Kane, Gil 1926-2000
KANE, Gil 1926-2000
Born Eli Katz, April 6, 1926, in Riga, Latvia; died of complications from cancer January 31, 2000, in Miami, FL; married; wife's name Elaine; children: Scott; (stepchildren) Eric, Beverly. Education: Attended New York School of Industrial Art.
Jack Binder Agency, New York, NY, illustrators' assistant, 1940s; MLJ, New York, NY, production assistant, artist for comic-book series "Inspector Bentley of Scotland Yard," "Shield," and "The Scarlet Avenger"; freelance artist for comics publishers, including Street and Smith, Holyoke, Quality, and Timely Comics; National Publications (later DC Comics), artist for comic-book series "Wildcat," "Sandman," "Boy Commando," and others; Marvel Comics, illustrator for comic-book series, including "Incredible Hulk," "Conan the Barbarian," "Captain Marvel," "Spider-Man," "Captain America," and "The Avengers," 1942-44, 1960s; illustrator for "Star Hawks" comic strip; freelancer for "Action Comics"; DC Comics, illustrator for comic-book series, including "Flash," "Green Lantern," "Rex the Wonder Dog," "Superman," and "The Atom," as well as western, science fiction, and romance comics, 1949-2000. Worked on television commercials and animated cartoons for Hanna-Barbera and Ruby-Spears studios; creator of characters, including Green Lantern, Atom, and Sinestro, for Legends of the Superheroes (television series), 1979; creative consultant for Chuck Norris: Karate Kommandos (television series), 1986; graphic artist for Bionic Six (television series), 1987. Set designer for plays, including Lovely!, produced in Santa Monica, CA. Exhibitions: Group exhibitions include KAPOW: A Showcase of Superheroes, 1995, Muckenthaler Cultural Center, Fullerton, CA. Military service: U.S. Army, 1944-45, served in the Philippines.
(With Archie Goodwin) His Name Is Savage, 1968.
(With Archie Goodwin) Blackmark, Bantam Books (New York, NY), 1971, 20th anniversary edition, edited by Gary Groth, Fantagraphics Books (Seattle, WA), 2002.
(With Ron Goulart) Star Hawks, Ace Books (New York, NY), 1979.
(With John Jakes) Excalibur!, Dell (New York, NY), 1980.
(With Ron Goulart) Star Hawks II: The Cyborg King, Grosset & Dunlap (New York, NY), 1981.
Sword of the Atom, DC Comics (New York, NY), 1983.
Sword of the Atom Special (annual), DC Comics (New York, NY), three volumes, 1984-1988.
Star Hawks ("Comic-Strip Preserves" series), four volumes, Blackthorne (El Cajon, CA), 1985-1987.
Talos of the Wilderness Sea, DC Comics (New York, NY), 1988.
(With Roy Thomas) Richard Wagner's the Ring of the Nibelung, DC Comics (New York, NY), 1991.
(Illustrator, with Joe Giella) John Broome, The Green Lantern Archives, four volumes, DC Comics (New York, NY), 1993-2002.
(With Steven Grant) Edge ("Bravura" series), four volumes, Malibu Comics Entertainment (Calabasas, CA), 1994.
(With others) Iris Allen, The Life Story of the Flash, DC Comics (New York, NY), 1997.
(With Howard V. Chaykin, Kevin Nowlan, and Matt Hollingsworth) Superman: Distant Fires, 1998.
(Penciler) Gardner Fox, The Atom Archives, DC Comics (New York, NY), 2001.
Illustrator and featured character in Alan Moore's Awesome's Judgment Day: Aftermath.
Latvian-born American comics writer and illustrator Gil Kane (born Eli Katz) was a largely self-taught artist who worked for more than half a century in the New York comics world, mainly for DC Comics and Marvel Comics. He is best known for his groundbreaking work on the "Green Lantern," "The Atom," "Incredible Hulk," "Spider-Man" and "Captain Marvel" comic-book series, which he rejuvenated after their premieres during the 1930's Golden Age of comics. Kane designed some 1,000 comic-book covers and is widely regarded as a key figure in the Silver Age of comics, comprising the late 1950s and 1960s. He inspired countless younger artists and is considered, along with Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, one of the three greatest comic illustrators of the twentieth century.
Always striving to improve his techniques, Kane often told interviewers it took him twenty-five years to perfect his drawing of figures and perspective. He was considered a master of both. His figures seemed to leap off the page and be ready for action at every moment. After Kane's death, Douglas Martin of the New York Times quoted DC Comics executive vice president and publisher Paul Levitz as saying that Kane "was a young radical and to his death he was still on the edge of what was being done." In the same article, Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee commented, "I would just give him a rough idea of what I wanted and turn him loose. He was fast, he was dependable, he had great storytelling sense."
Although he is most often associated with the "Green Lantern" series and its revival, Kane worked on every type of comic, from action adventure and science fiction/fantasy to romance and westerns. He completely redesigned the look of the character The Atom, and breathed new vitality into many other great comic book characters. Whenever possible he liked to ink his own pencils, often saying that the inkers did not see the characters' costumes the way he envisioned them.
