Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Was Gil Kane The Busiest Cover Artist Ever?

Today we answer a burning question that has nagged me for decades: Did Gil Kane draw every single Marvel cover in the mid-1970s?

You see, I started seriously following comics in 1976, so most of the easily-available older issues to me were from the few years previous...1974 and 1975.

And as perceptive youngster, I couldn't help but notice that many of these covers had a similar style, a style that didn't really resemble the interiors that much. Over the years, of course, I learned to (mostly) recognize Kane's work. I never really gave this issue too much thought, but every time I stumbled across one of that era's covers by Kane, I thought to myself, "Damn, did Gil Kane draw every damn Marvel cover of the era?"

Well, having come across a couple of Kane covers again last week, I decided to finally use all this advanced information technology at our disposal, and actually research the damned issue.

So, did Kane draw EVERY Marvel cover in those years? No, but he sure drew a hell of a lot of them.

From the randomly selected cover date month of January 1975:

For those of you counting at home, that's 22 covers in a single month.

That month, discounting Marvel's black & white magazines and Treasury Editions, Marvel published 42 comic books. Which means Kane did roughly 52% of all Marvel covers that month.

There was some ebb and flow in Kane's productivity. For February's titles, for example, he "only" did 12 covers.

But in March, he did 23 covers.

And in April? Kane did 28 covers. Twenty-eight. Out of 43 published comics, we means he did 65% of Marvel's covers.

Now that's what I call a house style. And, my youthful impression was correct--Gil Kane drew a hell of a lot of Marvel covers in those days.

Why so many? Starting in 1973, Marvel really started ramping up the number of titles they were publishing each month, at the same time John Romita seemed to be slowing up on the many covers he did. I'm not privy to any Marvel decision-making at the time, but obviously a clear need for lots more covers coincided with the availability of an artist who could crank them out professionally in large quantities. If you look into it, you see Kane's cover load gradually increase from a handful per month in late 1973 and early 1974 to double digits to an average of 20+ per month starting in late 1974.

Kane's output slowed greatly in 1976. Jack Kirby was back, and he was doing lots of covers in addition to the ones for his own titles. More and more, Marvel also seemed to be focusing on getting the artists who drew the insides to do the covers; Perez was doing some FF and Avengers covers, Colan began doing his own Doctor Strange and Tomb Of Dracula covers. And Rich Buckler began doing tons of covers. By 1977, Kane's cover output had again dropped to a mere handful.

But think about that--28 covers in a single month!! And not a single one was a variant cover! Crazy, right? And if you picked a random Marvel comic from late 1974 or from 1975, there's better than a 50/50 chance that it was drawn by Gil Kane. That's just amazing...


R.A.M.'67 said...

Actually, the Fantastic Four cover wasn't drawn by Kane. The composition of the page and the physique of the "Man in the Mystery Mask" are dead giveaways he didn't illustrate it, let alone do the layout.

Still, you've given us indisputable proof Kane was an in-demand cover artist at Marvel: an achievement that must have given him some bragging rights around the Bullpen in the '70s.

W Carter said...

Is it possibly a composite cover? I agree that the villain doesn't look that much like a Kane figure, but the Human Torch certainly does. The Thing looks enough like Kane's version that I cant tell for sure. The layout doesn't seem as strong as Kane's usually are, but again, I can't say for sure.

A book of just Kane's Marvel covers would be awesome!

SallyP said...

I love Gil Kane. Astonishingly prolific seems to describe him.

snell said...

R.A.M., for what it's worth, GCD credits the cover as pencils by Kane, inks by "Frank Giacoia?; Mike Esposito?" Every source I've found credits it to Kane. Now, this was a last-minute reprint/fill-in issue, so perhaps the rush/many hands required made it look less Kaneish.

R.A.M.'67 said...

OK, I agree this FF cover was worked on by many hands in a rush as it was a fill-in (which I recall, too). It may be why it looks like only the Torch was the only item rendered by Kane to survive to the finished artwork. So, it can be attributed to Kane... on a technicality. :)

I know I'd love to see what Kane's original concept for the cover would've been (if it exists). It had to be awesome!

Paul said...

Isn't "Werewolf By Night" kind of like "Really Old Mummy"? And recently we had a "monstrous werewolf." Are comic book werewolves so lame they need such qualifiers?