Captain America #5 Killers of the Bund part 2   6 comments

 

Page six above looks even more like Mort Meskin’s work to me than the previous page. Take particular note of the facial structure of the blue-suited man in panel two, and the faces of the Nazi spies in panels four, five and six. About two years ago, Steven Brower, Kirby lister Glen Story and I debated on the possibility that Meskin had worked on this issue, and we compiled a montage of faces from several sources including Meskin’s Vigilante and some of the pages from the Bund story’s page seven. (By the way, for those interested in learning more about Mort Meskin, Steven Brower has recently had a book published on the artist, entitled From Shadow to Light.)

 

 

First I will present the actual page above so it can be enjoyed in its entirety for its beauty. This is classic vintage Kirby, with a plethora of great poses that showcase the King’s ability to make a figure dynamic even when it is at rest for the most part. Check out Cap’s body language in the casual leaning back pose in panel five and the complex arrangement of figures in the room. Ditto the figure composition in panel seven. Then below, I have displayed the Vigilante comparisons.

 

 

The ears on some of the heads seem particularly similar to me, if we look at the head shot of the Nazi in panel six and compare it to the panel of Vigilante and to the lab coated villain above it. There is also a similarity in the mouth and jawline of the rightward face in the blue panel to the standing Nazi directly below it, which is positively Steve Ditko-esque. (By the way, Mort Meskin was one of Ditko’s major influences.)

 

 

Skipping page eight, we come to what looks like some Kirby inking on page nine above, in the aerial scenes with Cap leaping about on the Stuka dive-bombers. There is some nice tight technical rendering of these planes that looks like his hand, and the rear view of Cap in panel five is also very Kirby-like. Page ten below is another slick beauty that looks again to me to be Meskin inked.

 

 

Panel four, in which Cap is holding a limp thug by the scruff of his shirt is a tiny masterpiece of elegant detail, and the final panel with Steve and Bucky on the right is a display of the kind of wholesome American sentimental purity that Norman Rockwell’s work would typify.

The question is, if this work is not Mort Meskin than who indeed is it? Another mystery inker added to the batch.

The mystery continues.

 

 

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Posted November 14, 2012 by norris burroughs in Uncategorized

Captain America #5 Killers of the Bund part 1   1 comment

 

Now, we come to arguably one of the strongest stories of this issue, art wise, and we will encounter several styles that I’ll try to identify based on some lively debates that occurred last year between Steven Brower, Glen Story and me.

Above, on page one of Killers of the Bund, we see what looks to me to be a splash panel drawn and inked largely by Kirby. It seems that he inked most of the foreground and left some of the lesser figures to someone else. The inset panel two shows another hand entirely and it is one that I don’t recognize.

 

 

Page two above continues to display an unfamiliar inking style, most of it looking like neither Kirby, Simon, Shores nor Avison. At this point, I’m going to introduce Jacob Landau into the mix, an artist who claims to have worked on Captain America approximately during the period this comic was produced. My old friend, author and Comics aficionado Steven Brower has just completed an article for Imprint Magazine, covering Landau’s career. Here’s a quote from the text.

“The singular evidence of Landau’s comic book work is on The Sniper, in Military Comics #10, published by Quality Comics with a cover date of June 1942. If indeed Captain America was his first comics work, and given the lag between production and publication, this would put him in the heady mix of myriad inkers who worked on the first ten issues, from late 1940 to late 1941.”

 

Here is a page from Quality Comics #10 above, featuring the Sniper. Perhaps we can momentarily entertain the notion that Landau may have worked on portions of this story. At any rate, keep the possibility in mind as we scan the remainder of the issue.

The fifth page is in my opinion one of the best samples of Golden Age Kirby that I’ve ever seen. It is a magnificent melee, wherein Cap and Bucky polish off a passle of Nazis. From first panel to last, the page is a wonderful conglomeration of beautifully fluid and lyrical figures.

 

 

The long central panel is a magnificent tableau, as Cap swings open both his arms and sweeps a horde of Nazis over like ten pins. the fourth and following panel is a classic pose of Cap’s torqued body from the rear as he swings a right cross.

The drawings are certainly Kirby at his best, but the inking is very possibly some early work from an extraordinary artist named Mort Meskin, whom we will discuss in the next post

 

Posted November 11, 2012 by norris burroughs in Uncategorized

Captain America #5 Dragon of Death part 2   Leave a comment

 

Page nine above is dynamically one of the strongest in the story, and can easily be identified at its root as a strong Kirby construction. Panel one is a wonderful arrangement of figures and a good early example of the big O, as the various limbs and elements of the bodies bring the eye around and around. Then too, we have the movement in the first panel direct the eye to panel two, three and four which eventually leads the eye to the angled figure on the rack in panel five. Kirby repeats a portion of the angled rack shape in panel six, bringing the eye down to panel seven.

