In the real world I don't always write for Bleeding Cool. As it were, I'm an assistant to a signature series dealer, Rich Henn. I travel to various events and private signings to both assist Rich and to witness the books being signed. I've had the luck and honor of meeting some remarkable people in both the comic world and in pop culture in general. One of those people I've had the privilege to meet has been Joe Giella. Our adventure to meet him was met with traffic, more traffic, and a trip to urgent care for me since I somehow sprained my foot while walking around.
We finally got to Giella's home around 5:30pm. For starters, he is a tall, witty older gentleman. His home, which he built himself, was decorated lovingly with artwork that he himself has done. We gathered ourselves and our comics to his upstairs office, where he still draws and paints for both himself and his fans.
As a child, Giella loved comics. He recalled fondly reading comics to his deaf mother, and being particularly fond of the Timely heroes: Captain America, The Human Torch, and The Sub Mariner. Giella started his career in comics in the mid 1940's as a teenager. His first paying sequential art gig was doing work for Captain Codfish for Hillman Press. While freelance worked wasn't in short supply, Giella needed a steady paycheck in order to financially help his family. Lucky for him, he landed a gig at Timely comics which proved to be exciting and rewarding. He stayed at Timely for 3 1/2 years before moving on to DC comics around 1951.
His favorite character to draw was Batman, as "he has the neatest costume", but he also had a soft spot for The Atom. As far as Batman's Rogue Gallery was concerned, The Penguin and Joker top his list, but Poison Ivy was also a fun villain to draw. Especially for the daily news strips. Batman has the most presence in Giella's home. Original Batman art adorns the walls. Vintage Batman toys are on display. Even his lovely wife was sporting a Batman shirt when we came to visit. Reclining back in his chair, Giella recalled the time when Adam West had invited him on a cross country tour inside the Batmobile. By that time Giella had a young family of his own, and declined the offer.
In his words, DC was all Batman all the time. As a fan I can believe that to be true, even today. Giella had the fortune of working with Bob Kane, and genuinely enjoyed his experiences with him. He regaled us with a particular Kane story that many people may not know. Back before Kane retired from DC comics, he used to have a TV program where he would draw various Batman characters. Giella was actually a ghost artist, drawing the characters in blue pencil (as to not show up on TV), and Kane would draw over them in black marker. Giella's children found this to be unfair, but Giella merely shrugged his shoulders and said "I was just an artist."
During his time in comics, Giella estimates that he's drawn over 14,000 pages, which is still a feat even today! As we finished up having him sign the remainder of our comics, I asked him if he enjoyed his time in comics. Giella smiled warmly, let out a small chuckle, and said "I would have paid them to give me a job!"