Tag Archives: The Fantastic Four

George Perez: Quite An Artist, Quite A Legacy

This past weekend George Perez, one of the comic book industry’s greatest illustrators, announced he was retiring.

Retire? Hold on while I look that up…

“To withdraw from one’s position or occupation or from one’s active working life.”

What?! People can do that? How do their bills get paid?

Huh. Oh, well.

So, Perez is doing this retire thing and that got me thinking of when I first saw his illustrations. As I wrote in my blog about discovering Marvel’s The Uncanny X-Men in the summer of 1978, I had just determined to become serious about collecting comic books and start buying titles and reading the storylines, instead just buying books with interesting covers. Along with The X-men, I began buying The Avengers.

The first issue I picked up with this new zeal for comics was The Avengers #171 (May, 1978).

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It’s cover was drawn by George Perez and inked by Terry Austin and they proved to be a nearly as potent a creative team as John Byrne  and Austin were on The X-Men. The interior art of this issue of The Avengers was inked by Pablo Marcos and he proved to be an even better fit with Perez’s pencils. Some penciler and inker combinations are truly magical. Perez and Marcos was one such combo.

I quickly began scarfing up back issues of The Avengers, which had become my favorite title. (Oh, how I wish I had done the same with the Dave Cockrum drawn X-Men issues.) And what I saw was a young artist becoming great.

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Perez’s early work in the Avengers was more simple and maybe a little awkward. Some of that was undoubtedly due to the inkers he was paired up with in those early days. His drawings with Vince Colletta or Sam Grainger inking weren’t quite there yet. (See the example from Avengers #141 with Colletta inking, above.) Perez was showing promise, but he was still getting settled in and when he teamed up with Marcos his artwork soared.

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By the time Avengers #161 was produced, Perez and Marcos were creating incredible pages. The action sequences were more dramatic and dynamic. The characters’ anatomy and poses were also more dramatic and more precisely drawn. In the example (see above), how great is that explosive first panel? And the expression on Iron Man’s… um… mask in the fourth panel is far more expressive than any of the faces in that earlier sample.

And Perez’s blossoming as an artist was not only confined to the pages of Earth’s Mightest Heroes. He also turned out some fine work in Marvel’s adaption of the 1976 sci-fi classic Logan’s Run. For that series he was teamed up with inker Klaus Janson. And they also gelled well together. In the first sample, just look at the center frame. Fantastic!

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The second sample is an outstanding example of his dramatic splash pages. Also from the Logan’s Run series.

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Finally, I want to look at a cover he did for the Fantastic Four #184 (July, 1977). He did a run of both covers and interior art with pioneer inker Joe Sinnott. Now, I think Sinnott was a fine inker, but by the 1970s his inking tended to overshadow the artist, not compliment them. However, Perez’s style was not too adversely affected.

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I also want to point out that Perez could be a maniac when it came to drawing backgrounds. There would sometimes be an incredible amount of detail involved, but he kept it under control and kept his covers and pages from looking too busy. That’s not an easy thing to do. I think the two covers I’ve included here are good examples of his attention to detail.

And this is all just his work from the 1970s!

George Perez’s career in comic books would span an additional four decades! Over those decades, his artwork maintained the highest quality as he worked for both Marvel and DC Comics. His work always looked fresh. He kept up with the times, while never losing that classic George Perez look. That in itself is a rare and terrific feat.

The man has left an impressive legacy as he now embarks on his well-earned retirement.

Kudos, Mr. Perez!

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And, for my money, no one drew Ultron better than George Perez!

Packing Peanuts!

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Images used under Fair Use.

Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on iTunes.

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Here’s A Few Things About Comic Books

This is going to be one of those round-up blogs, in which I comment on a number of comic book related topics. I have a few things to comment on, but not enough on each topic for a full write up, so…

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It’s real. It’s an actual comic book cover. The February 1966 issue of Lois Lane would finally address the issue of Clark Kent’s flimsy disguise. A nice suit and Buddy Holly glasses? Really? If I removed my glasses and donned a Superman costume, people would still know it was me. So, how did this disguise work in the comic books, TV shows, and movies?

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That’s me, holding the comic book in question. Geez! My toupee needs adjusting.

I read this issue (which you can buy at NostalgiaZone.com – $10 cheap!) and I’m going to spoil it for you. DC Comics doesn’t really explain how Superman keeps fooling the world.

The story in a nutshell: Editor Perry White has to leave the Daily Planet while he serves, temporarily, in the US Senate. His replacement is awfully handsome, a “dreamboat” according to Lois, but he also acts suspiciously. Lois goes on a date with him that first day after work and thinks there’s something up with the guy.

She learns he is the leader of S.K.U.L. (Superman Killers’ Underground League) and she gets roped into a plot to kill Supes. She gets Lana Lang to help her decode the instructions she had been given by this secret underground league. When the message is decoded, Superman bursts in on Lois and Lana and makes that declaration we see on the cover. Lana does admit they’ve had their suspicions.

Superman then removes his mask and he turns out to be the leader of the kill Superman club. But, he’s really an FBI agent trying to smoke out that League and he enlists Lois and Lana to help him. Continued next issue.

They don’t exactly explain how Superman/Clark Kent can fool the world with a suit and glasses.

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The sexism just oozes from the narration paragraph at the top. “The Daily Planet’s pretty reporter,” “cute nose.” Yuck!

