Remembering Tom Palmer, 1941-2022
Marvel legend and comics artist Tom Palmer passed away earlier this month at the age of 81. In addition to being one of the finest inkers to ever have a place in the comic book industry, he was one of the most prolific inkers in Marvel’s history, with a career that spanned from 1968 to 2020. His inks stood out with powerful and dynamic lines that embellished penciled images with stunning clarity.
Born on July 13, 1941 in Queens, New York, Palmer cited Wally Wood, Al Williamson, Frank Frazetta, and Jack Davis as his comic book influences prior to breaking into the industry. In the ’60s, Palmer studied at Frank Reilly’s Art School before former EC Comics artist Jack Kamen mentored him and introduced him to Wood. After penciling a “Jungle Jim” story for Wood, Palmer landed a background inking job at DC Comics.
Palmer’s five-decade journey at Marvel began in 1968 when he was hired to illustrate DOCTOR STRANGE (1968) #171. Palmer remained with the series as the inker on the next issue when Gene Colan took over the art duties on the book. Their styles meshed so well that Palmer remained with Colan on DOCTOR STRANGE before continuing their collaboration on DAREDEVIL (1964) and TOMB OF DRACULA (1972).
In 1969, Palmer joined artist Neal Adams and writer Roy Thomas on X-MEN (1963) with issue #56, the beginning of an eight-issue run that breathed new life into the mutant heroes. From there, Palmer jumped to AVENGERS (1963) starting on issue #74, where he was paired with John Buscema, another artist he worked with frequently in the subsequent decades.
Palmer was reunited with Adams in AVENGERS (1963) #93 for “The Kree-Skrull War.” Their dazzling pages gave Earth’s Mightiest Heroes an even greater sense of drama and pathos as they faced two warring galactic empires. Many of Palmer and Adams’ pages from this storyline remain iconic to this day, including Hank Pym’s journey through the Vision’s body and Triton’s desperate attempt to find help for his fellow Inhumans.
During the ’80s, Palmer joined Marvel’s original STAR WARS (1977) comic book series as an inker and occasionally as a penciler and a colorist. He also painted several covers for the series as well. Later in the decade, Palmer reunited with Buscema for another epic AVENGERS run, which included the unforgettable “Under Siege” storyline. From there, Palmer was the most frequent AVENGERS inker throughout the series’ original 402 issues.
In 1999, Palmer returned to Marvel’s mutant heroes in X-MEN: THE HIDDEN YEARS (1999) alongside writer and artist John Byrne. The stories in this series bridged the gap between Palmer’s time with Adams on the original book and the All-New, All-Different X-Men era that made Byrne an industry superstar.
Palmer remained a go-to inker for Marvel over the next decade. In 2008, Palmer teamed with artist John Romita Jr. and writer Mark Millar for KICK-ASS (2008) through Marvel’s creator-owned imprint, Icon. Romita and Palmer also contributed an animated comic book sequence in the subsequent Kick-Ass movie, which depicted the origin of fan-favorite characters Hit-Girl and Big Daddy.
Palmer continued to contribute his inks to such projects as AGE OF ULTRON (2013), GUARDIANS OF INFINITY (2015), and EXTRAORDINARY X-MEN (2015). His final Marvel book was IMMORTAL HULK (2018) #34, which was published in 2020.
But even among his incredible body of work, Palmer’s greatest contribution to Marvel may be the guidance and warmth he offered to his collaborators within the company. He was a mentor to some, and a friend to all. Marvel sends our hearts and condolences to Palmer’s family, friends, and fans all over the world. He was truly a legendary figure in Marvel’s history, and he will never be forgotten.