EXPIRED: 06/02/10 – Tony DiPreta, 88, grew up in Stamford, Connecticut and didn’t know he liked to draw until he heard that a local comic strip artist made $50,000 a year. So he started drawing too. Eventually penning Joe Palooka.
The comic book industry was booming back then, and just about any hack could get a job sweeping floors or running errands for comic bigwigs and they were always in need of a story.
DiPreta’s first job was working in color separation and engraving for one of the many companies that prepped comic book art for publication, and he also picked up lettering work on Lyman Young’s newspaper strip, Tim Tyler’s Luck.
But with most books at the time, the needed filler – and eventually he was allowed a one page gag in National Comics #8, published in 1941.
DiPreta made his way to New York City, where he met comic book writer and editor Stan Lee, who gave him a strip called Ziggy Pig to ink. From there, DiPreta segued to work on popular comics of the time including Airboy, Daredevil and other popular crime comics. Around 1950, he started working on the Mickey Finn newspaper strip, at times drawing more of it than the original artist.
But in 1959, he got his big break, albeit in an unfortunate way.
Ham Fisher, the artist and writer of the successful comic strip about the good-natured heavyweight boxer Joe Palooka committed suicide in 1955. The strip had debuted in 1930, and by 1948 it was ranked as one of the five most popular newspaper comic strips. It was too good to let die along with it’s maker so, after a short interim shift in artists, DiPreta took over in ‘59 and kept the strip alive for 25 years until it ended in 1984.
After that he took over drawing Rex Morgan, M.D., which he worked on until 2000. He also would assist his neighbor Mort Walker with some Beetle Bailey projects and was proficient at creating amazing mosaics for his local church in Stamford.