Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Curt Swan: Even his name is cool...

I miss Curt Swan.  Diversions of the Groovy Kind has a look at The Amazing World of DC Comics #7 (July 1975), with a Curt Swan interview and lots of sweet Swan artwork.  I was seven years old when that came out, and I never read it.  I'm trying to remember who my Superman artist of record was in those days.

Oh yeah, it was Curt Swan!

Curt Swan was THE Superman artist for me, the way I thought Walt Disney drew all those movie cartoons.  Sorry, Joe Shuster.  I know you were the original, so it should have been you, but you were long gone by the time I started reading.  And when I started reading, as far as I was concerned, you couldn't have a Superman unless he was drawn by Swan.  Later I got into Superman reprint books and discovered Wayne Boring, Al Plastino and Neal Adams, and while I liked and still do like their versions of Superman-- there's something really appealing about the beefy, barrel-torsoed Boring Supes-- practically every new Superman or Action Comics I bought had the familiar-looking Swan Superman.  So Swan Superman simply WAS Superman for me.

Swan had a way of drawing facial expressions that impressed younger me.  Like Superman eating the defunct kryptonite, or posing as Clark Kent doing his day job and making one of Steve Lombard's pranks backfire, startling and humiliating the would-be bully into making a really amusing facial expression, which Swan and whatever inker was handling the book that month rendered in characteristically clean, readable linework.

And I don't know if Swan took a lot of artistic shortcuts, because I don't know much-- if anything-- about his drawing methods.  I have a feeling he didn't, because his characters inhabited a solid, believable world.  Sure, it was generally neater and more squared-away than our own, but if Superman or Lois Lane happened to be tackling pollution as a social issue in that story, Swan would make that pollution look like the loveliest pollution you ever did see.  Municipalities across the land would be proud to fester in Swan-rendered pollution.  The Daily Planet offices, the Metropolis skyline, the studios of Galaxy Broadcasting, some alien spaceship-- whatever it was, Swan gave it all a solidity and reality.  He simply drew the hell out of it, without a lot of fuss and muss and fidgety crap and visual noise.  Swan didn't have to hide anything with flash because he could just flat-out draw, man, draw.

In the DC Comics interview, Swan says, "As the Superman character evolved, Mort [Weisenger] felt, at the time, that we should get a little more humanistic qualities into him.  We wanted people to relate to him better."  Swan was certainly successful at that.  From those facial expressions, to the body language, to the backgrounds, to the stories themselves, he worked on a Superman who had a down-to-earth quality about him.  Like a real dude, with real feelings, despite his godlike abilities.  When pro writers (and fans) say things about Superman being unrelatable because he's all-powerful, or boring because he can't be challenged, I get the feeling they never read a Superman story drawn by Curt Swan.

Also, it's pretty cool to watch the Swan Superman evolve from the early 60s into the 70s.  First he has that tall forehead, the slightly receding hairline of an older guy.  Even Superboy looks like he needs a little Minoxodil, or soon will.  By the time Clark Kent is anchoring the nightly news at Galaxy, his spit-curl has become a more full-bodied wave and his hair is creeping down over his ears.  But what doesn't change in all that time is the basic appeal of Curt Swan's art.  If you can look at it and not feel uplifted, then you are reading the wrong blog.

Well, you might be doing that anyway.  Go read Diversions of the Groovy Kind, you nut!

1 comment:

The Groovy Agent said...

What it is, Joel! Glad my little post inspired such a cool post from ya! You are so right on on every point concerning Swan's Superman! During the early 70s, especially during the Swan/Murphy Anderson period, Superman's mags looked as hip and cool as anything else on the racks! Curt Swan was the (super)man!!