The comics world, including professionals and fans, were rocked by the death of Tim Sale last week. Sale, much like his late contemporaries George Perez and Neal Adams, left behind an impressive body of work. Unlike most of his fellow artists, the bulk of Sale’s work was with a single writer: Jeph Loeb. Together, they crafted a series of comics that features Marvel and DC’s most iconic heroes – and even joined forces on the NBC series. Heroes, which saw Sale contributing artwork and Loeb serving as a producer / writer on the first three seasons. Here is a chronological listing of Sale’s projects, as well as the impact they had on both the comics industry and the world of film / television.
Batman: Haunted Knight
Sale’s first major work was on a trio of Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight Halloween Specialswhich have been collected in the Batman: Haunted Knight trade paperback. The three stories feature Batman facing some of his deadliest foes on Halloween, while being pushed to his physical and mental limits. “Fears” features the Dark Knight hunting an escaped Scarecrow, while encountering a mysterious woman who enthralls him as Bruce Wayne. “Madness” has Batman hunting down the Mad Hatter, who ends up capturing Jim Gordon’s adoptive daughter Barbara – the once and future Batgirl. And finally “Ghosts” provides a twisted take on A Christmas Carol, with Poison Ivy and the Joker as the ghosts of Christmas – or rather, Halloween Past and Present. This marked the beginning of a long partnership between Loeb and Sale, as well as their lengthy run on Batman.
Wolverine / Gambit: Victims
Loeb and Sale would tackle two of the most popular X-Men with the limited series Wolverine / Gambit: Victims. When a woman from Gambit’s past is mysteriously murdered, all signs point to Wolverine, and the Cajun thief travels to London to bring his fellow X-Man to justice, unraveling a trail of murder and mystery along the way. Though Victims may not be as well regarded as their other work, Loeb and Sale started to show elements that would permeate their later work. The entire miniseries is told from Gambit’s point of view, and there’s a murder mystery that drives the entire plot. So it is not surprising that the duo would utilize those plot points for perhaps their most famous work yet.
Batman: The Long Halloween
Sale’s most famous work remains Batman: The Long Halloween, which is regarded as one of the best Batman stories of all time. Set after the events of Batman: Year One, the 13-issue maxiseries features the Dark Knight attempting to dismantle the criminal organizations of Carmine “The Roman” Falcone while also dealing with a serial killer named Holiday that begins to take out members of Falcone’s family – fittingly carrying out their murders on Halloween. It was here that Sale perfected his work on Batman, with the Caped Crusader towering over nearly everyone and his cape becoming a mass of writhing shadows. And the series ends on a tragic note as its events lead to Batman’s friend Harvey Dent becoming the hideously scarred criminal Two-Face. Both Christopher Nolan and Matt Reeves have cited The Long Halloween as an influence on The Dark Knight and The Batman respectively, and it was even adapted into a pair of animated films.
Superman For All Seasons
Having delivered one of the most definitive Batman stories, it only makes sense that Sale would turn his attention to Superman next. Superman For All Seasons captures definitive moments in the life of the Man of Steel, from his childhood in Kansas to his first superheroic adventure. In a departure from The Long Halloweeneach issue of For All Seasons is narrated by someone in Superman’s life, from his adoptive father Jonathan to his future wife Lois Lane. Sale’s artwork, paired with the lush colors of Bjarne Hansenis meant to evoke the work of Norman Rockwelland it succeeds – particularly in an image where Clark overlooks the sun setting on Smallville. For All Seasons is cited as the genesis for Smallville, and a scene from the series is recreated panel-for-panel in the pilot of Superman & Lois.
Batman: Dark Victory
With the success of Dark Victory, it was only a matter of time before a sequel hit the stands. Enter Batman: Dark Victory, which saw Batman struggling with losing Harvey Dent and the emergence of a new serial killer named “Hangman.” But the biggest development is how it tackles the origin of Dick Grayson, who was the first Robin. Sale’s art perfectly depicts the difference between the Dark Knight and the Boy Wonder; Robin is about half Batman’s size and clad in a mix of bright yellow, green and red which serves as the perfect contrast to his partner’s darker ensemble. Even though The Long Halloween is regarded as a classic, Dark Victory is definitely worth a read and is crafted just as well
Sale, along with Loeb, would head to Marvel to launch their “Color” series. Their first entry was Daredevil: Yellow, which takes place in the early years of Matt Murdock’s career as Daredevil. The ‘Color’ in this case refers to Daredevil’s classic yellow and red suit, as well as the covers using a heavy amount of yellow. The series also employs a different narrative device from The Long Halloween, as the Man Without Fear is shown writing a series of letters to his deceased girlfriend Karen Page. Fans of the Daredevil series on Netflix should check it out, as it shows a different side of Murdock.
Perhaps Sale’s most famous Marvel work is Spider-Man: Blue. The series, much like Daredevil: Yellow, features a hero pining after his long-lost loved one. In this case, it’s Spider-Man reminiscing about the time he met Gwen Stacy, and subsequently falling in love with her. Not only does this series serve as a throwback to the Silver Age of Spider-Man, with Sale putting his own spin on John Romita Jr.‘s designs for the web-slinger’s world, but it also adds new dimension to Gwen as a character. Prior to this, fans only knew her for being Spider-Man’s girlfriend and for being chucked off a bridge by his archenemy the Green Goblin; Here viewers see everything that drew Peter Parker to her – and it adds a new layer of tragedy to her death.
Catwoman: When In Rome
Sale and Loeb returned to their magnum opus with one last miniseries – Catwoman: When In Rome. Taking place in between issues of Batman: Dark Victory, the series has Selina Kyle traveling to Italy to find out if Carmine Falcone is her father. However, she ends up crossing other villains along the way, including her fellow feline-themed felon the Cheetah. Matters aren’t helped by the presence of the Riddler, who douses Selina with Scarecrow’s fear gas in order to learn Batman’s identity. This leads Sale to craft some of his most nightmarish images yet, as the Dark Knight takes the form of a vengeful wraith in Selina’s nightmares. The Batman would also draw story elements from this miniseries, specifically the idea that Falcone is Selina’s father.
“Kryptonite” From Superman: Confidential
One of the few other writers that Sale worked with was the legendary Darwyn Cooke – the mastermind behind DC’s The New Frontier miniseries. Cooke and Sale launched the Superman: Confidential miniseries, which was intended to tell tales set at the beginning of the Man of Steel’s career. Their debut arc “Kryptonite” details the first time that Superman encounters the glowing green rock for the first time. As he did with Superman For All Seasons, Sale brings a humanity to Superman, particularly the first time he finds out the ill effects of Kryptonite. Up to that point, nothing could hurt Superman – so for him to be shaken at the sight of his own blood was a horrifying sight.
Captain America: White
Sale and Loeb would complete their “Color” series at Marvel with the debut of Captain America: White. The series was notorious for its long delays, as well as being impacted by another major Captain America storyline. Similar to Daredevil: Yellow and Spider-Man: BlueSale and Loeb had intended for White to feature Steve Rogers writing a memoir to his supposedly deceased partner Bucky Barnes. However, writer Ed Brubaker would resurrect Barnes as the Winter Soldier in 2005. And even though the series was formally announced in 2008, with a # 0 issue debuting shortly after, it would not be completed until 2015. The wait is worth it, as Sale shook up his art with a mix of charcoal and ink wash which adds a sepia tone to the proceedings. It also makes images such as Captain America punching the Red Skull feel absolutely mythic.