Thursday, November 12, 2015

Suggestion Unboxed - Appreciating the Underappreciated

Doug: You may recall that back on October 9, in the midst of a fit of non-creativity, we solicited readers' thoughts on post ideas. What we got was amazing, and we've already mined that one-day flurry of brainpower for several good days' conversations. Today I'm pulling two thoughts from the same comment. Both were in a cornucopia (seasonal reference there) of offerings from Martinex1, and since they are related I am putting them together in the same post. I'll take the liberty of leading off with some thoughts of my own. Many thanks again to all -- and this isn't the last time we'll be doing this, so if you took a penny for your thoughts, you'll yet be further rewarded.

Mike S. (Martinex1): Under appreciated comic book artists and writers (no Kirby, Byrne, Lee, Claremont here...).

Mike S.: Under appreciated heroes and villains. If you were in charge who would you give a title to?

Doug: In answer to the first question, I've always enjoyed the inks of John Severin and Sam Grainger. Certainly Severin was a star in his own right in the 1950s, but most Bronze Age fans will remember him best as the inker over Herb Trimpe on early issues of the Incredible Hulk. Severin brought a polish to Trimpe's pencils that really did give it that throwback look to the period right before the Marvel Age dawned. Great pairing. Grainger worked into the 1970s and shows up all over the Marvel Universe. I most fondly recall his inks over a young Sal Buscema in those turn-of-the-Age Avengers tales. Again, Grainger really polished Sal's work and gave it a rich texture. Grainger also inked Dave Cockrum in the first issues of the All-New, All-Different X-Men.

Doug: As to underappreciated characters, count me among anyone who digs Kid Flash. While I don't know if Wally West could have carried his own series, he was always a favorite of mine in the Secret Society of Super-Villains and the Teen Titans revival.  Oh, and you want an underappreciated villain? I always thought the Gladiator had a great look. The whirling blades on his wrist seemed dangerous enough, but especially to him! I enjoyed his appearances in Daredevil and wished he'd crossed over into the Peter Parker or Nova books (for examples).


Redartz said...

Good choices, Doug- Severin and Grainger are both responsible for some fine illustrated work. As for Gladiator, he's terrific. Perhaps my favorite Daredevil villain, and I was pleased to see Melvin Potter show up on the Daredevil tv series.

Underappreciated artist: Tom Sutton. Possessing a unique style, very effective on horror, humor and heroic stories.

Still considering a character; my available breakfast time is done so it looks like another lunchtime attempt at a phone post...

Humanbelly said...

Ohhhhh, that Incredible Hulk #150. . . SUCH a good, under-the-radar issue! In itself worthy of the "Underappreciated" award, no question (as was the horror-esque #151). And, IIRC, Sam Grainger was also responsible for some wonderfully lush, exotic inks on Greenskin's book through this era, as well. I believe we saw his work on at least one of the K'ai stories. . .

Also pressed at work-- hope to contribute with more heft later on, eh?


William said...

I don't know if he counts as "underappreciated" but I do wish Marshall Rogers had stayed on Batman longer. He's probably my favorite Batman comic-book artist, and he only did like 8 or 9 issues during his original run in the 70's. Whenever I revisit those comics I always crave more of his work on the character. I wish he at least had 20 or 30 issues to enjoy.

As far as characters go, I am a big fan of the original White Tiger (Hector Ayala). I always loved his simple costume, and super kung-fu powers. He became an instant favorite of mine when I first encountered the character in PPTSM #9-10. I would buy every book with him in it after that. And I will always have a problem with B.M. Bendis for callously killing him off in Daredevil for no reason (like he seems to do with most classic characters he writes).

And I was also extremely disappointed that the recent Marvel Legends White Tiger figure was the modern female version. "meh"

Anyway, if White Tiger (Hector) had gotten his own title back in the day, I would have definitely been on board for the ride.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if Pablo Marcos was underappreciated but he drew lots of Marvel UK covers from 1975-78 and I've a great fondness for his artwork. Also Alfredo Alcala - he wasn't just an inker, he was the artist on Marvel's adaptations of "Beneath the Planet of the Apes" and "Conquest of the Planet of the Apes".

Edo Bosnar said...

Some of my picks have already been mentioned, like Sutton and Marcos, and the White Tiger - totally agree with you on that one, William. And yes, I also first saw him in PPTSM, although I only had issue #10. But I just had to know who that guy wearing a bleached Spider-man costume was, and why he seemed to be kicking Spidey's butt.

