Thursday, February 10, 2011

Artists With a Trademark Character -- but Weird Elsewhere...

Doug: So in the midst of watching the Super Bowl last Sunday, I was perusing the wonderful offerings from our blogging peers (be sure to check out the sidebar from time to time -- you'll have to scroll down a bit, but it will be worth your effort). Jared over at Blog Into Mystery was waxing nostalgic on Jim Aparo and Batman, specifically the Death In the Family arc. He made an interesting comment that got me to thinking. Jared proposed that while he thought Aparo's Batman was virtually without peer, he didn't so much care for Aparo on other characters. Which brought me to a similar notion I've had for years: While John Buscema rules the Marvel Universe like none other (OK, maybe that Kirby fellow), I cannot stand any DC work I've ever seen him do. I'd offer the following example to support my posit:

See what I mean? Everyone's just a bit off. To be honest, I can't even picture Marvel costumes superimposed on these bodies. It's just not right. I'll give you that this looks to have been drawn later in Buscema's career. Contrast the JLA image, however, with the Marvel poster, from 1975, below. Now I don't care for Buscema on Daredevil, but let's face it -- ol' Hornhead looks pretty dang good here!

So here's today's question: Name an artist who you love on one character or team, but just don't really care for him/her elsewhere. What is it that you love in the one place and just don't care for in another?

EDIT (2/11/11 @ 8:19 am) -- A few commenters, whilst discussing the merits of Gene Colan, asked that the following panel be posted. In spite of assumptions made, I do not own this particular issue of Daredevil, nor was I privy to this page prior. A Google Images search with the queries "Natasha + Gene Colan + shower" immediately brought me to this sample. So -- here it is!

EDIT #2 (2/11/11 @ 10:42 am) -- Thanks to frequent commenter Richard for shaking me out of my slothful slumber. You'd think that as a history teacher, I'd have a bit more attention to detail... Anyway, the panel below is not from Daredevil as I had assumed, but instead hails from the Widow series in Amazing Adventures #5. I stand red-faced and duly corrected. Thanks, Richard! Incidentally, Colan only penciled three issues (#'s 3-5) of the Widow series before Don Heck took over -- until she shifted over to DD and the Inhumans took over AA.


Steve Does Comics said...

I love the work Frank Robbins did in his short stint on The Shadow but (Luke Cage aside) have never been able to bear him on anything else.

Jonathan Stover said...

In Buscema's defense, that's a late career sketch that's so bad that John Byrne refused to believe it wasn't a hoax. I thought Buscema did a pretty nice job on the Superman and Spider-man team-up he drew, especially given that he had about a thousand inkers.

I like Paris Cullins, but he seemed to be born to draw Blue Devil, which is probably why DC took him off it and put him on Blue Beetle instead after only six issues. A real mistake from the 1980's.

david_b said...

So many come to mind, but I'd give one of my all-time favorite Marvel artists, Sal Buscema. Alot of it is really down to whoever's inking, though..

Absolutely LOVED him on Cap & Falc (early 70s), LOVED him on Avengers and Defenders(again, depending on inker..), but couldn't take him on Spiderman (MTU or 'Amazing' titles) largely due to his style being a bit 'too clean'. I was SO used to Andru or Romita drawing Spidey and that huge list of supporting characters around '73/'74 that I couldn't really warm up to Sal's pencils.

Same is true for Sal's work on the FF, 'course we've been so spoiled with Kirby, Buckler and Sal's brother John B. doing the series admirably (...and we all know how HARD it is to draw Ben Grimm).

A second name which comes to mind is George Perez. LOVED him in New Teen Titans, but grew to love him in both Avengers and FF, again with the right inker.

Inkstained Wretch said...

Gene Colan was an artist whose work was great for horror or urban film noir-type settings like Daredevil, Tomb of Dracula or Detective Comics. Basically anything set in the world of night and shadows was his forte.

His style just didn't work in more straight-up superhero comics though. I have some early 80s Avengers comics by him that are just awful, the characters looking like vaguely discernible scribbles.

Terence Stewart said...

