Tim Sale Biography (1956-)
Comic books offer unusual opportunities for collaboration, and artist Tim Sale has paired with writer Jeph Loeb on numerous single issue comics and longer graphic novels featuring Batman, Superman, Grendel, Daredevil, Catwoman, and the Hulk. Sale is the artist for these efforts, and—amazingly—he is colorblind. His work features dramatic use of light and shadow, and he has challenged the traditional conceptions of Batman and Superman—and their villainous adversaries—in such longer works as Batman: The Long Halloween and Superman for All Seasons. Loeb's stories allow for maximum impact of the artwork, and so Sale has earned a wide following for his sometimes unique take on superheroes.
Born in New York, Sale grew up reading Marvel Comics, an irony since the vast majority of his work is for rival publisher DC Comics. He studied art in college in the Pacific Northwest, and he took a brief course on comic book art with John Buscema in New York. Sale took his time becoming deeply involved in the business. For some years he drew his art privately, only to please himself. When he found himself working at a fast-food taco stand in his late twenties, however, he decided to try to sell some work. This led to an association with Thieves' World Graphics, a fantasy anthology series, where he illustrated stories by Lynn Abbey and Robert Lynn Asprin. Sale's association with Loeb began in 1991, when they were asked to contribute to a DC Comics series called Challengers of the Unknown. They have been working for DC, and occasionally Marvel, ever since.
Sale became famous in comics circles for his contributions to the Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight series. Sale's Batman is "dark, angry, brooding, and frightening," to quote the artist himself on the Long Halloween Web site. Sale makes particular use of Batman's long, pointy ears and his eerie, flowing cape to suggest the hero's mystery and deep-seated anger. Even dressed in his street clothes, Sale's Bruce Wayne exudes an oldfashioned, black-and-white film star coolness, beginning with his baggy, boxy suits and ending with his trademark scowl. Sale has also become known for his creative depictions of Gotham City, in his Batman work, and Smallville in his Superman novel. "Sale's work has a haunted quality," observed Bill Jankiewicz on the Long Halloween Web site. "His crowded, sprawling comic-book worlds are full of pale, emaciated people who look like they wandered out of an Edward Gorey painting to live in buildings from a Fritz Lang movie." To quote Yannick Belzil on the 11th Hour Web Magazine site, Sale "illustrates . . . marvelously. His pages, character designs, settings, and backgrounds all have one thing that makes him one of the best artists today: character. . . . His dark version of Gotham looks like no other city in comics."
One of the best known of Sale's and Loeb's collaborations is Batman: The Long Halloween. Published as a graphic novel, the story originated as thirteen comic books that came out once each month. The ongoing story pitted Batman against a new enemy, an anonymous murderer known only as "Holiday." In each month's comic book, "Holiday" killed someone on the best known holiday of that month. All thirteen issues, plus some supplemental material, appear in The Long Halloween. In his Ninth Art Web site review, John Connors wrote: "The art in The Long Halloween is nothing short of stunning. The book can be a quick read, largely due to Sale's liberal use of big panels and splash pages. Where for other artists the use of these big, show-offy images might be gratuitous, Sale wields the technique without a misstep." Connors characterized The Long Halloween as "a beautiful book, supreme in its quality of detail and sense of pacing."
Both The Long Halloween and Superman for All Seasons are what is known as "Year One" comics. These works take their heroes back in time to their earliest days as crime fighters, when they are first coming to know the various villains and loved ones that will be featured in their stories through the decades. This is particularly true of Superman for All Seasons, set in Smallville, where Clark Kent is a high school farm boy—even slightly chubby—becoming acquainted with his special powers and his need to keep them secret. Readers meet Clark's father, his high school girlfriend Lana Lang, his soon-to-be nemesis Lex Luthor, and—when Clark ventures to the big city—Lois Lane. "The story of how this alien boy grew up to be a great American hero is brilliantly shown in Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale's Superman for All Seasons," declared Jason Sacks on the Once Upon a Dime Web site. Sacks found Sale's depiction of the teenaged Clark Kent "all awkward size and power, . . . wonderful and resonant." The critic concluded that the graphic novel "is a master collaboration between two thoughtful and insightful creators at the top of their game. . . . Don't miss it." On the Silver Bullet Comic Books Web site, Craig Lemon concluded that Superman for All Seasons is "head and shoulders above any Superman comic of the last ten years."
Speaking about his ongoing collaboration with Loeb, Sale told the Comicon Web site: "It was a long and often frustrating process to get to the very easy working relationship Jeph and I have now, but from the beginning we shared many of the same comics and pop cultural influences and had a fun and challenging rapport. Jeph is very smart and very funny and very different from me in many ways, and that somehow all clicks. We're good buddies. He is interested in writing stories that allow whoever is drawing them to shine, and almost unique in the field, actually can write to their strengths." Sale enjoys greeting fans at comic conventions, and the Long Halloween Web site includes his step-by-step instructions on how to draw Batman.
Biographical and Critical Sources
11th Hour Web Magazine http://www.the11thhour.com/archives/ (June, 2000), Yannick Belzil, review of Batman: The Long Halloween.
Comicon, http://www.comicon.com/ (November 17, 2003), Jennifer M. Contino, interview with Sale.
DC Comics, http://www.dccomics.com/ (August 19, 2003), synopses of comic books, including Superman for All Seasons.
Long Halloween, http://thelonghalloween.vacuumboy9.com/ (June 2, 2004), interviews with Sale, information on drawing Batman, and reviews of The Long Halloween.
Ninth Art, http://www.ninthart.com/ (August 19, 2003), John Connors, review of Batman: The Long Halloween.
Once Upon a Dime, http://www.onceuponadime.com/reviews/allseasons.htm/ (August 19, 2003), Jason Sacks, "Not-So-Strange Visitor."
Rambles: A Cultural Arts Magazine, http://www.rambles.net/superman_4seasons.html/ (August 19, 2003), Tom Knapp, review of Superman for All Seasons.
Silver Bullet Comic Books, http://www.silverbulletcomicbooks.com/reviews/ (August 19, 2003), Craig Lemon, review of Superman for All Seasons.
Tim Sale Tribute, http://www.geocities.com/deforgeo_thinking/bios.html/ (August 19, 2003), brief biography of Sale.*