Archive for February 2012

Reed Crandall   5 comments

Just received an email from Roger Hill on the Atlas list, discussing his spotting of Reed Crandall as artist in the Ageless Orientals story from Captain America #2. Since I’m currently having Photoshop issues, I figured I’d do a bit of a retrospective on what I believed to be Crandall’s work throughout this issue.
Roger mentioned first that Crandall was most likely a penciller on these stories rather than merely an inker. Over the last several weeks I have come around to this belief as well, except I still see an inker’s hand that seems as though it must be his or someone else with nearly comparable skills.
The first page that really jumps out at me is page five, because although I see Crandall’s drawing in several earlier pages, this is the one that has the really distinct and exquisite pen or brushwork.
Roger insists that at this point, if Crandall were inking, he would have been using a pen, since he did not become proficient with a brush. Panel seven is the real knockout for me, particularly in the etching lines in Cap’s body legs and Bucky’s face and body.
I also see touches of what appears to be Crandall in the following story, such as the drawing in the splash panel of Trapped in the Nazi Stronghold, but it looks to be inked by a lesser hand, or perhaps Crandall rushing.
I again see him possibly in page six of that story and again in page eight as penciller.
I don’t spot him convincingly again until the second and third panels of the first page of The Wax Statue story, and I’ve also mentioned that the surgical glove of the sculptor in panel two almost looks to be the work of Will Eisner, whom Crandall was working with as well .
Crandall really seems to shine both as penciller and inker in page ten of that story.
This is surely one of the most beautifully drawn pages in the run of Cap 1-10. The etched ink lines throughout the page are stunning and illustrative in a way that I’ve compared to Lou Fine and Will Eisner emulating the sculpture-like artistry of Illustrator JC Leyendecker.
I’d love some feedback on commentary from Roger or anyone else that would like to pitch in.
NWB
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Posted February 29, 2012 by norris burroughs in Uncategorized

The Wax Statue part one   Leave a comment

The third story in Captain America #2, The Wax Statue That Struck Death is  the strongest in the issue, in terms of the consistency of its artwork. This is predominantly because the inking is so strong. The splash is almost certainly drawn and inked by Kirby. His brushwork is most evident in areas of Cap’s figure like the black spotting in his chest and shoulders and the shadows in his legs. You can also see the sureness and clarity of his brush on the mask in the upright corner.

 

 

The second and third panels  appear to be the work of Reed Crandall, and this is where I really see the Eisner influence, as this two panel sequence looks like a fragment from a Spirit story. The folds in the sculptor’s coat and gloves, and the ear on the wax bust most strongly give that impression to me.

The second page changes up again, because although it is probably drawn by Kirby, it is inked powerfully if not particularly well by someone else.  It looks a bit like early George Roussos to me, but that’s just an impression I get.  Only panel six looks like a Kirby ink job to me.

 

 

Page three below looks like loose Kirby pencils, possibly inked by Joe Simon, except for the two bottom panels which look like Kirby lovingly inking his own intricate machinery. The tanks are beautifully and elegantly constructed and positioned all in a row.

 

 

The following page continues the odyssey into the fantastic world of Kirby Sci-fi  technology. It is probably inked by Simon and Kirby together. There’s a nice propulsive feeling in that large third panel. The orthogonal parallel metal beams above give a great deal of perspective force to the seated figures behind the equipment as they see to their grim tasks. Very strong black spotting in that panel as well, giving it a solid foundation.

 

 

 

The story continues.

NWB

 

Posted February 27, 2012 by norris burroughs in Uncategorized

Trapped in the Nazi Stronghold, part three, by Norris Burroughs   2 comments

Page eleven initially looks to be drawn by Kirby, predominantly because of the figure work and composition. It could on second look conceivably be either partially drawn or finished by Crandall. The advantage of a high resolution scan is that it enables one to zoom in on miniscule details such as the brush lines in Cap’s left boot and calf muscle in panel one, as well as the shadow under Bucky’s chin in the second panel.  The inking is quite nice, but it suffers in comparison to the work done on a very small selection of panels in this issue. I refer the reader again to page five of the Ageless Orientals story in the first post bearing that title.

This again begs the question, is the inking over what appears to be Crandall usually done by Crandall, and its quality affected only by the degree of care given, or has it been handled by several hands. Even in the folds of clothing on the machine gun Nazi in panel three and the musculature in Cap’s leg in panel four looks Crandall-esque to me, but it is inked too carelessly to display the subtlety underneath.

Although Captain America is famously slugging Hitler on the cover of the first issue, the dictator does not actually make an appearance until this second volume, where he again appears on the cover to advertise this very story. Page twelve begins a serious bit of nonsense with Adolph and Hermann Goering, which to my eye is almost certainly drawn and partially inked by Crandall. One can see this most plainly in the facial features of Hitler in panel three and even more prominently in the clothing folds in panels one, four and five.

