Tag Archives: Gil Kane

Another Great Cover By Neal Adams

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Neal Adams once again makes an appearance in my great comic book covers series. Hey, it’s Neal Adams. He’s gonna have multiple entries. His artwork had a vibrancy and a sense of excitement that other DC Comics artists lacked. Sure, Curt Swan was a really good artist, but his stuff was kinda… dull.

Adams’ work was exciting. His characters were full of movement and life. He had a command of dynamic anatomy that few artists could match. In fact, Gil Kane might have been the only comic artist in those days who could surpass Adams in that regard.

The cover of Superman #237 (May 1971) isn’t flawless. That right leg of Superman’s seems a tad too enlarged and distorted. But look at those “zombies.” Each face has its own story behind it. I’m very curious as to what the story is with the kid “zombie” on the far right, at the front of the mob. What’s with the grey hair and the male pattern baldness? Why does he look so old? Is he a kid or an old little person? Curious.

The white outline around Superman is a good touch, as well. It separates our hero from the mob and makes it appear as though he is popping off the page. That’s something all comic artists strive for. And here Adams achieves it with a simple white outline.

It may not be Neal Adams’ best cover, but it’s still great.

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Gil Kane Strikes Again

For the third time, Gil Kane makes an appearance in my monthly look at great comic book covers series. And how could he not? Mr Kane was one of the greatest comic book illustrators of all time and his covers were consistently fantastic. And this month’s installment is just another example of why he was the master of the comic book cover.

In 1971, beginning with the cover date of November, Marvel Comics decided to change the layout of their covers. Instead of an illustration framed by the edge of the book itself, it was decided to draw a box or a frame on the cover in which the illustration would be placed. It was an experiment that lasted a little over a year. From what I can find, the art-in-a-box cover design went for, at least, a 14 issue run, but some titles went longer.

I didn’t find any reason given for why Marvel’s editors decided to try this experiment. I’m just speculating here, but I think was to be able to break the frame and make the art pop off the page. After all, you can’t break the frame if it is the edge of the comic. Although not all did, most of the covers that I looked at took advantage of this design element.

And, boy! Does this month’s cover break the frame!

It’s the March 1972 issue of Creatures On The Loose (#16). Take a look:

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Isn’t that awesome?

Not only does the cover benefit from Kane’s drawing mastery, but his design takes full advantage of breaking the frame. However, he is doing more than just giving the illusion of three dimensionality, as in the case of Gulliver Jones’ arm and the handle of the bad guy’s spear at the top of the frame. His blue baddie at the bottom of the page elevates this cover to a masterpiece by expanding the scene to what is going on off of the page itself. The viewer has become immersed in the scene.

Kane does this by using the look over the shoulder pose and the appearance of the blue baddie giving a battle cry. This gives the indication that there may be a whole horde of baddies charging in to do battle with our hero. Just maybe not all blue.

It is so awe-inspiring when I see an artist do such great story-telling with simple placement, pose, and the direction of a character’s eyes.

Absolutely brilliant. Gil Kane scores again.

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This Month’s Great Cover: Fantastic Four 143

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Just look at it. What more could you want from a comic book cover?

You know, one thing I like about this first blog of the month for Warehouse Find is: I don’t really have to write much. The first week of each month I feature what I think is a great  (or, at least, important) cover from the world of comic books. All that pretty much needs to be done is post the image and say, “Ain’t it great?!”

Well, I’ll give you a little more than that. This month’s cover is the third Fantastic Four cover to be featured. The first was the premier issue of that vitally important comic book. It wasn’t a particularly great cover, but it was a good one by the King, Jack Kirby, and it changed the tone of comic books forevermore. The second cover depicted a desperate Thing searching through fiery debris for the Human Torch as drawn by John Byrne. He’s the Human Torch, why worry about him being in fiery debris? It’s a head scratcher.

This month’s cover is also the second entry drawn by the great Gil Kane. As I noted when I wrote about that other cover by Mr Kane, it is clear why he did so many covers in those days. His work was awesome!

