PAUL KUPPERBERG: My 13 Favorite JACK ABEL Stories

The celebrated Mr. K pays a BIRTHDAY TRIBUTE to one of comics’ most beloved figures…

By PAUL KUPPERBERG

There were few people in comics more beloved than artist Jack Abel (July 15, 1927–March 6, 1996). When I recently ran the tribute to Jack my brother Alan Kupperberg created in 1996 (see below) on my Facebook page, the range of reactions from the many, many people who knew him ran from, “I loved Jack!” to “I really loved Jack!”

I didn’t know Jack very well other than a few chance meetings at DC and Marvel over the years, but he did ink a handful of my 5-page intro stories in House of Mystery during its Dollar Comics phase, as well as a couple other jobs (one made it onto my list, go figure!), but the inker did have a small impact on my life as a fan.

It was the early-‘70s, during the period Jack was renting space in Neal Adams’ Continuity Studios and my brother was working there.

Knowing of my Showcase-collecting mania and that I was forever on the lookout for a copy of #4, the first Silver Age Flash appearance, Alan, just to torment me, mentioned that Abel had a copy of that elusive old book on his drawing board but, knowing Jack, he might absentmindedly accidentally wipe his brush on the cover any minute and ruin it forever.

I knew better than to ask my brother for a favor (there was always a price to pay), but under his relentless predictions of disaster for the precious comic, I finally broke down and begged him to ask Jack if he would sell me the book before disaster struck. To my surprise, Alan did ask and Jack did sell me the book — for $10, which I borrowed from my mother. I might add, the book was in beautiful shape (probably an “8” or “9” in Gradingspeak), not an India ink stain on it.

Not Paul’s. A DC scan.

Many years later, during my early starving artists days, I sold the book for $900, which paid for my rent and groceries for three months. So, thanks again, Jack!

Jack was an able artist (see what I did there?) but he’s primarily known as an inker. He got his start in 1951 pencilling and/or inking for a wide range of the publishers of the era, including Atlas Comics, ACG, Avon, Harvey, Hillman and others on stories in every genre, from science fiction and romance, to adventure and war. Jack did some of his best and best-remembered work as the artist on scores of DC’s war stories.

From there, Jack went on to ink Curt Swan on Legion of Super-Heroes and Superman before returning to Marvel where he would ink Gene Colan’s Iron Man, Herb Trimpe on The Incredible Hulk, and Paul Gulacy on Master of King Fu. He also contributed to such Gold Key titles as Boris Karloff Tales of MysteryGrimm’s Ghost StoriesMighty Samson and Twilight Zone; as well as Ghost ManorGhostly HauntsHaunted and Midnight Tales at Charlton; and IronJaw and Morlock 2001 for Atlas/Seaboard.

Here then, MY 13 FAVORITE JACK ABEL STORIES:

Journey into Unknown Worlds #5 (Atlas, June 1951). The penciller of this early Abel ink job is unknown, but Jack was already showing some of his familiar techniques, especially in his use of a razor to scratch out speed lines to give them texture, weight and emphasis.

Battlefront #35 (Atlas, September 1955). Jack would later make his mark in DC’s war titles, but proto-Marvel Atlas saw its fair share of combat as well, as in this tale pencilled  by Bob Forgione, in which Jack served many a tour of duty.

All-American Men of War #25 (DC, September 1955). An early example of a DC Comics war tale with another ink job over penciller Bob Forgione. Remember how I said Jack had some regular, familiar techniques? Check out the water. Nobody inked water like Abel.

Our Army at War #102 (DC, January 1961). Pencilled  and inked by Abel, Jack’s “Green Apple Ace” pays unabashed homage to DC’s master war comics illustrator, Joe Kubert. This wouldn’t be the only story for which Jack put on his Kubert hat and let loose, and he did have a flare for capturing some of Joe’s special dynamics in his storytelling.

Our Fighting Forces #91 (DC, April 1965). Another pencil and ink job by Jack on this vintage “Gunner and Sarge (and Pooch!)” story, this one showing yet another Abel trademark: his handling of foliage. “Where else would one learn to ink trees?” my brother asks in his comic strip tribute. Where else indeed!

Tales of Suspense #73 (Marvel, January 1966). “My Life for Yours!”… or “My Real Name for a Paycheck!” Back when, freelancers worked for either DC or Marvel, but not both! The publishers expected loyalty and doing a job for the opposition could very well cost a creator their job… unless they hid behind pseudonyms, as was the case for this Iron Man story, penciled by Gene Colan, then a regular artist for DC’s romance books, billed here as “Adam Austin” and inked by Jack as “Gary Michaels.” Come to think of it, “Stan Lee” isn’t his real name either!

Falling in Love #96 (DC, January 1968). Jack’s clean, slick line over veteran penciller Howard Purcell.

The Brave and the Bold #76 (DC, February-March 1968). Jack over Mike Sekowsky.

Action Comics #379 (DC, August 1969). I’ll admit, Jack wouldn’t have been my choice to ink Curt Swan, but he did bring a solidity to the work and could be counted on to add an extra layer of mood to the page when it was called for.

The Heap #1 (Skywald, September 1971). Long a fan of the unusual stylings of Tom Sutton, I’ve always liked this pairing of him and Jack in this one-shot for the short-lived Skywald Comics line.

Superboy and the Legion of Super-Heroes #243 (DC, September 1978). Looking back at it, Jack’s line over Joe Staton was way better than I remembered, once you look past the unfortunate coloring job.

DC Super-Stars #14: Secret Origins of Super-Villains (DC, May/June 1977). The story sucks (I know, I wrote it), but at least it gave me the opportunity to share a credit box with two giants: Dick Ayers and Jack.

Master of Kung Fu #109 (Marvel, February 1982). Even after 30 years on the job, Jack could still hang with the best of the day, including Gene Day.

MORE

— PAUL KUPPERBERG: My 13 Favorite MURPHY ANDERSON Covers. Click here.

— PAUL KUPPERBERG: My 13 Favorite PERRY WHITE 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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2 Comments

  1. What really surprises me about that Tales of Suspense #73 Iron Man page is that it looks like Ben Oda lettered it. I don’t think I knew that Ben had done work for Marvel. “He’s everywhere, he’s everywhere!”

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