I don't think Marvel mainstay Mark Bagley was a particularly good fit when he moved to DC - his JLA just looks wrong.

It would have been interesting if DC had managed to get Buscema when they went after him at the same time as Englehart. Would they have put him on JLA, or one of the Big Three? Imagine John Buscema on Wonder Woman...

Terence Stewart said...

Inkstained Wretch:

I love Gene Colan, but detested his work on Wonder Woman - too dark and too many shadows.

Anonymous said...

Usually agree with you, Inkstained, but not in this case. Completely agree that Colan’s pencils there were rubbish (this is the Weathermen, etc, right?), but he did some good stuff on the Avengers earlier (Hawkeye becoming Goliath).

I’d have say that John Byrne is rubbish, except on Xmen....
OK, that was a joke. More seriously....I never thought Barry Smith’s superhero stuff equalled Conan.

I loved Romita on Spidey. Even vs Ditko and Kane, he somehow IS the art of Spiderman...but I can’t really think of anywhere else I liked him that much. Don’t get me wrong, he’s great, but in the spirit of this thread, he has a Romita = Spiderman, Spiderman = Romita thing going on that he never achieves elsewhere.

Likewise, I find JR JR bland and sketchy, lacking in any detail, but that gave a corking inker the chance to run riot, which Bob Layton did, hence that wonderful run on Iron Man. If there’s a comparable run of JRJR anywhere else, I don’t know it.

I don’t like Don Perlin, but there are some very striking panels (inked by Kim DeMulder) in that late run of Defenders, most of which is a bit dreadful.


Inkstained Wretch said...

Richard --

I think we agree more than you realize. I have reprints of those Gene Colan "Hawkeye becomes Goliath" Avengers issues and you are right: Colan's work on those stories was quite good. I particulary like the offbeat but effective perspectives he uses, which really give a sense of the sheer size of Goliath. But that was, what, 1968 or so? It was still the Silver Age.

Otherwise I stand by my earlier assessment. By the mid-70s, Colan just wasn't the right guy for drawing stories about dudes in brightly colored capes and tights. I don't believe he was personally into drawing that stuff anymore and I think it shows in his work.

david_b said...

Agreed on Colan's stint with Goliath.. It made all the Avengers seem more powerful and ominous actually, very off-beat and cool.

I agree Colan's later work wasn't all that impressive. I have CA Annual 5 with his art, and it was so-so.

Doug said...

Seems we're on Gene the Dean here.

I'll agree that his Silver Age stuff (Avengers, DD especially, Cap, Iron Man, Subby) was good, and always had the potential to be great. In the '70's, his niche seemed to be Tomb of Dracula. Funny how he was tailor-made for Daredevil, but to be honest I've never really cared for his Batman. I think after the likes of Adams, Aparo, Novick, and others with their style, Gene's anatomy didn't seem to jibe with my vision of the Dark Knight.

Walter Simonson, anyone? His very early work, like Manhunter at DC, was good. I'm almost afraid to say that, because it was also his most mainstream-looking work. When he landed at Marvel and did Thor, X-Factor, etc. I did not at all enjoy that style.

I'll also agree with the comments on John Romita, Sr. The ultimate Spidey artist. His Cap was good, but I don't "see" him when I think of Cap. Colan or Sal Buscema go in that box. Romita's run on the FF was short and in my opinion hampered by his fright at having to follow Kirby on Marvel's flagship book.

As for JRJR, when you cite his early Iron Man work, he was a) pretty mainstream-looking, and b) Layton saved any flaws that might have otherwise been evident. I cannot take his modern stuff, over the last 20 years or so. Scratchy isn't a strong enough nor definitive-enough word. Rushed, amateurish, every-face-looks-the-same... Just yuck!


Fred W. Hill said...

Two contenders that come to my mind are George Tuska & Herb Trimpe, associated with Iron Man and the Hulk, respectively, in the late Silver Age and well into the Bronze Age. Their work didn't bother me too much in those titles but generally seemed jarring in other mags. I really didn't care for Tuska's art in his short run on the Avengers, between Sal Buscema and George Perez. Trimpe wasn't too bad in the few Captain America and Iron Man issues he did in the mid-70s, but his style seemed much more suited to ol' Greenskin.

