Long Island comic book artist Mike Esposito dead at 83

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Comic book artist Mike Esposito, of Lake Grove, who with longtime collaborator Ross Andru drew runs of "The Amazing Spider-Man" for Marvel Comics and "Wonder Woman," "The Flash" and "Metal Men" for DC Comics, died Sunday morning at age 83. His death was confirmed by his widow, Irene.

An Andru and Esposito drawing of Wonder Woman graces that character's stamp in the U.S. Postal Service's 2006 DC Comics Super Heroes commemorative series.

The two had drawn the superheroine's adventures for nearly 10 years, from "Wonder Woman" No. 98 (May 1958) to No. 171 (Aug. 1967), defining her look during the boom period known as the Silver Age of Comic Books.

In the assembly-line manner of comic books, Esposito was primarily an inker, an artist who adds depth and shading to the work of the pencil artist. In that capacity with Andru and others, he worked on virtually every major character in comics.

"We were friends for 50 years. It's a terrible loss," said John Romita Sr. of Bellerose, a comic strip artist who worked with Esposito on Spider-Man.

Esposito, under the pseudonym Mickey Demeo, inked most of Romita's earliest Spider-Man stories.

"We always worked together very well," Romita said. "He had a hard life, but he survived it and he always kept a sense of humor."

Born July 14, 1927, in New York City, Esposito graduated from the High School of Music and Art, then located in Harlem, where Andru, who died in 1993, was a classmate.

Following service in the U.S. Army, he studied under Burne Hogarth and others at the Cartoonists and Illustrators School (now the School of Visual Arts).

He found his niche as an inker teamed with penciler Andru, with whom he would collaborate for four decades.

The two tried their hand at publishing, founding the short-lived comics company Mr. Publications in 1951 and Mikeross Publications in 1953, and producing a single issue of a humor magazine, Up Your Nose And Out Your Ear, in 1971.

They made their mark, however, with war comics and superheroes, doing countless combat tales for DC Comics from the early 1950s well into the next decade. They segued into superheroes with Wonder Woman and other DC stalwarts, co-creating the Metal Men with writer-editor Robert Kanigher. Esposito moonlighted for Marvel beginning in the 1960s, under the Mickey Demeo and Mickey Dee pen names, before Andru eventually joined him.

The two soon reteamed to draw Spider-Man in both his primary title - one issue of theirs introduced the long-running character The Punisher - and in spinoffs like "Marvel Team-Up."

Esposito was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame, the industry's top honor, in 2007.

Esposito's first wife, Mary, died when he was in his 40s. He is also predeceased by a son, Mark. Surviving are his widow, Irene, and his daughter, Michelle.

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