Tuesday, March 5, 2024

Favorite Covers - His Name Is Savage!

Here's a kickass comic book cover by the late great Gil Kane. This is a cover for the 80's Fantagraphics reprint of Kane's pioneering independent magazine His Name Is Savage

The Lee Marvin version by painter Bob Foster above is certainly of its time, but this Kane illustration at the top of this post really captures the unbridled violence of the character. Sadly, this was the one and only issue of this attempt to bring a more adult comic tale to the newsstands of the day. Kane had also experimented with paperback formats with his Blackmark. Known and loved in among the fanboys for his definitive work on DC projects such as Green Lantern, The Atom, and Johnny Thunder, Kane was one of those talents who saw what comic might become, not unlike Jack Kirby. 

His Name Is...Savage was a magazine, not a comic. In the style of Warren Publications, this was an attempt to tap into a more adult audience, one not drawn to the spinner rack, but the newsstand proper. To that end the single issue has a very odd appearance with a painted rendering of the title character looking exactly like actor Lee Marvin.

That's largely because the pitch for His Name Is...Savage involved Lee Marvin to no small degree.  According to what I've read Gil Kane was much impressed by Marvin's movie Point Blank, a rugged and rather bizarre adaptation of the hard-nosed crime novel The Hunter by Richard Stark (Donald Westlake). This movie tells of a rugged robber named Walker who is betrayed and left for dead by his wife and partner and spends pretty much the rest of the movie trying to get back what he's lost, which as we all already know is not possible. Walker as presented by Marvin is dangerous and cruel. It's no-holds-barred violence that Kane wanted to portray on the page. To read fuller review and a look at the later remakes of this classic go here.

In a story entitled "Return of the Half-Man" Kane tells the story of an agent who is activated to foil the plot of a deranged former general named Mace, who is the half-man of the story's title. Mace was in an explosion and much of him is now machinery. It's against this quasi-science fiction background that the noir-inspired Savage operates. He has a history with Mace and the government feels only he can penetrate the organization and forestall its plan to assassinate the President of the United States. We see Savage kick in teeth and kill with brutal intensity as he follows the menace to its dangerous core. Archie Goodwin was tapped by Kane to write the script to accompany his art and the words as well as the pictures move in concert to a fatal finale which is worthy of the set-up. To read this classic go here.

But His Name Is...Savage was by reports a sales failure and no further installments were forthcoming. Fantagraphics reprinted the magazine with a more polished type in 1982. In 1986 in an issue of Anything Goes from Fantagraphics Kane returns to give us a silent vignette featuring Savage. It's a mere glimmer of an adventure and while well crafted is only a coda to the one and only Savage story published for the first time so many years before.

Gil Kane was an artist, with a style and panache unlike any other, but he aspired to be more. It's a shame for the industry that he could not achieve his goal in any lasting way.

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  1. I have the Anything Goes! version somewhere. I thought that artistically this was a big success with some of Gil Kane's best art, but sadly for myself the story wasn't that engaging and the main charater was a bit 2 dimensional. A great attempt though to provide something different at the time, of course today ultra violent characters still seem to be all the rage

    1. Kane struggled to find that alternate marketplace, so he could tell the stories he wanted to without regard to the Comics Code or editorial control. Too bad he didn't strike gold there.