So, we’ve got the First Family of Marvel Comics (sans the Invisible Girl, she may have been on maternity leave or something, so the Inhuman Medusa was filling in for her) battling their arch foe Dr Doom. Dr Doom just might be the greatest comic book villain this side of The Joker and he’s giving the Human Torch quite a blast. The Ever Lovin’ Blue-eyed Thing has just broken his chains and declared it’s clobberin’ time. Sure, he doesn’t say it, but we know he’s saying it. Mr. Fantastic is doing his stretchy thing, while Medusa has that snazzy red hair. All right, that last thing was a tad uncalled for, but I do like red hair. Kane includes a bit of the futuristic machinery Doom always employed. And just what is the button he’s pushing going to do?

“Get set for the greatest battle issue ever!”

What’s not to love?!

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Why I Love This Cover…

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This is the first installment of a series in which I will examine some of my favorite comic book covers and explain why they are awesome works of pop art. Obviously, covers were vitally important to grab the attention (and money) of the potential reader. An eye-catching cover could get a casual reader to pick it up or get an avid collector to maybe buy a new title. A lackluster series could have a dynamite cover, giving it a chance to be purchased. A bit of the bait and switch, but what can ya do?

In the 1970s, the go-to artist for dynamic, eye-popping covers was the fantastic Gil Kane. Kane started working in the comic book industry in the early 1940s at the tender age of 16 and made himself into one of the all time greatest artists in the history of comic books. If you bought a Marvel comic book in the ’70s, chances are very good the cover art was by Gil Kane.

I was told by a Marvel editor once that comic book art is all about melodrama. Kane was the master of melodrama. His command of dynamic human anatomy was unparalleled. And, from what I’ve been told, he drew very quickly, which was a must in those days if an artist was to make a living.

So, let’s look at the cover of Werewolf By Night #26 (February 1975). The book features one of the werewolf’s arch foes, Hangman. The cover shows our hero cornered by Hangman and the tension is absolutely palpable, as we can see the werewolf is prepared to pounce. As you know, a cornered animal is a very dangerous animal.

However, we can see by Hangman’s pose, standing erect with his shoulders back and arms by his sides, that he is confident in his ability to meet and defeat the werewolf’s pending attack. His pose also gives us a good look at his weapons: The hangman’s noose and a scythe. Although, why a hangman would need a scythe, I have no idea. Looks cool, though.

The choice of seeing the werewolf from between the villain’s legs uses the classic triangular composition. The viewer’s eye is drawn to the werewolf’s face and his ever-present snarl. On virtually every cover of this series, the werewolf is depicted with his mouth open, bearing his teeth. Well, he is a werewolf.

Note that the werewolf’s eyes are clearly directed to his opponent’s face. Kane was a bit more careful on this cover than he was when he drew the cover of Conan The Barbarian #43. He used essentially same composition as on Werewolf By Night #26, however instead of looking into the face of the threatening creature, Conan appears to be looking a bit… lower. (Of course, Kane could always blame the inker.)

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“Yes, yes. It’s very impressive, but my eyes are up here, pal!”

Keep an out eye for more awesome covers. I’ll let you know right now, we will see Gil Kane again.

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Sal Buscema’s Transcendent Moment (and a couple other observations)

I have strayed from comic book related blogging for the last few blogs; so, since Nostalgia Zone is mainly in the business of selling old comic books, let’s say I get back to the books, eh?
Today, we’ll take a look at two issues of The Defenders from December 1974 and January 1975. They are issues number 18 and 19. This two issue story features the super-villian group the Wrecking Crew.
Let’s start with the covers. Both have been penciled by the fantastic Gil Kane. Kane must have done half of all the covers of Marvel titles during that time period. And looking at his work, it’s easy to understand why. His dynamic drawing style was perfect for pulling in the buyers.
Gil Kane pencils, Dave Cockrum inks.

Gil Kane pencils, Dave Cockrum inks.

Gil Kane pencils, Joe Sinnott inks.

Gil Kane pencils, Joe Sinnott inks.

