ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN: GIL KANE (DC, First Printing, 2012; Hardcover)
Note: Book actually released in 2013
Collects Action Comics #539-541, 544-546, 551-554, DC Comics Presents Annual #3, Superman #367, 372, 375, and Superman Special #1, 2 (cover dates January, 1982- April, 1984)
Writers: Martin Pasko, Bob Rozakis, Marv Wolfman, Gil Kane, Cary Bates, and Roy Thomas
Artist: Gil Kane
I was a Marvel kid growing up. I wouldn't even pull a DC Comic* out of the slot on the spinner rack at 7-11, young comic snob that I was. Little did I realize that many of the creators whose work that I enjoyed via quarter box comics at the time were busy making new material over at the Distinguished Competition after being chased away from Marvel by that ol' taskmaster Jim Shooter. If you use the phrase dynamic action sequences in comics there should be one name that comes out of your mouth in the same breath as Jack Kirby and Neal Adams: Gil Kane. Kane was an absolute master of getting kinetic motion to translate to the printed page. Like Adams and Kirby, Kane's battle sequences were drawn with exaggerated anatomy to represent motion. He used perspective to also trick your eye into believing they were moving. Genius.
*Calling it DC Comics seems redundant, since DC stands for Detective Comics. It feels like calling an ATM an ATM machine.
Like many artists, Kane's craft deteriorated with time. His 1960s and early 1970s heyday was long gone by this point. While his panel composition and storytelling ability were still clear, he insisted on inking his own work here. Kane is a great penciler but a piss poor inker. He does not posses the heavy hand necessary to make lines survive the primitive four color printing process. If you compare the original comics and especially this book to scans of his original artwork you will see how much detail was lost. Kane was best when paired with the a heavy handed inker such as John Romita, Sr.
I was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable the writing was in many of the issues collected here, especially the one by Marv Wolfman. Wolfman is seemingly forgotten by modern fandom, which is sad because he was a solid craftsman who bridged the gap between the glory of the Silver Age with the creative renaissance of the 1980s. He was at the wrong place at the wrong time for accolades I suppose.
My favorite issue in the entire book was Action Comics #544, which deals with the rebirth and reinvention of Brainiac. While I love the original version (mostly through my exposure from The Super Friends cartoon as a kid in the 1970s), this then-new version is pretty badass. DC Comics Presents Annual #3 was also really enjoyable. In it, Shazam and Superman face off against Dr. Sivana, Shazam's arch nemesis going back to the 1940s (thanks Internet- I have never read a Shazam or Captain Marvel comic). While these stories are all fun reads, the presentation and production values mar the experience. I will go more into that below. DC's collected editions strategy remains a mystery to me.
Junk Food For Thought rating: 4.25 out of 5.
The OCD zone- This being one of DC's artist-centric collections from this era, the covers which Gil Kane did not do the artwork for are omitted.
Linework and Color restoration: Linework is murky or obliterated. The original color palette is faithfully maintained, but this being DC means that some of the blending is done with awful lazy airbrush style gradient shades which stick out like a sore thumb to me and are the equivalent to sticking a needle in my eye. Painful.
Paper stock: Bright white glossy stock. While I love coated stock I prefer it with little to no sheen for vintage material with flat coloring like this. Flat colors always look too saturated on glossy stock for my taste. Your mileage may vary.
Binding: Perfect binding. Yes, that means glued binding on a hardcover. DC tries to straddle the line between high end hardcovers and lower price points, with the end result of neither side being happy. The books are still priced too high for the casual buyer ($39.99 MSRP) while not being high end enough for the serious hardcover collector. Everyone wins!
Dustjacket and Hardback cover notes: Nice lamination on the dustjacket. The casewrap on the hardback has a faux cloth texture to it but has little finish. No dye foiled stamping. Couple that with the light boards that DC uses and you get a cheap feeling book that tries to compete with high end hardcovers from other publishers but comes up woefully short.