Dan Spiegle: A Life in Comic Art

Review by KC Carlson

According to everything I’ve ever read or heard about him, Dan Spiegle is one of the nicest guys in comics. And you get that exact impression by reading the feature interview with him in the new Dan Spiegle: A Life in Comic Art book from TwoMorrows. In fact, he’s such an average guy that meeting celebrities (like Hopalong Cassidy, whose 1950s newspaper comic strip Spiegle illustrated for years) is more memorable to him than meeting and working with some of the biggest names in comics.

Part of the reason that Spiegle is so “anonymous” is because the vast amount of his work in comics was for the Dell/Gold Key/Western group, companies that published huge amounts of comics in the era (mostly the 50s, 60s, and 70s) before comic book companies routinely credited their creators. Thus, like many fans, we didn’t find out about “that guy” until Gold Key/Whitman folded and Dan’s work appeared in other places in the 1980s — most notably DNAgents and Crossfire for Eclipse Comics and Blackhawk for DC Comics, all written by Mark Evanier. He also drew occasional issues of Jonny Quest for Comico and Airboy for Eclipse during this period, plus he had a stint on the mid-1990s revival of the Terry and the Pirates newspaper strip.

Before all this, Spiegle anonymously produced hundreds of Western comics for Dell in the 1950s and 60s, including Maverick (and, yes, he also met star James Garner). He was a frequent contributor to many special Walt Disney publications, including many of their movie adaptations, including The Parent Trap and Mary Poppins. One of my personal favorites of his — because it was so odd — was Mickey Mouse: Super Secret Agent. What was strange about it was that the series was produced by two different artists, working together on every page. Spiegle did all the human characters and the three-dimensional backgrounds for the comic, while regular artist Paul Murry drew all the “flat” quasi-animated characters, including the stars, Mickey Mouse and Goofy. It was very weird. And canceled after just three issues!

Other series illustrated by Spiegle include Space Family Robinson, Korak, Son of Tarzan, and Brothers of the Spear — all currently being reprinted in deluxe volumes by Dark Horse Comics.

Spiegle also did lots of work for Hanna-Barbera produced books, both at Gold Key and for the short-lived HB Marvel line, which were edited by his frequent collaborator Mark Evanier. There is a very long legacy of Scooby-Doo comic books by Evanier and Spiegle, published by a long list of publishers, including DC and Archie, as well as Gold Key and Marvel.

Much of this information was gleaned from the extremely helpful index of most of Spiegle’s published work, compiled by author John Coates with assistance from the Grand Comics Database. It’s fascinating to peruse this very long list of excellent comic books. If you’re like me, you’ll spot many childhood favorites among the list!

Today, Spiegle is semi-retired, painting watercolors (many for commissions of the characters that he worked on) and enjoying spending time with his family, all of whom contribute appreciations of Dan to this book. Dan’s personal life is just as important (probably more so) as the the amazing work he’s produced over the years, and you get a wonderful sense of how close and loving the Spiegle family is in this book.

Dan Spiegle: A Life in Comic Art is a 104-page B&W trade paperback with an eight-page color section (mostly of his paintings). TwoMorrows also offers a digital version of the book through their website. Longtime collaborator Mark Evanier provides the Introduction (and proofreads!), and Sergio Aragones writes and draws the Afterword. (The publisher provided a review copy.)

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