The cover of #18 is good. It’s not quite the best Kane could do, but it does set up the battle of two super-powered groups very nicely. Issue #19, however, is very good. Our defeated heroes are strew over a rubble pile in the foreground with their conquerors in the background. Look at the Hulk. Look at his hand. That is classic dynamic Gil Kane stuff! That’s the kind of cover that makes you want to buy the book.

These two issues also give me the opportunity to address the influence an inker can have on the art of a comic book. Both issues were penciled by Sal Buscema, younger brother of the brilliant John Buscema. Although, never quite achieving the level of his older brother, Sal was a good and capable story-teller. And in issue #19, he has a transcendent moment. I’ll get to that later.

The inker! Right, I was going to talk about inkers. They aren’t simply tracers as one of the running jokes in ‘Chasing Amy’ suggested. Pencilers and inkers are both artists. And as an artist, a good inker can bring up the level of the penciler, just as a bad one can bring a penciler down. Some inkers work better with certain pencilers, but not well with others. For instance, Klaus Janson’s inks gelled very well with artists such as Frank Miller and, as we shall see, Sal Buscema; but his inks on John Byrne’s pencils just didn’t work for me.

This is an example of Janson inking Byrne's pencils. Just doesn't work as well as Byrne working with Terry Austin or Joe Rubinstein.

This is an example of Janson inking Byrne’s pencils. Just doesn’t look as good as Byrne working with Terry Austin or Joe Rubinstein.

Below is a great example of how an inker affects the finished art. Issue #18 was inked by Dan Green. Green’s inks are good with Sal’s pencils. However, #19 was inked by Klaus Janson and, when paired with Sal, the art looks great.

I’ve selected two panels depicting the Hulk, one from each issue. The first was inked by Green. The second by Janson. Note the flatness of Green’s Hulk. Compare that to Janson’s Hulk. Janson’s Hulk looks alive, more real and far less flat. Both panels were penciled by Sal Buscema, but the Janson inked panel elevates Sal’s pencils from good to great. No, the inker is not just a tracer.
Green's inks on left, Janson's on right.

Green’s inks on left, Janson’s on right. And is that a Beatles’ wig the Hulk is wearing?

There’s a nice sequence of panels in #19 depicting Dr. Bruce Banner defusing some mini nuclear bomb device. Sal does a good job of showing how the tension filled moments are bringing Banner into transformation into the Hulk. He must defuse the bomb and stave off becoming the Hulk at the same time…

I can always spot a bad toupee. I wonder...

I can always spot a bad toupee. I wonder…

Now that transcendent moment I mentioned earlier. It’s page 17 of issue #19. The whole page is top-notch design, layout, and storytelling. Sal really cooks on this page. The Defenders have regrouped after their initial defeat at the hands of the Wrecking Crew. These super-powered bad guys are still basking in the afterglow of overconfidence when the Defenders mount a counter attack.

Thunderball (one of the bad guys) seems to have gotten the better of the Hulk as he had done in the previous issue. He comes at the Hulk filled with bravado, believing the Hulk can be easily defeated again. Thunderball is wrong. The Hulk catches Thunderball’s weapon, crushes it with one hand, and sends Thunderball flying. The sequence is so dramatic. Just look at the third panel. The shadow of the wrecking ball half covers the Hulk’s face, but the Hulk doesn’t care. He’s angry. Very angry. And Thunderball isn’t gonna like the Hulk when he’s angry.

Each panel is perfectly timed. The action is perfectly paced. I know it’s a weird to think of timing and pacing in such static art. Comic books may not be movies, but they are essentially storyboards and their scripts are very much like screenplays. Comic books and books with just words (ugh!) both benefit from proper timing and pacing.  And Sal nails it as he shows Thunderball slowly realizing that the Hulk will not be defeated and that he’s in for a major butt-kicking.

The page builds so well until, in mighty Marvel fashion, it culminates in the final “Nuff said!” Brilliant!

The page builds so well until, in mighty Marvel fashion, it culminates in the final “Nuff said!” Brilliant!

And I do believe both of these issues are available at Nostalgia Zone. You really ought to peruse our website at NostalgiaZone.com or come to the store.

Tell them Dr. Dim sent you!

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