Sadly, Kirby’s drawings were  not tight enough to prevent the inkers, probably Shores and Avison from weakening the final art considerably. This is the major complaint that I have with the first two stories of this issue, and indeed with the art in the ten issue series in general.

 

 

Page ten above is also initiated by a Kirby layout, and there is a fairly clear indication that most of the finishing is by Shores, based on certain inking tendencies perceived here, most notably the hay-like shading in panel three. The step-tiered final panel is especially well constructed. Skipping page eleven, we see more or less the same thing on page twelve below, with Shores and perhaps another hand finishing loose Kirby art.

 

 

Again, it is somewhat unfortunate that this story did not receive fuller treatment from Kirby’s hand. I include the final page for the sake of closure. As we can see, there is more hay-hatched inking in the final panel.

I’d like to make a point to contrast this story with the one that follows, which was one of the high points in the run of ten issues.

 

 

Posted October 29, 2012 by norris burroughs in Uncategorized

Captain America #5 The Dragon of Death part1- by Norris Burroughs   Leave a comment

 

We now get to the Gruesome Secret of the Dragon of Death, the first Captain America story to deal with The Japanese as an enemy in World War II. There is no shortage of gross racial stereotyping here, but Kirby keeps it tasteful for the most part. We must remember that these caricatures are an product of the period in which the comic was produced, and try to judge the piece for its merits as a story, without condemning it by today’s standards of racial tolerance.

That said, the story has some decent artwork, with very little involvement by Kirby, but also features the first S&K Cap full-page drawing that is not also a splash panel. The actual splash page  above is a beauty, with a fantastic Kirby drawing of a dragon rearing out of the water, and a nice inset drawing of the villain, Captain Okada. This is actually a very restrained portrait of an Asian, showing little of the buck toothed, big eared simian yellow fanged demon often used to represent a Japanese foe. Kirby predominantly inks this page as well as drawing it.

 

 

Page two above, with Steve Rogers assigned to Hawaii looks like loose Kirby layouts, possibly finished by Avison and Shores, although another hand may be present. There is minimal attempt to depict any sort of racially authentic Polynesians here with the drawings of islanders, but that is to be expected. The drawings are adequate but not exceptional.

 

 

Page three above looks again to be loose Kirby inked by Avison and Shores. Perhaps there is hardly any  Kirby here at all, although he may be doing some rendering on the dragon in panel three.

 

 

Skipping page four, we move on to page five above, which looks very much as if Avison is doing a lot of work here, although probably from rough Kirby layouts. I believe that Avison’s hand can be detected most clearly in the faces of Okada and his henchmen, who although described as sinister looking are very far from horrific. The profile of Okada in panel five and a downward shot of the same character in panel six are very crisply drawn and inked.

As mentioned, there is not a lot of primo Kirby in this story, but page eight below is certainly worth the price of the book, with a cross section interior shot of the dragon ship that the King has lavished his attention on. This is Kirby’s baby from head to tail, as he lovingly divides the ship, section by section in masterful architectural detail.

 

Posted October 23, 2012 by norris burroughs in Uncategorized

Captain America #5 Ringmaster part 3, by Norris Burroughs   Leave a comment

 

Page ten above has Kirby again exploring various approaches to dynamic anatomy. In panel one, he gives us a nice arrangement of figures, with a solid three-quarter back shot of the strong man as Cap and Bucky approach. In panel two, Cap dispatches the villain,  with the page’s composition displaying another fairly well drawn muscular back. The poses are strong, but one can see that the finishes again by Avison and Shores are not the best drawn. The same can be said for the remainder of the page, with the lines of Cap punch flipping the strongman in panel three compromised by some weak rendering. Does the appearance of crosshatched shadows here mean the presence of Inker George Klein?

 

 

Page eleven above is composed strangely, and doesn’t quite come together,  but it reverts to a stronger, surer ink line again, and the anatomy of the poses look more like Kirby. Therefore, I deduce that he may be doing some inking as well as drawing here, or perhaps there is someone else with a sleeker hand. Pay particular attention to the line work in the panels with Cap and Bucky on trapeze. They are tiny masterpieces. The last two panels look the most Kirby-esque to me.

 

 

We finish the story with a page that looks like loose Kirby finished by Avison and Shores. There is nothing spectacular here, just some good solid work. Perhaps it’s worth mentioning the panel full of sound effects. It’s a nice touch.

