Friday, May 25, 2012

Hardin "Jack" Burnley (1911-2006)

By Don Mangus

Starman artist Jack Burnley has passed away at age 95.

After establishing his artistic credentials during a ten-year stint as a top-notch sports cartoonist at King Features, Jack Burnley was hired by DC editor Whitney Ellsworth in late 1939. Burnley drew many memorable covers for DC's Golden Age titles. Among the first and most notable was for New York World's Fair Comics 1940, with Superman, Batman, and Robin sharing a cover for the very first time.

Burnley brought a sleek, dynamic, and polished look to his earliest assignments as a "ghost" on the Superman and Batman characters in both the comic books and the newspaper strips. Burnley's figure draftsmanship ranks among the very best in the field. He brought a clean-cut, energetic, and fun-loving flair to his superheroic work that is irresistible.

In 1941, Jack Burnley designed the scintillating superhero, Starman, for Adventure Comics #61. For a detailed, first-hand account of the Astral Avenger's origin, read Burnley's foreword for The Golden Age Starman Archives, Volume 1.

It's worth mentioning that Jack Burnley was not the only artist in his family to work in the comic book field. His brother Ray was a noted inker and his sister, Betty Bentley, lettered many of Jack's features.

Burnley led an extraordinary life outside of his accomplishments at the drawing board. He cavorted with a colorful newspaper crowd during a Damon Runyonesque era in New York City and married Dolores Ferris, a celebrated cabaret dancer. Burnley published an entertaining excerpt from his biography of Dolores in Alter Ego #27 (August, 2003).

In 1947 Burnley left the comic book field to return to sports cartooning for the newspapers. His work appeared in the Pittsburgh Sun-Telegraph and the San Francisco Examiner. He was a boxing aficionado and illustrated a terrific paperback on the subject.

Burnley remained active in the field of comic books through fanzines and contributed drawings, letters, and articles to such publications as Robin Snyder's The Comics, Alter Ego, and others.

Jack Burnley leaves comic book fans a shining legacy of brilliant art. Truly, he was one of the top rank of artists who made the Golden Age golden.

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