Dick Ayers (1924 – ) is a Silver Age legend and Marvel artist and inker best known for his collaborations with Jack Kirby, as the penciller of Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos, and for his creation of the original (Western-themed) Ghost Rider. Ayers’ work has graced such famous and highly sought after comics as the The Avengers #1 and most of the earliest issues of The Fantastic Four.
Born in Ossining, New York, Ayers’ first published work appeared in the military newspaper Radio Post in 1942 while he served in the Army Air Corps during World War II. Afterwards, Ayers studied under Burne Hogarth at Hogarth’s New York City’s Cartoonist and Illustrators School (later to become the School of Visual Arts). There he met Joe Shuster, the co-creator of Superman, and eventually found himself penciling Funnyman, Shuster and Jerry Siegel’s attempt to create a new super hero after having failed to successfully sue DC over the rights to Superman.
While Funnyman didn’t last long, it did lead Ayers on to another illustration job, drawing the Jimmy Durante humor strip. From there, Ayers went on to freelance for both Charlton and Atlas Comics (the company that would eventually become Marvel).
At Atlas, Ayers met and inked Jack Kirby’s work for the first time in Wyatt Earp #25. With that issue, a historical collaboration began and Ayers would go on to ink Kirby Westerns, monster titles, and, ultimately, Marvel’s new super heroes.
Over Kirby’s pencils, Ayers inked the first appearance of Ant-Man, Sgt. Fury, and Rawhide Kid as well as the second and subsequent early appearances of Thor, and The Incredible Hulk issues 3 through 5. In 1964 he took over penciling duties from Kirby on Sgt. Fury and his Howling Commandos with issue #8 and, virtually uninterrupted, continued illustrating the title for the next 10 years.
Ayers, or rather his hands, even appeared on television. They were shown onscreen as the hands of a cartoonist played by actor Don Biggs on Suspense, which was adapted for TV from the radio program of the same name- one of the longest running and most successful shows of Radio’s Golden Age. The episode, entitled The Comic Strip Murders, aired in 1949.
Ayers won the 1967 and 1968 Alley Award for best War Title, the 1995 National Cartoonists Society Award for Best Comic Book and, in 2007, he was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame.
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