Kane immigrated from Latvia to New York City with his family at age three and grew up in Brooklyn. The young Kane read all the comic books he could find, especially "Tarzan," "Buck Rogers," "Flash Gordon," "Dick Tracy," and "Terry and the Pirates." He also loved to go to adventure movies. To help support the family, he left high school and went to work penciling comics at age fifteen, less than ten years after the comics industry was established. As a teen, he was fired and rehired a number of times as he made his way around the many New York City comics publishers, working mostly from home because studios were too small to accommodate all the artists. While working for DC Comics, Kane, like many other cartoonists during World War II, entered the military service, but the war ended a year later. Upon his return in 1945, he went back to DC and tried out several pseudonyms, including Pen Star and Gil Stack, before settling on Gil Kane. Early in his career, he worked with artists Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. He was also a classmate of great illustrators like Carmine Infantino and Harvey Kurtzman at the New York School of Industrial Art.
Kane teamed with comics writer Archie Goodwin—who later wrote for "Star Wars" comics and many others—to blaze a trail for the graphic novel with projects such as His Name Is Savage and Blackmark. These science fiction/fantasy stories are said to have been ahead of their time. Kane created the idea for the novels, illustrated them, and contributed to the writing.
In 1980 Kane and popular novelist John Jakes created a graphic novel version of the Arthurian legend Excalibur! Beginning before King Arthur's birth, the story follows Arthur's childhood, his teaching by the magician Merlin, and his conflicts with Morgan Le Fay and Mordred. Knights of the Round Table, including Gawain, Bedivere, Galahad, and Lancelot, are woven into the story as well. A Publishers Weekly contributor called the graphic novel "a tightly crafted tale with well developed characters."
Superman: Distant Fires, which Kane wrote and illustrated with Howard Chaykin and Kevin Nowlan, is set after a nuclear holocaust that has left only a few survivors on earth, including a now-powerless Superman. A reviewer for Beek's Books Online found parts of the plot "difficult to swallow" but thought the story as a whole is "a complex and interesting stew." The reviewer praised Kane's artwork, saying, "You don't need the familiar costumes to recognise who the characters are, or thought balloons to tell a person's mood. And everything from action scenes to crowd shots works well."
Although Kane spent most of his career drawing action comics and superheroes, he expressed a desire to work in other mediums and take on more serious artistic projects. In 1990 he teamed with writer Roy Thomas, creator of "Conan the Barbarian," to create a graphic novel based on German opera composer Richard Wagner's Ring cycle. The project was borne out of Kane's fascination with the same Norse legends and Nibelungen sagas that inspired Wagner to compose his opera. Although Kane and Thomas's Ring of the Nibelung begins earlier than Wagner's and takes in older legends, once the two converge, the comics creators are faithful to the composer's story. In a review for the New York Times, John Rockwell wrote, "Sometimes things get a little salacious or violent … but all that sex and bloodshed is explicit in Wagner's libretto. And this comics version, with its flying horses and sudden transformations, is more faithful to the composer's vision than a genteel, gravity-bound stage production could ever be."
Kane battled lymphoma during the 1990s but continued working. He was still at his drawing table at DC Comics two weeks before his death in 2000.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
New York Times, April 5, 1990, John Rockwell, "Conan in Comics? Yes. Hulk? Sure. But Fafner? Wotan?," p. C15.
Publishers Weekly, January 18, 1980, review of "Excalibur!," pp. 136, 138.
Beek's Books Web site,http://www.rzero.com/books/ (August 11, 2003), review of Superman: Distant Fires.
Comic Art & Graffix Gallery Web site,http://www.comic-art.com/ (August 11, 2003), "Artist Biographies: Gil Kane" and Steve Ringgenberg, "Gil Kane Interview."
Comics Journal Online,http://www.tcj.com/ (August 11, 2003), Gary Groth, "Gil Kane Interview."
Lambiek,http://www.lambiek.net/ (August 4, 2003), "Gil Kane (Eli Katz)."
Richmond Comics Online,http://www.richmondcomix.com/ (August 11, 2003), Christopher Irving, "Raising Kane: Comics Legend Gil Kane Talks about the State of the Industry."
Entertainment Weekly, January 5, 2001, Jeff Jensen, "In Memoriam: The Artists," p. 28.
Library Journal, February 7, 2000, "Innovative Comic Artist Gil Kane Dead at 73."
Los Angeles Times, February 2, 2000, Myrna Oliver, "Gil Kane: Innovative Comic Book Artist," p. A26.
Newsweek, February 14, 2000, Lucy Howard, Devin Gordon, and Bret Begun, "Loyal Soldier," p. 8; December 25, 2000, David Gates, Devin Gordon, and Peter Plagens, "The Dearly Departed: They Helped Shape the 20th Century—And Caught a Glimpse of the Twenty-first," p. 108.
New York Times, February 3, 2000, Douglas Martin, "Gil Kane, Comic-Book Artist, Is Dead at 73," p. A23.
Time, February 14, 2000, p. 25.
U.S. News & World Report, February 14, 2000, Brian Duffy, "He Lit Green Lantern's Light," p. 12.