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Friday, 29 April 2016

The artists least likely to make you buy a comic.

Giant-Size Invaders #1
Only the other day, I pontificated on which artists were most likely to make me buy a book when I was a youth.

But that raised the obvious point; which artists were most likely to make me not buy a book when I was a youth.

I clearly wasn't very fussy as a child because there really weren't many artists whose work was sufficient to put me off a comic.

In fact, in terms of pencillers, the only two I can think of are Frank Robbins and Don Heck.

In both cases, it wasn't totally black and white. I actually really liked Don Heck's work on the early Avengers and I loved it on the pre-Colan Iron Man stories.

Sadly, after that period, I found his work increasingly off-putting and there were times when his jagged, scratchy lines and areas of flat, dead black positively hurt my eyes. However, as I've mentioned elsewhere on this blog, even after his mid-1960s heyday, I did quite like his work on Savage Sub-Mariner #68, in which he seemed to regain some of his lost elegance.

Frank Robbins was another odd case. For the most part, I couldn't stand his work. His figures looked to be filled with a weird, frenzied energy that threatened to make them fly apart at any moment and I found such strips as The Invaders next to impossible to read when he was working on them. Then again, I did really like his work on The Shadow, a strip his retro style seemed perfect for.

In fact, I would say that the artist whose presence was most likely to put me off buying a comic wasn't a penciller at all. It was an inker. And that inker was Jack Abel whose flat line-work, tendency to simplify anatomy to near-geometric shapes and his fussy hatchings, seemed to diminish the work of any artist he delineated. I'm sure he was a very nice man but I could never bring myself to like his output.

I also had an antipathy to the efforts of Syd Shores whose inks seemed far too heavy-handed for my liking. I especially struggled to like them over the work of Gene Colan and Jack Kirby, two pencillers his style seemed particularly ill-suited to.

Anyway, those are my thoughts on the matter. What are yours? Feel free to use the comments section below to get your childhood frustrations off your chest.

17 comments:

Jared said...

1970s Marvel work by Infantino was the bane of childhood.
And Jack Abel was indeed a very nice guy.

Dougie said...

I really like Heck now but I always liked Robbins,even as a kid.
Never very keen on Rich Buckler. Or Bob Brown.Later in the Bronze Age, Jimmy Janes & Greg Laroque made the LSH very workaday. As for the modern era, never liked Marc Silvestri and can't stand Romita Jr.

dangermash said...

No artist would have ever made me not buy a comic. I just had SMCW bought for me every week.

But there is some artwork I despise. It's not a penciller, it's not an inker. It's a penciller/inker combination. Around either side of ASM #100 we had Gil Kane inked by Frank Giacoia and I hated that art. Something about Frank really bought out the worst in those up the nose shots. And don't get me started on their work on the Lizard with half his head having no scales. I have nothing against the artists individually. It's just that they didn't do it for me as a pair. Kane inked by Romita was awesome and Giacoia was perfectly fine inking other artists.

Obviously big shouts to Heck and Robbins too.

Craven Lovelace said...

Like Dangermash above, at a certain point in my collecting youth, no artist would have prevented me from buying a DC or Marvel title. But there were definitely some I tolerated, rather than actively enjoyed. I mentioned in a comment that I felt similarly about Heck and Robbins back then (although I've done about faces on both since). Sal Buscema was another, for me. His work was the most quotidian of any artist working at either company, IMO. Never cared for Bob Layton. On the DC side, Bob Brown was a name that never excited me when I opened a comic. Back then, I couldn't muster much love for Jesse Marsh, Pat Boyette or Dan Spiegle, but those are all artists I've grown to appreciate much more in my adult years.

Always enjoy the blog, Steve!

TC said...

I quit buying Gold Key's Tarzan in the late sixties, when Paul Norris replaced Doug Wildey, some time around issue #186 or so. I never objected to Norris' art work on Johnny Quick reprints at DC, or in the Brick Bradford strip that ran as a back-up in King Features' Mandrake the Magician and/or Phantom comics. So I don't know why I couldn't tolerate it on Tarzan. Maybe just because it was different from "my" Tarzan. (That was why I never liked DC's version, even though it had great artwork by Kubert.) But then, I didn't quit buying Tarzan or Korak when Wildey and Dan Spiegle replaced Russ Manning.

I disliked it when Jack Sparling replaced Win Mortimer on Plastic Man, but I also disliked it when Mortimer replaced Sekowski on Inferior Five. But I didn't stop buying the comics. Well, actually, I did, but only because they were cancelled.

Frank Robbins was OK on The Shadow, and I could tolerate him on The Invaders and sometimes on Batman, since his retro style gave them a Golden Age feel.

I never had any problem with Don Heck, although his 1970's work (Wonder Woman, Rose & Thorn) was not as good as his earlier stuff at Marvel, or his later work on JLA. I confess, I never understood why some fans were so down on him.



Holyone said...

I hated Keith Giffen's scratchy 80s artwork on LSH, Dr. Fate, etc. I also never got Rob Liefield's style.

