ARTISTIC INFLUENCES




JACK KIRBY


If BATMAN was the first superhero I was exposed to in comic book form, Marvel's FANTASTIC FOUR wasn't far behind. The Caped Crusader would remain a favorite character/comic series for well over thirty years with me, but it would be that first FANTASTIC FOUR comic book that I had come across, the forty-fifth issue, which would make a deeper impression, for here was the first time I was exposed to the brilliant and dynamic artistry of Jack Kirby, and he would prove to be the seminal inspiration for my wanting to illustrate stories for comic books.

It wasn't long before I was trying to lay my hands on not just every issue of the FANTASTIC FOUR, but literally anything that had the name Jack Kirby attached to it, which during the mid 60's meant anything that said Marvel on it. There was Jack, providing covers and layouts to the Hulk in TALES TO ASTONISH, the X-MEN, and Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. in STRANGE TALES, as well as completely illustrating CAPTAIN AMERICA and THOR in addition to the FF. It wouldn't be until 1968, when DC Comics published an issue of CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN, when they reprinted the first Challengers story that Jack not only illustrated, but was also the writer and creator of back in 1956, that I got my first inkling how truly monumental was his talent.

To study the life and career of Jack Kirby is to literally study the history of comics. Everywhere you look, Jack's been there, done that, usually first, more often better than anyone else could have. Whenever I found myself with a difficult storytelling problem to solve or looking for a way to make my work look that much better when I was a kid, I would always look at Jack's stuff first, because I could always count on finding the answers there.

At the moment, I've uploaded a page featuring several examples of Jack's original art. To view the page, CLICK HERE. Please check back in the coming weeks as this site's construction progresses further along.



JIM STERANKO


While Kirby's art provided a solid foundation of the dynamics of comic book storytelling, the work of writer-illustrator Jim Steranko was an advance course in the subtleties that could be achieved in the medium.

At this point, I can hear older readers reiterate that Steranko did nothing more than reinterpret the work of Will Eisner, who wrote and illustrated The Spirit in the 1940's. And indeed, a case could be made that Steranko's approach was an amalgamation of both Kirby and Eisner. In my case, however, I wouldn't see my first exposure to Eisner's work, a mere seven pages featured in Jules Feiffer's The Great Comic Book Superheroes hardcover book, until five years after discovering Steranko. It would be at least a couple of years further down the road when Warren Publishing would begin reprinting those early Spirit classics in a black and white magazine format. By then, I'd have the maturity to understand and appreciate the history of it all, but as a young boy, it was Steranko who was creating the equivalent of a James Bond film in the pages of Nick Fury, and I was doing my best not to miss a single issue.

Unfortunately, Steranko's body of work would encompass less than 30 issues worth of stories and several more covers. He would turn his attention to painting covers for various paperback publishers, as well as becoming a publisher himself. He is also the author of two extremely well-written volumes on the history of comics, along with many, many other accomplishments outside of the publishing realm. (He was once an escape artist and jazz musician, for starters.)

At the moment, I'm still working on the page telling more about Steranko's accomplishments along with a display of his work. Please check back in the coming weeks as this site's construction progresses further along.



GIL KANE


There was always something about Gil's artistry that grabbed me from the first time I saw it. I believe it was with his work that I first was able to grasp the differences in style, not to mention the gracefulness of the human figure. His GREEN LANTERN soared through the skies, with his hair flowing in the wind, and as depicted by Gil, you could easily feel the same sensations of flying alongside.

Like his fellow contemporary Jack Kirby, Gil was not only as prodigious, able to completely pencil four or five pages in a day, but he was just as much a visionary in his own way as Jack was in his. Gil was striving to expand the format for comics, which resulted in the self-published magazine HIS NAME IS...SAVAGE, whose failure was the result of corrupt magazine distribution processes at that time. SAVAGE in turn led to Gil agreeing to produce a series of illustrated paperback novels. The first, titled after the lead character named BLACKMARK, also recieved spotty distribution, and no further novels were forthcoming, until Marvel published the second one in magazine form years later. (Incidentally, Jack would also suffer similar problems on the books he was working on for DC Comics at the time, which in turn would lead to their cancellation as well.

I had ther distinct pleasure of meeting Gil at the very first comic book convention held in Buffalo during the Thanksgiving weekend of 1972. I found him to be an extremely warm and gracious man. When the opportunity arose for me to work with Gil on a comic book assignment as his inker, I informed then-editor Elliot S! Maggin that I would do literally anything for the chance. Elliot took pity, gave me several xeroxed pages of Gil's pencils, and told me he needed to submit my samples to DC Creative Director Dick Giordano for final approval. Upon seeing the finished results the next morning, both Dick and Elliot were of the opinion I was more than capable of handling the assignment. Unfortunately, Gil had to bow out due to prior commitments elsewhere. (Okay, so I felt like my heart was being ripped out of me. I eventually got over it, but not without a small tinge of regret, I must admit.)

At the convention in Orlando, FL this past March, I had not only the chance to meet up with Gil after all these years, but I purchased my first piece of original artwork featuring his work: a splash page from CAPTAIN ACTION #4, one of the first comics I ever brought as a kid, which Gil wrote, pencilled and inked.

At the moment, I've uploaded a page featuring several examples of Gil's original art. To view the page, CLICK HERE. Please check back in the coming weeks as this site's construction progresses further along.




(More artists are scheduled for later addition to this page. Check back over the summer for improvements to this page and others on this site.)




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