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Gil Kane

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Gil Kane at the 1976 San Diego Comic-Con.
Birth Name = Eli Katz
Birth Date = April 6, 1926
Location = Riga, Latvia
Death Date = January 31, 2000
Death Place = Florida, United States
Nationality = Naturalized American
(immigrated Latvian)
Area = Penciller, Inker, Writer
Alias = Scott Edwards
Notable Works = Green Lantern, Iron Fist. , The Atom
Awards = National Cartoonists Society Awards *Best Story Comic Book (1971, 1972, and 1975) *Story Comic Strip Award (1977) Shazam Award *Special Recognition (1971)

Eli Katz (April 6, 1926, Riga, Latvia – January 31, 2000, Miami, Florida, United States) who worked under the name Gil Kane and in a few instances Scott Edwards, was a comic book artist whose career spanned the 1940s to 1990s and every major comics company and character.

Kane co-created the modern-day versions of the superheroes Green Lantern and the Atom for DC Comics, and co-created Iron Fist with Roy Thomas for Marvel Comics. He was involved in such major storylines as a groundbreaking arc in The Amazing Spider-Man #96–98 (May-July 1971) that, at the behest of the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, bucked the then-prevalent Comics Code Authority to depict drug abuse, and ultimately spurred an update of the Code. Kane additionally pioneered an early graphic novel prototype, His Name is...Savage, in 1968, and a seminal graphic novel, Blackmark, in 1971.

In 1997, he was inducted into both the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame and the Harvey Award Jack Kirby Hall of Fame.



Early life and career

Kane was born to a Jewish family that emigrated to the U.S. in 1929, settling in Brooklyn, New York City. When he was in junior high school, he collaborated on writing projects with Norman Podhoretz, later a prominent writer and editor. At the age of 16, while attending the School of Industrial Art (later named the High School of Art and Design), he began working in the comics studio system as an assistant, doing basic tasks such as drawing panel borders.

During his 1942 summer vacation, Kane obtained a job at MLJ, working there for three weeks before being fired. Kane began pencilling professionally there, but, "They weren't terribly happy with what I was doing. But when I was rehired by MLJ three weeks later, not only did they put me back into the production department and give me an increase, they gave me my first job, which was 'Inspector Bentley of Scotland Yard' in Pep Comics, and then they gave me a whole issue of The Shield and Dusty, one of their leading books". Kane soon dropped out of school to work full-time.

Silver Age

Showcase #22 (Oct. 1959), the first appearance of the modern Green Lantern. Cover art by Kane.

During the next several years, Kane drew for about a dozen studios and publishers including Timely Comics, a predecessor of Marvel Comics, and learned from such prominent artists as Jack Kirby and Joe Simon. He interrupted his career briefly to enlist in the Army during World War II, where he served in the Pacific theater of operations. In the post-war years, on his return to comics, he used pseudonyms, including Pen Star and Gil Stack, before settling on Gil Kane.

In the late 1950s, Kane freelanced for DC Comics. There he contributed to seminal works in what fans and historians call the Silver Age of comic books, when he illustrated a number of revitalized superhero titles (loosely based on 1940s characters) — most notably Green Lantern, for which he pencilled most of the first 75 issues, and also the Atom. Kane also drew the youthful superhero team the Teen Titans, and in the late 1960s tackled such short-lived titles such Hawk and Dove and the licensed-character comic Captain Action, based on the action figure. He briefly freelanced some Hulk stories in Marvel Comics' Tales to Astonish, under the pseudonym Scott Edwards.

Due to financial setbacks at the time, Kane began accepting as many art assignments as he could get, with the increasing result being that he did not have the time to fully complete each and every job, and often had to call in fellow artists to finish his rough pencil artwork. Eschewing the Scott Edwards pseudonym, Kane freelanced in the 1960s for Tower Comics' T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, a superhero/espionage title, as well as the "Tiger Boy" strip for Harvey Comics. Kane then found a home at Marvel, eventually becoming the regular penciller for The Amazing Spider-Man, succeeding John Romita, in the early 1970s, and becoming the company's preeminent cover artist through that decade, a position which helped give him the financial stability he had been striving for.

