Monday, April 10, 2006

One Heck of an Artist!

I was flipping through Essential Avengers Vol. 2 yesterday reading some stories that I hadn’t read in nearly a decade. I once thought that the first twenty issues of Avengers was the Silver Age peak of this title and that things went downhill a bit until the introduction of the Vision, but now I am not so sure.

After the great Swordsman saga in issues #19 and #20, it seems like the new team really started to find its legs. The Cap/Hawkeye tension continued, but each character started to show the other some respect. Wanda and Pietro also began to behave as more than simple window dressing as subtle hints about their mysterious past are dropped.

OK, that’s all fine and dandy but it’s all pretty typical of Stan Lee melodrama machinery. What really blew me away was the artwork by Dandy Don Heck. Don Heck is awesome. He is double awesome. This is a man who should have mountains and rivers named after him. I am going to petition my city council to have my street renamed Heck Ave.

It’s tough to think of a comic book artist who has been more unfairly criticized than Don Heck. From his wonderful Comics Media work in the early 50s to his late period work for DC, Don Heck brought energy and professionalism to the comic book page.

The one issue that really stands out for me in the #21-30 run is issue #28 featuring the return of Giant-Man. This issue is electric – Heck’s layouts and pencils lead the eyes across the page in an energetic fashion, the reader anticipates each page turn. The action is given a sense of urgency, as Hank’s desperation is palpable.

I have always had a pretty neutral opinion on Frank Giacoia’s inks, but in these pages he truly excels, giving an important depth to Heck’s fine pencils. This can be best seen in the face of the Collector – a wonderfully designed villain whose essence can be found in his deep, dark eye sockets.

Like many others, I have always felt that Heck drew the most attractive females in the funnybook business. I never really thought about his depiction of men. I was showing my wife the story as I wanted to read her Cap’s line to the Wasp that Hank would give his life a hundred times for her. She saw a picture of Hank Pym in civilian clothes and said ‘that’s guy’s good looking’. He draws the most attractive people in the funnybook business.

Don – we miss you. Thanks for Avengers #28.


Anonymous said...

For me, it's always Giant-Size Defenders #4, and (as you know) The Liberty Legion, that provide the chief counterexample to claims that Don Heck sucks. How people can even say this I don't know. I blame Harlan Ellison.

Pj Perez said...

Oh man. The only comic book in my mutli-thousands collection protected by a mylar sleeve is Avengers #28. I need to get the essentials collection, so I can read without fear of ruining its good quality. I remember picking this up at a convention in Philadelphia back in the late '80s (maybe very early '90s) and not paying very much for it. I almost forgot I have it until I read this!

And you are so right: I think Don Heck had to toil in the shadow of Jack Kirby is the problem, when Heck is an awesome illustrator in his own right. People forget that he basically created the look and feel for the whole cast of Iron Man as well. Heck yeah!

Anonymous said...

Sorry I never liked Heck. Kirby & John Buscema were way better.