I have two additional picks for underappreciated artists: Ramona Fradon, who was active from the Golden Age into the Bronze Age (and still apparently makes occasional convention appearances) and who did what I think is some great work on the Super Friends comic in the late '70s and early '80s; and Billy Graham, who picked up the art chores on the Black Panther stories in Jungle Action from Rich Buckler and didn't miss a beat. He also drew, and occasionally co-plotted, some of the early Luke Cage stories - just an all-around solid artist.

Underappreciated hero: Greer Nelson (The Cat/Tigra) - I've mentioned before that I have a soft spot for her, and aside from some pretty good Tigra stories in the late '70s in various books, she was never put to good use I think.
Underappreciated villain: Belladonna - I just love the idea of a villain from the fashion world; she appeared in a few good stories in PPTSM, but I think she should have become one of the majors in Spider-man's rogues gallery.

Maartinex1 said...

Doug, thanks for posing my questions. I would have to say that there are a few underappreciated artists (maybe not on this site, but underappreciated in general) that I like: Ron Wilson, Keith Pollard, and Ed Hannigan. Since we have talked about Wilson and Pollard before, let me talk about Hannigan. He cut his teeth on some mid 70s horror titles and early on seemed to have some sort of monster involved whenever he was on cover duty. Eventually he worked on many Marvel titles (Defenders particularly). He performed as writer, artist, and even colorist depending on what he was called to do. I particularly like a couple of covers from him: Defenders 61, Defenders 92 and Amazing Spider-Man 168. He went on to work at DC and had a decent run on Green Arrow. Another artist I find myself liking is Bob McLeod; he had a run on New Mutants and I liked his cover for Marvel Team Up 86 (for obvious reasons). Very solid.

Regarding writing, David Michelinie comes to mind. He had memorable runs on Avengers and Iron Man. He had the misfortune of being involved in Avengers 200, but I really enjoyed his work on the Avengers up to that point when they faced Crusher Creel, traveled to Wundagore, and fought the Taskmaster from about 180 through 199. He handled the Gyrich takeover of the team and had some part in the Korvac saga. He also wrote the Iron Man / Dr. Doom in Arthurian times story from Iron Man 150. His plotting was better than his scripting sometimes; but I think he had a great feel for the characters and partook in some of my favorite books from the time.

I’d also like to mention my favorite colorist Glynis Oliver (Wein). She made such a difference on many books in the late 70s including the X-Men at their peak. If you look at her color choices, she really had a great handle on the contrasts, moods, and focus. She also seemed to understand the impact of the printing process, as her coloring looked less muddied than others. And while I am at it, how about Tom Orzechowski on lettering. I don’t think the general audience understands how hard that work is; fitting the dialogue, positioning the balloons, designing the font, and staying invisible while making an impression. Again, during the height of Claremont and Byrne’s run on X-Men, Tom Orzechowski had an impact.

On characters I’d like to see in their own mags… I always thought Yellowjacket should have gotten a solo shot in that guise. He had a good array of villains from Egghead to Whirlwind to Taskmaster to the Living Laser. He had the disturbed psyche, the brilliance of a master scientist, cool tech, and complex relationships. I know the Ant Man / Giant Man books kind of petered out, but I thought YJ in the Bronze Age may have been interesting. Some others I would have liked to have seen (outside of Marvel Premiere) include: 3-D Man, Caleb Hammer, Wonderman (with his Avengers’ 150 to 190 persona), Stingray, Jack of Hearts, the Crusaders (from Invaders’ comic), and Valkyrie. Regarding villains, Count Nefaria, the Headmen, and Death-Stalker (from Daredevil).

And I agree on comments around Pablo Marcos, Sam Grainger and the White Tiger.

Humanbelly said...

So, for artists, I'm going to continue my tendency to view the world through a Hulk-ish lens, and toss in a couple of majorly big names who did some terrific work on that book that probably no one knows about at all: Bill Everett and Joe Staton.

WHAAAA-?, you ask?

Yep. Now I've probably mentioned this before, but before it became a solo book, the Hulk feature in Tales to Astonish went through a truly. . . astonishing (ha! Get it?). . . number of pencilers and inkers. Truly, it bordered on the ridiculousness of the FORCE WORKS run. . . except that most of the folks rotating through were first-rate artists with some serious bonafides. This group included among a number of others, Jack Kirby, John Buscema, Gil Kane, Marie Severin, and . . . Bill Everett! And I'll say upfront that I was never a big fan of old-school Golden Age Bill-- but his work on this book was just so solid and easy on the eyes. He served sometimes as penciler and sometimes as inker-- and I have to say that his inking in particular was just lovely-- adding depth and shape to the pencils that you never would have expected. His face work, also, hit exactly the right mark for Greenskin. We tend to think of the "classic" Hulk face as the one that was more or less developed by Marie and adopted by Herb--- but the precedent for the more "human" Hulk visage was clearly there with Bill's interpretation.

