Thursday, March 7, 2013

Cat And Mouth Games!

This powerful and dynamic cover by Gil Kane and inker Pable Marcos appeared smack dab in the midst of the Jungle Action epic "Panther's Rage" saga written by Don McGregor and illustrated at this point by Billy Graham. Graham, an artist who found his start at Warren Magazines (where I stumbled across his beautifully rendered work in my first Eerie magazine) was a distinctive and fluid artist who was more than capable of telling a story with both energy and skill.

He eventually found work at Marvel, working on both the Black Panther series as well as Luke Cage, Hero for Hire. Graham was a black man, and evidently it was thought an African-American could bring an authenticity to black heroes and their worlds that creators of other ethnic backgrounds might lack.

Unfortunately this thinking did not apparently extend to covers, as Graham produced precious few of those for the books he worked on. Here is an example of what he could do.

I'd imagine this cover was rejected because perhaps the Panther figure is too small relative to the T-Rex which is about to munch down on him. Whatever the case, it seems a really potent image nonetheless and it seems odd that Stan or whoever was in charge at that moment would go to the trouble to get the ubiquitous Kane to kick out another. But they did, and typically he did his usual bang-up job. We have two really dandy covers for one comic.

That aside, the the notion that Billy Graham worked pretty much exclusively on black heroes might've been a good way for him to find a foothold in the company, but that the "House of Ideas" rarely found a place beyond that "ghetto" for a talent of Graham's ability seems an utter waste.

Years later, he'd make another good impression on comic fans when he  teamed up McGregor again on the Eclipse Comics series Sabre, yet another black character. Maybe Graham only wanted to work on such heroes, but I seriously doubt that's the case. Graham passed away in 1999, though that date is in some question.

Billy Graham could've drawn a wonderful Hulk or Sub-Mariner story. It's too bad he didn't get the chance. 

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