Written by: Nick Cardy and Renee Witterstaeter
Illustrated by: Nick Cardy
Published by: Titan Books
Reviewed by: Kristian Horn
I’ll admit that before picking up this book I had never heard the name Nick Cardy. I don’t know why I’d never heard of him, he’s apparently an extremely well renowned illustrator, designer, and comic book artist. He was one of DC Comics’ top illustrators, responsible for rendering possibly hundreds of covers as well as drawing the early issues of the‘60’s Aquaman and Teen Titans comic books. After leaving comics he continued to make his mark in commercial illustration for advertising. I can’t possibly go into all of Mr. Cardy’s achievements here so I’ll just recommend that you check out his portfolio of work at his website www.nickcardy.com. Just one quick view of that site as well as his Wikipedia entry will let you know that Mr. Cardy was a major player in the DC Comics circuit as well as someone who earned his reputation as a respected illustrator.
In Nick Cardy: The Artist at War we get to see some of Cardy’s impressive sketchbook and watercolor work from the time he spent overseas in the military during World War II. While this book may not necessarily serve his comic geek fanbase it certainly is a fantastic peek at the workings of a master craftsman’s sketch diary during what must have been one of the most interesting times of his life. The Artist at War is filled with pages and pages of beautiful drawings and color washes of a world that only exists for most of us in the romanticized rearview mirror of history. While many of us see WWII as “The Last Good War” it was obviously still a war and Nick Cardy’s book gives us a bit of a glimpse of the daily life of a G.I. refracted through the lens of his art. You’re not going to get something you’d expect to see out of an old EC war comic in this book. What you will get is a book that captures life as it happened. Cardy’s art evokes all of the emotion of the moment he is in and brings to the forefront the reality of war…that it’s not just one big action movie. What he shows us is the daily life of being in WWII and that doesn’t necessarily entail planes bombing you every moment and snipers shooting at you every minute of every day. Cardy makes sublime use of the everyday in his war sketchbooks and manages to bring home the fact that, yes, this war was real.
Cardy’s art is all the more impressive considering the environment it was created in. For someone to keep a sketch journal like this during a time when most of their thoughts must have been centered on just staying alive is a resounding achievement. If anything, Nick Cardy: The Artist at War reinforces the importance of any artist keeping a sketch journal. As someone who is a bit of an artist himself I’ve often found myself guilty of not carrying a sketch journal with me or of not drawing as much as I should. The Artist at War serves as a powerful reminder that artists should attempt at all times to capture the life outside their window whenever they can. I think that this book is an important work if only because it displays a conviction to staying connected to one’s own art even in the harshest of circumstances.
While Nick Cardy: The Artist at War may not necessarily be the sort of thing that comic book fanboys might be dying to read I think it would be a great book for anyone interested in the history of World War II or anyone interested in illustration as a profession or a hobby. It’s a solid look at one man’s journey through a challenging time not only in the history of our country but of his own life. It’s because of this that The Artist at War reaches the importance that only few “artbooks” are able to archive.