I was saddened by the news of cartoonist Irwin Hasen’s passing at the age of 96 today. He was best known for co-creating (with Don Edson) the newspaper comic strip Dondi which ran from 1955 to 1986, and for his work on characters like The Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and The Flash during the Golden Age of comic books. Well into his 90’s he was a fixture at the New York based comic conventions, sketching for fans and sharing stories about his career. Back in September 2014 Irwin was honored at the Society of Illustrators with a screening of a documentary on his life and career, Irwin: A New York Story by director Dan Makara, and in October 2014 he received an Eisner Award at the New York Comic Con.
The first comic con I ever attended was the 2004 Big Apple Con in New York. Before the show, I had looked up the guest list and put together a list of sketches and autographs I hoped to acquire. When I had looked up Irwin’s body of work, I knew that I had to get a sketch of the Golden Age Green Lantern from the artist that drew him back in the 40’s. Of my entire collection of art over the last decade, Irwin’s drawing of Alan Scott was the first I had ever acquired, and the memory of that moment still stands out.
He was sitting at his table covered with prints of his drawings of Wildcat (which he co-created with writer Bill Finger), The Flash and Wonder Woman. I asked if he was sketching that day and he said “Sure! What character do you want?” and quoted his price for a pencil and inked black and white sketch, and the price for one with color. I requested a black and white drawing of Alan Scott as the Green Lantern and he began drawing him in a classic Golden Age pose, marching forward with his power ring leading the way.
I’ve always been a fan of comic book art, and this convention was the first time I was able to see artists in action drawing their characters, so I was fascinated by the process. Irwin finished the drawing and looked up to see me smiling like a kid at my first convention sketch. He paused for a second, smiled, and broke out his markers to color it. I was about to pay the extra amount for the color, but he waved his hand as if to say “Nah, the color’s on me.” That’s still my favorite comic con memory.