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Saturday, February 02, 2002

Remembering Gil Kane -- Gil Kane was probably one of the first comic book artists whose style I recognized as unique when I was a kid.

He died in Florida January 31st, 2000 at the age of 74.

His amazingly fluid, dynamic figure work stood out brilliantly from other artists of the 70s, when I began reading comics. Later, of course, Curt Swan would be readily recognized as being different from, say, Ross Andru--but Kane's style was so singular, so--visionary--that it's hard to imagine a comics reader of any age wouldn't be able to pick up on him pretty quickly.

Kane's work on Spider-Man and Daredevil for Marvel Comics was what first caught my attention. His depictions of these characters was perfect--not a line was wasted. That was true of most of Kane's work.

Later I sought out his earlier work, the work I was born too late to buy off the racks. Green Lantern, the Atom, the extraordinary His Name Is Savage--Kane always had it, it seemed, that ability to illustrate the human form at a state of perfection. And then to cast those perfect superbeings into the chaos of violence.

Unlike many of the greatest artists of the artform, a company in which Kane certainly belongs, he was recognized as a master. I don't know if he received the financial reward his work deserved (probably not, I'd guess; few comics artists born before the mid-60s ever got what they deserved from the companies that profited off them)--but he received many accolades over the years, and one hopes he knew how much his work was loved.

A great recent example of that is the story Alan Moore wrote for him that was published as Judgment Day: Aftermath by Awesome Comics. Moore created a story that celebrated Kane's imagination and skill, and best of all we got to see the story drawn by Kane himself. If you haven't read this issue, seek it out; it's a treat for the eyes and Moore's ending is touching.

It's ironic that Rob Liefeld's Awesome published that story, because I've often said I'd give my left arm if I could draw like Kane. I've also said I'd gladly give both arms to not be able to "draw" like Liefeld. It seems even a lucky, talentless oddity like Liefeld recognized what a great comics artist Kane was.

Kane's talent was best served when he inked himself, as he usually did in the latter part of his career. I still remember the crushing disappointment I felt after discovering Danny Bulanadi had been hired to embellish Kane on Marvel's Micronauts series. I never much cared for the stories in that comic, but the artwork was nothing short of amazing when the title was introduced with penciler Michael Golden. When Kane took over, I was thrilled at the news, but Bulanadi's heavy-handed inking was wholly inappropriate to the task at hand, and Kane reportedly preferred his own inking in most cases anyway.

It's been reported Kane completed a two-part Atom/Green Lantern story for Legends of the DC Universe, set to be released beginning this March. That is very good news indeed. It's good, because Kane's work will once again be in the spotlight on two of the characters he helped define, and good because perhaps it will lead to greater awareness of Kane's importance in the artform of comics.

DC has announced it will be sponsoring a memorial to Kane, and that is very nice. I think an even nicer memorial would be for Marvel and DC to get more of his work into print for today's readers to pore over and enjoy. What form might that sort of tribute take?

For starters, Kane was Marvel's main cover illustrator for quite a stretch in the 1970s. A hardcover collection of the best of those covers would look great on any collector's bookshelf, and if any penciled versions of those covers could be included for comparison, the book would truly be a valuable historical document of the artform.

Kane did some wonderful, Pre-Crisis Superman work, which could be collected in a hardcover with perhaps some of the production sketches he did for the 1980s Superman cartoon. That would be too cool.

I expect we'll also be hearing in the coming weeks from some of the great artists who were inspired by Kane, including John Byrne and George Perez, just to name two--maybe a tribute comic could be put together by these and the other artists Kane inspired with the proceeds used to provide a scholarship or grant in Kane's name.

There is a generally recognized elite of comics artists of the 20th Century: Kirby, Kurtzman, and Kane are now gone, but their work lives on. Let's hope the major comics companies find a way to get it into the hands of a new generation of readers, and rightfully provide some benefits to the families these masters left behind.

It's the least they, and we, can do.

Originally written for Comic Book Galaxy prior to the launch of the ADD Blog.

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