I loved the work Gil Kane did during his stint at DC during the early 1980s. He was generally inking his own pencils using markers, resulting a powerful, blocky style that really appeals to me. His method made the most of his obsession with musculature and movement of the human body. I was recently able to acquire a page of his art from Action Comics #544 (June 1983) and here it is:

Superman art by Gil Kane

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Action Comics #544 art by Gil Kane

This issue was bedecked with the special “Anniversary” trade dress that DC used a lot at that time. Action Comics #544 was the 45th anniversary of Superman’s debut appearance in Action #1. Editor Julie Schwartz used this opportunity to introduce brand new looks for long-time Superman foes, Lex Luthor and Brainiac. These were designed by George Perez (Luthor) and Ed Hannigan (Brainiac). Both designs were, I’m sure, created with an eye on the toy market, and the Super Powers line of action figures hit the shelves soon after. While Luthor’s new outfit was an evolution of what he had been wearing for a decade or so, Brainiac was given a radical overhaul. Gone was the green skin and funky headgear, replaced by an altogether more robotic look—the better to confirm his mechanical origins.
The Luthor tale brought back the planet Lexor, the only planet in the universe where Luthor was considered a hero. By the end of the story, Luthor had donned his new outfit—created from Lexorian technology—and revealed his true nature to the startled populace of Lexor. They didn’t have long to come to terms with their shock as a botched attempt to blast Superman resulted in the planet’s destruction. Once again blaming Superman, Luthor vows revenge. The team supreme of Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson did the art for the Cary Bates script.

Meanwhile, the backup story, by Marv Wolfman and Gil Kane, revealed that Brainiac had become trapped in the heart of a mechanical planet. He caused a nearby star to explode and used the energy to travel across the universe and through time learning all there was to learn—much like Star Trek‘s V’Ger, in fact. As a result of his wanderings, Brainiac recreates himself in the robotic form seen on the cover.

It’s a great anniversary issue, and I’m startled to realise that I bought it 30 years ago!

Action Comics #544 cover

Action Comics #544, June 1983

Luckily, pretty much all of Gil Kane’s work on the SUperman titles is included in a recent collection. Well worth picking up.

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