While reading this comic book from 52 years ago, I was struck by how blatantly sexist it is in its treatment of women and Lois Lane in particular. Lane is an investigative reporter, yet she’s described as stumbling onto stories. Her immediate reaction upon meeting the new editor is to think of him as a dreamboat. And neither Lane nor Lang bring up the topic of marriage, yet that’s what “Superman” deems the best way to berate these women for their stupidity. Marriage must have been a major theme in the Lois Lane series, after all it was a “girl’s” comic.

Switching gears, a couple months back, on a Facebook comic book fan group page, there was a discussion of whether the cover of Marvel’s Fantastic Four #1 was an homage to or a rip-off of the cover illustration of DC’s The Brave and The Bold #28 (the first appearance of the Justice League Of America). Look below for a comparison.

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Compostionally the two cover are very much alike. I prefer the Fantastic Four cover, because I prefer Jack Kirby’s drawing to Mike Sekowsky’s. Although, Sekowsky’s anatomy drawing is better and FF #1 isn’t Kirby’s best cover. It’s good, just not his best.

(OK, I’m a Marvel kid. I’m required by the MMMS to always prefer Marvel covers. Even if drawn by Rob Liefe… NO! There’s no way I can do that! I must draw the line somewhere!)

At first, I thought it was coincidence. Then I learned that the Fantastic Four was the result of a mandate from Atlas Comics publisher, Martin Goodman, to Stan Lee and Jack Kirby to create a superhero group to compete with the Justice League of America, DC’s super team that debuted just about a year earlier. Learning that bit of history has me leaning toward rip-off.

What do you think?

Finally, as part of that JLA/FF discussion, someone brought up the practice of artists copying other artists in the creation of comic books. They provided an image (see below) that certainly is evidence of copying.

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Top frame: Jack Kirby • Middle frame: Gil Kane • Bottom frame: Rich Buckler

There’s no denying the second two frames were copied from work done by Kirby in the first frame, assuming that image is the original use of that punch. You will note that Gil Kane (second frame) made a couple changes to the pose: Captain America’s left arm is held differently and his hips are turned to the right. Kane’s variation, in my opinion, makes the pose a little on the awkward side, especially the lower part of his left leg.

Gil! If you’re going to copy the master, copy the master.

Someone in the group discussion claimed that Stan Lee, himself, would hand artists frames of comic art, usually drawn by Kirby, and instruct them to copy that frame. This revelation was offered without any source citation, so it may be untrue. And it may be a case of artists just copying other artists, in this case Kirby, because the other artists may have solved a difficult problem. When you consider how quickly artists had to get the work done with looming deadlines and the need to do as many pages as possible in a day to get decent pay, copying is understandable.

Artists were paid lousy. If you could only manage one page a day, you’d starve.

Packing Peanuts!

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Another excellent cover…

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In this installment of my monthly look at comic book covers I really like, I’ll be looking at the cover of Fantastic Four #263 (Feb. 1984). The cover was illustrated by one of my favorite comic book artists: John Byrne. When he drew this cover, he had already been both drawing and writing a substantial run of the Fantastic Four series, starting with issue #232.

Bryne was given the task of revamping Marvel Comics‘ signature super-hero family: The Fantastic Four. Some of what he did was to bring the group more in line with their original look. He did away with the super-buff Mister Fantastic and made him thinner, less super-hero, more super scientist. He reworked the look of the Thing, he would even return our ever-lovin’ blue-eyed monster to the lumpy, Jack Kirby original version for a time. The groups’ uniforms no longer appeared painted on, there were folds and creases again as when Kirby designed them.

Byrne even explored the potential of the Invisible Girl. He had her go evil for a time, which seems to be his thing. He was involved with the Dark Phoenix of the X-Men series and her going evil. And he had the Scarlet Witch give into the temptation of evil during his writing and drawing stint on the Avengers. He must really like ELO’s Evil Woman.

Once he was done making the Invisible Girl far more powerful than she had been and put her through her evil phase, he rechristened her the Invisible Woman. Progress! Did I mention this was 1984?

This stint drawing the FF was not Bryne’s first go ’round. He had done the breakdown pencils and layouts for a while earlier. Joe Sinnott, the great inker from the Golden and Silver Ages of comics, but this was the Bronze Age and his inking seemed… meh, did the finished art for those issues. One could barely tell Byrne had anything to do with the art of those stories.

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Sinnott’s inks, not helping.

Be that as it may, when Byrne took over the FF writing and drawing, he churned out some intriguing and entertaining stories and some excellent art. I will say this wasn’t the height of his art, which he achieved on the X-Men with the help of inker Terry Austin, but still very good stuff.

This month’s cover (see above) is very dramatic. The Thing is desperately trying to find Johnny (the Human Torch) in some kind of inferno of debris. I’m not sure  Johnny can be burned, he is the Human Torch, after all. Still, the Thing is determined to rescue his little “brother”.

The high contrast inking and color, using mostly orange and yellow with white highlighting, makes this cover feel very hot. And it makes Ben Grimm’s desperate search more desperate. I also like the dry brush inking (or maybe it’s charcoal) to create the texture of the burning debris and smoke.

It’s a terrific cover. Worthy of high praise. Which I just gave it.

Packing Peanuts!

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