexperienced, was involved.
The following two stories mark the final two appearances of "Hammerhead", and seem to be clearly identified on the splash page(s) as being illustrated by Heath alone. This same conclusion can also be drawn by the trained artistic eye, as the familiar Heath style is becoming more strongly evident. These last two stories do show a definite improvement in the young artists abilities beyond those shown the first story.
From CAPTAIN AERO COMICS # 13, 1944
From CAPTAIN AERO COMICS # 14, 1944
What do you think?
Pretty darned good for a kid still in High School, huh?
If you'd like to see one of Russ Heath's most lavishly illustrated comic stories,
click here or on the image below.
This beautifully and realistically rendered tale from BLAZING COMBAT is being represented at