Don Heck was born on January 2, 1929 in Queens, New York. The American comic book artist is best known for his work on the Iron Man stories in Tales of Suspense, during which time he co-created Iron Man, Hawkeye and The Black Widow, and his run on The Avengers.
Don Heck started working in comic books when a college friend recommended him for a job at Harvey Comics in 1949. Heck left Harvey within a year to do freelance work for Quality Comics, Hillman Comics, and Toby Press. Heck's first known credited works are for publisher Comic Media in 1952 for the horror comics Weird Terror, Horrific, Terrific and Danger, and the Western Death Valley. Through his Harvey colleague Pete Morisi, Heck met Stan Lee, then Editor-in-Chief and Art Director of Timely Comics, the predecessor of Atlas Comics.
In 1954 Heck joined Atlas Comics. His first credited work for them being a Korean War story called "The Commies Attack!" in Battlefront #29 (Mar. 1955). In addition to war stories Heck also drew Westerns, crime fiction, horror, and jungle stories. In 1955 Heck did assignments for publisher U.S. Pictorial on the one-shot Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion. During a 1957 business restructure Atlas made most of their staff redundant including Don Heck, who spent the next year and half designing model airplanes. After this hiatus Heck returned to Atlas who soon turned into Marvel Comics, drawing his first cover on Tales of Suspense #1 (Jan. 1959).
The Silver Age
During the emergence of The Silver Age of Comics, Heck worked on titles such as Strange Tales, Tales To Astonish, Strange Worlds, World of Fantasy and Journey into Mystery. In addition to these, due to his reputation for drawing women beautifully, Don Heck also worked on a number of romance comics including Love Romances and My Own Romance. Heck would go on to have a long and successful run on Tales of Suspense from issue #1 (Jan. 1959) to issue #46 (Oct. 1963). After a 3 issue break during when Spider-Man writer Steve Ditko took over, Heck returned from issue #50 (Feb. 1964) and continued through issue #72 (Dec. 1965). Heck concurrently inked his own pencils for a number of years.
His two stints on Tale of Suspense are possibly the most memorable parts of the career of Don Heck. During these runs he went on to co-create a number of now legendary characters. In Tales of Suspense #39 (Mar. 1963), in collaboration with writer/editor Stan Lee, writer Larry Lieber and penciler Jack Kirby, Heck co-created Iron Man. For a number of years the creation of Iron Man was mistakenly credited solely to Jack Kirby as he drew most of Marvel’s superhero covers at the time. Comic historian and former Kirby assistant Mark Evanier investigated these claims and concluded Kirby did not do full breakdowns as has been reported. Although he came up with the initial look of Iron Man's armour. Heck however was responsible for creating the look of Tony Stark. Don Heck also went on to co-create Tony Stark’s assistants and close friends Pepper Potts and Happy Hogan (Tales of Suspense #45, Sep. 1964).
In Tales of Suspense #52 (Apr. 1964), again in collaboration with Lee, Lieber and Kirby, Don Heck co-created the femme fatale Communist spy and future Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. The Black Widow. In Tales of Suspense #57 (Sep. 1964), with the same creative team minus Jack Kirby, Heck co-created Hawkeye the Marksman. Although initially depicted as a villain, Hawkeye would of course go on to become a long term member of The Avengers. Another notable co-creation of Don Heck and Stan Lee is the infamous super villain and Iron Man's arch-foe, The Mandarin (Tales of Suspense #72, Dec. 1965).
Heck took over as penciler on The Avengers from issue #9 (Oct. 1964), in which he co-created Wonder Man. He went on to become one of the series’ most celebrated artists during the Silver Age of Comics.
In the 1970’s Don Heck Moved to DC Comics where he co-created Steel, the Indestructible Man with writer Gerry Conway. He also worked on a number of other famous DC titles such as Wonder Woman, The Flash and The Justice League of America. In addition to his work for DC, Heck penciled three issues of H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu for Millennium Publications.
Characters created by Don Heck