Ladies and gentlemen:
A few words, re:
You never forget your first time.
It was (oh, dear God) 1965; and I was but a scant and beardless
seven years of age, all told.
I was seven years old and: I had my eyes gouged out by one Gil
Didn't hurt none, neither. ;-))
I have been asked by the estimable (and Eagle Award-nominated) Master
Hutchison to "explain the allure and/or significance of Gil Kane,"
for the benefit of those benighted few out there who -- for whatever
reason(s) -- never quite "got" it, really.
I feel rather like a stunned and disbelieving Gustav Mahler; appointed
to the task of "explaining" the concept of the arpeggio to a patiently
waiting Helen Keller. ;-))
I suppose we might best begin, ultimately, by breaking down the manifest
primacy of the late (and -- already -- sorely missed) Gil Kane's
artwork into the three most significant of its component parts, overall:
THE MASTER ANATOMIST
Simply put: it was in the work of Gil Kane -- more so than in the
oeuvre of any other comics artist; past or present -- that
the inherent dynamism of the human form found its most potent and enduring
expression; refining and redefining the storytelling vocabulary
and grammar of the medium, entire.
No other comics artist, to date, has yet managed to achieve such startlingly
visceral storytelling effect via the dual agencies of musculature and
form; pose and posture.
Kane's human figures were so intelligently conceptualized and unfailingly
well-crafted -- the dramatic arching of a back, here; the pivot of an
ankle, there -- he was frequently able to imbue a given scene with
more naked, unrelenting power and drama than most other artists might
with the (nowadays) standard plethora of extraneous "speed lines" and
The overall effect, therefore, was as tasteful and (no other word
so readily applies, really) elegant as it was restrained;
a stunning demonstration of the "Less-Is-More" theory, in working
No Silver Age DC artist of the day -- save, perhaps (perhaps) for
the consistently underrated Nick Cardy -- was capable of subtly
wringing more pathos out of a given character with the resolute tilt of
an upraised jaw; or a more pronounced sense of purpose, from a sculpted
and idealized stance.
He possessed every last bit of Curt Swan's lush naturalism; Ross
Andru's flair for panel-to-panel composition; Bruno Premiani's
genius for the nuances of facial expression; and the aforementioned Cardy's
knowing and assured sense of costume design
and, yet: he remained -- right until the very end --
uniquely his own man, in studied synthesis.
the (possible) exception of Silver Age penciling contemporary Carmine
Infantino -- who set the standards for lyricism and grace in
page composition, back during his storytelling day -- Gil
Kane was the prototypical DC Comics artist, then; his "quieter,"
more meticulous approach standing in stark and measurable contrast
to those of (say) Marvel Comics craftsmen Jack "King"
Kirby and Steve Ditko, with their more hyperbolic and
overheated figures and layouts.
Kane's more studiedly "naturalistic" approach, in especial, all
but defined two of the iconic DC figures of the period:
the rational and diminutive Atom, and -- even more tellingly,
perhaps -- the fast-paced and "cosmic" Green Lantern.
However: all the photo-naturalistic rendering in the world can't
(and wouldn't) amount to much, overall, within the vocabulary of the mainstream
unless, that is, it were yoked in willing, clear-eyed tandem
with an equally coherent commitment and approach to Telling the Bloody
Fortunately -- for both Mr. Kane, and the wide-eyed and appreciative
reader -- Telling the Bloody Story was one skill at which
the former was a past master; plain and simple.
THE CINEMATIC STORYTELLER
Simply by breaking the unstated (then-)"rule" of the standard DC comic
of the day -- i.e., Each and Every Panel a "Straight Ahead" POV Shot;
Middle Distance -- the innovative Mister Kane stood out from the rank
and file of his artistic contemporaries; a stylistic Kurosawa (if you
like), flanked by row after complacent row of Penny Marshalls. ;-))
This little "gimmick" was particularly notable (and noteworthy)
during Kane's virtually monopoly on the cover assignments for the Marvel
Comics line, during the early 1970s; when the Goal Ultimate was to catch
the casual reader's eye, knowing that one's bestest efforts would be surrounded
by those of eighteen ot twenty gazillion other cover artists, all
similarly shrilling and clamoring for attention.
(With the good Mister Hutchison's kind permission, then -- I realize this
is primarily a DC-oriented site, after all <g> -- two
of the more interesting of these will be accompanying the text, at this
Kane's work on the covers of the "western" comics of the Marvel line,
during this period, was particularly fine and evocative stuff; full of
"worm's-eye" POVs and tilted, slightly askew backgrounds.
Terming Kane's approach a "cinematic" one is no hasty or ill-considered
conjecture, certainly. The gentleman was a lifelong and devoted
cinemaphile; eminently capable of conversing -- intelligently, and at
length -- on the stylistic procedures and effects of filmmakers as diverse
as Alfred Hitchcock; Howard Hawks; James Whale; and
Gil Kane applied a restless and painstaking analysis to
these, and half a hundred others, in turn; and seamlessly
wedded the best of their numerous storytelling "tricks" to his own
ever-burgeoning bag of same.
When held alongside the increasingly more incestuous and self-referential
approach of the standard comics artist of today -- with American
artists swiping shamelessly either from their own fellows, or else hopping
aboard the rickety, second-hand "Manga-Or-Bust" storytelling bus -- these
covers remain as fresh and revelatory today as they were a quarter of
a century ago.
In short: they still retain every last scintilla of their undeniable
THE PENCILING POWERHOUSE
Casting one's thoughts back over the amassed totality of Gil Kane's half
century-plus of work, however
one is inevitably reminded -- first and foremost -- of the memory
of blazing, panel-shattering power.
A Kane-crafted fight scene was -- simply; inevitably -- too gleefully
ambitious to be decently restrained by comics storytelling
convention; spilling and sprawling from one panel to the next with
an exuberant, nigh-drunken joie de vivre which was as infectious
as it was efficacious; and which has been (over the years) shamelessly
co-opted by pretty much every other comics artist capable
of wielding a decently sharpened pencil, since.
All of this, mind, was accompanied by a sly, wicked sense of humor with
which the inexhaustible Mister Kane suitably leavened even the direst
of storytelling proceedings; with the end result being as idiosyncratically
cheery and accessible as it was eye-catching and engaging.
The urge to catalogue on, and further on, is an all but irresistible
but: what more, ultimately, need be said, in hushed and
awed summation, than this:
His name was Kane.
His matchless contributions to this (frequently) pale and ahistorical
industry-slash-art form are a part of our collective memory, now.
His name was Kane.
He will be missed.
"Will be," hell: