Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Superman Artists

Al Plastino

Wayne Boring

Curt Swan
Kurt Schaffenberger
I was so intrigued by Rick talking about the Superman artists of the 1950s that I had to pursue it on my own.  So I looked in my archives and found that there were basically four Superman artists during that period: (from top to bottom)

1. Al Plastino - I was not a big Plastino fan. There didn't seem to be anything particularly outstanding about his style and his depiction of Superman's physical appearance was the least appealing to me.

2. Wayne Boring - Boring's Superman seemed the most "old-fashioned", and was also the most stiff and awkward at times. But his Superman also seemed very "solid", like he was really made out of steel. I also thought he had great style in his depictions of outer space and alien worlds. Like Ellis I loved how his Superman "ran" through the air. One of my favorite Superman stories which he drew the interior art for was "Superman's Return to Krypton".

3. Curt Swan -  Curt Swan was the standard for so many years after Plastino and Boring started to drop out. I liked his physical depiction of Superman, and with a tight inker like Murphy Anderson or John Forte (who drew a lot of the early Legion of Super-Heroes issues) I loved Swan's work. With a more casual inker, he was just passable, I thought.

4. Kurt Schaffenberger - Schaffenberger was my personal favorite of the four.  His Superman was the most fluid and graceful with the best proportions.  Also, drawn by him, Superman's face was very handsome... almost "pretty-boy", though never effeminate.  I loved the way he drew women too. This made him the perfect artist for the Lois Lane comic which was always half-romance book, and he was the regular artist on it for many years.  I'm guessing he did his own inking, which was always excellent.

I'm betting that Schaffenberger is the artist that Rick picked out as being the superior artist. Rick, are you there?  Did I guess rightly?


MrGoodson2 said...

Nice Tom. Thanks for taking the time to do this. Great to look the eras over in this way. I also think the last guy does work with the most appeal.

Davis Chino said...

Love the Superman breakdown, Tommy!

You know that Daniel Clowes graphic novel "David Boring" is the (completely fictional) story of Wayne Boring's son...if you know the Golden Age comics connection, you can really appreciate some of the clever stuff Clowes drops in the comic (his parents divorced early and the only inheritance left to the son after the dad's absence/death is a single comic book done in a generic Golden Age's hilarious and clever as hell the way Clowes uses it to mirror the larger graphic novel's story).

Boring--such a funny name!

(I never liked any of those Superman comics--"boring" describes them very well. Always smelled like a corporation that lucked into one good idea (Superman) and went about milking said idea with a greed so stridently banal they sapped any bit of life right out of the thing. This policy may have birthed weird and amusing abominations ("The Man Who Was Mightier Than Superman"), but it wasn't about making comics that lived up to the originality of their own least, sez me!)

BDMontag said...

This is a great reference. That was a different age when a character HAD to look a certain way, especially Superman. Did these guys overlap a lot? I know Plastino and Swan were around in the seventies (Plastino did Superman's face on Kirby's Jimmy Olsen) and Swan did Superman up until Byrne's retcon. Post Byrne, I loved Jerry Ordway's Adventures of Superman. It was like saying to everyone, "don't worry, some of us remember what this guy is supposed to look like."

Tom Moon said...

Ben, yes, these artists all overlapped a lot. Plastino and Boring were the earlier artists with Swan doing mostly covers in the beginning. Slowly Swan did more and more of the interior pencils over the years, with Schaffenberger doing only the occasional true Superman story or cover. I read somewhere that Schaffenberger thought he was disliked by Mort Weisenger and that's why he wasn't used more. He had a long run on Lois though.

Marty, at what age were you first exposed to the Superman comics? You have to bond with them when you are eight to twelve years old, or younger. I remember when I first read the original Tarzan, John Carter and Conan paperbacks. My friend told me that he loved them as a kid, but when I read them I was in my twenties and had missed the window for first reading such things. I thought they were such boring dreck.

I'm quite sure that you're right that in those days no one cared about Superman comics living up to any original premise. Who thought about them as a true art form at all? But I loved the stories just the same. I miss the days of superhuman stories about human things, like Lois trying to trick Superman into marriage, or Jimmy Olsen's problems trying to date Lois's sister Lucy, or get a big scoop to keep his job.

Rickart said...

Thanks for this Tom! After the earlier conversation on the blog I discovered that the book I was reading had a table of contents that gave credits on the stories. You are correct on Schaffenberger... His stories were by far the most charming to read and look at. He has a very appealing style and the characters are much more emotive and alive.
The age at which you are exposed to something can play a huge part of your ability to enjoy it... I still find a lot of pleasure in looking at old Herculoid episodes on YouTube, but I'm pretty sure that most people would look at them as cheap and derivative. I had friends in High School who loved Doc Savage books, but they had started reading them late in grade school… I tried to read one as an 11th grader and just couldn’t get into the rhythm of it.

Rickart said...

Swan was the Superman artist who I was the most familiar with as a kid… I always thought it was weird that the covers (usually drawn by Neal Adams) were so different in its look and tone than the interior. I have more appreciation for him now… certainly the most consistent Superman artist, and he had perhaps the longest run with the character having still done some Superman comics from the 50s to the 80s.

Rickart said...

I just realized on that last cover the aged Lois Lane keeps a picture of her young self on her desk.

Tom Moon said...

You're right. That's funny. Guess it's an indication of just how vain she was.