Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Spotlight On... Keith Pollard


Doug: If you were reading Marvel Comics in the late Bronze Age, then you were looking at Keith Pollard's pictures. With extended runs on Amazing Spider-Man, Fantastic Four, and Thor, as well as work on the Inhumans, Master of Kung fu, Captain America, and seemingly a million one-offs. Pollard was everywhere. And how about this distinction? Pollard was the penciler on the 200th issues of Amazing Spider-Man and Fantastic Four, as well as on the 300th issue of Thor. That's an honor. Thoughts?







25 comments:

Edo Bosnar said...

You said it: the guy was everywhere, and for a while his art could be seen in two of Marvel's flagship titles, ASM and FF, and in the title of another of its major characters, Thor. Meaning that he was also a workhorse, kind of like Sal B.
I've always like his art; it's just a nice, solid attractive style that's really well-suited to super-hero stories. I guess, though, that it wasn't distinctive or flashy enough to earn him the fan favorite status that Byrne or Perez obtained. That's too bad, because I think he deserves more accolades than he generally gets. My personal favorite work by Pollard is from the Silver Surfer graphic novel, The Enslavers (written by Stan Lee). The story isn't bad, but the art is just gorgeous.

Martinex1 said...

Keith Pollard is an artist I really enjoyed. He created some fantastic covers. Doug mentioned the runs he worked on and the length of those runs goes unheralded He had to be on Thor for a couple of years. In my opinion the Thor covers for issues 305 and 306 are really outstanding. They feature the heralds of Galactus, Gabriel and Firelord, in layouts with the hero that are truly memorable. Gabriel flying (air walking) carrying an unconscious Thor by his cape is an image that was etched in my memory. Pollard was a workhorse consistently turning out issues month after month, staying on model, and delivering some great action. His work sometimes reminded me of Sal Buscema's. It wasn't splashy but it was very solid, and I liked how he drew the Marvel characters. He seemed to have a respect for their images.

Martinex1 said...

Ha, Edo you and I think alike on Pollard. A workhorse of the Sal Buscema type.

Humanbelly said...

I'm in the same club as you guys. Always liked Pollard's work for exactly the same reasons I liked Sal's. Everybody looked "right" with Keith at the penciling helm. And while he and Sal have rather similar styles, I'd say that Keith's work has more of a Joe Sinnott touch to it-- like, if Joe had been a penciler himself.

It says in his (very spare) wikipedia entry that he left comics in '94, which is certainly too bad, but totally not surprising as, like Sal, his work was pretty much 180-degrees out of synch with the prevailing artistic stupiditude trend of that era. Man, what a shame. And yet, he was the guy at that time who they went to do the OHOTMU entry illustrations. I dunno-- I always have a deep, abiding appreciation for the steady, reliable, high-level utility teammate, y'know?

HB

The Groovy Agent said...

Keith (and later Ron Frenz) earned his way through the ranks by keeping the "real" Marvel style alive. I was always thrilled when he took over a series and could never figure out why fans didn't take to his style (which very much, in a positive, non-swiping way) brilliantly channeled the Bros. Buscema. Perhaps if they'd teamed him with more "modern" style inkers like Klaus Janson, Bob McLeod, Gene Day, or Joe Rubinstein?

And why haven't I done more about Keith on my blog? I need to rectify that!

Fantastic topic as always, gang!

Ozone said...

In my view Pollard is among the finest artists to ever work for Marvel. His figures had a real heft to them, conveying power convincingly. Solid. His storytelling was dynamic and fluid, rarely stiff, and just so pleasing to the eye. And, yes, although I hadn't thought of it before, his work had a nice Sinnott vibe to it.

Reading this makes me wish I'd made an effort to specifically seek out more of his stuff, especially Spider-Man. I remember him most from his FF and Thor issues. And what a great signature he had too! So modern and cool. I really hold Pollard in high regard. Marvel should dedicate an entire collection to his work. -JJ

J.A. Morris said...

Martinex & Ozone used the word I would use to describe Pollard's work:Solid. He was never great, not flashy, but Pollard's work was easy on the eyes and he always brought good, "Marvel house style" pencils to all the books he worked on. His Spider-Man art is a personal favorite ASM era of mine, because Pollard. was penciler when I started making an effort to buy and collect every issue of the title.

William said...

I always enjoyed Keith Pollard's work on Amazing Spider-Man. He pretty much took over as the regular artist after Ross Andru left the book.

