Captain America#3 Hunchback of Hollywood part 1   2 comments

The Hunchback of Hollywood is one of my All-Time favorite Golden Age comic book stories. First off, it was the first Golden Age Kirby Captain America tale that I ever read. But more than that, despite its many flaws, I think that the story is exceptional.

It’s nicely written and drawn for the most part lovingly as a tribute to old Hollywood Glamor and Horror. Many of the layouts are vintage Kirby, constructed compositionally with great attention to detail, so that even the most uninspired inking cannot affect them too adversely. The pacing is good and the plot is tight, with almost no superfluous crap or rambling in search of a thread. Again, the framework is built on the Hollywood Spectacle in all of its visual splendor, and Kirby utilizes sequential space/time much like a filmmaker.

The first page above, a splash drawn and inked by Kirby sets up the Hunchback in the castle premise, with the creature looming menacingly above Cap and Bucky. It’s a strong circular composition, or more like an oval, with the creature’s arms and the turreted structure bringing our eyes to Cap, around Bucky and then back around to the Hunchback.

Page two jumps off with a  simple set up in the office of a movie mogul. However, the drawings, with the exception of the hunchback in panel six are fairly weak. Jim Vadeboncoeur has pointed out that page two appears to have been added as an afterthought, and there is good evidence of this. The page is lettered in italics and there are some stylistic differences in the art. Here are Jim’s observations:  “We tried to brainstorm about WHY these pages might be there. If they (Simon and Kirby) needed two more pages, it would have been SO easy just to get Goodman’s production people (Bill King, etc.) to toss together a couple of house ads. Why didn’t they do that? Hames points out that it was both labor-intensive and much more difficult to insert a page into an already completed story, let alone to do it TWICE. Considering how ineptly it was done, it is amazing that no one seems to have noticed it before.”

My own feelings about the extra page, in this story at least, have to do with plot points. Later in the story, during his duel with Captain America, Talbot explains that he has killed because film producer Carstine’s movies are anti-Nazi propaganda. Given the nature of this particular film the story is centered around, his motivations seem somewhat vague, and the first page does provide a clearer explanation via Carstine’s speech in panel one, as well as functioning as a dramatic foreshadowing. If the initial purpose of this was to fill the need for more pages, the extra page here works fairly well. The added page in the later tale is another story, but we will get to that in a later post.

This story, according to Greg Theakston is inked partially by George Roussos, and I can see what appears to be his rudimentary style, predominantly in backgrounds from page three onward, with some notable exceptions. There is a simple but consistent  rendering by Roussos over what Kirby has laid out through most of this story. It is a rough-hewn quality that stands out here.  This is certainly not a facile ink line. It’s quite stiff, with very little variance of line weight. Roussos is working with several other inkers, and it is difficult to separate the various styles, as is usual with this series.

There seems to be areas where Kirby’s lay out and or pencils are less finished, such as the strangulation in panel  two on page three, and this is where the various inkers’ weaknesses are more readily apparent.

In panels four and six, I do see what could be another, more graceful hand inking Steve Rogers and Bucky. There is something particularly unique in the pixie-like expression on Bucky’s upturned face in panel six that I don’t catch anywhere else in the story.

Here below is a Roussos drawn and probably inked page from a feature called “Nightro” in Daredevil #2 from 1941, to use for comparison’s sake.

Roussos has also stated the he worked with another inker on this story. Here are his words in a Jack Kirby Collector interview by JonB. Cooke.

GEORGE ROUSSOS: There was a guy by the name of
Bernie Klein (who later got killed in the Army)
who was a sports cartoonist, and he wanted me
as an assistant. (They all wanted to use me
because of the technique I developed on Batman
for the backgrounds.) Bernie got a job from Jack
Kirby to do some inking on Captain America
and I did the backgrounds on it. I think it was
the third issue.

Therefore I will also include a sample of Klein’s work from Daredevil #2 as well. The page is from a series called “Whirlwind” and some of the artwork looks even more like that of Cap#3 than Roussos’ inking. Compare if you will the way Klein draws noses to those on page three of Captain America.

 

Moving on, I think that probably Al  Avison inks the large panel below, with Steve Rogers putting on a suit of armor on page four. This is a kind of show piece panel, that called for a finer hand to step up to the plate, and Avison’s style fits the need perfectly.I also see Avison’s work on page five and a few places later in the story.

To be continued,

Norris Burroughs

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Posted June 29, 2012 by norris burroughs in Uncategorized

2 responses to “Captain America#3 Hunchback of Hollywood part 1

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  1. Based on various interviews with Roussos it would appear that Bernie Klein was the main inker on this story and Roussos the secondary, doing backgrounds, although I do think George inked the bottom 2 panels of page 2.

  2. Norris, take a close look at the lower left hand corner of page 3. It will be SO much clearer if you have the new paperback edition. There is a small box there for the page number. It’s been scribbled in and over, so it’s hard to see, but it’s there. This was definitely page TWO when the strip was originally created.

    I love the hunchback in the last panel. Very well executed, but not in the style of anyone I normally connect with the strip. And it’s preceded by a terrible panel that appears as if an eight year old did it. I don’t recognize that style either.

    Peace, Jim (|:{>

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