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Thursday, December 21, 2006 

Hardin Burnley, RIP

We've lost another great influential artist, Hardin (Jack) Burnley, one of the first artists for the Man of Steel and co-creator of Ted Knight, Starman. From the Daily Progress of Charlottesville, Virginia:
Hardin “Jack” Burnley, the artist who made visible the Man of Steel’s inner strength and provided the prototype portrait for a universe of comic book heroes, died Tuesday in Albemarle County. He was 95.

Burnley was the first person to draw Superman, Batman and Robin other than their creators.

His drawing of the three heroes for the cover of an issue of “World’s Fair Comics” in 1940 marked the first time the crime fighters appeared together in public. He was also the first to carefully outline the caped crusaders’ muscle structures, setting the style for hundreds of heroes who followed.

“Just the fact that the creators let him take over says a lot,” said Beau Eichling, owner of Atlas Comics in Rio Hill shopping center. “The extra ripples and muscles is kind of the comic book hero style now. They’ve really embellished on it.”

Although famous for his comics, Burnley was an accomplished syndicated sports cartoonist working for newspapers during the 1930s. He worked for several years as illustrator for Damon Runyon before being hired to draw Superman and the syndicated newspaper strip “Batman.”

“I gave Superman a lot more muscle than he had originally,” he told The Daily Progress in 2000. “When I came into comics I had a background in drawing the musclemen and heroes of sports, so it was rather easy for me to make the transition to drawing the comic figures.”

Behind Burnley’s pen, the superheroes stumped for the War Department, fighting Nazis and encouraging the purchase of war bonds. Burnley’s drawings proved popular and he went on to create, with Gardner Fox, his own superhero, Starman. Starman, however, proved less enduring than Superman and Batman, and was given an early retirement when interest in superheroes dwindled after World War II.

The character, however, continued to pop up over the years, sometimes appearing as a member of the Justice Society of America, and has benefited from recent renewed interest in the characters from comics’ “Golden Age.”

Burnley continued drawing comics from 1940 to 1947 before returning to newspaper illustrations. He worked for the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph for four years and then the San Francisco News, from which he retired in 1976. He and his wife moved to Charlottesville in 1981.

“It was exciting growing up around them,” said Burnley’s niece, Elizabeth Hamilton of Charlottesville. He lived with her and her daughters Catherine and Elizabeth before his death. “I’d walk into his studio and there’d be these huge drawing boards with artwork on them. This was before [World War II] and my uncle and mother would be working on the lettering.”
Burnley is another famous guy in comics who'll be very missed.

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