Monday, April 2, 2012

Awesome, Ink! Tom Palmer

Greetings, Groove-ophiles! We're kicking off a brand new month and a brand new week--so why don't we kick off a brand new department, as well? With AWESOME, INK! we'll look back on the uber-talented guys who laid the India ink and zip-a-tone so that the powerhouse pencils of our favorite artists would show up for print. The best of 'em had a style of their own, one that was instantly recognizeable and yet allowed the penciler's style to shine through as well. Not an easy task, as you can quickly see by flipping through any random stack of old comics. But when an inker had "it" he had it! Those are the guys we're gonna dig on in the weeks and months to follow. Are ya ready?

Ol' Groove just hadda pick Tom Palmer to kick this department off. Palmer's inks over Adams in X-Men and Inhumans (in Amazing Adventures), as well as his inks over Adams and the Brothers Buscema (John and Sal, natch) in the Avengers, plus his work on Gene Colan in Daredevil and Dr. Strange made Tom my first "favorite inker". His slick, dark, moody style made the Marvel Universe more real to me than any other inker's work during  my "formative fan years".
Neal Adams pencils from X-Men #57

That's right--Don Heck pencils, baby! From X-Men #64

Sal Buscema from Avengers #78

John Buscema from Avengers #82
Neal Adams from Avengers #93
Big John from Avengers #94
Adams from Amazing Adventures #5
Gene Colan from Doctor Strange #180
More Colan from Daredevil #86

As the Groovy Age trucked on, Tom found a permanent home on Tomb of Dracula, working with writer Marv Wolfman and artist Gene Colan for what had to be better than 90% of that highly acclaimed mag's run.
Gene the Dean from Tomb of Dracula #50

Still, he found time to work on a variety of Marvel projects. Nova, Thor, Conan, Howard the Duck, and even Star Wars enjoyed some fine Palmer rendering.
Our Pal Sal from Nova #4

Big John from Conan the Barbarian #54
Howard Chaykin pencils from Star Wars #8

According to the Grand Comics Database, Palmer inked somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 stories during the Groovy Age, and he's still going strong. Over 2,200 entries in the GCD with no end in sight! Keep on truckin', Tom!


  1. Every thing Tom inked he turned to Gold! Man I miss seeing the use of zip-a-tone!It really gave those comic images, texture, depth & of course great shadowy effects. Loved Klaus Janson, Jolt-in Joe Sinnott, Bill Everett, Joe Staton, Tom Sutton, Herb Trimpe, Mike Royer & Tony Dezuniga just to name a few! All epic in their own rights!

  2. One of my favorite inkers as well; he's arguably the best inker for Adams, and possibly Colan as well. And as for Don Heck, he took those pencils to a whole new level - I've always regretted that Heck was not paired up with Palmer throughout the 1970s...

    1. Could you imagine how cool those early Champions issues would have looked if someone like Palmer, Bob McLeod, or Klaus Janson had inked them over Heck's pencils?

    2. I feel the likes of Sal Buscema and Don Heck (who although, with all due respect, you'd never put forward as a supreme stylist or technician - a la Adams or Colan - but were solid, dependable, on-time and supreme storytellers, especially in Sal's case) needed, nay, DEMANDED a strong inker like Tom Palmer or Klaus Janson.
      For example: Janson over Sal in Steve Gerber's Defenders was superb. Like other commenters said above, it really brings out the pencils, with things you didn't realise were there in the first place.

  3. Colan and Palmer were sensational together (bested only by Adams-Giordano), whether on Dracula, Daredevil or Dr Strange. For some reason I liked him with John Buscema on The Avengers but not on Conan - his style didn't work for me with that character. Same when working with Adams - I liked his Avengers and Inhumans (esp Black Bolt) but not his X-Men.

  4. In regard to Dashing Don Heck, had he been under the influence of Wally Wood and Tom Palmer longer, his career (especially in the later years) might have been evaluated more favorably. He really needed guys like that to un-stiffen his figurework.

    Great survey of a great inker, Groove! Looking forward to more entries in this series.


  5. Nice work from one of my favorite inkers, always loved Tom Palmer, especially when paired with Gene Colan. I'm reading the Kree/Skrull War right now and didn't realize that was Palmer -- his inks give that run a consistent look even though John Buscema and Neal Adams alternate on pencils.

    I look forward to this series ... hope to see some love for Joe Rubinstein, one of Marvel's journeyman inkers who improved everything he touched.

    1. Rubinstein will get his time in Awesome, Ink--for sure!

  6. To Palmer's inks on Neil Adam's pencils was as near total perfection as one was ever going to get.

  7. Remarkable that one inker could pretty much be the definitive inker of pencillers as diverse in style as Colan and Adams.
    I know Giordano gets a lot of love for his work on Neal Adams' pencils (rightfully so), but I think Palmer's textures make him the superior embellisher.

  8. Palmer's coloring often gets overlooked. He didn't color everything shown here, but I think I recognize his subtle coloring on the Heck page and the Colan Daredevil.

    1. I wish I had mentioned Tom's coloring skills, Eddie! You're so right!

  9. One thing that has always irked me is the adulation that seems to accompany Joe Sinnott's inking. He was great; definitely the best inker of Jack Kirby. But the greatest inker of all time (as Jim Amash has mentioned more than once). Not even close. That title belongs to Tom Palmer. I'm still in awe almost 40 years later of the work he did in tandem with Gene Colan, Neal Adams and John Buscema. He did a one time teaming with Mike Sekowsky in House Of Mystery (206? you should run it if you haven't already) that was amazing. Pretty much whomever he teamed with he became their best inker. So I wish he'd get the due I don't think he's ever totally received and recognition as one of the best, if not the best inker ever.



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