I see Crandall here working in a broad cartoon style that was popular in the Eisner/Eiger studio where Crandall and Lou Fine both worked. It is a wonderfully silly piece of work, but also a beautifully drawn caricature of villainy, as Adolph and Hermann converse face to face. The folds in the crook of Hitler’s elbow and sleeve in panel Five are particularly well executed and almost look like the work of Will Eisner.

The follow up page, which I’ve omitted, is a travesty of mediocre drawing and mostly desultory inking. It looks like Simon’s artwork, but Kirby might have done a brush touch up here and there. Page fourteen is considerably better.

This page is very nicely done and appears to be at mostly drawn and inked by Kirby in a series of eight small jewell-like panels that are wonderfully composed and balanced. The Stuka dive-bomber in panel one leads our eye directly to panel two, a tight and obviously Kirby drawn gem of a three-figure composition. Bucky’s left arm gestures the eye to the plane in panel three, whose trajectory again brings us to the following panel.  Next, the broken wing of the crashed Stuka in panel five protrudes into panel four, acting as a directional marker for the eye to follow continuity. This is one of my favorite pages in the story.

We finish up with the story’s final page, which is considerably less impressive, although far from awful. The first two panels appear to be Crandall quick-draws possibly inked by him. Panel three appears to be inked by the “Illustrator” again, who makes occasional appearances throughout the series. Panel four containing the three planes is nice but the rest is merely OK, with what appears to be the “Illustrator” finishing up the last two panels. The next story will have the brilliant Crandall and Kirby artwork that steals the entire book.

To be Continued.

NWB

Posted February 22, 2012 by norris burroughs in Uncategorized

Trapped in the Nazi Stronghold part two by Norris Burroughs   Leave a comment

In my opinion, Reed Crandall draws much of Page six of Trapped in the Nazi Stronghold.  There is a beautiful quaintness in the style of artwork, and also in some of the precision feathering brush or pen work, which is similar to that seen on some earlier Crandall efforts in the first story of the issue.  However it is not as fine as the best panels of the artwork in the Ageless Orientals story, so I have to wonder if it is the same inker.  An exception would be the right hand portion of the large lower montage panel, which contains the German peasant family being herded by a Nazi soldier. There is also a bit of niceness in the folds of Cap’s dress in the circular panel inset in the larger montage. Clothing folds are a dead giveaway, as it appears that more accomplished inkers can render these details more convincingly. Although poorly reproduced, these isolated areas have a finesse lacking in much of the page.

I’d like to interject here that in a recent communication with Greg Theakston, he stated that he believes Kirby did at least rough breakdowns if not even more work on these pages before giving them to someone else to finish. He does not see any Crandall in this story at present.

 

I am still holding on to the notion that Crandall inked as well as drew those lovely pages in the Ageless Oriental story, until presented with another explanation.

I am providing a sample page of early Crandall here, that Jim Vadeboncoer was kind enough to send me, which shows some similarities to what I perceive as Crandall’s somewhat cartoonish style in these Captain America pages. This is from a Kayo Kirby (no connection to the King) story in an April 1941 issue of Fight Comics, and it shows a broad range of styles, from semi realistic to comic book caricature. It is almost certainly not inked by Crandall, but I see some of the same characteristics there that I do in the Cap story. For example, looking at Bucky on page six and eight, I can see that the structure of his face and hair strongly resemble those of the red headed boy in panel one of the Fight page. I see other similarities in the facial features and body language of other characters as well, which display a telltale elegance in the nature of their clothing and posture.

Lastly. since Crandall clearly appears in other parts of this comic, it seems strange to me that another unidentified, artist displaying many of his peculiarities would appear in this particular comic. Logic convinces me that it is Crandall.

However, Jim does not believe this to be Crandall. Here is his rebuttal as he compares the Fight Comics page to the Cap page.

“The first two panels in the third tier show exactly what Reed brought to the comics – real figures balanced in real space in poses that you can emulate. The kid skipping rope is really skipping. Tuffy is casual and calm with his shoulders offset to show his weight on his right leg. Kayo in the next panel is beautifully poised solidly on his left leg, with his shoulders helping to indicate the weight. The clothes on EVERYBODY drape naturally.

Now look at the Captain America page. Panel one has a figure with its back to us that is completely faked. There is no weight, nor is the anatomy correct – his left arm is impossible. The guy facing us isn’t much better. His left arm is equally improbable. The second panel isn’t wrong, but it isn’t exceptionally good, either. Panel three is a joke. The running officer is wrong – his legs, his arms, the folds on his suit – they are all faked. Compare Cap’s hand on his chin to the similar staging of the thug in panel 5 of Kayo Kirby. Cap’s elbow is higher than his chest, and it’s not foreshortening – it’s faked anatomy.”

