The modern superhero wouldn’t be what it was without the work of artist Tim Sale. His moody, energetic work on characters such as Batman, Hulk, Spider-Man, Superman, basically all the greats, helped define modern myths and understandings about the character. Earlier this week, Sale was admitted to the hospital with “severe health issues” according to DC executive and fellow legend Jim Lee. Thursday, news broke that Sale had passed away.
“It’s with a heavy sadness that I must announce that Tim Sale passed away today,” said a message from Sale’s Twitter account. “He passed with the love of his life beside him, and loves all of you very much.” The cause of death has not yet been revealed.
Born in 1956, Sale began working in comics in the 1980s and really began to gain a following in the 1990s. A frequent collaborator with writer Jeph Loeb, it was their book Batman: The Long Halloween that pushed Sale to superstardom. A definitive Batman tale sold so strongly by Sale’s rendition of the character, The Long Halloween is an all-time comics classic that immediately became a profoundly influential text for the character, not just in comics but in generations of adaptation, with direct lines from it to Christopher Nolan’s movies and especially this year’s The Batman by Matt Reeves.
Some of Sale’s other unforgettable Batman work came in Legends of the Dark Knight and Dark Victory, and for his work on Superman in the “Year One” style series Superman for All Seasons, while over at Marvel he helped shape the definitive early years of several heroes with the colour themed origins like Hulk: Grey, Daredevil: Yellow, Spider-Man: Blue, and Captain America: White, all of which were also with Loeb. The pair also worked on the hit NBC show Heroes, another bridge between comic book culture and mainstream popularity.
In fact, in a time when superheroes had yet to become mainstream, Sale’s work showed an appreciation and respect for these characters most outside of the comic book industry could not yet understand. He helped bring stories to life that were cool and exciting, sure, but also complex and emotional. With a single image he could convey what thousands of words could not. He will be missed.