Nick Cardy: The Artist at War
Writer: Nick Cardy and Renee Witterstaetter
Artist: Nick Cardy
Cover Colors: Nick Cardy
Publisher: Titan Books & Little Eva Ink
Nick Cardy was born Nicholas Viscardi in 1920, and grew up in New York City. Cardy has been working as a comic book artist, painter, illustrator, doing magazine advertisements, and even movie posters since he was 18-years-old, and is still drawing to this day. Primarily self taught, as most didn’t have the luxury of going to major art schools or universities when growing up during The Great Depression, Nick Cardy attended The Art Students League of New York before going to work for Will Eisner, creator of The Spirit.
On April 1st 1943, Nick Cardy was drafted into the US Army, and due to a lucky turn of events was eventually given a position as an Assistant Tank Driver going through Europe. A lot of soldiers documented their time during the war through journals and photos. Nick Cardy did the same, but being an artist he also took tons of note pads with him to draw, sketch, and paint his experiences in the Army during World War II. This book, Nick Cardy: The Artist at War, is a collection of his memoirs, drawings, paintings, and photos, offering a unique way to tell the story of what happened, to tell the story through the eyes of an artist, not just the lens of a camera.
This book is absolutely wonderful! It’s more than just pictures, though the pictures contained within are each truly worth a thousand words. Cardy accompanies each picture with information detailing the scene and telling stories of his life as a soldier from training at Boot Camp, to the fight overseas, and detailing a bit of his life after the war.
He recalls that after getting transferred, his former Division, the 66th Infantry, was on a ship that got torpedoed by Germans off the coast of France. He tells a brief story about how one day, stopping to relieve himself in a bombed out building, he looked to his side, surprised to see a German soldier doing the same thing. The two hadn’t heard each other and were both shocked to encounter an enemy soldier so close and both urinating in a ruined room. They both acknowledge each other in shock and quickly run away, not wanting to attack, just wanting to get out of that situation as quickly as possible. The whole book is like that, an interesting selection of tales that are at times dark and serious as well as lighthearted and charming.
You also get insights to his views as both soldier and artist. For example, because fresh water was such a precious commodity in the field, he couldn’t waste it on inks and water-colors, so he talks about using his own spit to shade certain pictures. He also provides his views on the war with statements like:
“I remember one time this fellow was shot and he wanted a chaplain, but they didn’t have one, so a rabbi came over and gave him services. It made me feel good, because everyone who is religious goes on the same road. If we’d all come together somehow, there’d be no fighting.”
“There’s a lot of things that you think about after living through something like this. Sometimes you think that if we took all the damn people who start the wars, put them in a room, with guns, and let them shoot it out for themselves, y’know. It might be better for the rest of us.”
The artwork offered within the pages of this book ranges from the roughest of sketches, to fully detailed illustrations and portraits, to finalized watercolor paintings, and each picture tells a story.
Nick Cardy is a renowned artist, working for Will Eisner before the war, and for DC Comics from 1950 to 1975, drawing both covers and interiors for Aquaman, Teen Titans, Brave and the Bold, Batman, Superman, and Flash. He was awarded two Purple Hearts for wounds suffered during his time in the military. In 2005, he was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame. All in all, he’s led a rather interesting life, some of which is covered in great detail within the pages of this book. It’s all rather moving and quite compelling through and through. Nick Cardy: The Artist at War is well worth a read and look, so do yourself a favor and pick this up right away!