NWB

Posted October 12, 2012 by norris burroughs in Uncategorized

Captain America #5 Ringmaster part 2 by Norris Burroughs   Leave a comment

Page five above continues the story with a nice head and torso shot of Cap and Bucky. Seemingly, it is Kirby’s drawing, which is strongly embellished by Avison and Shores, followed by a shot of our heroes trotting that has some nice dynamics. The remainder of the page is unremarkable, with the possible exception of some amusing very Avison-like drawings of Steve and Bucky peeling potatoes.

Skipping page six, we move on to a very strong Kirby-driven page seven that commences with a shot of Betty Ross walking down a foreboding city street, followed by Cap and Bucky. In panel two, Betty looks up at a row of skyscrapers to observe a daring robbery in progress. This page has a slightly different inking style over strong Kirby pencils, and looks to me like neither Avison nor Shores. There is something very smooth and liquid in the ink lines here.

The slug-fest in panel four is particularly wonderful, as Captain America’s shield bashes the blue-jacketed thug into the upper reaches of panel space, while the figures of Betty and Bucky act as counterpoints to emphasize the action. The pile-up in the final panel is also quite neat, although not inked quite as crisply. The complexity of foreshortening in Cap’s body is remarkable.

The first four panels of page eight above have similar inking qualities to those of page seven. The musculature of the strongman who is slugging Cap in panel one is a trifle over the top, but Cap’s spayed figure is strong, and the strongman’s back is well rendered in panel two. In panel three, the fleeing criminal in the brown suit is remarkably well drawn. The angle of his protruding head and squared and rotated shoulders counterbalances his springing bent legs, giving particular dynamism to the pose, and also further propelling the running strongman holding Betty Ross. This is obviously Kirby lovingly giving a good deal of attention to these drawings.

Avison and Shores finish Kirby in the two final panels.

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Page nine is mostly Avison and Shores, with the latter clearly inking the head of the Ringmaster in panel three, evidenced by the profusion of crosshatched hay in the right of the panel. Still the poses, particularly the approaching elephants in the final panel are pure Kirby. We will conclude the story in the next post.

Posted September 28, 2012 by norris burroughs in Uncategorized

Captain America #5-Ringmaster part-1 by Norris Burroughs   Leave a comment

Welcome to the first post where I am able to use actual scans. I must say that it’s a joy to see the pages as they appeared back in the day, as they say. So here we go, it’s a brand new day.

In Captain America #5, we first encounter The Ringmaster of Death, a character that would appear in one form or another throughout various Kirby driven comics for the next several decades. Nearly all of Kirby’s splash panels are magnificent, and this one is unique in its property of evoking a carnival of nightmare and lunacy. This page is almost certainly inked by Kirby, with the exception of the small inset panel that actually begins the story in earnest. This comic continues the practice started in the previous issue of employing Al Avison as Kirby’s primary finisher.

Page two above starts off with some very Avison-like panels, particularly the faces in panels one, and those of the Ringmaster as well. On first examination, it would appear that most of the artwork here is initiated by Kirby roughs or partial pencil-work followed by tighter Avison pencils and or inking, and primary inking by Syd Shores and possibly Al Gabrielle. Most of Kirby’s tighter pencils seem to be in the figures of Captain America, Bucky, and Steve Rogers and Bucky out of costume. We also see more of Kirby’s embellishment on close-ups of villain’s faces and and in the structure elaborate technical equipment. As Avison and Shores later both worked extensively as Captain America’s pencilers, I am much more familiar with their work than that of Al Gabrielle or George Klein.

Notice if you will the bit of symbolism that Kirby employs in panel five, showing the Ringmaster and his whip juxtaposed with a blue ball bearing a star, an object that very much resembles Captain America. the tip of the whip hovering over the ball gives the illusion of the hero already defeated.

The running figures in the first panel of page three above don’t have much Kirby in them, beyond a loose structural breakdown, but the figures of Captain America in panels three and four are strong, particularly Cap’s back shot in four. The anatomy of the back, especially of the rear leg muscles is something that Kirby excels at. Notice also panel seven, where Kirby uses the shape of the cages to give Bucky and the midget some motion by the use of perspective.

The drawing on this page appears to be done predominantly by Avison and inked by Shores.

On page four above, we see much of the same thing again, as Kirby gives us several dynamic elongated poses of Cap in action, such as the right hook that fells the two thugs in panel two, and also the roundhouse  shield blow that the hero delivers in panel three. I’m also appreciating Kirby’s use of circular panels in the page’s layout.

to be continued.

Posted September 23, 2012 by norris burroughs in Uncategorized