As I said, I always liked his work, but I didn't love it. He's a very competent artist. His anatomy is spot on, his perspective is good, but he just doesn't have that X-Factor that elevates his style to the level of a Byrne, Perez, or Miller.

Even though Pollard drew Spider-Man well, he (Spider-Man) always looked a little stiff, like just a well muscled guy in a costume. There was not much spider-ness about him. I guess I'm trying to say that Pollard's art just didn't have a lot of fluidity to it.

When you try to explain what makes one artist more appealing than another, it's hard to define. For example: If you showed the average person a page of Keith Pollard's Spider-Man work and compared it to the early work of say Ron Frenz on ASM, most people would probably say that Pollard was the better artist. However, I much prefer Frenz. Even though his stuff was not as technically "polished" as Pollard's, there was something about Frenz's Spider-Man that was way more interesting. Spider-Man just "moved" with more agility under Frenz's pencil.

As I said, It's really hard to put your finger on why one artist becomes more popular than another (even though both seem equally skilled at their craft). It's kind of the way that Jose Louis Garcia Lopez never really got as much credit (or attention) as some of his peers like Perez, or Adams, or Byrne, etc. Even though Lopez was a brilliant artist. I guess (like Pollard) his style just wasn't unique and/or dynamic enough to capture the public's imagination.

Martinex1 said...

Other really solid artists of the era that should get more attention like Pollard, are Ron Wilson and Arvell Jones and Bob McLeod. I liked their work. To me, there is something nice about not noticing the artist but noticing the art... if that makes sense.

Humanbelly said...

There's a lot to be said for that perspective, MX1. It addresses, I think, the idea of artistic balance, and of putting the element of storytelling front and center. If an element begins to draw attention directly to itself, it ends up taking the viewer/reader out of the world of the story-- exactly the opposite of the desired overall effect. On stage, this could be directly analogous to over-the-top, self-indulgent set design, or even effects-heavy, melodramatic lighting design. (In fact, one school of lighting design is that, if one notices the lighting at all, then the design has been unsuccessful--).

HB

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I tend to like Pollard's stuff too; I can't think of any story where I was disappointed by his work. His Spidey stuff was really good.

Mike Wilson

Rip Jagger said...

Keith Pollard is another one of those rock solid talents who gets overlooked by the fans, then and now. I'm glad to see some love for his sterling storytelling here.

Pollard's run on Thor in particular was strong, evoking the classic Kirby and Buscema work which preceded it but not aping either earlier artist. Pollard's style seemed to be a thoroughly processed brew which had drunk in his influences and developed a distinctive look.

He like Sal Buscema, Alex Saviuk, and too many others get labeled as "hacks" because I suppose they were a little too adept at hitting their deadlines, the sure sign of a "hack". Back in the bad old days of the "Dreaded Dealine Doom" the so-called hacks made sure comics are still here for all of us to enjoy.

Rip Off

KevinFermoyle said...

Pollard's art had a nice Kirby-esque feel without looking as if he was trying to imitate Kirby. Unfortunately, comics art eventually tilted in favor of style over substance and Keith,like many of his contemporaries, fell out of favor even though they were good artists and solid storytellers.

david_b said...

Not much to add here.., I started noticing him when I started recollecting some FF around ish 196-200. I was quite annoyed with a lot of the FF artists after the Buscema/Sinnott team left.., just sorta under-whelming.

In contrast, Keith's style was very, very subtle, yet agreeable and a nice improvement.

He drew Ben Grimm very well, which as we all know is NOT that easy. Always liked his Reed Richards-stretching as well.

Humanbelly said...

The man himself also has an inherently nice warm face. Kind of a potential Santa Claus thing goin' on. . .

HB

Anonymous said...

William, I guess beauty - and artistic styles - are in the eye of the beholder. I would rank Pollard in the vein of Sal Buscema; solid, dependable, and hitting the right marks consistently. While not in the superstar group of Big John, George Perez or Neal Adams, his work delivered the goods in an understated way. I would say he is one of the most underrated artists of the Bronze Age. I still have some issues of Black Goliath and Thor which he did. Good stuff.

HB 'ol buddy, careful you don't judge a book by its cover - Ted Bundy was an attractive, intelligent, charming man on the exterior ... but you know how he was internally! Fortunately, it does seem that Pollard was a nice guy too; I've never heard any negative stuff about him. Thanks Keith!


- Mike 'Pollard the Powerful' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Edo Bosnar said...

