Cult Faction is sad to report that comic book legend Paul Ryan has passed away at the age of 66 years old. The sad news was broken by his cousin Chad Callanan on Facebook:
It is with sad news I report the passing of my cousin Paul. Chances are you were touched by him in your lifetime as he was the cartoonist for some of the most well known and beloved characters in the world. From Spider-Man, Thor, Iron Man, The Phantom to the Fantastic Four, most of which made it to the big screen and Hollywood. He was a true giant and artist, who achieved more success in his short life than any one of us would ever know in ten lifetimes. But he was also my friend and that was good enough.
Ryan was born on September 23rd 1949 in Massachusetts and went on to graduate with a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Graphic Design in 1971 from the Massachusetts College of Art.
Following his graduation he enlisted in the United States National Guard and was assigned to Fort Dix, New Jersey for Basic Training and AIT (Advanced Individual Training) in automotive mechanics. He later attended Massachusetts Military Academy in Wakefield, Massachusetts for officer training. During this period Ryan landed a job in the Graphics Department of Metcalf & Eddy Engineering in Boston, where he worked for 11 years.
In 1961, Ryan became a big fan of the Fantastic Four of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, having “bought the first issue at the tender age of 11.” He has acknowledged that even as a youth he studied the work of Hal Foster, Sy Barry, Dan Barry, and Mac Raboy, adding “I’m pretty much influenced by anybody whose work I admire.”
Ryan’s world was about to change in 1983 and bring him one step closer to his dream when in response to a general “open audition” offer from Charlton Comics, Ryan was finally prompted to write and draw his first comics story, which he titled BREED. Charlton had recently instituted a program whereby they would publish the best of the work submitted by aspiring comic book artists in Charlton Bullseye. Payment would be in the form of 50 contributor copies of the printed piece. The artist would then have published work to show Marvel Comics or DC Comics in the hopes of landing a job with the “Big Two.” Charlton accepted Ryan’s story, but the title was cancelled before BREED saw print.
The remaining stories from Bullseye ended up in the hands of Bill Black of Americomics in Florida, and Black published BREED in Starmasters #1 (March 1984). This brought Ryan to the attention of comic book stores in the Boston area.
As fate would have it, Marvel artist, Bob Layton, moved to Boston and needed an assistant, the employees at these stores recommended Paul Ryan to Layton. Ryan worked for Layton for a year doing his backgrounds, and through him met the editors and staff at Marvel. By this time Ryan, having taken a circuitous route toward a career in comic art, was in his early 30’s.
Soon, Ryan was getting assignments of his own, starting with inking The Thing #27 (Sept. 1985) and then moving on to penciling Iron Man, Squadron Supreme, The Eternals, and a Thor graphic novel.
In 1986, writer Mark Gruenwald and Ryan co-created D.P. 7 for Marvel’s New Universe imprint. Also Ryan drew the comic milestone known as The Amazing Spider-Man Annual #21 which featured the wedding of Spider-Man (Peter Parker) and Mary Jane Watson. Ryan and writer David Michelinie are the only comic book creators to have contributed to the wedding issues of both Spider-Man (Peter Parker marrying Mary Jane Watson and Superman (Clark Kent) marrying Lois Lane in Superman: The Wedding Album.
Ryan penciled the first six issues of Quasar followed by work on Avengers, Avengers West Coast, Iron Man, and Ravage 2099 a character which he co-created with Stan Lee. Ryan would be most strongly associated with the Fantastic Four for his notably long run on Marvel’s flagship title, trailing only Jack Kirby and John Byrne in total number of issues drawn. His first issue was #356 (Sept. 1991) and his last #414 (July 1996). Ryan would complete eleven years of comic book art exclusivity with Marvel Comics.
In 1992 Ryan took over the penciling on The Amazing Spider-Man (he would do the same for The Phantom) Sunday comic strip written by Stan Lee, inked by Joe Sinnott, and distributed by King Features. He drew that feature for just over three years.