DARRIGO, Dave (1954-)

Dave Darrigo was born in Toronto, Ontario in 1954 to first generation Italian-Canadian parents. He
was the oldest of four children.

Dave grew up fascinated by 1960’s pop culture in all forms— comics, TV, film and fiction. But, at an early age, he began to enjoy and study 1930’s/’40’s radio shows and pulp magazine fiction.
Local Canadian pulp historian Don Hutchison, who wrote in Memory Lane’s Whizbang magazine (and later became a friend who wrote articles in Wordsmith) was a central force in Dave’s understanding of old pulp stories, characters and the men who worked in that craft.

Darrigo’s love of comics led him to try his hand at doing his own, but he wasn’t content to do these just for himself. Since his father was an independent businessman who had his own office– with staff and equipment– Dave and a friend used the office’s Mimeograph copying machine to actually produce and print their own comics. Several issues were done this way— but the only place to sell them in 1968 was the aforementioned Memory Lane shop.

Darrigo’s father supported this “hobby” (although it drove the office secretary crazy) as he reasoned that this would keep his son out of experiencing the developing sixties drug

Darrigo’s father continued to support his son as his “Sensational Comics Group” actually grew in scope to include several teen artists in both Canada and the U.S. and they produced two expensive semi-pro comics (magazine-sized) that were printed (on both sides of the paper, with partial coloured covers) in a professional copy shop. (These shops were far and few between back then.) Hundreds of copies were printed but there was one big problem— there were no comic shops in which to sell them. This was 1969! Near-impossible to find copies of Heroes and Rubber Cop #5 and Sensational Display #1 were advertised for sale in American fanzines of that era. Darrigo’s strip “The Rubber Cop” as well as characters created by his friend, “The Heroes” and “The Leopard” , and another, “The Stuntman”, created by an American artist were the first native comics heroes published since the Canadian Whites of the 1940’s.

Ten years later–in the late 1970’s when there was a network of comic shops forming in North America— Darrigo was able to find gainful employment as the first manager of Dragon Lady Nostalgia. (Dragon Lady is still in operation on College Street in Toronto.)

Beyond his day-to-day duties there he was the editor of the store’s monthly newsletter– the Dragon Lady Dispatch. It ran for over two years with unique covers by many Canadian artists such as R.G. Taylor, Ty Templeton, Dave Ross, Chester Brown and even ’40’s Hall of Famer Ed Furness.

Also, while at the store, he was assistant editor of store owner John Biernat’s publication, Dragon Lady Press. DLP put out numerous comic strip reprint compilations including Terry and the
Pirates which, of course, the store and magazines took its name from the Oriental femme fatale character in that famous comic strip.

Still at the store, Darrigo met Mississauga school teacher Rick Taylor and they developed as an amateur team hoping to sell comics stories in their “spare time”. They got their wish— and much more–when Darrigo presented Deni Loubert with his Wordsmith concept.
Wordsmith was set during the Golden Age of pulp magazines in the 1930’s and featured Clay Washburn. Like many pulp writers Washburn was prolific and able to do a plethora of different genres. Twelve issues were put out by Loubert’s Renegade Press and it received praise from modern wordsmiths such as Harlan Ellison. It was later reprinted–twice–by Caliber Comics.

Darrigo was also a contributor in Gideon Steinberg’s charity comic, Canadian Comics Cavalcade.

Darrigo had a short association with Now Comics in which he wrote two issues of a personal favorite character of his— the Green Hornet. The writer of that comic, Ron Fortier, would later team with Darrigo (under the joint pen name of George Stryker) to create Black Scorpion,
a Green Hornet clone, published by Special Studio.

After Renegade and Now closed down Dave (with help from his younger brother, Mel) decided to get back into publishing and created his own company, Special Studio, based in Brantford, Ontario.

The company released 16 comics over the three years it existed– with Darrigo teaming with many Canadian artists. The names include Ron Hobbs, Steve Leblanc, R.G. Taylor, Peter Grau, Louis Paradis, Peter Hsu, Scott Dutton, Dan Day and Paul McCusker.

The comic titles were The Snake (one issue); Tony Bravado: Troubleshooter (four issues); Black Scorpion (three issues); Piranha is Loose! (two issues); and Atomic Overdrive (two issues).
The latter two were done with Peter Grau who went on to have a professional career in American comic books for nearly a decade.

Special Studio also published American creators such as Joe Zabel (Modern Pulp,one issue), best known for his work with Harvey Pekar on American Splendor.

Darrigo’s last comics work was in 2008 in the homegrown anthology, The Comic Eye. He teamed with Ron Hobbs— his childhood buddy and pal from the Sensational Group— to produce this EC satire.

After trying his hand, with Hobbs, on a screenplay Darrigo is currently working on a boys adventure concept with illustrations provided by Paul McCusker.

Finally it should be noted that Dave was one of the co-founders of the Joe Shuster Awards but has been removed from them now for several years.

by Phil Latter and the JSA committee.


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