Sunday, May 31, 2009

Marvels of Gil Kane: Giant-Size Conan #1

Gil Kane excelled at drawing sword-fighting characters in high fantasy settings.  He published a creator-owned graphic novel titled Blackmark in 1974 and turned DC's hero Ray Palmer into a sword wielding character in Sword of the Atom.  Kane seemed like a natural fit for Marvel's version of Conan, and he worked well with Roy Thomas in Conan the Barbarian #17-18.  When it came time to launch the quarterly Giant-Size Conan series, Thomas tapped Kane as the penciller.

Giant-Size Conan 1 cover by Gil Kane

Giant-Size Conan #1 was 50 pages of glorious entertainment.  The lead story was a 25-page chapter (The Hour of the Dragon) from the novel Conan the Conqueror; the backup story was a reprint of an early Barry Smith issue; Thomas wrote a couple of text pieces and included another Hyborian Age map as well.  Set during the later years of Conan's life, he's conquered the kingdom of Aquilonia and seemingly ready to settle down.  His enemies have only plans, as you can see by the cover, where Conan is attacked by an invading army.  The plan was to adapt this novel over the first six issues, but Giant-Size Conan #4 was the last full color chapter.  The story was concluded in Savage Sword of Conan #8 and #10.

Kane was inked by Tom Sutton on the first three issues.  It's interesting how well Kane worked with a variety of inkers--Sutton brought his own art style but kept the essence of Kane's work intact.

Conan the Barbarian 30 cover by Gil Kane

While Giant-Size Conan faded away, Kane continued to draw covers for the regular Conan the Barbarian color comic.  Conan #30 might have been the second comic I bought featuring the barbarian, after I became enamored with King-Size Conan Annual #1.  Kane is inked by Ernie Chan on this cover.  Conan's stance on a slanted hill, swinging his sword, is a dynamic pose.  The giant bat drawn on a separate color plate and the girl he's saving are pretty cool, too.

Conan the Barbarian 48 cover by Gil Kane

Conan #48 is another eerie scene featuring the character attacking an army while the specter of Death looks upon him.  All three of these covers feature Conan fighting on battlefields, loaded with details on the armor, horses, soldiers, etc.  Perhaps I am reading more into it to assume that Kane was a bit more excited to draw Conan than regular super-hero characters?  I think I've read that before in numerous interviews.  Nuff said.

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