Captain America #2 Ageless Orientals 1 by Norris Burroughs   9 comments

So now we are over the threshold and into issue two, and here we have an entirely new ball game. Where in the first issue, we had a mad rush to meet the deadline, complete with much sloppy work, issue two shows us a team of professionals delivering pretty solid work, as well as a bravura turn by a fresh talent.

Simon and Kirby ink the splash, working from Kirby pencils. There is a great composition here using the orthogonal slant of the building, as well as the leaping figure of Cap and the sweep of the damsel’s legs to focus all eyes on the monster. This is the seminal layout that Greg Theakston refers to as the Big O.

In my opinion, Simon inks Cap, while Kirby works on the girl and the hideous creature, with beautiful brushwork in the anatomical touches on its legs and misshapen torso. The next page is possibly laid out by Kirby. It was initially my opinion that this page was partially inked by the magnificent Reed Crandall, who makes his first appearance here in Captain America. However comic’s historian Roger Hill, who I believe is currently finishing a book on Crandall, claims that the artist stated that he had penciled, not inked these Captain America pages. If this is the case, then it is a serious mystery to me who may have inked his drawings. Much of the brush or pen work is so fine that seemingly it must also be by Crandall or another really accomplished hand. It seems unlikely that Simon or Kirby would take the necessary time to finish these pencils in this fashion.

The drawings and inking together are  truly a class act, giving portions of this particular book a remarkable sheen and finish. I see Crandall’s touch most strikingly in the rendering of Betty Ross in panel two and in the panel below, where Betty leans over the dying G-man Thompson.

Crandall does even more work on page three, giving the lines a crisp delicacy previously unseen. Sadly, we lose a good deal of the exquisite brushwork because of poor printing. Particularly stunning are the techniques the artist uses in folds of clothing and the shadows in faces. Standout panels for me are the fine rendering of musculature in the creatures’ elongated bodies, as well as the creepy Benson in his green suit gesturing in panel eight. There is also a great deal of sinister atmosphere in the final panel as Betty Ross exits the cab in a seedy part of town. I still believe that whether or not Crandall was penciler, inker or both that he was working over Kirby layouts. I see Kirby’s hand in such places as the creatures’ postures in panel seven, but I could be wrong.

Reed Crandall began his career in sequential art in 1939 working for Quality Comics. He worked extensively on the character the Ray, initially drawn by the legendary Lou Fine. Crandall was a disciple of Fine’s, drawing and wielding a highly sophisticated brush  in a  style reminiscent of early twentieth century illustrator J.C.Leyendecker. That artist excelled in the depiction of handsome and urbane gentlemen whose exquisite taste in the cut of their clothes matched their upper class bearing. Here is a beautiful sample of Crandall from Feature Comics #43, Apr. 1941 provided by historian Jim Vadeboncoeur, from about the same month as Captain America #2 appeared.

 

 

 

 

Kirby and Simon were both admirers of Lou Fine, and almost certainly encouraged Crandall to add some of the former’s stylistic panache to the mix. One can clearly see the grace and sense of being grounded in real anatomy that Crandall’s figures display. Let us move forward, to page four.

 

 

We again see only touches of Crandall’s hand in page four above, working along with Simon and Kirby. I see his style most strikingly in Bucky’s face on panel two and Cap’s figure in panel four. Panel’s four, five and eight look to be the work of Kirby working with Crandall.

I just wanted to also display a sample of Lou Fine’s work as well, in order to show the unique style that he and Will Eisner adapted for the Eisner/Eiger shop

As one can clearly see from looking at the Fine artwork, the artist was quite versatile in the use of the figure from all angles. He played with anatomy masterfully, twisting his character’s postures using all manner of contrapuntal wizardry. His figures are elegant and elongated, and we can see his influence of the sinuous style of early Jack Kirby.

 

 

Note the width of stance of the Ray in panel five. Observe also how his left arm twists upward with the pivot of his torso, as the right shoulder and arm sweep down beneath his legs. This is a style that Kirby would adopt and take as far as he could.  As we will observe in the next post, Kirby and Crandall enthusiastically emulated both Fine’s anatomical distortions and elegant rendering, as this issue continues.

NWB

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Posted February 7, 2012 by norris burroughs in Uncategorized

9 responses to “Captain America #2 Ageless Orientals 1 by Norris Burroughs

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  1. I’m with Roger on this one, Norris. I see page two as PENCILED by Crandall, not Kirby. If you accept this, then the inker could be anyone from a wide-open list, but why not allow Kirby the honors? If he’s capable of inking the monster on the splash, he could easily render a tight Crandall pencil job here.

    On page three, I feel Crandall’s pencils here, too, because of the “serenity” of the poses and layouts. Betty and the taxi in the last panel are a superb example of something he would craft as opposed to anything we’ve seen yet from Simon or Kirby. It’s a calm, suspenseful scene as opposed to the manic-ness of previous stories. Crandall calls to me from all but the first three panels, and there he may be obscured by some grotesque Simon inks – at least that’s what I think I’m seeing in panel one. The poses of the monsters in panel 7 would be very atypical Kirby should they turn out to be by him. I doubt it.

    Page four could be Crandall and Kirby layouts/pencils. I detect signs of both. There’s a litheness to the poses of Cap and Bucky (and Betty) that are not reminiscent of S&K in previous stories. Kirby could be improving or it could be Crandall refining Kirby layouts?

