Rathcone part 1 by Norris Burroughs   2 comments

We now come to the issue’s third story, Rathcone or the Chessboard of Death or whatever. As I mentioned before, this story strikes me as being too long and not very well written or drawn. There is very little good art by Kirby, some decent drawings, finishes and inking by Joe Simon and some very bad drawing, finishing and inking by Liederman or someone else.

The splash panel I believe to be at least partially inked by Kirby. I’m fairly adamant in stating this belief, despite some people feeling that Kirby was too valuable as a layout or pencil artist to waste his time on inking. Jim V believes most of the inking that I cite as Kirby to be that of Joe Simon. Again I am more than happy to be shown the error of my ways, but until that time, I will keep my own council. From what I see, Kirby’s brush and pen hand is the deftest and the surest in the mix. I see his expertise in the clean lines and feathering on the splash panel on Cap’s figure as he descends the staircase. I also see him at work in Rathcone’s face and cloak as well as on the figure of death. I don’t see any of Joe Simon’s work until page five.

Page two above has some decent Kirby penciling, although fast and loose. Liederman is probably the inker here and does OK, because the pencils are tight enough to follow without improvising. Compared to Kirby and Simon, Liederman’s hand is fairly amateurish. This assessment is based on the notion that there are only three inkers present. In the event that there are four or more, Liederman may or may not be the main culprit in the botch job to come. I also see the possibility of the fourth inker on this page being the aforementioned George Klein. There is some characteristic crosshatched shading here, and a hand that appears to be steadier than some of the later awkward inking. If you compare the quality of this page to the following two, it looks decidedly more professional.

On page three, the story begins to decline in quality and gets even worse on page four. The first panel of page three is a joke, with barely enough graphic information to make a coherent image. Panels two and three are better drawn and constitute a striking layout choice. The rest of the page is adequate.

The first panel of page four is nicely drawn, as Cap leaps for a flagpole. Panel two is an acceptable follow-up, with the killer observing Bucky following him at the end of an alley. Then the problems begin. One of the most important aspects of graphic storytelling is the balance and flow of the shapes and sizes of figures within panels. In my estimation, the figure of Bucky and the third panel itself are both too small.

In the fourth panel, Kirby and Simon commence again with fancy layouts, which often do not work. The more I see of this sort of thing, the more I believe that in many such cases it is Simon doing the layouts. I like the dynamic of having the villain’s leg protruding into panel five,  but I feel that the composition then falls apart with the poorly drawn or finished picture of the thug slapping Bucky. A black arrow indicates that we go next to the right, which is logical except then our eye must travel back left to the small, feeble scene of Cap tackling the villain.This is certainly not optimal use of space for the purposes of storytelling.

We will see more shenanigans like this as the story continues.


Posted January 23, 2012 by norris burroughs in Uncategorized

2 responses to “Rathcone part 1 by Norris Burroughs

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  1. The problem with your “deftest and surest” notion, IMHO, is that Kirby is also the most assured and talented penciler of the bunch. IF he were to ink Rathcone and Death in the splash panel, I believe that they would look better. As an INKER, Kirby would simply redraw (in ink) a poorly constructed face. He would be unlikely to simply trace such bad drawings as I consider both these splash faces to be. It’s that lack of clarity and strength that belies Kirby inks to me. I don’t know who this might be other than Simon unless, as you say, Liederman is doing some penciling as well as inking, or there are more hands involved.

    MAYBE Jack had a hand in Cap in that panel, but the crouching pose isn’t indicative of Kirby to me.

    I see traces of Kirby layouts/facial pencils on page two an three, but I see it as mostly Simon and Kirby is completely gone by page four. Bucky’s poses are almost anti-Kirby.and the proportional sizes and looks of the characters vary from panel to panel.

    Overall I see this entire story as primarily Joe Simon and Liederman. Maybe the Kirby-esque faces come from his touch-ups (i.e. inks) in which he, as I said before, simply redrew in ink what had been penciled there. I think we have to consider that Kirby’s inks will always override any pencils, so when he does ink, he supersedes everyone’s involvement.

    Would you agree with that?

    Peace, Jim (|:{>

  2. Jim,
    Pretty much in agreement except for the splash. The inking there looks too good for Simon, but I may be underestimating him. At any rate, I think you are right about the story being mostly Simon and Liederman. The touch-up theory is likely.
    Overall, I think we are getting a clearer sense of what these guys are doing here.

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