Doug said...

I tend to like those Tuska Avengers issues, primarily because I just love the story in #139-140 where Hank kicks Whirlwind's butt and then succumbs to the side effects of the drugs/growing/a previous battle and succumbs. The Vision then enters Hank's 150-foot body to dispense an antidote.

But you're right - Tuska seemed to have stock poses and facial expressions. He was dynamic, but I'd say he could definitely be an acquired taste.

I like Trimpe on Hulk, but if you click around and look at our Super-Villain Team-Up reviews -- whoo-boy! Is that some questionable artwork!


Doug said...

Terence had an interesting suggestion: John Buscema on Wonder Woman. I'm thinking of what Perez did with the character on his post-Crisis revamp, and I can certainly see Big John handling a book like that.

So we can turn this a bit if you want: Can you think of someone who you'd nominate to have taken over a book but never worked on it?


Teresa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

"Can you think of someone who you'd nominate to have taken over a book but never worked on it?"

Standard early 70s response - "Neal Adams on everything!"

Speaking of Colan, whenever I think of the Black Widow, I only ever think of her as drawn by GC in those Amazing Adventure and Daredevil stories (as well as her remake/remodel by Romita in Spider-Man #86).

Trying to imagine how Marvel characters would have looked if drawn by DC mainstays like Swan or Novick....

B Smith

Edo Bosnar said...

An example that pops to mind almost immediately is Steve Ditko doing the Legion of Super-heroes - he had a short stint as LoSH artist a little before the famed Levitz/Giffen run that I thought was really ... off. Much as I love Ditko's art, it doesn't mix with the Legion.
And since you mentioned that Buscema doesn't "fit" with the DC Universe in general, I'll turn it around and propose an artist who just doesn't "fit" with Marvel: Carmine Infantino (and this is a little unfair on my part, since I'm not the biggest fan of his work in any case). From his stint on Marvel's Star Wars to his various assignments on Spiderwoman, Nova, Avengers, MTU, etc., I just have to say Infantino never worked for me on any Marvel title.

Anonymous said...

Edo – completely agree about Infantino. He had a nice, moody thing going on, but why was everyone on the slant? Everyone is at a 45 degree angle to the ground instead of standing up straight.

B Smith – completely agree about Gene and the BW.
Doug – can you please post that Colan panel of Natasha coming out the shower? (What do you mean which panel?? Dude, you know exactly what I’m talking about!). Now that’s how to draw the Black Widow. Out of costume, but immediately recognisable.

Did Miller ever actually draw Doc Strange? I seem to remember an advert for it, but I never saw it. That would have been interesting. Love that Spidey Annual.

John Buscema on the X men would have been right....and I’ll tell you why. Because they are very, very individual and he was very good at demarcating characteristics. For example, when you see a panel that is just the Wasp’s face, you can tell immediately not only that it’s Buscema, but also that it’s Jan. Check out later’s just Miscellaneous Female Face #101.

In terms of speculating, Gil Kane is very interesting because he drew practically everyone...but only the covers! I’d like to have seen his Iron Man. His kind of perspective drawing would really suit a character who flew horizontally.

And, for anyone not brave enough to actually drop acid, how about Steranko on Doctor Strange? Always seemed weird to me that Steranko was on Strange Tales all those years, but it was Nick Fury he drew, not the Doc. Let’s face it, His Jauntiness was never really in the same dimension as the rest of us to start with.

Perez would have been great on Nick Fury – lots of hardware, lots of detail.


david_b said...

"Doug – can you please post that Colan panel of Natasha coming out the shower? Now that’s how to draw the Black Widow. Out of costume, but immediately recognisable."

Umm, yes, I'll second that, Doug..??

I'll be brave to admit here that she's the reason I started collecting DD back in '73. At age 10, I recall Natasha was wonderful eye-candy.

I'm not surprised she was the only femail on the FOOM poster as well, Steranko really knew how to draw provocative female faces.

Doug said...

Richard and David --

Ask and ye shall receive! Actually, I got lucky by just doing an image search for the page in question. It's on the original post now.

