By Brian Zanzonico
One message board writer, Snakebite, wrote, "A Grandfather of Hue passes on to the Great Spirit. Good journey, Bob. Thanks for putting color into this world."
Wrote Steve Chung, "A lot of happy childhood memories rendered in glorious color. May they never fade."
LeRose, 85, who worked as a colorist and cover production artist at DC Comics for two decades, lost his long battle with emphysema on Aug. 30.
The Elmont resident colored more than 600 covers for DC Comics from the mid-1970s to the mid-1990s, including several "Batman" series and "The Death of Superman." Well into his 50s, when he joined DC as a production artist, LeRose started doing raw artwork for covers, such as the logo and price box. He was surrounded by talent young enough to be his sons, including then-Assistant Production Manager Bob Rozakis, who, LeRose later learned, graduated from Elmont Memorial High School in 1969 with LeRose's eldest son, Ken.
"Even though he was much older, he had a good rapport with them, and their respect," said Rozakis, now a resident of Farmingdale and a consultant for an accounting software company who also maintains a daily online comic trivia question at wfcomics.com/trivia.
Five years after LeRose was hired by DC, Rozakis was named production director, and he was LeRose's boss for the next 13 years. During annual employee evaluations, LeRose would make Rozakis promise to tell him when it was time to retire. Every year, Rozakis's answer was the same: not this year.
One day a new editor came to LeRose with a preliminary copy of a front cover and lectured him on how to improve the color scheme. "Bob just smiled and nodded," Rozakis said. "After the editor left the room, I told [LeRose], 'Why didn't you tell him off, tell him you've been doing this since before he was born? All he said was, 'He'll learn.'"
LeRose outlasted the young editor.
When Bob Greenberger, who later became editor of DC Comics, started with the company fresh out of college in 1980, LeRose quickly became a teacher. "Anytime I ended up in the production department - I was a glorified go-fer at the time - I was always stopping to see him construct covers," Greenberger recalled. "He'd stop, explain what he was doing and why. He did it with so much enthusiasm."
"He never got old," said LeRose's niece, Joanne Anderson. "He was always much younger than his years. Very open-minded."
And thoughtful, Anderson added. LeRose often painted portraits of pets that died to help friends cope with their loss. Each year, when he received birthday cards, he would paint replicas of them and mail them back to the senders. "I would pick out photo cards to try and stump him," Anderson said.
LeRose started on the path to his career after his discharge from the Army in 1945 - he served in New Guinea and the Philippines during World War II - when he attended Phoenix Art School in New York City with the help of the GI Bill. After graduating, he was hired by the now-defunct Johnstone & Cushing, a publisher specializing in custom promotion comics for Boy's Life, Ford, General Motors, U.S. Steel and others. When J&C folded in 1962, LeRose went with writer/editor Al Stenzel and the Boy's Life contract to Stenzel Productions.
Blessed with a keen eye for detail, he would read the comic script to make sure the color scheme flowed with the dialogue, something most artists didn't do. He also wanted to be true to the characters, and made sure that the colors used were similar to those in earlier depictions of them.
At Stenzel Productions, LeRose worked extensively on a project about all the flags of the world. "It took him forever to get all the colors right," Kenny LeRose said. "We went to the library and went through all the reference books just so he could get the colors matched up."
A prolific painter throughout his life, LeRose dedicated even more time to his first love when emphysema forced him to retire in 1996. He still did plenty of coloring for DC while at home - he received work and shipped it completed via Federal Express - but spent most of his time painting in his studio.
LeRose always dried his brushes on paper towels, unintentionally producing vibrant, psychedelic colors, Kenny LeRose said. One particular blot was shaped like a large head, so LeRose superimposed a photo of Albert Einstein over the paint and submitted it to High Times, a popular drug culture magazine, which ran it.
LeRose is survived by his second wife, Veronica; his children, John, Roberta and Kenneth; a sister, Kathleen; five grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He was predeceased by his first wife, Alice.
Based on the outpouring of grief posted on Internet message boards, he also leaves behind a legion of fans. Wrote Jake Lockley on a message board: "This is sad news. Lots of respect for this guy. I have a quite a few comics that he colored in my collection. I mean 600 comics the man worked on ... wow."
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