Last week on his Facebook page, artist Joe Jusko announced the sad news that painter Glen Orbik had passed away at the much too young age of 51 years. Orbik had been suffering from cancer, and on May 11th he succumbed to his illness.
While I was not especially familiar with Glen Orbik’s work, I immediately recognized his name. For about a decade, beginning in the mid 1990s, Orbik painted a number of beautiful comic book covers. Many of these were done for DC Comics.
Orbik’s first comic book cover was for Aquaman #25. He painted a striking portrait of the king of the seas, giving him a noble, contemplative look. Orbik’s style was very well suited to capturing the roughly-hewn majesty of Peter David’s revamp of Aquaman, with his long hair, beard, bare chest and harpoon in place of his lost left hand.
Also for DC Comics, Orbik illustrated the cover to the graphic novel The Life Story of the Flash. He contributed covers to the Batman story arcs “Cataclysm,” “Aftershock,” and “No Man’s Land.” Orbik also painted covers for the anthology title Legends of the DC Universe, including the three issue debut arc starring Superman. For these Orbik rendered a vision of the Man of Steel that was both bursting with power and endowed with humanity.
During his career Orbik illustrated numerous book covers. His work was well suited to science fiction, fantasy and especially mystery & noir. Orbik’s moody, atmospheric work in that genre made him an absolutely ideal choice to contribute several covers to DC Comics’ 1997 annuals, which had the loose overarching theme of “Pulp Heroes.”
Among Orbik’s covers for the “Pulp Heroes” annuals was the incredibly striking painted artwork for Aquaman Annual #3. His depiction of Aquaman was once again both savage and noble, gracefully gliding through the ocean to discover a beautiful murder victim, an image that was a superb amalgamation of fantasy and hard-boiled crime imagery.
Orbik also did work for other comic book companies. He painted several covers and trading cards for Marvel Comics. Most notably, Orbik’s dynamic cover for Thor #41 (November 2001) was later re-used in the character’s profile for The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe: Avengers 2004. He painted several covers for The Victorian and Anne Steelyard: The Garden of Emptiness, both from Penny-Farthing Productions. He also contributed a variant cover to The Oz / Wonderland Chronicles #3 in 2008 (the main cover for which, incidentally, was illustrated by Jusko).
Orbik’s wife Laurel Blechman was an artist, as well. She collaborated with him on various covers, including his DC Comics work.
A large selection of Glen Orbik’s paintings, including those he did with Blechman, is on display at his official website. I definitely recommend visiting it. There is some incredibly beautiful art to be seen.
It is unfortunate that Orbik passed away at such a young age. He was a very talented artist.