Comic Art Friday: RIP, Al Rio (1962-2012)

Superman and Supergirl, pencils by Al Rio, inks by Bob Almond

I was shocked and saddened on Tuesday morning — as were many of my fellow comics fans and comic art aficionados — to receive the news that artist and former Disney animator Al Rio had passed away in his native Brazil, the result of an apparent suicide.

Wonder Woman, pencils by Al Rio, inks by Geof Isherwood

Those of you who have followed Comic Art Fridays over the years know how greatly I appreciated Al Rio’s art. He is among the most well-represented artists in my collection; I own 15 of his original works — six of which I commissioned personally, plus several I’ve had inked by other artists. I’ve also enjoyed receiving the lovely postcards Al made available to his fans every holiday season. Al’s art representative, Terry Maltos, has always been one of my favorite vendors with whom to transact business. More than once, Terry has given me a price break on a purchase, or thrown in a little something extra in gratitude for my frequent custom.

Elektra, pencils by Al Rio, inks by Geof Isherwood

Al first came to prominence when he followed J. Scott Campbell as the regular artist on Wildstorm’s Gen13 and DV8. Although many people saw him as a Campbell clone, particularly in his early comics projects, his style continued to evolve. He worked on a variety of series for both of the major comics publishers and numerous second-tier labels — everything from Spider-Man and Captain America to Grimm Fairy Tales.

Mary Marvel, pencils by Al Rio, inks by Bob McLeod

As you can see from the pieces I’ve chosen for this memorial post, Al drew some of the most beautiful women in comics. Because of this, he was sometimes dismissed as “just a cheesecake artist.” That’s a bit like saying that Michelangelo, Titian, and Rubens weren’t great artists because they painted a lot of naked people. Without question, Al knew his way around the feminine form, but he could also draw heroes and backgrounds with the best in the business, and his sequential work shows that beyond his pinup talents, he was a brilliant storyteller. I was especially fond of his work on Marvel’s Heroes for Hire and White Tiger a couple of years back.

Batman and Catwoman, pencils by Al Rio, inks by Geof Isherwood

Since I didn’t know Al personally, I can’t really say much about him in that regard. I’ve always heard  him described as a nice man who extended extraordinary kindness to his fans and to other artists, and who frequently donated art in support of charitable causes. In fact, his Superman and Supergirl piece — seen at the top of this post — began as a preliminary sketch for a drawing Al created in support of victims of the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

Wanda, the Scarlet Witch, pencils by comics artist Al Rio

You can see my entire gallery of Al Rio’s art by following this link. Please go take a look at the beauty and dynamic range of this talented creator’s gifts.

Spider-Man and Mary Jane, pencils by Al Rio, inks by Bob Almond

Al Rio was 49 years old. He leaves behind a wife, three children, countless friends, and a legion of fans who admired his unique abilities.

Supergirl, pencils by Al Rio, inks by Joe Rubinstein

And that, sadly, is your Comic Art Friday.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Comic Art Friday, Dead People Got No Reason to Live, Reminiscing, Ripped From the Headlines, SwanStuff, That's Cool!

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