Wayne W. Howard was an African-American comic book artist. He is best known for his 1970s work at Charlton Comics, where he became American comic books’ first series creator known to be credited on covers, with the horror anthology Midnight Tales announcing “Created by Wayne Howard” on each issue — “a declaration perhaps unique in the industry at the time”
Early life and career
Wayne Howard was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Sherman and June (Monroe) Howard. He attended Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree. Howard contributed to comics fanzines in the mid-1960s, and had a poem published in Fantastic Four #22 (Jan. 1964), for which the editor jocularly declared him “Poet Laureate of Yancy Street”. He went on to become an art assistant at the Long Island, New York, studio of influential comics artist Wally Wood circa 1969.
Howard made his credited comics debut as a penciler and inker with writer Marv Wolfman’s three-page story “Cain’s True Case Files: Grave Results” in DC Comics’ House of Mystery #182 (Oct. 1969). He contributed to later issues, as well as to Major Publications’ black-and-white horror-comics magazine Web of Horror #1 (Dec. 1969).
That story marked his first collaboration with Nicola Cuti, a writer and eventual friend who soon afterward became managing editor of Charlton Comics, a Derby, Connecticut, publisher whose comic-book line was traditionally low-paying but allowed its writers and artists great creative freedom. Howard began freelancing for Charlton with the story “A Winner’s Curse” in the horror anthology Ghost Manor #4 (April 1972). Over the next five years, up through the cover and two stories of Haunted #32 (Oct. 1977), Howard, with a style strongly reminiscent of his mentor Wood, penciled / inked roughly 200 covers and stories — primarily for such supernatural series as the aforementioned and Ghostly Haunts, Ghostly Tales, The Many Ghosts of Doctor Graves, and an issue each of Beyond the Grave and Creepy Things, and of the gothic horror romance anthology Haunted Love. With writer Cuti, he contributed the backup feature “Travis: The Dragon Killer” in the cult-hit superhero series E-Man #3 (June 1974).
Howard’s most notable legacy is providing the precedent for comic-book “created by” credits, which became common years later beginning with DC’s Vertigo imprint.
Charlton writer-editor Cuti described Howard’s credit for the horror anthology Midnight Tales being granted since “it was his idea, his concept, his everything”. This ranged from horror host Professor Coffin, The Midnight Philosopher, and his niece, Arachne — who in a twist on the horror-host convention would themselves star in a story each issue — to the notion of having each issue be themed: “One time it would be blob monsters, and I wrote three stories about blob monsters, and another time it was vampires … and that sort of thing”. Howard penciled and inked every cover and virtually every story, and occasionally scripted a tale. The three-issue reprint series Prof. Coffin #19-21 (Oct. 1985 – Feb. 1986) retains the “created by” credit.
The critic Mark Andrew observed of Midnight Tales,
Old dude and his sexy niece traipse across the countryside, bumping into oddball characters who invariably have a story to tell. … Sadly, since Charlton didn’t want to do anything that’d offend your average 9-year-old, you can feel this book fighting against the uber-restrictive comics code. Kinda sad, really. What isgood, however, are the artists in this book, easily the equal of anyone workin’ at Marvel or DC at the time. You got Wayne Howard … probably the most deft practitioner of the Wally Wood school ever.
Other work and later career
Howard died at age 58 at the Griffin Hospital in Derby, Connecticut. He lived in Oxford, Connecticut, at the time, married to Carol (Zavednak) Howard.
George Wildman, Charlton Comics’ editor during the 1970s, described the artist as, “sort of shy. Easy come, easy go”, and said Howard had married the sister of one of Wildman’s early secretaries. Howard’s friend and frequent collaborator Nicola Cuti said the artist, a heavy smoker, “always wore the same outfit: a white shirt, a kind of tan bush jacket, black hat, black pants and black tie. …I was over at his apartment, and he opened up his closet, and there were 20 white shirts, 20 bush jackets, 20 black pants….” The magazine Comic Book Artist in 2001 attempted to contact Howard for an issue devoted to Charlton Comics, and reported that while he “apparently still resides in Connecticut … a third party indicated the artist/writer had no interest in delving into the past”.