Joe Staton, you say? This guy also was GREAT inker! He came onto the title ("Joe Staton at Marvel? WAHOOO!"- as one letter writer put it) as the regular inker a few months before Herb's departure-- which was a definite boost for Herb's inconsistent style, and he stayed in place for several months after the transition to Sal. Now, those are two pencilers with very little stylistic common ground, and yet. . . and yet. . . the book still looked absolutely "right" through the change. And when you go back, you can see it's because ol' Joe Staton was brilliant in the role of visual equalizer.

Okay, back to work-- lunch over--


Edo Bosnar said...

HB, you didn't surprise me with that little factoid: I know all about Staton's quite excellent job inking Sal's pencils on the Hulk. The first issue of Hulk I recall owning is #200, and while I didn't follow the title regularly at the time, I did have a few more of issues with Staton's inks. I agree, his inks look so fantastic over Sal's pencils (and it's one of the many reasons that, for me, Sal is *the* Hulk artist).

Redartz said...

Martinex- great call on Ed Hannigan! His issues of Spectacular Spiderman are top notch; a little reminiscent of Ditko.

HB and Edo- echo your praise of Staton inking "Our pal Sal". They were a perfect pairing on those Avengers issues in the 130's!

As for a character: Guardian (aka "Major Maple Leaf"). Fantasticly sharp costume, would have liked to see more of him outside of Alpha Flight. Then they had to go and kill him off...

Well, gotta follow HB and get back to work. Hasta mas tarde...

Anonymous said...

Hmmm, this is a hard soon as I answer, I'll think of half a dozen names I should've mentioned. But off the top of my head, I think Mike Fleisher is a writer who's often been overlooked; for artists...Alex Saviuk. His Web of Spider-Man stuff was brilliant, especially the way he drew the supporting cast.

Underrated characters...Moon Knight has always been treated as a secondary character (or a Batman knock-off); Black Lightning got the same treatment at DC (though he did eventually join the JLA). I also liked the New Warriors as a team--not the later, goofball, reality-TV team, but the original, streetwise kids written by Fabian Nicieza. I always thought they were better than most people seem to remember them.

Mike Wilson

ColinBray said...

Jack of Hearts is a favourite character of mine but the intermittent BA efforts to make him a keeper in the Marvel U all foundered. Did artists simply refuse to draw his complex costume design, I wonder?

For villains, for some reason I was always keen on The Spot. Wacky, almost SA in style, he stood out in his handful of 80s appearances.

Artist-wise, my underrated choice is Joe Bennett. He may be massive out there with 'the kids' but I don't get that impression. His command of detail and beautiful line work is like a fusion of the best of old and new styles - if you get the chance check out some of his Thor character sketches/pencils. They are really excellent.

Humanbelly said...

It's kind of hard to come up with a "should have had a shot at their own book" option 'cause in the Bronze to Modern Ages just about EVERYONE had a tryout with at least a mini-series at some point. I mean-- Red Tornado? There was that much demand? Really?

Cliff Steel/RobotMan would certainly have gotten a look from me with a solo title. I know he's been part of an anthology series, at least, in recent years. A great character in an inherently compelling, dramatic set of circumstances (sort of like Ben Grimm, in a way-- with the lost physical humanity).

If there's such a thing as a pre-married Vision existing in a post-Wanda world, then he would have made a truly fine protagonist in the hands of someone like, say Alan Moore, I think. He had that terrific "Vic Shade" alter-ego that would have been wonderful to explore, and lent him a completely unexpected yet strangely effective noir-type of air.

Hmm-- how about the reformed William Baker era for Sandman? I totally wanted to know more about his story and life, but didn't want to have to wade through Wolf Pack (or whatever it was) to get there.

And two major Bronze Age Spidey nemeses, The Jackal and Hobgoblin seem to be remembered largely with disdain-- even contempt. But I think that's because both of their secret identity "reveals" proved to be extremely disappointing and/or outright stupid. But before these two characters were laid low, they both were wonderfully engaging and dangerous antagonists for the Wallcrawler. It would have been better to have them never be caught at all, really.


Edo Bosnar said...

