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Ric Estrada, 1928-2009
posted May 4, 2009
 

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Ric Estrada, a skilled artist and illustrator whose comics work graced publications in a variety of genres for publishers such as EC Comics, Warren Publishing and DC Comics, passed away after a long battle with prostrate cancer. He was 81 years old.

Estrada was born in Havana in 1928, making his first professional sale as an illustrator at the age of 13. A relative's friendship with the writer Ernest Hemingway led to the young artist's move to New York in the late 1940s, where he continued his University of Havana education by attending the New York Art Students League and New York University. He also started to work for the city's bustling comics scene, finding work with Better, St. John, Ziff-Davis and Hillman. It was during this time he produced two assignments for the highly-regarded EC Comics group.

A first marriage in Cuba in 1950 indicates there was movement back and forth between New York City and Cuba during this period.

Estrada would eventually a well-traveled artist in addition to an accomplished one. His stops included Jerusalem and West Berlin, Estrada would marry again in 1966. Estrada became a member of the The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 1969, and married for a third time in 1970.

imageBy the time of his third marriage, Estrada had begun another prolific and well-regarded phase in his comics career. He had gone to work for the Warren publication Eerie in 1967 and 1968, and then moved over to working for DC's various top-line war comics, including Our Army At War, Unknown Soldier and Star-Spangled War Stories. His less-celebrated contributions to a DC romance line that was shifting into a steadier diet of reprints were frequently lovely, bouncing back and forth between wall-of-color assaults on the reader's pleasure centers and sturdy, classic figure drawing. Many times, they achieved both effects.

imageWhile he continued to produce comics work in the 1970s and into the 1980s, Estrada found himself something of an odd man out in the increasingly superhero-dominant mainstream comics market. Exceptions would include a brief stint on Wonder Woman and a run on a revival of All-Star with writer Gerry Conway, to which he contributed both art and design work, but he may have been just as well remembered for sturdy runs on books like Welcome Back, Kotter. Among his better, later efforts were runs on slightly offbeat characters from DC's stable such as Richard Dragon and Amethyst. Like many skilled comics practitioners, Estrada would work in animation for several years, contributing to several Hanna-Barbera shows in the 1980s.

One notable side project came in 1980, when Estrada drew a comic style-adaptation of the Book Of Ether for the LDS Church, based on a page filler he had done in the late 1960s that had come to the attention of the Church. It's also believed that Estrada in recent years wrote novels.

Estrada and third wife Loretta lived for several years in Utah. Services will be held this Saturday in Provo.

comics historian Mark Evanier is hosting panel footage of the late artist here

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