So, perhaps this is someone else brought in who works in the style of Eisner/Fine/Crandall to bring some continuity to the otherwise slapdash story. Hopefully, we will get another opinion at some point.

Skipping page seven, page eight is another Crandall effort, with more precision brushwork on display. It is amusing to note that these hilarious images of Steve Rogers in drag and Bucky in a Little Lord Fauntleroy suit are rendered with such fastidiousness. Panels four through eight have some very good brushwork amidst clothing folds, but I don’t see such exceptional touches in this issue again, and for that matter, much more of Crandall until the Wax Statue story later on.

Page nine looks like pure Kirby, with even some of his inking interspersed throughout the page, which is most evident in panels two, three, five, six and seven. The shot of Cap and Bucky running downstairs in panel five is a standout of dynamic Kirby hyper-extension. Likewise, the small vignette in panel six of Cap and Bucky holding the lamppost and auto bumper is a miniature treasure trove of detail.

Page ten looks like loose Kirby art with perhaps some of his inks in panel six. That back shot of Cap and Bucky running is a beauty. Although a very quick draw, the pose has a fantastic fluidity to it and a good deal of acceleration due to its juxtaposition with the orthogonal of the wall. Panel one also has some effective Kirby dynamism in the torque of Cap’s figure, but it is sloppily inked. Panel seven of the machine gunner also looks to be a serviceable Kirby ink job. Panel eight is a gem, featuring a robust pile up of figures.

We will conclude this story in the following post.

NWB

Posted February 20, 2012 by norris burroughs in Uncategorized

Trapped In the Nazi Stronghold part 0ne by Norris Burroughs   Leave a comment

In my opinion, the second story in issue #2, Trapped in the Nazi Stronghold is really where Simon and Kirby’s Captain America comes together as a series. This is where the duo of artists begins to have fun telling their stories, and there is a greater commitment towards consistency in the artwork as well.

Certain features in the story’s first panel, such as Cap’s quadriceps leg muscle look to be the drawing work of Reed Crandall, although the composition suggests that it might be a Kirby layout or rough. However, the inking is peculiarly awkward, and the final drawing suffers for that reason. The shading in Cap’s face is  overdone and the inking of the left leg near the knee is clumsy.

 

Page two looks to be competent Kirby art, and the second panel is inked in a style that reminds me of the origin segment in the first issue. Again, I may be making too much of the crosshatch in that panel, but I believe that this could be a return appearance of the person I tentatively identified as George Klein. Kirby could also have inked panels one and two, but the remainder of the page is difficult to identify.  We are back to rough brushwork in panels five through eight, with very little professional finesse shown there.

 

 

Page three is probably drawn by Joe Simon and is inked rather hastily, with the exception of panel two, which has an unusual flavor to it. The two Nazis on the left have a quaint old world look about them, and the one on the far right has that etched look of the inker I’ve named “Illustrator.” We will see more of this look throughout the story, as well as several other distinct styles.

 

 

Skipping page four, we proceed to page five where we find a much stronger Kirby presence in the pencils. In panel three, we have a beautiful running and leaping Cap and Bucky, with a classic case of torque in the posing of the figures. Panel five has some wonderfully dynamic interplay with a fight scene, and an instance in panel six where Cap, after slugging his opponent in the previous panel counters with a blow from his shield. This sort of sequential continuity would become a staple in Kirby’s storytelling repertoire. The inking on this page is competent and may contain some Kirby inking in panels three through five as well as work by “Illustrator” in the distinctive facial shading of panel two.

 

 

All told, the artwork in this story has generally improved over much of what was previously seen. We will see more of what appears to be Reed Crandall’s art in the following pages featured in our next post. Please stay tuned and keep those opinions coming.

NWB

Posted February 17, 2012 by norris burroughs in Uncategorized

Ageless Orientals, part three, by Norris Burroughs   5 comments

So now we move on to page twelve of the Ageless Orientals story, and we notice very little Crandall here. Perhaps the drawing of Cap hanging between panels three and five is his, because there is a certain grace and symmetry in its delineation. Other than that singular figure, this is a poorly drawn page that I doubt anyone would want to take credit for. The poses of Cap and Bucky in panels four and five are pretty lame.

 

What we do see is possibly the first hint of Al Avison’s inking in the faces of Finley and Benson in panel two.  The facial features that lead me to believe this are the pendulous lower lips and prominent noses of the two men. These are both marked Avison traits.

