Thursday, February 2, 2017

A Tribute to Dan Spiegle

(Dan Spiegle 1920-2017.  Working here standing upright on his drawing table.)


This week the world of cartooning and illustration lost one of the great ones with the passing of Dan Spiegle.  While there are many of my idols that I refer to as masters of their craft, with Dan I would always add one just what a warm and wonderful man he was. God bless you,Dan. You’ll be missed. Below is the CAPS feature that I put together for Dan when we honored him at one of our banquets several years back. 

By Mike Vosburg

Although not a California native (his parents moved here from Washington when he was four) Dan has lived in California most of his life, marrying his wife Marie and raising their four children in the Golden State.

During WWII Dan served in the Navy for three and a half years on  a Carrier Aircraft Service Unite based in Maui. He also worked for the base newspaper, drawing covers and doing cartoons inside.

After the war he decided to pursue a career in the arts, using the GI Bill to enroll at the Chenard School. At the time Mrs. Chenard was a friend of Walt Disney who hired many of the students fresh from school. The instructors were excellent illustrators, often working in the film industry, and their disciplined approach to drawing and draftsmanship would be a hallmark of Dan Spiegle’s work.

But Mrs. Chenard Frowned on comics strips and books. Greatly impressed by the grandeur and cinematic sweep of Howard Hawkes “Red River”, Dan began developing a western strip which would incorporate that sensibility. During life drawing class he would start on a figure, flip the page over and work on his comic page, quickly hiding it if Mrs. Chenard were to enter the room.

It was these drawings he took to his first job interview, coincidentally on the corner of Hollywood and Vine, in the fall of “49. They wanted him to draw “Bozo the Clown”, but Dan, not feeling this was his strength, politely turned them down. However, the art director was impressed enough with the western strip that he sent him around the corner to the office of Bill Boyd, aka Hopalong Cassidy.

Boyd, probably the first movie and TV personality to truly understand the potential of merchandising and was constantly looking for ways to promote “Hoppie” while increasing his audience and his income. He immediately recognized the talents of the young Dan Spiegle (he liked the way he drew horses) and shortly thereafter Dan was hired by the Times Mirror syndicate the draw the Hopalong Cassidy newspaper strip. A year later the strip moved to King Features, and Dan continued to draw the strip until the mid-fifties.

Paid a salary by King Features, Dan discovered that better money could be made drawing for comic books. When Kind Features asked him to take a pay cut when the “Hoppie” strip started to lose papers, the decision was a simple one and Dan began working for Western Publishing. Because of his background (and their popularity at the time) his assignments were often Westerns: Annie Oakley, Maverick, Rifleman, Lawman and numerous others. 

He also did the Dell Movie Classics, including such films as “Mutiny on the Bounty” and “Old Yeller.”  However, his longest running stint and one which gave him the most visibility was an adaption of the popular TV science-fiction series, “Lost in Space.”, which ran for over forty issues.

Dan’s hobbies include being an avid tennis player (he an Marie were able to attend the opening day ceremonies at Wimbleton this year ) and working on watercolors. The latter has had a major effect on his work. When drawing a comics page, he will try and keep the actual drawing to a minimum, establishing only the basic shapes and tonal patterns. Consequently, when he adds his penline, he is still “drawing” and there is a wonderful life and spontaneity to the work. Then he proceeds to work like a watercolorist as he adds black, putting in the broadest strokes first and finessing as he finishes.

His influences, not surprisingly are all  hall of fame illustrators: Fred Ludekens, Noel Sickles, Robert Fawcett and Harold Von Schmidt ( his favorite.) Their attention to detail, draftsmanship carefully composed compositions are always evident in Dan’s style. But the hallmark of the great illustrators which is so evident in Dan’s work is the absolute precision in telling a dynamic story without cheats or beating the viewer over the head with outrageous style. In Dan’s work, the story always comes first. 

