Oh Aquaman you have no Gil

February 11, 2010

Kane that is.

If there is anyone (besides my mom) who is thankful about my meager attempts to illustrate comics, then they have to thank the late Gil Kane for that. Like a lot of boys I was into comics when I was little, but then my interest changed. Some might say I grew out of it, but I think what really did it was Star Wars and Atari. After that, comics just never won the battle for my time.

That all changed one year when I was stuck at home for about a week, sick as a dog. I was bored out of my mind, so my mom went to a store called the Great Escape. They sold second hand records, books, magazines and comic books. She picked up a stack of comics to help keep me entertained at home, but I can’t remember any of them except this one…

Sword of the Atom - Gil Kane

This book amazed me, and I spent hours looking at the artwork. The figures, the design, the anatomy of the characters, details, compositions of panels, everything… kept me occupied for hours. Gil Kane’s dynamic figures amazed me, and even today I find myself repeating his shots without even knowing it. It’s only when I go back and look at his work again, that I realize how much of an influence Gil Kane¬†has been on me.

For years I copied art from his books, looking for the things that made his artwork so exciting for me. I talked in a previous post about how copying images can open your eyes to the decisions an artist makes in a piece. One of the biggest things I enjoy about Kane, although I wouldn’t dare to claim to be as proficient at it, was his use of camera angles to build dynamics into a shot. I’m not claiming he invented these, but he used them more effectively than other comic artists, and at the moments in the script which provided the biggest impact. Simple solutions like placing the camera on the ground at the feet of the figures, shooting upward into the action, gave the hero a grandeur that they deserved. After all, they are heroes, and should appear larger than life.

Sword_of_Atom: Interior page

One of his most famous tricks was to have figures flying at the viewer, making the reader feel as if they were part of the action and caught up in the melee. Extreme foreshortening, and spacial relationships between hero and villain gave his panels depth, and a heightened sense of motion.

Ka-POW! In your FACE!

Some of his most amazing work appears on the covers of Green Lantern, a character he had a huge impact on. For years, he was to that title what Curt Swan was to Superman, Steve Ditko was to Spiderman, and What Kirby was to… well, whatever Kirby was drawing. Kane’s covers had a strong sense of composition, leading the eye through it, and forcing the attention onto the most important elements. Additionally, his always had an emotional level that few artists brought to their covers. While others seem to always need the aide of “in your face” action, but Gil Kane was able to bring the same level of energy with body language and design.

Little, or no, action- but filled with tension and drama

Kane was the first time I became aware of a comic artist by name, and although that seems like a small thing, it changed how I viewed comic art from then on. It made me more aware of what comics I liked and why. It wasn’t just enough to be “neat”, but now I had a gateway to the criteria on which I judged art. His work became the bench mark, and is still one of the main reasons I love, and ignore, other artwork I see today.