Artist Spotlight on Gil Kane

by Blaise Tassone

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Starting out in the early 1940s working on the Zip and Pep titles (from MLJ, later Archie, comics), celebrated comics artist extraordinaire Gil Kane first came to the wider attention of the comic buying public through work produced for DC comics.

Kane would go on to illustrate a variety of books and genres and was so prolific that by the end of his career he had contributed art for hundreds of issues of comics, newspaper strips and even animated series and TV show story boards.

Born in Latvia (in the Baltic region of North Eastern Europe) as Eli Katz on April 6, 1926, Kane’s family migrated to the US in 1929 and settled in Brooklyn, New York. Originally, Kane dropped out of high school at age 16 to take on production work illustrating comics in the ‘factory system’ then active in Manhattan. Drawing backgrounds and aligning borders for different comics was Kane’s first job and the lessons he learned by doing this foundation work obviously stayed with him. From his early working life in the New York comic scene the young Gil Kane’s career was interrupted by a stint in the army during World War II, where he served in the Pacific. It was only after the war, and after signing a contract with Julius Schwartz, that Kane found his stride while working on DC’s anthology books Mystery in Space and Showcase. It was then that he was assigned the task of redesigning an old DC character.

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Showcase #22 (September 1959) – First appearance of Silver Age Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)

Working with writer John Broome, Gil Kane’s penchant for lanky dynamic figures was exploited in the Silver Age relaunch of Green Lantern. The cover for Showcase #22 has become iconic and it features Hal Jordan in action as the Emerald Gladiator. This comic is a Silver Age mega-key and will probably explode once DC does Green Lantern right (i.e. without Ryan Reynolds who is obviously a better Deadpool than GL). Current value for a certified 9.2 CGC copy is $150,000.00. Yes, you read that right.






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Showcase #34 (September 1961) – First appearance of S.A. Atom; Origin of S.A. Atom; First appearance of Jean Loring

Other than the early Green Lantern comics, which started their own series soon after the Showcase re-appearance of the character, the only comic run I know of which features Kane’s work from beginning to end is the relaunch of The Atom. Atom followed the same formula that Green Lantern did. Re-appearing as a try out in Showcase #34, decent sales quickly led to a monthly title. But whereas Green Lantern lasted for decades, The Atom eventually was cancelled due to flagging sales after issue #38. Not even a partnership with the much cooler Hawkman could save DC’s micro-warrior. In any case, the Atom’s first Silver Age appearance in Showcase #34 currently has a FMV of around $825.00 in certified 7.0 grade. This makes it one of the more affordable DC Silver Age keys.





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Tales of Suspense #88 (April 1967) – Gil Kane Artwork Begins

By the mid-sixties Kane had established his trademark style as an artist, which was the realism and well-grounded sense of perspective conveyed by his artwork. Although he was second to none in communicating a sense of movement and action in the figures he drew, Kane’s artwork is almost instantly recognizable from the solidity of his layouts.





A perfect example of this is the art Kane provided for Marvel’s Tales of Suspense which he drew from issues #88-91. Note his attention to details in the frame of the opening panel for the Captain America story in issue #88.
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Tales of Suspense #88 has a FMV of $325.00 in 9.6 grade, and $700.00 in certified 9.8.








329863_77f423340aabc5a4435b6545215a61d7b9b92629-226x300 Artist Spotlight on Gil KaneHis Name is Savage #1 (June 1968) – First Issue of Series Written and Drawn by Kane

Kane took a while to flourish, but when he did he also showed that he was as much a story-teller and creator in his own right as he was an illustrator of other people’s stories. This is highlighted by his work on his own creation His Name is…Savage. Not enough sales data on this comic to gauge its FMV value (Overstreet 2018 price guide has it in NM- 9.2 grade as $75.00), but worth picking up if you’re a fan of Kane.







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Spider-man #121 (June 1973) – Death of Gwen Stacy

Other stand out work by Kane includes the team up with John Romita (who provided the inking) for Spider-man, especially issue #121 (the Gwen Stacy death issue). A Bronze Age super-Key this comic currently sells for $325.00 in certified 8.0 grade. Kane himself passed on January 31, 2000 at the age of 73. The comic world lost a great talent on that day.

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