Mike (from T&T), you just reminded me that Pollard did the art on the last issue of Black Goliath, which was easily the best of the entire, whopping 5-issue run - both the story and especially art were a cut above the rest of the series. And then it was cancelled...

Anonymous said...

Lots of people wondering why Pollard was underrated and suggesting it might be down to a less flashy, understated style.... Theres something to that - I certainly noticed someone like, say, Sienkiewicz more - but I'd also make the argument that artists like Pollard (and Frenz too) were also let down by the writers, who had maybe worked on the same type of book for too long

Thor and the FF had been running out of steam for a while and were pretty uninspired by the late 70s, so efficient and competent artwork wasn't always quite enough to completely hold our interest (even Sienkiewicz couldn't keep me reading the FF!)

-sean

Humanbelly said...

Sean's point about the writers is also well-taken-- I was already remembering that the stories during his FF tenure were being somewhat carried along by his comfortable house style. Everything "looked" fine, so it was easy to mask writing inadequacies. . .

HB

pfgavigan said...

Hiya,

I always thought that perhaps Mr. Pollard's problem was that he was too good of an artist and not enough of a cartoonist for comic books. His figures never really do that exaggerated gesture or pose that conveys so much energy to a drawing. His bodies bend and move the way that bodies actually do.

pfgavigan

BK said...

When I first started reading Keith Pollard comics, I didn't know they were Keith Pollard comics. They were just Marvel comics. For the most part, as has been noted here, he did his job well, following in the post-Kirby, Buscema house style. He illustrated some of the favourite comics of my childhood!

Only as a slightly older fan did I come to differentiate his work and, later still, to deprecate it in favour of the more canonical "stars" of fandom. Looking back now, it is obvious he brought a passion and verve to everything he did during that period. He had a great sense of design, especially with covers.

I remember that just at the cusp of the 80s my family moved, and my burgeoning fandom (i.e., reading and following several series on a mostly monthly basis) was interrupted just as my two favourite series, Thor and Fantastic Four, were approaching their big anniversary issues. Tracking down Fantastic Four #200 was one of the first serious efforts I made in collecting. I think it was one of the first comic books I paid over cover price for. I still remember Pollard's wonderful art in that issue, depicting the "ultimate" struggle between Reed Richards and Dr. Doom. Especially great was Reed parachuting into Latveria, hooking up with the underground, freeing his family, and launching an attack, all while Doom battled his own son/clone with the powers of the FF. Doom cradling the twisted body of his son, followed by his own madness after having his own reflection thrown back at him a thousand-fold, are images that stuck with me for years and inspired some of my first stabs at comics making as a kid. Here's to Keith Pollard!

dbutler16 said...

Keith is one of those guys I consider underrated. I always know I'm going to like the book when I see his name on the splash page, plus as others have mentioned he was pretty much everywhere, and yet I feel like he doesn't get discussed or praised much. I especially like his work in the Fantastic Four and Amazing Spider-Man, and the one issue of X-Factor he did was excellent.

William Preston said...

I used to get those Marvel calendars, and I loved seeing what the Marvel folks looked like. I certainly noticed how few black creators there were, and often they seemed the best at drawing black characters. Pollard and Wilson (who I totally loved on MTIO) were the only two black artists during my days of Marvel zombie-dom (I missed Graham's work, though I bought it later; I think Jones came along just as my purchasing was tailing off). That distinction drew me to them, but they were also two artists who never let me down.

col.jimbo3rd said...

when the incredible hulk was between pencillers (macfarlane to purvis)i was given a hulk inventory job to ink over keith pollards pencils-it was hulk v the lava men,and though it was layouts it was an absolute thrill to ink! i wish i could've work with him more-and the worst thing is it never saw print and no one at marvel knows what happened to the originals-jim sanders III

Kevin Parker said...

Keith Pollard is THE name I conjure when I think of late Bronze Age Marvel. No middleweights or bantams in his action art...all his heroes were heavyweights, even Spider-Man and Reed Richards-- he would have been terrific on an extended 'Power Man' run. His versatility and smooth storytelling were much missed when the next generation took over Marvel in the mid-1980s. Pollard did a mean Sub-Mariner(FF # 195) and Iron Man, too. His best performance, I think, was on 'Thor.' In musical terms, he covered Jack Kirby better than anyone else, making Thor and the Eternals his own, keeping the Kirbyesque essence without imitating, yet giving all of it his particular verve and style. He was also a fine inker of his own pencils. A much under-appreciated artist.

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