Conan by Gil Kane

Featuring: The Unimaginable Menace of… THE TANGENT!!

Following up the last post, here is a really rather nice Conan pinup by Gil Kane from Savage Sword of Conan #67 (1981). What’s interesting, and unusual, about this piece is the way Gil has rendered the large demons… it’s a very stark chiaroscuro not dissimilar to the technique Frank Miller used a decade later on Sin City. As far as I know, Gil never really did anything else like this… unless anyone can point out other examples?

Anyhow, it’s a strong image.

Savage Sword 67 pinup

Except… except for that tangent. Right?

I mean this tangent:

Savage Sword 67 pinup tangent

A tangent (in case you didn’t know) occurs in art when lines interact in ways that clash and are somehow misleading or confusing. In this case, the Demon’s abs look very similar in size and shape to Conan’s fingers—unless you look closely, it almost seems like they are two of Conan’s fingers, folded into his palm.

Gil was not generally prone to this kind of thing, but this looks like a pretty freeform workout. It happens. It struck me though, that it was so easily fixed… simply by continuing the diagonal shading Gil used down that side of the demon’s trunk (virtually the only texturing he put on these monsters!). Like so…

Savage Sword 67 pinup fix

No more tangent! Not that I have any business showing Gil Kane what to do, but…

Whaddaya think? Any thoughts on tangents in general?

PS. Panel 1 of page 2 of my recent, unpublished “The Last Club Vamporama” actually has a tangent!! Update: More about it here.

1 thought on “Conan by Gil Kane”

  1. “Tangents”. Funny I deal with this a lot but never connected that word. My vocational high school Machine drafting shop teacher, Charles Ehrmann, who I am convinced was a closet NAZI by the way he really enjoyed pushing people around and even humiliating them in front of others, taught me about this. You can pick up good info even from HORRIBLE sources.

    Basically, lines should not intersect with other lines if it creates visual confusion. Not only do I try to stay aware of this in my own art, on quite a few occasions I’ve “fixed” obvious mistakes from known famous paid professionals, when I’ve been “cleaning up” images to post online. Hell, there was this one comics artist in Brazil who was so sloppy, I’d wind up RE-DRAWING a lot of the lines to, as I called it, “bring it up to a professional level”. (HAH!!! –does that sound egotistical?)

    I have never really been a fan of Gil Kane’s work. But I cleaned up a LOT of his early-70s covers for my website. I did quite a few “fantasy” versions of his covers where I’d take the potential that was there, and surgically remove the EXCESSIVE text Roy Thomas (it’s always him, isn’t it?) would smother them with all over the place. It often blows my mind how bad so much of the “design” work on covers from that era had. Arnold Drake once said “design” was my best talent. Hey, I’ll take a compliment whenever I can.

    Back in the 80s, I fantasized that for one of my early crime stories, Kane would have been the perfect illustrator, because of his tendency for high-tension violence. I couldn’t afford to hire him… so I did a most of a comic using Kane SWIPES, taken from Amazing Spider-Man, Daredevil and His Name Is Savage. I think it worked out quite well. It’s a shame I never got it published as a book, but a few years ago I posted the entire thing on my blog. I still didn’t “like” Kane’s art, but that project gave me a greater appreciation for what he was doing. It was clear to me his mindset and mine were totally at odds.

    The crazy thing was when I followed it up with a story done in Steve Ditko swipes. I was totally surprised at how easily I slipped into “Ditko” mode, and wondered if it might have been a cultural thing. Turns out, his family was from The Slovak Republic… so was my Mom’s. I wonder if this might also explain why DR. STRANGE remains the one series from the 60s I’ve re-read the most times?

    I noticed Kane went thru 3 distinct periods of his drawing. His early stuff for DC was somewhat “normal”, but no doubt made even more “normal” by inkers “cleaning up” his style. Then in the mid-60s, he had a “transitional” period, where he worked very hard to draw inspiration from Jack Kirby. This was some of the UGLIEST stuff I’d ever seen from that period. And then, starting with those 5 Captain Mar-Vell issues, his “later” style emerged– and he NEVER changed it from that point on! I’ve seen an artist in Brazil who did something like that, Flavio Colin. His work started out Milton Caniff-inspired, but by the end, he’d developed this really wild “cartoon” style. Imagine a guy doing sex and horror in a style that could have stepped off “Rocky & Bullwinkle”! (That’s a stretch, but it’s the closest comparison I can think of.)

    MY favorite Kane inkers: Wally Wood (he made EVERYBODY look their best), Tom Palmer, Klaus Janson (and I normally HATE this guy, but he & Kane were really “on the same page”) and Joe Rubinstein (decades and he never did a bad ink job). Oh, and Ralph Reese. HOW did he ever manage to make Kane’s art look so BEAUTIFUL ??? It’s jaw-dropping. Wish he’d done a lot more.

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