Panel one of page thirteen looks to have been drawn by Crandall and possibly panel two is  as well. Benson’s head and lower limbs are a tip off.  Panel three looks like Kirby. The remainder of the page looks like Kirby’s loose pencils possibly combined with Crandall’s, and inked by ??? There is possibly some Avison in the prone figure in panel seven.  Again, I would love to see a positive ID of Al Gabriele’s inking at some point.

 

 

The next page, possibly by Kirby and Crandall is better drawn, and again, the inking is peculiar and fairly unremarkable. The action poses are reasonably strong. The first panel is nice, but the inking on this page basically ranges from fair to weak. The last panel, a head shot of Captain America is so atrociously inked that it is painful to look at.

 

The final page is no better, with what looks like sloppily inked Joe Simon art. What we have here is yet another story that begins promisingly and ends pathetically. One has to wonder at the thought process going on during the work on this succession of pages. Kirby, Crandall and Simon work out the first five pages beautifully and then somehow begin to run out of steam. in my opinion, Crandall does some inking as well as drawing early on, but is absent for most of the second half of the story. It is then completed hurriedly by Kirby, Simon, Avison and Gabrielle, in time to meet the deadline.

 

 

Fortunately, there would not be many more such stories in the run of issues one through ten.  Seemingly, the team viewed the final results of this story and resolved for the most part to not allow this to happen again. The series would be remarkable for its variety of drawing and inking styles, but for the most part, from this point on there would be  more consistent quality displayed.

NWB

Posted February 14, 2012 by norris burroughs in Uncategorized

Captain America #2 Orientals part 2 by Norris Burroughs   1 comment

Moving on to part two of this story, this is the page that for me really stands out from the rest. Assuming that Crandall drew page five, I find it difficult to believe that anyone else on the short list could have inked it in this fashion. First, allow me to bemoan the quality of the printing, even though this is one of the clearest pages in the Masterworks Volume. Look carefully at the last two panels and observe the etching lines in the musculature of Captain America and Bucky. Then look to the right and notice the folds in Steve Rogers’ shirt and hat. Look at the shadow in the hat’s brim. Even the inking in the telephone poles in panel one is a cut above what we’ve already seen.  This is what I am referring to as the Fine/Leyendecker look.  Sadly, much of the detail that I’m calling your attention to is obscured, but we must work with what we have.

If we study the sample of his artwork below, we can see that this early twentieth century illustrator often used parallel hatch lines with his brush within the shape of a fold of clothing or in the shadows of faces or  hair. Leyendecker also had a way of using highlights in a distinctive, almost marble sculptural way to separate and define the planes of a face or body part, article of clothing or object, bringing out a refined look in his figures and their surroundings.

Reed Crandall, emulating Lou Fine brought his own version of this ultra sophisticated style to the wild rough-hewn dynamics of S&K studios.

The fact is that those last three panels of Cap #2’s page seven bear little resemblance to anything previously seen, with the exception of a few touches here and there on each page. The clothing folds in Steve Rogers shirt look nothing like the clothing folds on Benson in panel one of page two. This is why I conclude that there is either another inker here, or that Crandall selectively remembered the penciling he had done and simply forgot that he had done some inking as well.

Sadly, we don’t see much more of that style in this particular story. As a matter of fact, the following pages are a total departure. I will skip page six because of stated reasons. It is somewhat unremarkable and looks to have been drawn by Simon and possibly inked by Liederman or a quick job by Simon. It is the next two pages that are positively weird. They are rendered in a very heavy handed style, somewhat similar to the inker I previously referred to as illustrator, yet different enough to posit yet another hand entirely. The style is well over the top, with an over abundance of black spotting and think holding lines.

Page seven looks like Kirby pencils, but details such as clothing folds are laid in as if done with a trowel. I’m wondering if this could be Al Gabrielle, as I recall Greg Theakston mentioning that Gabrielle and Al Avison started inking in this issue.

Page eight is no better, with a bizarre close-up of Steve Rogers in panel five and a heavily etched three quarter head shot of the leering Benson in panel eight.  The inker is using a lot of unnecessary lines to embellish faces. At this point, I would really appreciate an ID on some of the other inkers listed in the Masterworks Volume. It’s getting rather late in the game for me to be guessing so much.

After page nine which I omit, the artwork deteriorates suddenly. Page ten below looks to be Kirby pencils, inked by another newcomer, possibly Avison, but only small areas suggest his work to me here.  I do see some touches that look more like him later on in the story.

There is a wonderful  pose of Cap throwing a punch in panel three, but it’s drawn so loosely and inked so sloppily that it doesn’t quite cut it. Much of the remainder of the story is so awful that it insults the beauty of the opening pages. I’ll try to find the enthusiasm to finish the story in the next post. There is enough interesting new stuff here to comment on, despite the poor quality of the inking and the printing.

Posted February 8, 2012 by norris burroughs in Uncategorized