PAUL KUPPERBERG: My 13 Favorite GIL KANE COVERS AND STORIES*

A BIRTHDAY SALUTE: *1960s and beyond!

By PAUL KUPPERBERG

Gil Kane (April 6, 1926 – Jan. 31, 2000) freakin’ rocked. I mean, before I even knew what it was I was looking at, I knew that Gil Kane’s art was something different, something special.

By the time I “discovered” his work in the mid-1960s, Gil had already developed his familiar, mature style, all sharp angles that stretched and twisted the human form to its limits but with an elegance and fluidity that was like ballet on the page. I followed him on The Atom and Green Lantern for DC, but it was two projects, both published in 1968, that convinced me of his importance to the medium. One was, of all things, a comic published by DC based on a licensed property, the action figure Captain Action, and the other was the independently published His Name is… Savage (written by Archie Goodwin). Both were Gil Kane unleashed, the artist drawing what he wanted how he wanted. He followed that up in 1971 with Blackmark, an adventure “in the savage world of the future” published in paperback (again with prose by Goodwin) by Bantam Books.

Blackmark

Gil was also larger than life, and I don’t just mean his height. The first time I saw him was at an early-1970s New York Comic Convention, where he also spoke, analyzing and breaking down the art of creating comic books, a job he’d been doing since he was 16 years old in 1942, in ways I’d never could have imagined. It was also around that time that I read his classic interview with John Benson from Roy Thomas’ Alter Ego #10 (1969), a thought-provoking piece still worth reading today. He took his art form seriously, dissecting storytelling with a scholar’s eye. I didn’t know what to make of him: He was smart, articulate, witty, pompous, and often came across as condescending, addressing everyone as “m’boy,” mostly, I think, because it was easier than having to remember names.

But Gil Kane was one of one of a trio of artists who were, for me, the glue that bound DC Comics together in the 1960s, along with Curt Swan and Carmine Infantino. In the 1970s, Gil would become the “look” of Marvel as one of their primary cover artists, and he continued to show us kids how it was done until his death in 2000.

Here then, MY 13 FAVORITE GIL KANE COVERS AND STORIES, m’boy:

Showcase #36 (January/February 1962). Not the first work by Gil Kane I ever saw, but still an early favorite from when I finally found the issue in my quest to own a complete collection of Showcase. It doesn’t hurt that it was masterfully inked by Murphy Anderson, one of his best inkers of the era. The absolute realism of the drawing makes the absurdity of the situation involving the Atom, one of Kane’s more famous co-creations, almost plausible.

Green Lantern #32 (October 1964). Another powerful Kane/Anderson collaboration on another Kane co-creation.

Strange Adventures #184 (January 1966). Gil didn’t create Animal Man (that honor went to Carmine Infantino and George Roussos and writer Dave Wood in SA #180), but he did pencil and ink Buddy Baker’s second appearance a few months later, imbuing it with trademarked Kane energy and big-headed aliens.

Blackmark (1968). Gil went post-apocalyptic with Blackmark, a prototype graphic novel (with a writing assist from Archie Goodwin) published by Bantam Books. Planned as the first of a series, it was a bold experiment that failed to meet sales expectations and was abandoned; Fantagraphics reprinted Blackmark (along with Blackmark Book Two) in 2002.

His Name is… Savage (1968). Gil Kane unleashed! Like Blackmark, Savage, published in black and white in magazine format, was another of Gil’s early attempts at the graphic novel. What he created (with help again from writer Goodwin) was a high-octane Bond film on speed and amped up to a level of violence I couldn’t imagine in a mainstream comic book. This page in particular stuck with me.

Batman #208 (Jan./Feb. 1969). I loved this story, created as a framing sequence for the reprints in this 80-Page Giant by Gil, Jack Abel, and editor/writer E. Nelson Bridwell. It referenced all these events from Batman’s history, and Mrs. Chilton’s revelation that she was the mother of Joe Chill, the man who murdered Thomas and Martha Wayne, was mind blowing in those days of flimsy DC continuity.

Captain Action #3 (Feb./March 1969). Dick Giordano should have inked Kane a lot more often! As is, this short-lived, five-issue series featured scripts by Jim Shooter and Kane and pencils and/or inks by Wally Wood and Gil. And it’s being reprinted, at long last, this June. Got mine on pre-order.

The Amazing Spider-Man #96 (May 1971). A classic issue, run without the approval and cover seal of the Comics Code Authority because of the references to drugs in the story. For 1971, it was daring.

The New Adventures of Superboy #39 (March 1983). Gil did the covers for all but the last five issues of my run on this title. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but this one seems to be a particular fan favorite.

Action Comics #554 (April 1984). A lovely homage to the heroic and creative spirits of Superman creators Siegel and Shuster, from a script by Marv Wolfman, “If Superman Didn’t Exist.”

Tales of the Green Lantern Corps Annual #1 (Jan. 1985). And then there was the time I got to write Green Lantern for its creator, G*I*L K*A*N*E!

Checkmate #8 (July 1988). Gil provided a bunch of covers for the Checkmate series I wrote, but I’ve always loved the skewed angle and energy of this piece.

The Life Story of the Flash (1997). Gil recreates a classic moment from the origin of the Fastest Man Alive in The Life Story of the Flash “by Iris West,” a graphic novel I edited, written by Mark Waid and Brian Augustyn, with art by Kane, Joe Staton and Tom Palmer.

MORE

— PAUL KUPPERBERG: A Comic Moment With… JOE ORLANDO. Click here.

— PAUL KUPPERBERG: My 13 Favorite Insane ‘THE PEOPLE VS. SUPERHEROES’ Covers. Click here.

Sure, you know Paul Kupperberg as the prolific writer of over a thousand comic books for such characters and series as Superman, Aquaman, Doom Patrol, Vigilante, Life with Archie, Bart Simpson, Scooby-Doo, and dozens more for DC Comics, Archie Comics, Bongo Comics, and others, and that he is also the creator of the series Arion, Lord of Atlantis, Checkmate and Takion, and is a former editor for DC, Weekly World News, and WWE Kids Magazine. But Paul is also the author of numerous books, including the superhero novel JSA: Ragnarok and the comics industry-based murder mystery, The Same Old Story, not to mention (but we will anyway) Paul Kupperberg’s Illustrated Guide to Writing ComicsI Never Write for the Money, But I Always Turn in the Manuscript for a CheckDirect Comments: Comic Book Creators in their Own WordsThe Unpublished Comic Book Scripts of Paul Kupperberg and Son of the Unpublished Comic Book Scripts of Paul Kupperberg. You can follow Paul at PaulKupperberg.com and at Crazy8Press.com.

Author: Dan Greenfield

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1 Comment

  1. I agree with you 100% about Gil’s place in the comic world. His covers jumped off the spinner rack! I need to pick up the Captain Action too.

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