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Thursday, September 12, 2019

Gil Kane - Explosive Action, Wiry Anatomy

Those of you who've known me for a long time know that Gil Kane's art has been an acquired taste for me. I've long said that my comfort zone lay squarely with the likes of John Romita, the brothers Buscema, Neal Adams, Jim Aparo, etc. - the realists. I would place Kane's work into (these categories exist in my head; I'm sure this isn't, like, a thing...) the stylists category. With him lives the work of Walt Simonson, and sometimes Frank Miller. At my position square in the center of middle age, I've come to appreciate and enjoy the output of all of the above mentioned artists. Perhaps maturity in the eyes took a little longer for me than it did for others?

As a child, I felt like all of Gil Kane's figures were in the throes of rigor mortis. The lines seemed harsh, the fingers especially. And those nose upshots... Ayayay - don't get me going on the nose upshots. His figures were ubiquitous on Marvel's Bronze Age covers - it seemed that between Rich Buckler and Kane, there were no jobs available penciling covers at Marvel Comics. But again, as I've aged, and have been exposed to more of his work, I think I'd now liken him to Jack Kirby in a way. Sure, their figures bear little resemblance. But the power on the page - the motion, the action, the way the heart quickens while reading an action scene. Kane was a master of anatomy (OK, the King maybe was not...), and every figure looks like those muscles are about to rip right through the fabric of their costumes. I now see Kane's work as incredibly kinetic, and in that regard not unlike a Gene Colan action scene.

I wish I'd come to love the man's work earlier than I have.





  1. Oh, yeah. Love, love Kane's work - always have.
    In fact - and forgive me if we've had this conversation before at the old digs - I find your initial dislike for Kane's work interesting, as I can't say that was the case for me. Yes, like you, I loved the 'realist' styles of Romita, Adams, the Buscemas, Aparo, and a little later, of course, Byrne and Perez (and Buckler and Pollard for that matter), but I never had any problems with the guys whose work you're calling 'stylized.' I like Kane from the first time I saw his work - which was, I'm pretty sure, in Amazing Spider-man Annual #10.
    Another interesting thing about Kane is that I think he got better as time passed. For example, I think his work from the 1970s and 1980s is much better than his much-loved output for DC in the 1960s - not that I think that stuff is bad, mind you.
    Again, great selection of images. All of this black and white art reminds me that I have the complete Star Hawks comic strip, with art by Kane, that I still haven't got around to reading...

    1. Hi, Edo - and thanks for checking in.

      I do wish I'd enjoyed some of these artists more in my formative years. Kane, Kirby, Simonson, et al... seems like wasted time on my part. I chalk it up to maturing as a comics fan. I guess as all people don't grow at the same rate, so our appreciation for certain artists and styles must be as such.


  2. I always loved, loved, loved Kane's work. As a Marvel acolyte, I was always disappointed that most of his work for them was on covers only. Sure. he did the occasional issue front-to-back, but not nearly enough. I would buy back issues for no other reason than because he drew the cover art.

  3. OK - Charlie will be the damp blanket...

    There were times when I really enjoyed Gil's work! I've just been reading Spidey 103 - 104 last week from my long boxes, when Spidey is in the savage land with Kazar, Kraven, et al. His art work is magnificent: nose shots, bowed knees, and all his other traits are wonderful!

    But a few years down the road, the mid-70s, his art had simply become too ubiquitous. (Is that acceptable English?) Gil was everywhere. And his style just started to grate. In a way, it became a parody of itself, as did Kirby's works going into the early - mid 1970s.

    So, I take the good with the bad. But starting somewhere around 1974 or so, I avoided a comic if Gil had done the interiors.

  4. Love a bit of Gil. Or even better, a lot of Gil.
    On the realist/stylist thing, maybe its worth adding Kane's work looked particularly good when he was paired with inkers who added a bit of weight and texture, like Klaus Janson (they did a great Jungle Action/Panther issue together) and the mighty Rudy Nebres (eg John Carter).


  5. I've always loved Gil 'Sugar' Kane's work throughout his long career, starting from his Silver Age Green lantern to his Spider-Man art, and all his Marvel covers. Yes, I've always said he drew figures with limbs that could not possibly be contorted like that in real life, but to me he, like Jack Kirby, was a master of action poses. Regardless of which cover he was drawing, you'd always expect it to pop with action.

    In fact, he's one of the artists who defined the Bronze Age of comics for me, especially his Marvel work.

    - Mike 'what's wrong with upnose shots?' from Trinidad & Tobago.


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