The comics world lost another legend. Following the tragic deaths of George Perez and Neal Adams, it breaks my heart to report that Tim Sale passed away at age 66. Sale, who frequently collaborated with Jeph Loeb, vaulted to iconic status in the comic industry with Batman: Long Halloween. The story has since become one of the most influential Batman stories of all time, helping to forge several prominent arcs in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy and Matt Reeves' The Batman.
I've spoken before about how modern comic fans tend to heap the lion's share of praise on the writer for "crafting the story" compared to the artist. In the case of the creative relationship between Tim Sale and Jeph Loeb, this practice becomes infinitely more appalling. Like most of Loeb's work, The Long Halloween is anemic on the narrative end, but Sale's gorgeous art vivifies and elevates the book to the stature of a masterpiece.
Sale's exaggerated visual language, command of shadows, and peerless page composition transform Loeb's erratic string of flat notes into a hauntingly beautiful symphony. A handful of artists(Norm Breyfogle, Darwyn Cooke, and Neal Adams, to name a few) have left an indelible mark in the visual shorthand used to accentuate Batman on the comic page, and Sale's name should also be on the top of the list.
In addition to his definitive take on Batman, Sale's work on the Marvel Color series with Loeb is equally stunning. Moreover, the Color series speaks to Sale being the true creative mastermind behind the pairing. By choosing to focus on a specific color and correlating it to a crucial era of a character's history, Sale was able to both homage and enhance stories from Marvel's silver age. He even pulled off one of the most difficult feats imaginable: making Daredevil's yellow suit visually appealing.
Comics are an artist's medium. Writers are obviously an essential element, but without images, a comic ceases to be a comic. However, without words, a comic is still a comic. Few artists prove this theory to be as apt as Tim Sale. If you're looking for a Tim Sale story to read, I recommend Superman: Kryptonite. It's an underrated gem.
Thanks for the decades of beautiful work, Mr. Sale.