Sunday, April 26, 2015

There's Johnny!


As a fledgling Marvel fanboy in the late 60's, I had not true understanding of what greatness was actually, only a glimmer. So when I was presented with the completely smooth and professional but somewhat sedate work of one Johnny Craig, I might not have fully appreciated its pedigree.

I landed on Iron Man in full force with the fifth issue, but I'd seen a story here and there and I had seen the name Johnny Craig listed as an inker. He even made the photo gallery of the Bullpen in a Fantastic Four annual, so I knew he was a quiet-seeming handsome fellow.


Craig was the inker of record for the debut issue of Iron Man's comic over Gene Colan's pencil art, which lifted off from the pages of Tales of Suspense. Craig had gotten the Shellhead gig with the final issue of that magazine before it converted to Captain America.


But with the second issue, he was doing the whole shebang. He was penciller and inker and cover artist for the second issue of Iron Man.



And he kept that role until the fourth issue, offering up some atmospheric adventures. 


With the fifth issue though he back on inks, over the somewhat more dynamic pencils of George Tuska. There's no denying that Craig's work lacked the punch of Tuska and other Bullpen artists of the time, but his skills were evident. Apparently he was also quite slow, too slow to be trusted with a full-time monthly gig as a penciller, so he became a regular inker on Iron Man and other books over the years.



He came back to doing full art chores on the fourteenth issue of Iron Man and again a year or so later on the twenty-fourth and twenty-fifth issues, the former featuring inks by Tuska in a reversal of their traditional roles.

Craig soon enough disappeared from the pages of Marvel, but eventually I figured out who he was and how influential he'd been years before at a little company called EC Comics, and came treasure the craft of those early Iron Man issues. He might've lacked the pop Marvel was looking for as they tried to evoke the Kirby style on book after book, but there's no denying he laid down some handsome pages.

Yesterday was Johnny Craig's birthday and today is George Tuska's. Both men have left us, but their art remains, as effective as it ever was.

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7 comments:

  1. I loved these Johnny Craig issues of Iron Man. A very accomplished artist indeed. (As was George Tuska.)

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    1. Tuska's long tenure on Iron Man, as was Herb Trimpe's on Hulk, were often overlooked because they were so solid for so long. Both men were taken for granted.

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  2. I was always surprise that Johnny Craig and some of the other EC greats were never used more by DC or Marvel, maybe his pencilling style wasn't the Marvel way,, but I thought he would have fitted right into the DC style of the time. Saying that like Kid I loved those Iron Man issues he was involved in.

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    1. Apparently according to some sources I read, Craig tried out at DC but was just not fast enough to suit them. I'd have thought he would have been perfect for the horror stuff or even the war books that had shorter stories.

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  3. A few years earlier he had an impressive run of stories (as both artist and writer) in Creepy and Eerie, sometimes under the Jay Taycee alias. Beautiful halftone work and fairly sophisticated characterization, as well as experimenting with picto-fiction style captioning distinguished his work.

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    1. I've seen that stuff in reprint, it's impressive. Warren for all its flaws brought out the best in quite a few artists.

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  4. Craig's artwork for Iron Man #24 was used in a 1970s book called Moviemaking Illustrated: the Comic Book Filmbook which demonstrated cinematography techniques using Marvel Comics artwork (Craig, Kirby, Ditko, Heck, Colan, Smith, both Buscemas, Ayers, etc).
    One example...
    http://captainvideossecretsanctum.blogspot.com/2011/07/comix-class-moviemaking-illustrated_11.html
    You can see the entire book here...
    http://captainvideossecretsanctum.blogspot.com/search/label/MovieMaking Illustrated

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