In Scott Shaw’s comments elsewhere in this booklet, you can find the story of how Dan moved into the field of humor with Scooby Doo, and then on to his and then on to his personal favorite, “Crossfire.”  And it was his association with Mark Evanier which brought him to D.C. comics in the mid 70’s where he worked on Blackhawk, Sgt. Rock, Bat Lash, Weird War Stories and others. (I’m also HAPPY to say that Dan never had to work for Marvel Comics)

Until recently Dan had been working on the revamped “Terry and the Pirates.” Had he been the original choice for the strip instead of the miscast and clueless group who introduced the feature, I’ve no doubt that Terry would still be one of the most popular strips in the comics. But they don’t hire executives for their creative genius. Suffice to say that Dan brought to Terry everything that is lacking in the adventure strip today, unfortunately to a depleted audience. Both deserved better.

Dan is currently working on comic book features (101 Dalmatians) and mulling over the possibilities in animation. Like all his fans, I can’t wait to see his next project.


Like many baby boomers, i grew up reading lots of comics drawn by Dan Spiegle, especially all those issues of “Space Family Robinson”; “Lost In Space” and a zillion adaptations of movies and TV series. I enjoyed ‘em all. In those days, Dan’s work was realistic but somewhat mild. He was the ideal artist to portray the “live action” elements to starkly contrast with the Paul Murry-drawn Mickey and Goofy in Gold Key’s mid-60’s (thus, pre-Howard The Duck) series “Mickey Mouse, Secret Agent.” Like I said, i always enjoyed his comics, but I couldn’t say he was one of my favorite cartoonists at the time.

Not long after that, Dan got the assignment to draw the comic book based on Hannah-Barbara’s “Scooby Doo, Where Are You?” Both Jack Manning and Warren Tufts had been drawing the series, and CAPS co-founder (and my after partner-in-crime) Mark Evanier was writing it. now although my affection for Hannah-Barbara’s stable of cartoon characters is well known, I’ve never been crazy about Scooby Doo; to me, the character represents a Sargasso-like trend that Saturday a.m. cartoons languished in for about twenty years. But the team of Evanier and Spiegle soon made Scooby Doo a funny book that deserved attention, even from Scooby haters like me. Prior to this, Dan was never known for doing humor, but he rose to this assignment like never before. Dan started taking artistic chances, and an artistic new approach emerged from his familiar style. And once Dan got into it, this became his new style on other non-humorous strips as well; bigger, bolder, more graphic and dynamic, with more spontaneously juicy inking that somehow still didn’t spare on the precise draughtsmanship. not discounting his body of excellent work prior to this, but somehow, Scooby Doo (and I suspect, Mark Evanier’s encouragement and inspiration.) released a Dan Spiegle that no one (certainly not myself) had ever suspected. Dan and Mark have continued to work together on a variety of projects, including “Tarzan”, “Korak” and “Blackhawk”, culminating in what is arguably their greatest collaboration to date, (and of course one of my all-time favorite comic book series) “Crossfire”. Of course, Dan’s done tons of great stuff without Mark as well, including his recent run on the all-too briefly revived comic strip “Terry and the Pirates.”

Unlike many of Today’s “hot” comic book artists, Dan’s work is continually evolving and improving in ways that make his a talent that unfailingly inspires and commands the respect of his fellow professionals. His flair for the subtle nuances of acting and staging, bold and inventive layouts, combined with his exhaustive use of research materials to add an authentic feel to any project, and the earmarks of an artist at his creative peak. Like I said, I grew up reading comics drawn by Dan Spiegle, and he’s certainly now one of my favorite cartoonists working in comics. (It’d really be a kick to see him take another crack at the Robinson family with his post-Scooby artistic sensibilities by drawing the comic book adaptation of the upcoming film version of “Lost in Space”; (are there any editors out there reading this?) In any event, I expect to continue seeing more great work from him for a long, long time. Simply put, he’s one of the best cartoonists out there, and C.A.P.S. is lucky to have a professional of his caliber as a member.

