Friday, December 04, 2009

Giving Tuska His Due: of Inkers and Editors

It is not a stretch to say the George Tuska, during his long run on Iron Man, was never accorded first class treatment when it came to his artwork. While he could and did pencil superheroes for many decades, his work was stronger in the crime genre. Like Don Heck, he was an artist who simply didn't have superheroes as his strong point. But he could do, and did, them.

Marvel never gave him the best inkers however. Kurt Busiek supposes that perhaps it was because while not flashy, his work was sturdy and workmanlike and they didn't need to fix things up too much. I'm not sure about that. Perhaps he's right. My supposition, however, is that back then Marvel saw Iron Man as a "B" level hero, and they gave him what they conceived of as a "B" level artist. There wasn't anything flashy about him then, from sales on up, and saw no need to have a Joe Sinnott or Tom Palmer work on the book. The real tipoff is that we never saw Tuska covers on the books that he did by 1970. There was always a Kane/Esposito or Kane/Giacoia or Kirby or Starlin piece if we were lucky on the front. That right there tells you what the powers that be thought of George's work really.

I also think that, by the 1970's, George's work had settled into a certain rut, certainly the stories that he was drawing in Iron Man #60-75 had little of the verve of issues #10-18, when they introduced The Controller and Midas and a mad Stark LMD. Shockingly, his work looked great then; he was being inked by EC veteran Johnny Craig. Search my blog for "Tuska" to see a copy of an original from Iron Man #18 that has some real beauty to it.

Where was the Terry Austin inks on a Tuska cover in the 1970's? Terry had become the preeminent inker in the biz by 1977. Why not give him a Tuska cover to ink? Oh yeah, the didn't do Tuska covers.

This then is the conundrum that has faced inkers for years: you're a "B" level inker, and you keep getting put onto "B" level pencillers who don't draw as well, and, shockingly, your work doesn't look as good as the "A" list guys. You have to luck out to get to ink someone who can draw really well. And in most every case, it will be a rush job since the superstar inker will likely blow the deadline and still get work, you can't take that chance. So your opportunity to do really outstanding work will be compromised by the deadline. Welcome to comics. Kurt's story of what happened to the first story that he and Tuska were working on is a horrible example of what happens. I feel bad for the new kid who was rushed into it, and sorry for Kurt having his plans scuttled and sorry for the readers who ended up with a severely compromised product.

It's a shame that they chose to do that, because it would have been nice to have seen Tuska's pencils with a nicer sheen on them. I had George do an Iron Man sketch for me years ago strictly with the idea of inking it properly and showing it to him. Sadly, I never got the chance to do so.

1 comment:

Daniel Best said...

Personally I think it was because Tuska was never considered to be an 'A' list artist, so Marvel, and DC, were never going to give him an 'A' list inker. He'd never be assigned a Tom Palmer or Dick Giordano because those guys were either breaking in when Tuska was working, or, by the time they became established, they were busy elsewhere. By the time the likes of Austin and Co came along, they were also busy elsewhere and wouldn't have been assigned to Tuska.

If you look at Marvel you'll soon see a pattern - the Golden Age guys generally worked together. That mean Kirby, Heck, Tuska, Ayers and the like were generally always inked by inkers from the same period - Mooney, Giacoia, Esposito, Reinman, Colletta and those guys. The so called 'second wave' - which did include guys like Palmer, Adkins, Janson, Giordano, Austin and even part-time inkers such as Weiss and Starlin - were never going to be assigned Tuska. By the '70s Tuska was considered to be a penciler in the same way that Esposito was an inker - dependable. You'd get the work and it'd look good, but it'd be nothing flashy, and every so often you might get something approaching special, but genrally it'd be solid and there.

I've always wondered - if John Buscema can be considered to be the Marvel Curt Swan, who was Tuska's DC equilivent?

Other than George himself.

I'd love to have seen Tuska inked by Joe Sinnott - I can't remember if Joe did ink George at any stage.

Now this is not to put George down - I love his Iron Man, amongst others, and I have a lovely Tuska watercolour from the '50s that looks wonderful.