Billy Graham (1935 - 1999)
One should never confuse him with the fiery evangelist nor the flamboyant professional wrestler of the same name, but if you ever looked at his works, there’s a very good reason many in the industry refer to him as “the Black Jack Kirby,” evoking visual cues from the legendary artist but creating and evolving his own techniques while putting his mark on two of comic’s first Black characters.
Mr. Graham got his start at Warren Publishing, a comic publisher that excelled in horror-themed comic titles, something that was rare in the Comic Code-era titles of the day. After relocating from Philadelphia to New York City, Warren was in a state of flux and renewal, mostly republishing some of their earlier horror books Creepy and Eerie. Mr. Graham was one of the first artists hired by the revived Warren Publishing and eventually became its art director. He was a contributing artist of Warren’s newest title, Vampirella, in 1969 eventually drawing stories in the first dozen episodes before catching the eye of Marvel Comics.
\While at Marvel, he was a part of the creative team behind Marvel’s first book featuring a solo Black comic book character, Luke Cage: Hero For Hire, as an inker, co-plotter, writer, and artist throughout the original series’ run beginning in 1972 until the first issue under its new name, Luke Cage: Power Man. From 1974 until 1976, he penciled the Black Panther stories in Jungle Action, including the covers for the series visualizing Don McGregor’s vision of T’Challa’s growth as a character and cementing his place in the Marvel Universe.
Graham and McGregor also collaborated on a few more projects throughout the 1980s, including seven issues of McGregor’s Eclipse Comics series Sabre.Mr. Graham’s last comics project was the 114th issue of title he co-created, now renamed Power Man and Iron Fist, written by Jim Owsley (Christopher Priest).