During that run, working with editor/writer Stan Lee, they produced in 1971 a landmark three-issue story arc ("The Amazing Spider-Man" #96-98) that marked the first challenge to the industry self-regulating Comics Code Authority, since its inception in 1954. The Code forbade any mention of drugs, even in a negative context. However, Lee and Kane worked on a storyline that was originally conceived at the request of a government backed drug-prevention program, and when the storyline wasn't given Code Authority approval, Lee went ahead and published the issues anyway, without the regular Code Stamp at the top of the covers. The comics met with such critical acclaim and high sales that the industry's self-censorship was undercut, the Code revamped. Another landmark in Kane's Spider-Man run was "The Night Gwen Stacy Died" tale in issues #121-122 (June-July 1973), in which Spider-Man's fiancée Gwen Stacy, as well as the long-time villain Green Goblin were killed, an unusual occurrence at the time. Ironically after Gil Kane left the Green Lantern scene his replacement for a few issues, Neal Adams, also did an anti-drug issue in which the Green Arrow's young ward, Speedy, tries to replace his mentor with heroin in issue #85-86 in 1971, which saved the Green Lantern series from cancellation.

With writer Roy Thomas, Kane helped revise the Marvel Comics version of Captain Marvel, as well as Adam Warlock. He also worked on the character Iron Fist and helped create Morbius the Living Vampire.

Kane remarked more than once in latter years that he regretted not having stayed on as the regular artist for Spider-Man or some other book for a longer period, so that he could have played more of a role in the creative development of characters, as he had at DC with Green Lantern and the Atom.

Pioneering new formats

Kane's side projects include two long works that he conceived, plotted and illustrated, with scripting by Archie Goodwin: His Name is... Savage (Adventure House Press, 1968), a self-published, 40-page, magazine-format comics novel; and Blackmark (1971), a science fiction/sword-and-sorcery paperback published by Bantam Books. Some historians consider the latter, sold in bookstores and related outlets rather than newsstands, as arguably the first American graphic novel, a term not in general use at the time; the back-cover blurb of the 30th-anniversary edition (ISBN 1-56097-456-7) calls it, retroactively, "the very first American graphic novel." Whether or not this is so, Blackmark is, objectively, a 119-page story of comic-book art, with captions and word balloons, published in a traditional book format. It is also the first with an original heroic-adventure character, conceived expressly for this form.

The original 1971 Bantam paperback Blackmark, arguably the first American graphic novel.

Sometime in the late 1960s, Kane temporarily acquired the publishing rights to Robert E. Howard's pulp magazine barbarian, Conan, with the intent of reviving the character in a magazine format, a la Savage. However, he was unable to gain financing for the project, and the rights reverted back to the Howard estate. When Marvel Comics licensed the character in 1970, writer Roy Thomas initially considered having either Kane or John Buscema draw the comic book, and Kane actively campaigned for the assignment, but editor Stan Lee nixed the idea on the grounds that it made no sense to have one of Marvel's top artists tied up with what looked to be a risky project that quite possibly would not survive more than a few issues. Kane did later do some art for the Conan comic book, which by then was one of Marvel's biggest hits.

Later career

During the 1970s and '80s, Kane did character designs for various Hanna-Barbera and Ruby-Spears animated TV series. In 1977, he created the newspaper comic strip Star Hawks with writer Ron Goulart. The daily strip was known for its experimental use of a two-tier format during the first years. The strip ended in 1981. In 1989 Kane illustrated a comic-book adaptation of Richard Wagner's mythological opera epic The Ring of the Nibelung. He remained active as an artist until his death. In the early 80s he shared regular art duties on Superman with Curt Swan, and also did the designs for the 1986 network Superman animated series.

Kane died of complications from lymphoma. He was survived by his second wife, Elaine; children Scott, Eric and Beverly; and two granddaughters. His final home where he was buried, is in Aventura, Florida.


He received numerous awards over the years, including the 1971, 1972, and 1975 National Cartoonists Society Awards for Best Story Comic Book, and their Story Comic Strip Award for 1977 for Star Hawks. He also received the Shazam Award for Special Recognition in 1971 "for Blackmark, his paperback comics novel". To honor his more than five decades of achievement, Kane was named to both the Eisner Award Hall of Fame and the Harvey Award Jack Kirby Hall of Fame in 1997.


An homage to Kane and to writer John Broome appears in In Darkest Night, a novelization of the Justice League animated series. The book refers to the Kane/Broome Institute for Space Studies in Coast City.



Further reading

  • Gil Kane: Art of the Comics by Daniel Herman
  • Gil Kane Art and Interviews by Daniel Herman