It’s finally time for one of the all-time greats to get his own feature here on the column. (Archive.)
354. Gil Kane
Born Eli Katz, the man who would become Gil Kane began working on comics when he was only a teenager, working for companies like MLJ and Timely. After serving in WWII, he returned to the States and began working on various DC titles: everything from All-Star Western to Strange Adventures to Rex the Wonder Dog (where he drew one of the best covers of all time, with Rex as an Indian Chief). ‘Twas in the late ’50s, however, that he became a titanic talent in the field by helping launch the Silver Age with his work on Green Lantern and the Atom, inked by guys like Joe Giella and Murphy Anderson. Check out his work in those lovely Showcase editions!
After tremendous runs on his pair of DC books, Gil Kane emigrated to Marvel, where he worked on, among other things, Spider-Man (drawing the non-Code-approved “drug” issues, the six-armed Spidey vs. Morbius issues, and the death of Gwen Stacy issues) and the Avengers, as well as drawing the first appearance of Iron Fist.
In the ’60s and ’70s, with scripter Archie Goodwin, Kane developed new comics in new formats, with the magazine-sized “His Name Is… Savage!” and one of the earliest considered graphic novels, Blackmark. Our own Greg Hatcher writes more about those here.
Kane worked on various other projects over the remainder of his career, from Superman to the comic strip Star Hawks. Here’s an excerpt from one of my favorite Superman stories, an issue of Action written by Marv Wolfman and penciled and inked by Gil Kane, a tribute to Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster:
Gil Kane’s artwork was constantly dynamic, but you can see in the examples above how it changed over time, probably due to the various inkers he worked with, but also, I imagine, because of a “loosening up” of his pencils. His smooth, sleek, shiny sci-fi Silver Age stuff seems quite dissimilar to his rougher, more woodcut-esque work in the ’80s and beyond, but his work was never short of extraordinary, and his character and figure work ignited the page. Gil Kane was a quiet giant, consistently producing good work and new projects even up to his death in 2000.
Some of us may never have appreciated him as much as we should’ve, and for that, I am deeply ashamed. It’s blindingly obvious by now that Gil Kane was a fantastic artist and an integral part of what made superhero comics successful throughout the Silver and Bronze Ages, especially. Adding in his experiments and ambitions with what the comics form could do, well, that’s what makes him mighty. Gil Kane was a gargantuan talent in this industry.