Comic artist Ken Bald has passed away.
Kenneth Bruce (Ken) Bald
August 1, 1920 – March 17, 2019
From the obituary:
Upon graduating Pratt in 1941, Bald’s talent landed him a job at the Jack Binder Art Studio in Englewood, NJ. Quickly recognized for his flair for main characters and a smooth inking style, the young Bald moved into the key position of art director after only a month on the job. As art director, he mentored a bull-pen of other artists while turning out an amazing amount of comic-book covers and interior pages for the shop’s clients.
During this time, known as the Golden Age of Comics, one of the first comic-book covers that Bald illustrated while at Binder’s was for the superhero Captain Midnight. He also rendered meticulous work on other characters such as Captain Marvel, Bulletman, Doc Savage, Spy Smasher, The Shadow, and Mandrake the Magician. It was also during this period that Binder, Crowley (the shop’s editor), and Bald developed the mass production method of creating comics, which revolutionized the industry.
Upon returning from war, Bald met Stan Lee after a job interview at Timely Comics, which would later become Marvel Comics. Lee immediately had Bald working on the first generation of Captain America, Sub-Mariner, and the Human Torch. One of the first books the two legends would create together was a book entitled “Secrets Behind the Comics,” which was published in 1947. Recognizing Bald’s talent for illustrating the female form, Lee moved him into producing female superheroes. Rising up to the challenge, he created the female superheroes Namora and Sun Girl, and worked on others such as Blonde Phantom, Venus, and Millie the Model. Throughout his career, Stan Lee would often say that Ken is “the best comic artist in the business.”
Because of the genre’s current popularity Ken’s work on superhero comic books is frequently mentioned but, as comics historian Michael Vassallo has noted, he spent most of this time on teen-age humor.
In 1957, he started his first syndicated comic strip for King Features, Judd Saxon. Utilizing his “photo realistic” illustrating style (a term the media coined especially for Bald), his realistic character creations and lush scenes captured the 50’s time period in his iconic style—having many art critics pointing to this body of work as Bald’s best. He would move onto the Dr. Kildare strip (with Al Capp’s brother, Elliot Kaplan writing) and his compelling, innovative style on Kildare helped propel it high on the newspaper comics sales charts. His work on Kildare would span over 20 years and, in 1971, he would also take on the Dark Shadows strip—drawing both strips simultaneously for 1 year. Due to contractual obligations, Bald signed his Dark Shadows work as “K. Bruce,” using his middle name.
below: the last week of Judd Saxon
Mark Johnson, for Comics Kingdom, takes a look at Judd Saxon.
above: the first four Dr. Kildare comic strips (hat tip to Tom Heintjes)
In the late 1970s, Bald transitioned again, into commercial art, this time illustrating TV storyboards at Diamond Studios. He moved into the position of Creative Director after being sought by Gem Studios, where he was often requested by many of the best NYC ad agencies and their clients to illustrate TV storyboards for products such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Miller Lite, General Electric, FedEx, Right Guard, and Guinness, as well as the introduction of the AFLAC duck.
Retiring at the age of 84, Bald continued his prolific career by taking on commissioned work from his fans and appearing at numerous comic conventions including the notable New York Comic Con. His artwork and paintings from his illustrious career can often be found at auction and on exhibit. Thanks to his longevity, he would also go on to capture two Guinness World Record titles, one for being the oldest comic artist, and the second for being the oldest comic artist to illustrate a published comic-book cover, which he did for Marvel Comics in 2015 at the age of 95.
Bald lived a life that was as big as the superheroes he brought to life. Fighting for the country he loved, creating a lifetime body of work, mentoring countless young artists, a loving marriage that lasted over 75 years, and an unwavering commitment to the truth and doing what’s right made him a hero to many, but none more than to his five children who will forever remember him as an amazingly understanding, protective, loving, and larger-than-life father, grandfather, and great-grandfather.