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DC Says Goodbye to Don
Last Updated December 22, 1998

To see a larger version of any artwork on these pages, click on the picture

I think one of the real indications of what kind of man Don Newton was, is the classy way in which DC Comics said goodbye to him. Over the years a lot of artists and writers have passed away, but I really don't remember a comic company making a big deal out of it... until Don died. The usual tribute was a small mention on the letters page of a book and that was done for Don by Roy Thomas in Infinity Inc. But what I don't recall ever seeing before was anything comparable to the full page "Meanwhile..." column that appeared in DC Comics in the months following Don's death. It is a true tribute to the man by Editorial Director Dick Giordano and Editorial Coordinator Pat Bastienne.

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Illustration by Don that accompanied his obituary in DC Comics.

Don Newton died on August 19, 1984, four days after suffering a massive heart attack. Although his work was known by everyone in the business, along with most others, I never got to know Don Newton very well. He lived and worked in his home in Arizona and hated big cities, so he didn't like coming to New York very much, although we invited him several times. I met him just twice, The first time was at the 1982 San Diego comic convention... the second time in 1983 at the same place. I met his son and his friend John Clarke there, too. Those were the only two times I had an opportunity to touch Don Newton, the man.

Don Newton, the artist, is another story, though. I consider myself fortunate and privileged to have been in a position to be able to work with this extremely talented and professional artist in the four years that I've been back at DC Comics. His penciled pages were, in and of themselves, works of art. They were complete when they left his drawing table. One did not have to visualize the finished inked page... everything you (and the inker) needed to know was there. Don lived far enough away from where most of the action is not to want to take chances with the skill level of the people who finished up his work, so he intimidated all with the wizardry of his skill, rendering all elements in his drawing completely. I also suspect he felt that since he couldn't see the finished page until it was printed, he needed to have his artistic needs satisfied before the page left his hands. When Don's work arrived at the office, it was an event. We crowded around to have a look and to marvel at the talent. He never disappointed.

As an inker (in my spare time), I lusted after inking his pencils and consider myself fortunate to have been able to ink a handful of his Batman stories and covers. (He became identified with the Batman character, though his real love was the big red cheese from Shazam!) He always enjoyed drawing Captain Marvel. Shazam was the first regular series he drew for us and would have been an upcoming mini-series (with Roy Thomas) had he lived. As a matter of fact, meeting with Roy and myself to okay that mini-series concept was the reason, maybe the only reason, Don came to the 1983 San Diego convention I mentioned earlier.

Don was a true professional. He made his deadlines, was completely absorbed in his work, never complained or made excuses, and didn't spend a lot of time on the phone either to the office or to his fellow professionals. When he had to, he phoned. Otherwise, he preferred to spend his time drawing. To my mind, Don's final statement was the Green Lantern Corps story he penciled and inked that appeared in Green Lantern #181. he showed us how to do it right.

All Don ever wanted was to be a cartoonist. He did it well. I wish he could have done it longer. Good-bye, Don. We'll all miss you.

-Dick Giordano

In my capacity as Editorial Coordinator, I became very well acquainted with Don Newton the past few years via the telephone. We had many a conversation about the Batman pencils he did so well and his ideas and thoughts on other projects. Just recently he professed a desire to change books, having felt burned out on Batman and eager to try something new but not wishing to offend anyone involved. His move to INFINITY, INC. game him the chance to express his penciling style in other ways. He was looking forward to a long run on the book. One of the last times I spoke to Don, he was enjoying the challenge and, having recently finished a GREEN LANTERN, was feeling quite content with himself.

The comic book industry will greatly miss Don Newton the artist, but for those who knew and loved him as I did, there will be no greater personal loss.

-Pat Bastienne

And from the letters page of Infinity, Inc. #11 which contained Don's first art for the series:

This isn't going to be an easy announcement to write.

As many of you know, Don Newton was scheduled to become the new regular penciler on INFINITY, INC.

He and I had been working together over the past year or so on various projects: a never-realized SHAZAM! mini-series (featuring a new addition to the illustrious ranks of the Marvel Family), then a fill-in issue of INFINITY which led, when he expressed a belief that it was time to move on from his beloved BATMAN to a newer title, to his being chosen as the penciler-in-residence on this book.

Then, tragedy struck.

Fuller details, perhaps, will be recounted elsewhere. Suffice it to say that, after a strange recent bout of illness which had laid him low and slowed (though not stilled) his output, Don suffered a heart attack on the evening of August 15, 1984. Though the speedy action of paramedics and the intensive-care apparatus of a Phoenix, Arizona hospital kept him alive for a few more days, he passed away on August 19. He was a very young 49 years old, and is survived by his mother and a teenage son, Tony, who lived with him in Mesa, Arizona.

I didn't know Don well. We had corresponded a few times over the years since we had both come out of fandom, and had long had a desire to work together. In addition to his recent BATMAN work, he had completed the fill-in issue (which will be used as INFINITY #13, two months from now), the five framing pages of this issue, and the first three pages of INFINITY #12, which will be inked by his long-time friend Joe Rubinstien and lead into a story completed by recent "Huntress" artist Tim Burgard and inker Tony DeZuniga.

As I type these words, I'm looking at those first three pages of INFINITY #12, the last Don ever drew; they were sent to me by his mother during those fateful days when Don lay in a coma in the hospital.

They're beautiful pages, but that's beside the point.

What strikes me, looking at them, is that, even though they were penciled at a time when severe illness had strained his heart and caused him to lose an alarming amount of weight, they are full of life--as good in their own way as those of #13 or anything Don had ever drawn.

The loss to comics is a grievous one, of course, even for those who knew him only by his work.

It is a far greater one for those of us who knew and liked him personally.

He will be missed.

Hell, he is already.

-Roy Thomas

P.S.: A special thanks to original INFINITY penciler Jerry Ordway for stepping in at the last moment and drawing this issue's cover, from a design by Don and Ed Hannigan.

And from the letters page of Infinity, Inc. #13 which contained Don's last work came this:

SPECIAL NOTE: This issue's 23-page story is, alas, the only full-length story penciler Don Newton had completed by the time of his tragic death last last summer. Inker Joe Rubinstein, on of Don's favorite and a longtime corespondent and friend, volunteered to ink this special issue, and Marvel Comics was kind enough to release him from his Spider-Man-related tasks for a month to do so. Letterer John Clark, a close friend and fellow Phoenix(Arizona)-dweller, also wished to be involved. From start to finish, this has been a labor of love and tribute for all involved--in addition to being, perhaps, one of Don's finest art jobs and a harbinger of what he and I had in mind for the future of INFINITY, INC.

Now, however, it's time to look to the magazine's future -- and, until we've settled on a regular penciler, we've asked relative newcomer, Todd McFarlane, to pencil a couple of issues. Todd's done beautiful work with Steve Engleheart on back-up features in Coyote for Marvel/Epic, and we're proud to have him aboard. A pulsating preview of his work, as inked by embellisher-in-residence Tony DeZuniga, accompanies this letters page, just to show you what's in store for you next month.

Each of these artist, and I myself, want to do the kind of job on INFINITY, INC. which we feel Don would have done. He was one of the good guys.

-Roy Thomas

Copyright 1998-2019 The Art of Don Newton
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