Great points on Carmine Infantino. Chased me off many a Marvel mag. That issue of Avengers with Wonder Man and the Beast (#203) was not so good.


Jonathan Stover said...

That Frank-Miller-on-Dr.-Strange house advertisement from early 80's Marvel books is, alas, an ad for a book that never came to be, one with Joe Kubert's Redeemer and DC's Doc Savage miniseries in which Doc's brain is transplanted into the body of a Mayan.

david_b said...

Doug, bless you..

If I could post an animated .gif with Wayne and Garth bowing down, I would..:

"We're not worthy, etc.."

MANY Kudos!

And agreed on Carmen. He was so integral to DC's emerging 'New Age' with the re-imaged Batman, Flash and GL, but with Marvel..?

Yech. His time on Star Wars was passible, since his style was unique, and no one probably let him near the Bullpen mainstays, I don't know what the back story is on that, were they just throwing him a bone or what. Seeing the immense popularity of the Star Wars phenomina when the comic finally hit the stands, I'm sure Marvel wouldn't have given the project to just anyone.

Interesting now that I ponder that.

Inkstained Wretch said...

Hmm, I had never seen that Gene Colan-Black Widow page before. But now that I have, I'm really glad I got the whole Colan discussion rolling!

Anonymous said...

Thanks Doug - that’s the one. I actually thought it was from Am Adv’s. I always loved Colan for his sweeping action and fluidity rather than attention to detail, but that is proper just-out-of-the-shower, messed-up hair. If I’d been Matt Murdoch, the Owl and the Purple Man could have stolen the entire city that afternoon.
Ref. Infantino on Avengers, yup, terrible art. And a bad story too. But then everything from 201 – 255 is the Negative Zone for my money.

Jonathan – thanks. Another mystery solved. Shame though. It always seems that outside the mainstream mags, what gets made and what doesn’t is a bit random. I seem to remember that the Wolverine mini series happened purely because Claremont & Miller car pooled !

David – was never into Star Wars, but I recall Jim Shooter said somewhere that Marvel would have gone under if not for SW, so, as you say, very surprising that they gave it to anyone but a big hitter.


Doug said...

Richard --

Many thanks, and apologies for my laziness. I've corrected the information on the main post.

I knew Big John did the opening story in AA, and then I assumed it went over to Don Heck. I'd forgotten that Colan was in there for a 3-issue stint.

Again, thank you -- it's always important to be right, and now we are!



Anonymous said...

Well, we are supposed to be nerds, after all.
Seriously, one of the (many) things I love about your website is that you can half-remember something casually, and, guaranteed someone will give you chapter and verse. Brilliant. It's also a constant on-going reading list. I just bought the entire run of Tomb of Dracula purely because so many people on here raved so much, I couldn't believe I never read it before.

Terence Stewart said...

The one Marvel book I did like Infantino on was Spider Woman; he really captured that mysterious quality of the strip in the early days - his Spider Woman hair was superb, and The Needle was truly grotesque.


My love affair with The Avengers took a nose-dive with the awful #200, and the return of Shooter was the pits. He dropped all the interesting Avengers, and basically recreated the earliest incarnation - with Tigra subbing for The Wasp - and destroyed Tigra as a character, and Hank Pym, for a long time after.
And I hated Al Migrom's art on The Avengers. Yuck!

Anonymous said...

Hi Terence,
Yup. And even great artists like Colan were bad on the Avengers in that period. Dan Green was not a good inker for him. Starfox really didn’t work. Spider man, yet again, really stupid story. The Eternals. Milgrom’s bland art, as you say. No idea how to handle Captain Marvel. Tigra was a totally wasted opportunity. And, again, as you say, they butchered Hank Pym. Compare #161 ( Ultron) to the trial stuff later. It’s a tepid replay. You name it, it was a bad time. They should have sacked Jim Shooter!

Oh. Wait a minute. They did.

The only bright spot I remember is that really strange Molecule Man story with the Surfer. I think it’s drawn by Alan Weiss.

