Monday, February 9, 2009

Titanic 200th Post! Dream Teams of the Groovy Age: Thomas and Kane

ITEM! First up, thanks to all my readers, subscribers, and F.O.O.G.'s! You rock, Groove-ophiles! I had no idea so many of you cats would be interested in my ramblings when I started this blog (totally on a whim, mind you). I am humbled. I am thankful. I am ready for at least 2000 more posts--hope you are, too!

ITEM! I have to give a shout-out to my Bronze Age blogging brother, Pete Doree. His Bronze Age Of Blogs is a spectacular place to hang out, inspiring Ol' Groove to keep on truckin' with the Groovy Age goodness. Pete's a great writer with excellent taste, so if you dig the Diversions, you're gonna love BAOB! Check it out, and tell 'im Ol' Groove sent ya!

ITEM! Speaking of inspirations, my pal Mighty Joe Bloke's Gil Kane Blogspot inspired this particular post. His love for Kane's art even surpasses my own (and that's saying a lot!), so if you're a fan of Gil Kane or just fab-a-mundo art in general, go see Joe!

Now, let's get on with today's main post, the Groovy Age Dream Team of Roy Thomas and Gil Kane, baby!

Roy Thomas, educator, fanzine pioneer, and Stan Lee's editorial heir apparent, is Ol' Groove's favorite Marvel writer of the Groovy Age. I love Mantlo, Moench, McGregor, Gerber, Englehart, and all the rest, but Roy's work had the most impact on me. Heck, if Roy was a drug, he'd be what got me addicted to comics! His work on Conan, the Avengers, the Hulk, the X-Men, and Captain Marvel are what made Li'l Groove go from a casual reader to a full-out Marvel Maniac.

Gil Kane was a legend even before he joined the Marvel Bullpen in the early 1970s. He'd worked for about every company around (including Timely/Atlas) since the Golden Age, and made his mark in comicbook history on DC's Silver Age revivals of Green Lantern and the Atom. Look him up under "penciller" on the Grand Comics Database and you'll find 3, 906 entries under his name. To call him "prolific" is to say Swiss cheese has holes in it. Kane's art could very well be called the gold standard for Silver Age comics.

Separately, these two industry giants created bodies of work that inspired generations. Their characterizations, styles, and tastes still influence the best of creators and fans. But together... Together, Thomas and Kane created comics whose impact made an indelible mark on those who were fortunate enough to be there when their all-too-infrequent collaborations hit the spinner racks. Captain Marvel. Morbius. Gog. Adam Warlock. Conan. Gullivar Jones. "Dig Me No Grave". "Valley of the Worm". "Birthright". Iron Fist. And that's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

What made the Thomas/Kane collaborations so special, to me, was that it looked like Roy and Gil were having fun. They seemed to be on the same page, have the same tastes, work to the same vibe. They both loved the Golden Age in general and Bill Everett in particular. Kane got Thomas hooked on Robert E. Howard. They shared a love for the Original Captain Marvel (which they homaged by having Marvel's Captain Marvel "change atoms" with Rick Jones; oh, and just check out the costume they designed for Warlock...SHAZAM!) They meshed seamlessly into one solid creative unit that could only deliver classic comicbook stories. From the most far-reaching or even outrageous idea (like making Warlock a Christ-like figure in Marvel Premiere #1, January, 1972) to what many would consider "just filler" ("Birthright", from Monsters Unleashed #3, August, 1973), they understood what comics were, as well as what they could be. They could push the medium's boundaries without overstepping them. Their work set the bar high, that's for sure, and even at their "worst", they delivered high-quality fun. With Thomas and Kane's names together in the credits, you couldn't lose, man!

Thomas and Kane could deliver great moments, as well. Wanna check out a few of my faves with me? Let's start with a scene in which they nail what it means to be a super-hero (from Captain Marvel #20 (March, 1970):
Then there's this chilling page from Amazing Spider-Man #102 (August, 1971) in which Michael Morbius learns that his experiments have stolen away his very humanity and turned him into a monster:

In "The Fury of Iron Fist", Iron Fist's debut in Marvel Premiere #15 (February, 1974), Thomas and Kane outdid themselves with some of the most dramatic and touching sequences I've ever read. The tragic death of IF's father, Wendell Rand...Heather Rand's beyond brave reaction to her husband's murder...and the pure love and devotion she feels for her son as she makes the ultimate sacrifice...
Brother, if that doesn't move ya, you are made of stone!

I bet by now, you're just drooling to read a Thomas/Kane masterpiece, aren't ya, Groove-ophile? Well, you know Ol' Groove ain't gonna let ya down! I've dug up not one, but two little-seen gems--stories that might never see the printed page again--and to read 'em, all ya gotta do is scroll down the page just a bit! Who loves ya, baby?

First up, from Journey Into Mystery #1 (July, 1972), here are Thomas and Kane getting their REH on (with appropriately moody inks by the magnificent Tom Palmer) with "Dig Me No Grave!"

And finally, here's a black and white shocker (inked by the legendary, almost mythical Crusty Bunkers) from Monsters Unleashed #3 (cover-dated November, 1973) called..."Birthright!"

Sadly, Gil left us in January, 2000, a victim of lymphoma. Roy is still slugging away, though, producing the ultimate pro-fanzine Alter Ego (from TwoMorrows Publishing) and writing the majority of the Marvel Illustrated comics (adapting classic literature into comicbook form--but of course!) Until tomorrow, Pax!


  1. Congats, Groove, and thanks for a nicely done tribute to a couple of truly great creators. Roy, especially, never gets enough highlighting on the Web!

  2. Hey Groovester, thanks for the plug!
    Too, too much to say about Gil Kane.If Joe hadn't've beaten me to the punch, I'd probably
    be doing a Kane blog meself. Everyone should check out Roy & Gil's last team-up, their version of Wagner's Ring Cycle. Epic stuff.

  3. Thanks for the kudos, men!

    Hey, Pete--whaddya wanna bet Mighty Joe runs Thomas and Kane's Ring Cycle adaptation before long...? (Get on the stick, Joe!)

  4. hell, yeah! of course! if I can FIND bleedin' copies!!!

    terrific post here, Groove. couldn't have said any of that better, meself. no, really, I couldn't have. at all. that "Dig Me No Grave" strip, I've never seen it in colour before, I remember it being reprinted in b&w in one of the magazines, but that there's a real treat. thanks, man.

    and pete, mate? there's ALWAYS room for more Gil Kane, matey. . .

  5. Congrats on 200, Groove.

    I don't know how you do it. You must have 34 hours in your day!

    Keep up the great work!




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