November 11, 2008

R.I.P. Jack Kamen

An illustrator from Brooklyn, New York. His first professional job was as an assistant to a sculptor working for the Texas Centennial. He studied sculpture with Agop Agopoff and was a student of Harvey Dunn, George Bridgman and William C. McNulty. When Kamen attended classes at the Art Students League and the Grand Central Art School, he paid for his studies by painting theatrical scenery, decorating fashion mannequins and creating sculptures.

He was beginning a career as an illustrator for Western and detective pulp magazines when he was called into the Army in 1942. After World War II, he started drawing comic books for Fiction House and Iger Associates, eventually getting assignments from EC Comics to illustrate romance comics. He became one of the most prolific EC artists, drawing crime, horror, humor, suspense and science fiction stories, and was known for his drawings of pretty women. Describing Kamen's understated style, EC editor Al Feldstein said, "We gave Kamen those stories where the All-American girl and guy are married, and then chop each other to pieces."[1] After EC's line of comics fell victim to industry censorship in 1954–55, it was Kamen who suggested to the publisher that the company could avoid the newly imposed Comics Code Authority strictures with a pricier magazine format, which Kamen dubbed "Picto-Fiction".[1] However, EC's woes followed the new line of Picto-Fiction titles, including Kamen's favorite, Psychoanalysis. The magazines were underdistributed, and were soon canceled.

After EC, he drew Sunday supplement illustrations and created advertising art for a wide variety of clients: Esquire Shoe Polish, Mack Trucks, Pan American Airlines, Playtex, RCA, Smith Corona and Sylvania. He also drew all the comic book artwork for Stephen King and George A. Romero's 1982 horror anthology film Creepshow, King and Romero's homage to the EC horror comics.[2] Although the bulk of the artwork for the graphic novel adaptation of the film was done by acclaimed macabre artist Berni Wrightson (along with his daughter who did some of the coloring), Jack Kamen illustrated the cover.

Kamen's middle son Dean L. Kamen is the inventor of the Segway and the iBOT Mobility System. His eldest son Barton was Director of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, as well as a Professor of Pediatrics and Pharmacology at UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School and is now the Chief Medical Officer of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Mitch and Terri are twins and the youngest of the four children. Mitch is blessed with Kamen's artistic genes and is a musician in NY and his only daughter Terri is a successful business owner and resides in Palm Beach.

Kamen passed away at his home in Boca Raton on August 5, 2008 from causes related to cancer

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