Thursday, June 23, 2011

Spotlight On: Gil Kane

Doug: Nose upshots. That is seriously the first thing I think of when Gil Kane becomes the subject at hand. After that, I think of contorted fingers. OK, got that out of my system. Now let's talk about Gil Kane the storyteller. The guy can move the reader's eyes through a book. One of the best. Great camera angles, great emotion (however, see contorted fingers, above...), and dynamic action. Certainly he's probably best-remembered for his long tenures on Green Lantern, the Atom, and the Amazing Spider-Man. After those three runs, I think of him as Marvel's go-to cover artist in the Bronze Age; in fact, it would be interesting to see how many covers Kane had published as compared to Jack Kirby over the 1970's. Either guy was prolific in the middle part of the decade, and each arguably drew every character in the MU.

Karen: As a kid, I did not care for Kane's art, for the reasons you cite and more. It just looked 'weird' to me, whatever that meant. But now that I'm older and hopefully wiser, I have come to enjoy his work. The nose upshots still bother me, but I can see what a good story-teller he was, and how dynamic his art was.

Doug: There are certain characters that I cannot take Gil Kane on. Primary on that list would be the Incredible Hulk. I don't know why -- part of me says it depends on the inker.
For example, if you check out our reviews of Amazing Spider-Man #119 and #120, you'll see Kane's Hulk looks pretty good. But how much of that is due to the inking of John Romita, Sr.? Conversely, a visit to Marvel Super-Heroes #43 gives us quite a different interpretation. What do you think? Am I wrong? I don't even know what to say about that art from the Tales to Astonish reprint. It doesn't look like anything Kane did over at DC, and it sure as heck isn't as nice as the ASM stuff.

Karen: I think for most artists there are characters that they just aren't suited for or don't draw well, and I would agree with you that for Kane, the Hulk was one of those. I didn't think his Iron Man was particularly good. He worked well on Spider-Man, and I can't help but think that was partly because he tended to draw sort of contorted figures, and that works with Spidey.

Doug: I'm sure for many readers of old-time Spider-Man stories felt that Kane's presentation of the web-spinner was Ditkoesque. "Contorted" is a great way to put it! Our recent look at the deaths of Gwen Stacy and the Green Goblin showcased some wonderful Kane/Romita art, and certainly the Ditko influence could be seen here and there. Maybe the Morbius stories from ASM #100-102 would be even better examples of Ditko's influence on Kane's interpretation of the Wallcrawler.

Doug: What do our readers think? Kane, or no Kane? Sound off!

*Thanks to the folks at scans-daily for the Gwen Stacy image*


joe bloke said...

Gil Kane is the single greatest comics artist, living or dead, bar none, ever. honest.

HannibalCat said...

Gil Kane was always one of my favourite artists; his legion of Marvel covers show his strengths and weaknesses - not exactly my choice for Tomb of Dracula - but he was astoundingly good for Spider-Man and you can see how much of an influence his time on Captain Marvel was on Jim Starlin's later version of the character in his figure work. I think there is a direct line of stylistic greatness from Ditko, through Kane, to Starlin and beyond. When he was inked by Klaus Janson his work really blew me away (though Klaus' inks made everyone look good), so the covers he did for the Defenders I like a lot. I had a vast amount of Gil Kane covers as posters on my bedroom walls and any character that had him as a fill in artist - he never seemed to hang around for long on any Marvel title - was always a joy to behold.

dbutler16 said...

Gil Kane was never one of my favorites. I guess, as Karen said, it just looked a bit "weird" to me. I think of him now as a solid, if unspectacular artist, but then I haven't really made a concerted effort to review his work through the prism of age/wisdom, so maybe I'd have a different opinion of him if I did.

Inkstained Wretch said...

I am a HUGE Gil Kane fan, but unlike most of the people who read this blog (I assume) I became a fan of his during his DC period in the 1980s, not his Marvel 70s work. I loved his work on Superman and in Sword of the Atom.

His style had changed by then. I read somewhere that he started penciling with a felt tip pen, which accounted the distinctive linework. Some people thought it was too much, but I loved it. It was so bold, it seemed to leap off the page.

Anonymous said...

Kane is one of my absolute favorites. Synonymous with the word dynamic. Along with Ditko and Aparo, I thought his art was just "weird" when I first started reading comics as a little kid. It soon became apparent to me that all three were true artists with special and unique stylistic techniques.

I think some of his best work can be found in late '60's Green Lantern, Hawk & Dove, Captain Action, & His Name Is Savage. Also his late 70's comic strip Star Hawks is just amazing.

Although lacking depth, Kane was his own best inker. Wally Wood created an exciting synthesis of both of their styles when he inked Kane. It was as if the two of them together created a distinct third artist.

The typical Gil Kane pose for me is the "Gil Kane Punch". See the cover for The Atom #36 for a relevant example.

James Chatterton

J.A. Morris said...

He's one of my favorites,nose upshots and all! I first became aware of Kane via Spider-man reprints in 'Marvel Tales'.
This image is still one of the most memorable panels I've ever seen,quintessential Kane:

The Comics Journal did an excellent epic-length interview with Kane shortly before he died, here's an excerpt:

By the 80s, I think he slipped a bit(not crazy about his 'Micronauts' issues), but I've always enjoyed his work in 'Sword Of The Atom'.

david_b said...