    I wish we had a third party’s input so we could refine our observations/opinions. Sometimes I’m fairly confident of what I’m seeing and other times I think perhaps I’m talking through my hat.

    I have a rather different sense of J.C. Leyendecker’s art in that I don’t relate him at all to Crandall’s style. Your mileage obviously varies.
    http://www.bpib.com//illustrat/leyendec.htm

    Peace, Jim (|:{>

  2. ps. remember that Crandall’s job here was to EMULATE Jack Kirby and Crandall was an excellent mimic when he wanted to be.

    (|:{>

  3. Jim, JCL did a thing where he would shade faces and clothing using a technique that looked somewhat like a picket fence within a fold or a facial shadow. Fine and Crandall and indeed Eisner often emulated that style with their brushwork.
    You don’t see very much of it on these first four pages, but the next page has a bit more of it. Where you really see it is on page ten the Wax Statue story in this same issue

  4. I’m glad to see Jim Vadeboncoeur sees Reed’s pencil imagery in this Captain America #2 story also besides Norris and myself. Reed Crandall lived in Wichita, Kansas during the latter years of his life and it is documented in my forthcoming book on Reed Crandall (to be published by IDW Publishing Company) that Reed told a local Wichita collector back in the 1960s that he had helped pencil Captain America for Simon and Kirby. I believe that to be true, and I even believe that he was following rough layouts provided by Jack Kirby. But working from rough layouts leaves a lot of room for an artist to inject some of his own drawing characteristics into a comic story like this. And that is why we can clearly see Reed Crandall figures, faces, and other forms present in these three stories from Captain America #2.

    I also believe Reed did some inking on these stories, but at this early part of Reed’s career, he was not the inker he would later become. In fact, most of his early comic stories, including the “Samar” story from Feature Comics #43 and the “Kayo Kirby” story from Fight Comics #12, are inked with a pen. Both of these comics are dated April, 1941, the same dating that Captain America #2 has. Reed was not using a brush for fine line work when he left the Cleveland School of Art. He had indeed displayed some dry-brush technique on illustrations for a hardcover book he did before he came to New York, but most of the illustrations were done with a pen and the dry-brush usage was mostly for shading large areas. Following Reed’s work through the comics, one can clearly see his improvement during the latter months of 1941, as he became comfortable with a brush. Most artists eventually took up the brush method for inking simply because it saved time at the drawing board. I see Reed’s pencil work in all three stories featured in Captain America #2, but there are also other pages and panels that have no Crandall touch to them at all. So there were definitely other hands involved.

  5. VERY happy to see you here Roger, You’ve enticed me to put public what was initially a private email to Norris. And I’m happy to hear that what I was seeing is reinforced by your research.

    It’s extremely bizarre to me that I can actually SEE these things, Norris.
    It appears that I don’t need to go back to 50 year old interviews and track down what the artist remembers. How much effort did you have to expend, Roger, to arrive at the conclusion I saw IMMEDIATELY? I simply “SEE” it so clearly.

    It truly boggles my mind and has ever since 1968 when I showed Pat Price (a big Frazetta fan) a Frazetta story (“Botalye — Immortal Indian Warrior” in All-Star Western #99) and he said “It’s great! Who is it? Wally Wood?” Why could I see it SO clearly and Pat couldn’t? Before the Price Guide, dealers used to raise their prices on comics that I wanted because they knew the books must have some valuable art that they couldn’t detect.

    With great powers come great responsibilities and I began indexing my comics and sharing what I found with Jerry Bails and Hames Ware for the Who’s Who. There’s an article in Promethean Enterprises #2 in 1970 in which I documented the non-EC careers of most of their artists. I’ve never stopped acquiring comics and information. It’s also why I don’t know how to disagree with people gracefully. Since I “know”, you (or whomever) simply “must” be wrong. End of subject in my head. But life doesn’t tolerate such bluntness, so I do try to be diplomatic, but it’s all a show.

    I am happy to say “I don’t know” when the super-spidey-artist-ID sense doesn’t kick in, but when I know, I know. I can’t explain it. I can’t teach it. I can’t do anything except report the conclusions I “know”. I use “perhaps” and “possibly” or “sorta” in the I-don’t-know situations and try to be as informative as I can despite not having an ID.

    By the way, I will disagree with Roger that Crandall inked the Kayo Kirby. I see too many Iger Shop touches especially when compared to the Samar story.

    Peace, Jim (|:{>

  6. Well thanks for the clarity, guys. I’m getting to know Crandall better thanks to you two, and am looking forward to Roger’s book to see more of his work. I won’t be able to post the rest of the Wax Statue story for several weeks unless someone else comes up with scans of pages five to fourteen. Meanwhile, you two experts can look at the first post of that story (pages 1-4) and rip me a new one. Pleasure hosting the both of you.

  7. And I’m still putting out the challenge for someone to identify the artist that I MAY have mis-identified as Crandall on pages 6, 8 and twelve of the Nazi Stronghold story.

  8. Hey Norris just found this good stuff, I didn’t read who it was by…but said, “hey, I like this guys style, and it sounds faliliar LO!!! will come back to read it more carefully….good stuff though!!!

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