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
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.