That’s it. That’s all you need to know. “Joe Orlando, Artist.”

Comics throws the word “legend” around an awful lot, but Joe (April 4, 1927 – December 23, 1998) is the real deal. A Wally Wood assistant who was soon drawing for William C. Gaines’ fabled EC Comics (including the landmark “Judgment Day” in Weird Fantasy #18, April 1953), Joe went on to work for MAD Magazine, was a founding artist and editor for Jim Warren’s Creepy and Eerie magazines, scripter of newspaper strips, an editor/writer/artist/executive for DC Comics, and associate publisher of MAD. And the artist of one of my Phantom Stranger back-up stories.

I had the pleasure of working for and with Joe many times. He was my direct report in 1982 when I was on staff at DC Comics doing public relations, and I would write several projects for him over the years as my editor, including the Superman syndicated newspaper strip, a Super Powers miniseries, and some custom comics jobs.

And working with Joe was a pleasure because Joe was, to put it bluntly, evil. But evil in a good way. He had a wicked, pointed sense of humor, and I recall several plotting sessions that took way longer than they should because we were too busy laughing. And it was usually Joe who started it. Like the time when Joe kept sending an assistant off to do and redo some ridiculous little art correction over and over again; the more pissed the assistant got, the harder Joe laughed after the guy left his office. Joe had an infectious giggle, and in spite of myself, soon I was laughing at the poor guy too.

Finally I asked him, “Why are you busting the guy’s balls?” And between giggles, Joe said, “I want to see how long it takes him to tell me to go fuck myself!”

From Action Comics Weekly #617 (July 26, 1988), the Phantom Stranger in “Channel Switching,” written by me, penciled by Joe Orlando, inked and lettered by Fred Carrillo, colored by Petra Scotese, and edited by Renee Witterstaetter.

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