Otherwise, it’s nearly 6 years of utter tosh, but my God, when Stern/Buscema/Palmer take over, the standard goes up so fast you can get the bends from reading it.


Edo Bosnar said...

David, for me Infantino's art wasn't even passable on Star Wars, and I only sporadically read the series while he was regular artist, even though I was a total SW geek at the time.
Terence, similarly, I didn't like Infantino on Spider-woman. Given the somber, mysterious quality you mentioned (which actually made me a regular reader, even though I was not enjoying the art), I think a much, much better fit would have been the oft-mentioned-in-this-thread Gene Colan.
And since several people mentioned it, yes, Shooter's disastrous return to the Avengers pretty much chased me away from that title - I dropped out way before the much-lauded heights of the Stern/Buscema run.

Jonathan Stover said...

I think Miller was "replaced" by Marshall Rogers on Dr. Strange, so it wasn't all bad luck. Or maybe by that time it was Paul Smith who took over the book..the ad was circa 1981 and appears in the 4th Dr. Strange Essential volume, I believe.

Colan on NIGHT FORCE with Wolfman and the two NATHANIEL DUSK miniseries with Don McGregor is pretty nice, though DC hadn't mastered the process for colouring directly over Colan's pencils on the first DUSK, so it's a bit odd looking. The second DUSK looks really nice, though.

I also have a great fondness for Colan and Steve Gerber's Superman PHANTOM ZONE miniseries from 1981 -- the subject material suits Colan for the most part, and it's one of the high points of Bronze Age Superman. Gerber and Rick Veitch would write a coda to the miniseries in the last issue of DC Comcis Presents (#97).

Cheers, Jon

Karen said...

Holy cow! 29 comments! Doug, you got a winner here!

I'll second the Trimpe comment. Liked him on Hulk, but not anything else. Actually I think he looked best with john Severin inking.

Also agree that Sal B's Spidey was a bit off at times.

Shooter's second tenure on Avengers was just awful. The Colan artwork didn't help either.

I enjoyed Jim Starlin's brief work on Legion of Super-Heroes. Now that was an interesting match!


Terence Stewart said...

I've just remembered another Infantino Marvel comic I didn't mind - Ms Marvel before she got her (excellent) Dave Cockrum make-over.

One artist I never bought into in the DCU was Jack Kirby - I think he was probably the one artist that defined Marvel, but his take on established DC characters was hideous. I'm thinking of the Super Powers mini here...

david_b said...

Yep, I just checked back on this column and see all the additional comments.. WAY cool.

TOTALLY agreed on the Avengers, post-Shooter. His stint with that terrible Milgrom art was just.. terrible, on levels beyond imagination for Marvel. I believe, generally, the early 80s were not a good time for our 'A-team' or Marvel in general, kinda like the 90s and beyond..

I agree, when Stern/Buscema/Palmer took over again, except for that terrible Doctor Druid character, Starfox (uber-bland..), and that female Captain Marvel, it was a huge improvement, with Janet as leader.

Speaking of CM, she did have some good characterization during Stern's tenure, despite a weak start under Shooter, but still never got the hang of her.

Adding Namor into the mix was a very nice touch as well.

And having 'Big John' back as artist made it a huge joy to read our Mightiest Heroes once again..!

Anonymous said...

I think...and this kind of leads us back to where we started...that what was so nice on that run was that the JB/TP art recalled the glory days, but the Avengers also became a lot of old school characters (Thor, Cap, Wasp, Subby joined, Hercules & the Black Knight came back)...the writing (long story arcs and in-depth characterisation) recalled the glory days of Englehart and the art didn't just recall the glory days of Buscema / was !


jefsview said...

Some artists can transcend genre and Company, while others can not.

Never cared for Don Heck on Justice League of America or Teen Titans.

Carmine Infantino was good on Spider-woman, but any other Marvel work was hideous.

Herb Trimpe was fanastic on the Hulk, Phantom Eagle and early Son of Satan. He wasn't the best fit for everything, but when he was good, he was good (Machine man with Barry Smith anyone?).

Bernie Wrightson shouldn't do superheroes.

It took ahile to get used to Jim Starlin working at DC. Still not certain if I like it :)

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