I’ve been fortunate as well, to work with Dan on a few issues of “Laft-A-Lympics” and “Burger king Comics”. I’ve been even luckier to get to know Dan and his family over the years; his daughter Carrie expertly lettered most issues of Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew@“ In fact, he seems so genuinely humble that all these accolades are probably embarrassing the hell out of him (sorry Dan!).

I welcome this opportunity to celebrate our friend and colleague Dan Spiegle and his many accomplishments!

— Scott Shaw 

Growing up in New York, i missed a lot of the comics that were produced out on the West Coast the first time around, so I came to Dan Spiegle’s work a bit latter than most. But better late than never. if too many modern American comics are the equivalent of being stuck on a long, loud, and dully repetitious roller coaster for the rest of your life, then Dan’s stuff is like a terrific conversation at a cocktail party— witty, charming, subtle, and unpretentious— but filled with a constant level of surprise to keep me interested forever. Thank God for guys like Dan Spiegle— who can still be elegant in a medium choking on its own philistinism.

—Howard Chaykin

Dan did some of the best “Sgt. Rock” stories while I was editing the book at D.C. His artistic and story-telling abilities were equal only to his dependability and professional attitude. A pleasurable experience.

—Joe Kubert

Dan Spiegle not only draws lovely pictures, but he does the hard part too. He puts the pictures together and tells the story with skill, a discipline that’s frequently ignored in the 90’s. And it’s all done with consummate, craftsmanship and understated mastery.

Still, storytelling aside, when I think of Dan, I always remember that stunning splash page from his adaptation of the film; “Mutiny on the Bounty”, looking across the deck of the Bounty as she’s being provisioned in harbor. It’s a wonderful drawing that still blows me away by a guy who can do it all!

— Walter Simonson

(Dan was one of only two folks who did one of the Tales From the Crypt covers for me....the other being my studiomate Shawn McManus.)

I remember seeing Dan Spiegle’s artwork at a very early age and being attracted to its high quality. Of course, his name certainly wasn’t in the credits back then, but he made the “Space Family Robinson” seems absolutely real and the stories were all the more convincing because he was there every single issue. much later, when I learned the artist’s identity, i was even more impressed by Dan’s work because he can flat out draw anything. Anything… “Crossfive” was a movie on paper, always moving and always “Real” because of Spiegle’s incredible ability to make it work.

—Dan Jurgens

Dan Spiegle taught my daughter, Hannah, that there are actually people who draw comic books. It doesn’t matter that i’ve written and drawn “Usagi Yojimbo” for the past thirteen years and that she has seen me doing this in my home studio almost every day of her life and had seen the original art as well as the printed books. She had never made the connection that comics were created by people.

Hannah was four when Disney released “Pocahontas”. I bought the comic book adaptation illustrated by Mr. Spiegle and read it to her and her younger brother Matthew. After the story were a couple of “how-to-draw Pocahontas” pages. Hannah looked at those pages then turned back to the story and suddenly a light bulb went off in her head and, with the enthusiasm of discover, announced “someone drew this!” I told her Dan Spiegle drew it. “No, no,” she insisted, “Someone drew this comic book!” There are people who draw comic books! What a revaluation!

So, thank you Dan, for teaching my daughter something in one minute that I had been trying to show her for four years. now if you’ll only teach her to clean her room.

— Stan Sakai

(Dan with longtime friend and writing partner Mark Evanier.)

1 comment:

  1. I came late to Dan Spiegle, not paying much attention to his work until I read Gil Kane's comments praising him in Gil's famous interview in Alter-Ego. Wisdom that comes late ought not to be despised; Dan became one of my favorite artists, and Crossfire is probably my favorite of his work, although he was wonderfully skilled in so many genres. I have a number of his original pages from Three Musketeers, and each one is striking. It has been my pleasure to meet most of the heroes of my youth, but I regret that I never met Spiegle, though we did exchange some correspondence. Thank you, Mike, for this terrific post. I believe Dan remains highly underrated as an artist by the "fan" community.