I wouldn't be drawing comics if not for Tim Sale
Tim is gone.
I postponed writing this every day since his passing because I did not want to face the thought of never seeing him again.
I emailed Tim about a month ago and never heard back, which was highly unusual for him. He would always answer and would check in regularly. Simply because he was genuinely interested in other people’s lives. He wanted to know how you were doing and what you were up to. Curious and excited, always. Never a bad word about anyone. Encouraging, generous and kind.
Tim was one of the first artists whose art made my jaw drop. I believe it was around 2012 when my partner put The Long Halloween in front of my eyes. I was just starting reading comics by then and was not at all into superheroes. My introduction to comics had been Watchmen and I was looking for that sort of out-of-the-box, provocative storytelling. I opened it and my jaw dropped. Not out of adoration, as I’d like to remember. I thought « wow, that style is WEIRD ».
Little did I know back then that you only get that type of response less than half a dozen times in a reader’s lifetime. It’s fucking hard to do different. And an artist that combines different and masterful? They’re the rarest of breeds.
Drawing courses don’t buy you a voice. I don’t even think experience does. Experience can help unearth or refine what you’ve already got in you, sure (look at Mignola’s artistic evolution!). I think that may be why artists like Tim Sale get so much deference from other creators: we’re endlessly puzzled at the magic that comes out of their minds, their hands.
Quickly after The Long Halloween (by then my initial gut reaction had been replaced by nothing short of an obsession), I delved into everything else Tim and Loeb had done. Catwoman When In Rome, Superman for All Seasons, Dark Victory…I bought and devoured them all. That was before I was even considering becoming an artist myself but I already felt this urge to recreate for myself the feeling of his lines, if that makes sense. So I redraw the big Joker spread from Long Halloween, when he’s standing in front of the chimney.
I don’t have it anymore, sadly, but this was probably my first official piece. I inked it and color-penciled it. I didn’t put it into words at the time, but looking back, I think it was my mind’s attempt at telling me that my heart lay in that space between cartoony and dark. In that sense, I really believe that Tim’s work shaped my entire art.
I met Tim about 4 years after that redraw. He was at a show in Paris, my first creator-owned book, The Infinite Loop, was coming out in the US and Pierrick (co-creator of the series) and I dreamed of a cover by him. I was extremely anxious at the idea of him rejecting us. When you’re just starting out and your confidence in yourself and your comic is really, really low, that big NO from your favorite artist can truly kill you. Your spirit, at least. I approached him while he was signing, clumsily introduced myself (he was all smiles) showed our first issue (he flipped through it, said he liked the art!) and almost offered to do a cover before I could finish asking. He knew where I was going and was kind enough to help me not embarrass myself too badly.
That was Tim. Always a cheerleader. And that’s the beautiful cover he ended up drawing.
I saw Tim maybe a dozen times total since I first met him in Paris but our conversations always had a big impact on me and I already miss them dearly.
I already miss him.
If you’re so inclined, I would love to hear about your Tim Sale favorite stories. Either meeting him at shows, reading his work, anything that had an impact on you.