Much like what's said, most artists become synomymous with certain heroes.. Most of the time, to me it's really up to the unsung heroics of the inkers.

I agree the Kane/Romita pairing is superb in Spiderman around issues 121/122, utter 'poetry in motion'. Much like Kirby/Sinnott, Buscema/Sinnott (well, ok, anyone/Sinnott), it's the complimentary pairings that really count, to either rachet up the intensity, or balance everything out.

Agreed with HannibalCat, it would a daunting task to count just how many covers ol' Gil drew for Marvels top Bronze titles. For a time, you couldn't spit without hitting one...!

I liked him on both GL and Spidey, even though his 'looking upward' angles became his hallmark. To me, he and Infantino were very similar in how they drew their facial angles.

So what, so a guy likes to draw nostrils....?!?

Hey, gotta love a guy who can draw prettttttty coooool nostrils.

dogspunk said...

one of my favorite covers ever is a Kane; marvel team-up #23
I love his anatomy and dynamic poses.

david_b said...

My Favorite Kane Cover/Story..??

Marvel Team-Up #13. Some-what weak ending ("Gee, how did that stone wear off so quickly?"), but wonderful intense cover, and outstanding drawings of Nick Fury, Cap and Spidey inside.

Great, all-in-all action issue.

The story use of Nathanial in the beginning was clever, and he REALLY should have been used more as a charming, on-going MTU-exclusive character, but alas faded into obscurity.

Edo Bosnar said...

I wouldn't go so far as joe bloke, but Kane is indeed one of my favorite artists. He's also probably the only member of that "older" generation of artists (like Kirby, Ditko, etc.) whose art I liked immediately, rather than it having to grow on me. To me, unlike Kirby and even Ditko to a certain extent, I actually think Kane got better as time passed. I think his best work dates from about 1970 onward.
Also, it's probably worth mentioning that Kane also produced what some consider the first graphic novel, Blackmark.

Tom Spasic said...

A great artist, whose cover work for Marvel during the 70's evokes many fond memories.
The "up nose" thing never bothered me, it was just a choice of "camera" angle, and a dynamic one at that. It's like saying Eisner had a thing for drawing the tops of heads because he often had the "camera" above the scene.
I wish Kane had gotten a run on Avengers, I think he'd have been good for them.

Redartz said...

David B- I totally agree; Kane/Romita was a wonderful combination.

Kane's artwork grew on me over the years, as several of you have stated. His figures have a striking dynamism that lent itself well to adventure strips. A personal favorite: Savage Tales #4, " Night of the Dark God". Inked by Neal Adams, this Conan story nicely blends the two; Kane's dramatic angularity with Adams' fine linework.

baab said...

These two guys accompanied me through the tortures of my adolescent and teenage life.
Just looking at the lines drawn on the page trigger old feelings and memories.
I also remember really liking the incredible hulk by gil kane,especially his facial rendition.
Im not some kind of defensive till the end fan either,I detested Don Hecks work on any characters I was reading,But recently I have appreciated his commercial art style,which also evokes memories for me from certain
love the blog.thanks for doing it for the rest of us.

Ric said...

Love Gil Kane, especially his 70s Marvel covers work! His cover work, along with the style of cover Marvel used at the time (corner boxes, the "Marvel Comics Group" banner across the top) just screams Marvel's peak era to me!

Awhile back, I started to print color pages of my favorite Kane covers... then my printer quit printing in color for some reason (dang cheapo inkjet printer!). I printed the covers from Avengers 110 and 141, Marvel Triple Action 9, FF 143, Marvel Spotlight (Son of Satan) 21, GS Defenders 1, Marvel Team-Up 23, Captain America 216, Tomb of Dracula 18, Hulk 194, Marvel Premiere (Warlock) 2, Doctor Strange 10, Sub-Mariner 52, GS Power Man 1, Daredevil 127, MTIO 3, and my favorites: Invaders 20,Defenders 13, Champions 1, and, of course, GS X-Men 1.

Wow, that was fun to look at those prints again!


Joel said...

Gil Kane was one of my favorite Marvel artists from the Bronze Age. I loved his covers, I once bought a back issue of the X-Men (#80) when I was 12 solely because it had a Kane cover but was sadly disappointed when someone else had done the interiors (I didn't know it was a reprint issue at the time).

The nose upshots never bothered me, I thought they were unique, no one else did angles like that. It did seem to make a huge difference as to who was inking but I think that case could be made for any artist.

Also, I do remember reading something about him producing every cover for Marvel during one month in the 70's, I don't remember the details though. Did anyone else ever hear that?

Fred W. Hill said...

I'm among those who thought Kane's art looked "weird" when I was a kid in my early collecting years. I wondered what the heck was up with all those nose shots! Later on, however, I grew to appreciate his artistry, much as Ditko's art grew on me. He did some terrific art on Spider-Man -- reminescent of Ditko but still in his own unique style.

green blogger said...

I will always remember Gil Kane as the artist that revived Green Lantern and giving the Silver Age superhero a new look.

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