Oh, man, can't believe I forgot to mention a writer. One of my votes for a truly underappreciated writer is Roger McKenzie - he did a lot of work for Marvel and the Warren magazines in the 1970s and '80s (and also a little work for DC). I really like his work on Marvel's Battlestar Galactica, and also on Daredevil - so many people forget that the first roughly dozen issues of Frank Miller's famed run were actually written by McKenzie. He also wrote a bunch of Captain America issues before the Stern/Byrne run - and in fact created some of Cap's excellent supporting cast in that rooming house he moved into as Steve Rogers.

dbutler16 said...

For under-appreciated artists, I'll throw out there Adrian Gonzales, Alex Saviuk, and Don Perlin.
For under-appreciated heroes, oh, I don't know. Off the top of my head I'll say Banshee.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if John Severin is under appreciated; I always thought he was (rightly) highly regarded. Maybe from the perspective of 70s superhero comics... I suppose a lot of Severin's best work belonged to an earlier era and in genres that became unfashionable.
But his sister Marie Severin strikes me as much more genuinely under appreciated.


Humanbelly said...

Ooh yeah-- right ON, Sean!
Yeesh, how could I miss Marie the She?
She simply didn't get to do enough, as far as I'm concerned.
She was (well, probably still is, I suppose. . . )one of those artists who had a great knack for making everyone look "right". Like Sal B. Always seemed like such a waste to have her working away behind the scenes and not putting her artistic gifts right out there in front more often for everyone to enjoy.


Anonymous said...

And even as an artist Marvel tended to put her on humour stuff; nothing wrong with that as such, but it wasn't really their thing. Seems a shame that they didn't see fit to put her on something with a higher profile, as she did do some impressive work when given the chance.

Also, I know the post said no Kirby, but... I'd nominate Jack as a very under appreciated writer.
That might raise a few eyebrows round these parts - I know his actual scripting could be a touch... idiosyncratic - but for all that Kamandi, OMAC and the Fourth World titles are among the best US comics of the 70s.
And controversies aside, people tend to forget that he was actually co writer of those long FF and Thor runs of the 60s...


pfgavigan said...


I think for most under appreciated talent in the art category my vote would be for Syd Shores. The main penciler for the Golden Age Captain America for the length of his run, Shores eventually left the comic field, got formal education and became a top notch illustrator. Unfortunately, like many other 'realistic' artists, this hampered his ability to do the over the top type of physicality that became popular during the Sixties and Seventies. It did, however, make him a top notch inker. On seasoned pros like Kirby and Colan he really brought out their bests. On beginning talents like Starlin and Sutton he brought a sense of maturity that their raw pencils desperately needed.

He was also one of the best renderers of the female form. Find some of his Red Wolf books as examples.

Just a quick Sam Grainger story. I read an interview with George Perez a few months ago where he talked about his early inkers. He said that Grainger had been extremely faithful to his pencils, so faithful that he had reproduced many of Perez's flaws and mistakes. He preferred Joe Sinnott, who he stated had made many changes to the pages but captured the essence of what he had been after.

Considering some of Perez's other statements concerning inker fidelity to pencils, things like this give me a headache.



Anonymous said...

Hmm under appreciated artist? I'd probably go with Mike Royer. His inks gave just the right polish to Kirby's pencils on Kamandi. I don't hear much about him, but he definitely did a fine job on that book.

As for under appreciated villains, somehow I have soft spot for the Mole Man. You gotta love a short tubby guy armed with a stick who can still give the FF a headache!

- Mike 'realizes he looks like the Mole Man' from Trinidad & Tobago.

Rip Jagger said...

Count me among the all-time Sam Grainger fans. I've adored his smooth work ever since I first saw it on The Sentinels, a back up feature in vintage issues of Charlton's Thunderbolt. So Grainger's name was known to me when later he started inking Sal Buscema on the Avengers (great run) and later on the Hulk over Trimpe. Grainger did a bunch of fan art, much of which is now available through Hamster Press. I recommend it for those wanting to get a nice jolt of classic comics styling.

Rip Off

Anonymous said...

Great topic, sorry i saw it late......

A few that come to mind are Marvel's the Griffin and Black Talon, as well as several from the Serpent Society.


Dougie said...

The king of under-appreciated creators, to my mind, is artist Dick Dillin. His JLA collaborations with Len Wein were some of my fondest memories of the early Bronze Age.

Under-appreciated heroes would include the enigmatic Lilith Clay and the Huntress at DC: the latter being my favourite Bronze Age heroine, who never deserved her ignominious end. The Mafia princess version never grabbed me.

All the Marvel heroes in this category have been mentioned, I think. An unsung villain, however, is Englehart's Construct, who bridged the Silver and Bronze Age antagonist models very well, in my opinion.

BobC said...

Tom Palmer.

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