Joe Orlando

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Joe Orlando (April 4, 1927—December 23, 1998) was an illustrator, writer, editor and cartoonist. He was the Vice President of DC Comics for many years and also the Associate Publisher of MAD Magazine.


Orlando was born in Bari, Italy in 1927. Arriving in the United States in 1929, he began drawing at an early age, attending art classes at a neighborhood boys' club when he was seven years old. He continued with those classes until he was 14, winning prizes annually in their competitions, including a John Wanamaker bronze medal. In 1941, he began attending the School of Industrial Art (later the High School of Art and Design), where he studied illustration. This school was a breeding ground for a number of comics artists, including Richard Bassford, Frank Giacoia, Larry Hama, Carmine Infantino, Rocke Mastroserio, Alex Toth and future comics letterer Gaspar Saladino. Infantino and Orlando remained close friends for decades. While Orlando was still a student, he drew his first published illustrations, scenes of Mark Twain's The Prince and the Pauper for a high-school textbook.

Upon graduation, the young Orlando entered the U.S. Army and was assigned to the Military Police, doing stockade guard duty, followed by 18 months in Europe. From Le Havre, France, he was sent to Antwerp, Belgium and then to Germany], where he stenciled boxcars and guarded strategic supplies for the occupation forces.

After his 1947 discharge, he returned to New York and began study at the Art Students League on the G. I. Bill of Rights. He entered the comic book field in 1949 when the packager Lloyd Jacquet assigned him to draw for the Catholic-oriented Treasure Chest. This was a "Chuck White" story that paid nine dollars a page for pencils and inks. At the Jacquet Studio he met the artist Tex Blaisdell, and the two teamed later on many projects.

In the early 1950s, he was an assistant to Wally Wood on stories for several publishers, including Fox, Youthful, Avon and EC Comics before becoming a regular staff artist with EC in the summer of 1951. He was earning $25 a page at EC, and shortly after his first EC stories under his own name were published that summer, he married his first wife, Gloria, in September 1951. His contributions to EC's Weird Fantasy earned him a ranking in Entertainment Weekly’s "Sci-Fi Top 100."

After EC, from 1956 to 1959, he drew Classics Illustrated adaptations, including Ben-Hur, A Tale of Two Cities and Rudyard Kipling's Kim. In addition to many contributions to EC's Mad (from 1960 to 1969), Orlando also scripted the Little Orphan Annie comic strip beginning in 1964. He did covers for [Newsweek and New Times, and his work as an illustrator appeared in National Lampoon, children's books and numerous comic books. He also worked in toy design, packaging and advertising. Sales of Harold von Braunhut's Sea Monkeys escalated considerably after Orlando drew a series of unusual advertisements visualizing the creatures' enchanted and peaceful undersea kingdom.

For Warren Publishing's black-and-white horror-comics magazine Creepy, debuting in 1964, Orlando was not only an illustrator but also a story editor on early issues. In 1992, the short-lived live-action television show The Amazing Live Sea Monkeys used character designs originally drawn by Orlando for comic book ads of the Sea Monkeys.

After 16 years of freelancing, he was hired as a DC Comics editor in 1968, handling House of Mystery, Plop! and other titles such as Swamp Thing, The Witching Hour and Weird War Tales, eventually serving as DC's Vice President while guiding the company's Special Projects Department. Orlando had a long working association with the prolific letterer Ben Oda, roughing out display lettering effects which Oda would finish. At DC, during the 1990s, Orlando was pleased to discover that designer-typographer Rick Spanier, working on a Macintosh computer, could create polished Oda-like finishes of Orlando's roughs. These Orlando-Spanier collaborations were printed in DC's Superman Style Guide and other DC style guides.

During the 1980s, Orlando began teaching classes at the School of Visual Arts, continuing as an art instructor there for many years. After the death of Mad publisher William Gaines, Time Warner turned Mad over to DC Comics, and Orlando became the magazine's Associate Publisher in 1992.

In 1988, Orlando pencillled DC Comics' Phantom miniseries. The four issues by Orlando, writer Peter David and inker Dennis Janke were successfull enough to secure an ongoing series by other creators.

After Sy Barry's retirement from the newspaper strip in 1994, Orlando also briefly ghosted on the Sunday strip version of "The Phantom".

Although he retired from DC in 1996, he nevertheless maintained an office at Mad where he worked on Mad cover concepts and other projects for the next two years. At the time of his death in 1998, he was survived by his wife, Karin, and four children, and his family requested donations be made to the Joe Orlando Scholarship Fund at the School of Visual Arts (209 E. 23 Street, New York, NY, 10010-3994). His artwork for EC Comics has been reprinted extensively in recent years by publisher Russ Cochran, and Cochran's reprint of EC's Picto-Fiction line, containing more Orlando illustrations, was published in 2006.

Orlando made an appearance in Alan Moore's Watchmen], as the illustrator of the fictional comic series Tales of the Black Freighter.

Phantom work by Joe Orlando


# Title Writer Artist
1 "The Ghost Who Walks" David Orlando, Janke
2 "Across the Great Divide" David Orlando, Janke
3 "In Over Their Heads" David Orlando, Janke
4 "The Phantom Strikes Back" David Orlando, Janke


External links