Thursday, May 9, 2013

On Dan Adkins and weird rumblings in the comic book world

I learned this morning via P. Craig Russell's Facebook feed Dan Adkins passed away.  He was one of those artists I knew by name even when I was a kid, but I never really caught onto his visual style the way I did others whose work I could pick out from the angle of a face (John Buscema, Gil Kane), the set of a jaw (Carmine Infantino) or a certain lean, muscular phsyical type (Neal Adams).  I just associated his name with solid craftsmanship.  This was before I ever heard of a guy named Wally Wood or knew what was up with those scary Creepy and Eerie magazines I always avoided at the convenience store while looking for Sgt. Rock.

Adkins was Wood's assistant, which couldn't have been easy, back in the 1960s.  Thanks to Dark Horse's Creepy Archives, I'd been getting into Adkins-- things he did with Wood, things he did solo.  His "The Doorway" in Creepy #11 (October 1966) is a six-page visual knockout with an Archie Goodwin script.  While its neat-o concept involving science and black magic at a government research lab anticipates some of Stephen King's stories (especially his novella The Mist) the narrative reads a bit clunky.  The real draw is Adkins's clean, Woodsian artwork and his supremely controlled use of gray tones.  He painted the cover for Creepy #12 (December 1966), but the cramped design doesn't do him any favors, especially following a spectacular Frazetta ape on the previous cover, a full bleed image with room to rampage.

They also compressed Gray Morrow's graveyard werewolf into a small box on the following cover-- what were they thinking?

He went on to draw a ton of stuff like a run of Dr. Strange tales starting in... wait for it... Strange Tales and continuing in the first two issues of Dr. Strange:  Master of the Mystic Arts for Marvel.  He inked all over the place for them, too.  But I'm most familiar with Adkins from this era as Virgilio Redondo's inker on a story in Giant-Size Dracula #5 (June 1975) because I read it in the second Essential Tomb of Dracula reprint book.

The greatest impact Adkins had on my personal fandom came when he gave career starts to three guys you may have heard of-- namely Paul Gulacy, Val Mayerik and Russell himself.

In other comic book artist news, there's a cool little debate on the Al Williamson Fans Facebook feed, too.  What was Williamson's last published comic book work?  One guy says Williamson told him one thing, J. David Spurlock says another and it goes back and forth from there.  Both men knew Williamson and that makes me jealous.

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