Comicsfan said...

dangermash makes an excellent point about an inker/embellisher being able to make or break a penciller's work. Heck and Robbins would definitely rank in my top 5 list of least favorite artists (with Carmine Infantino dealt in there as well, though I felt obliged at his passing to acknowledge his body of work); yet a strong finisher could likely shore up a lot of their weak points. For instance, Frank Giacoia wasn't able to do much for Robbins' work on Captain America--but I would have loved to have seen Dave Cockrum, who worked wonders with George Tuska's pencils on Avengers, take a crack at it, and ditto for John Romita. There's also Don Perlin's work on The Defenders--not that strong a penciller, but whose layouts were quite readable when finished by Joe Sinnott.

lilbaggie said...

My comics' golden age was DC from 1978-1984 and these guys always made me put a book back on the rack:
Don Heck, Jose Delbo, Alex Saviuk

These inkers could kill almost any penciller for me:
Vince Colletta, Joe Giella.

Honorable mention to Keith Giffen after he stopped trying to actually draw sometime around post Great Darkness Saga/Ambush Bug.

Russ said...

I was usually annoyed when an inker was deployed to "fix"(often meaning homogenize} am eccentric artist's pencils. The one that stands out for me was deZuniga over Ernie Colon on Arak. And Coletta over Robbins on Invaders is another. There were an awful lot of Filipinos masking individual pencillers' styles, partly because they were so cheap, partly because editors like Roy Thomas had a limited idea of what makes good art. If you're going to obscure a penciller's style to the extent that he effectively is reduced to layouts, why not just let Nebres or Alcala or whoever do the whole job? The answer to that seems to have been that foreign artists didn't "understand" storytelling, which is odd because some of them had been producing beautiful comics in their homeland for decades.

Anonymous said...

I feel a bit sad for Frank Robbins; the guy gets a lot of abuse. He was a good illustrator, but just not for super-hero comics.
The Invaders, Marvel's "70's comic about the W.W. II team, was a real bait and switch. They would have these wonderful Kirby covers and then you'd open it up and go "aarrggh."
Why?!
They should've let Kirby draw the damn thing...he was in it. The war, that is. Maybe he didn't want it. It would be perfectly understandable if he was sick of the subject.
M.P.

Graham said...

Didn't like Frank Robbins on the Shadow or the regular Captain America series, but enjoyed his work in Detective Comics on Batman and the Invaders. Go figure. I guess his Shadow artwork was such a jarring change from Kaluta's and maybe the same applies to his Cap artwork. I had just started reading Captain America and Robbins took over a couple of issues later. I actually thought his Invaders artwork was pretty good, especially after Sam Grainger took over the inking duties. I really thought he "got" Batman as a writer, so maybe he did as an artist, too.

Paul R said...

I see Dave Cockrum's name mentioned and I have to agree I loved his Legion and early X-Men work but when he returned to the book in the early 80s, the magic seemed to have gone. The monthly status on the book probably meant he had to rush out his work leading to a less attractive style. A pity.

Paul McScotty- Muir said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul McScotty- Muir said...

I used to dislike the work of Jerry Grandenetti and Ric Estrada but really like there stuff now Estrada is good when inked by himself (well I started to get into it about 3 or 4 years after encountering it in the 70s) - Don Heck was a good artist he was just liable to producing some really awful pieces of work (Ka-Zar issue 5 remains one of the worst drawn comics a guy with ability has drawn). I have to (again) stick up for Frank Robbins he was brilliant it was just that Marvel gave him the wrong strips to draw (he did some really nice b&w work for Marvel and a lot of great stuff on DCs mystery titles as well as Batman, the Shadow etc) - No one (imho) is worse that Rob Liefield how he became one of the major voices of 1980s comics is beyond me!

Lorenzo said...

Oh Christ almighty how my fellow kiwi Marvelmaniacs & I LOATHED Don Heck! Back in Christchurch Enzed in the '70s, we'd bike around town visiting all the 'swap-shops' (who'd reduce the value of their comics with whopping great "If this book is returned in good condition, it may be swapped for another, plus 10 cents" stamps, but I digress), shouldering past each other in our haste to get to the most yellowed pile of comics, in the hope of finding "an old one" (i.e: any Marvel comic pre-1970). Imagine how the joy we'd have in finding an old Avengers or Iron Man would drain from our cherubic cheeks as we'd said "old one" with feverish fingers to find OH NO it was one of the dread 'Don Hecch'-penned issues. We'd swap our Caspers & Starchies for it anyway, purely for completion's sake, but goddammit WHY OH WHY didn't we pick that pile full of klassik Kirby's or scintillating Steranko's? The pain still lingers. And yes, we hated Frank Robbins too, though at least with him you could get an occasional laugh from his wildly contorted figures! :-)

Lorenzo said...

Oops! Time to pick an image "with a lake or ocean" again - I meant "...as we'd OPEN said "old one" with feverish fingers..." Sigh.

Warren JB said...

Not so much 'childhood', but I rue the day Mike Deodato decided that his style was throwing heavy black shadows over everything, especially faces. To the point that you start to think the stories he draws don't take place on earth, but on that Star Trek planet where the half-black-half-white, heavy-handed-racism-metaphor aliens live.

Unlike a lot of people I quite like John Romita jr., but I do think his art needs help at times. There was an Avengers arc that he drew, the one where the Hood breaks out of prison and goes after the infinity gems. The first issue had two inkers: I can't remember their names, but one used thick, lush inking that made JRjr look great; the other used thin, scratchy lines that made him look awful. (I think it helped that the good inking was well coloured too, while the bad inking had random saturated colours thrown at it)

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