Cap’s Origin, part Two, by Norris Burroughs   4 comments

As we continue, let us briefly revisit page five of Captain America’s origin, in order to study the layout more completely. Whether or not we accept Simon’s claim that he did all of the primary layouts, we cannot fail to notice that whoever the initial artist is, he has chosen to draw several of his figures violating the panel borders. This panel is not the first instance of that practice in this particular comic, but it is the one that first strikes us most powerfully. Steve Rogers has just been transformed into a super soldier, and we see him appraising himself here in panel five as his left shoulder protrudes well into panel six.

Both Kirby and Simon have acknowledged their admiration for artist Lou Fine, whose work is shown below in a page from Smash Comics #18 from 1939. We can clearly see that Fine has preceded Kirby in using this overlapping figure technique here with his drawing of the Ray, pile driving an opponent from panel three up into panel two. We can also see that the early 40’s Captain America bears some resemblance to the lithe muscularity of Lou Fine’s figurework.

Moving on to page six of Cap’s origin, I see what looks like fairly strong Kirby inking here. The drawing is fast and loose, with minimal backgrounds. Kirby is working the deadline close, and not lavishing his attention too much on fine details, but the drawing is strong and dynamic. I see his ink hand especially in the spotted blacks of the pistol barrel, and in Steve Rogers’ chest and abdominal muscles as he yanks the Nazi spy through the glass enclosure window.

I also see Kirby’s brush in the shading of the villain’s left cheek in that same panel. There is a great deal of finesse in the sculpting of that small face that indicates Kirby’s level of skill. Again, I desperately wish that I had better reproductions to work from.

Kirby once more paid homage to his Golden Age roots by doing an updated version of a vintage panel tier in his 1965 Captain America origin. It is the image seen below of the Nazi spy firing his weapon that Kirby re-imaged in a slightly different context. Observing the comparison of pages separated by twenty-five years we are presented with the amazing revelation that is a individual artist’s development.

The reproduction quality of the ink lines on page #7 in the Masterworks volume copy is abysmal. It is for that reason and for reasons of possible copyright infringement pertaining to the posting of complete stories that I will skip the page entirely and move to the final page of the origin story. It is the pivotal scene where young Bucky Barnes discovers that Pvt. Steve Rogers is actually a Superhero.

This page is a bit more difficult for me to judge. Panels two three and four look to me to be Kirby-inked, but the face of panel one looks a bit scratchy. Again, I would love a positive ID of inker Al Liederman’s traits. What is striking is the corona around Cap’s shoulders in panel one and around his chest in panel two, that separates his shape from the black background. I also see this technique on page two, around the chest of a soldier in the second panel. Initially, I surmised that this was a Kirby inking trait, but after conferring with Jim Vadeboncoeur who believes this to be an artistic cop-out, I withdraw that opinion. I still believe that Kirby inked most of the panels in question, but I now think that the spotted blacks and coronas are the work of another fill-in hand.

I do not see much of anything in the inking of this first story that looks like Joe Simon. He will turn up in the next blog covering the second story.



Posted January 9, 2012 by norris burroughs in Uncategorized

4 responses to “Cap’s Origin, part Two, by Norris Burroughs

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  1. Interesting and astute observation re the “breaking the panel borders”, Norris. I don’t think either Simon or Kirby had utilized the effect prior to this. Good catch. And since we’re revisiting page 5, I will point out the completely irrational inking on Steve Rogers face in the next to the last panel. It’s ludicrous in the light source extreme. And that corona above his head is totally unnecessary. The panel would read quite cleanly if the black bumped right up to his head. Inks on this page are quite a mixture, IMHO.

    Page 6. I see it the other way round. I think this is Kirby penciling like mad – doing the most with the least. I can’t recall any prior Simon interior continuity with anything like this amount of energy. And this is what I think Simon’s inks are like at this point. He’s not yet settled on that bold, slashing, painting-with-ink style that carves energy out of drawings. Take a look at the early Blue Bolt stories to see his range. Again, in a deadline race, I’d want Jack penciling, not inking.

    Page 7. Even though we’re not seeing it here, I’ll comment. I see Kirby rough pencils with Simon finishes and partial inks. I don’t think Kirby would do such a repetitive sequence of the two “Who Is Captain America” panels. He might, but it seems more like a Simon approach. And you’re also right about the atrocious reproduction. Hard to credit any inker from the mess we’re seeing here.

    Page 8. Only four panels and one half a page, but a very nice sequence. I’d say Kirby pencils with Leiberman’s inks on the first two panels and I’ll go along with you here on Kirby’s own inks on the last two panels. I also note the stick-on stars applied to the last panel (you may be too young to recognize them for what they are). Is this the first evidence of a Kirby Collage?

    I think you might be a little hard on Joe Simon. He was capable of more sedate inks than you might imagine, and it’s likely that he WAS involved on this, the origin of his creation. YMMV.

    Peace, Jim (|:{>

  2. Jim,
    See my most recent post to see what I believe are Simon inks, or if not, then who?

  3. Jim, Any opinon on the notion that George Klein may have worked here on page five?

  4. My bad, guys, THIS is March 1941 and, therefore, it could be Klein. (can you bleep my previous comment, Norris?) I believe Greg Theakson says that, contrary to Simon’s tale of producing Captain America outside of Timely offices, it was done in-house. If that’s true, then Klein is a candidate. If it was produced outside of Timely, then Klein would be in addition to Al Liederman and it would alter significantly the “story” of how Capt. America #1 was produced.

    Considering that we’re trying to detect subtle styles based on recreated (in the sense of digitally extracted) line work, I’m hesitant to postulate a new character in an oft-told tale. Call me chicken…

    Peace, Jim (|:{>

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