Saturday, January 2, 2010

Gil Kane's WildC.A.T.S./Aliens cover

Scott Dünbier covered this in great detail a couple of years ago on his blog so I'll do a quick recap and maybe add a few points that Scott forgot to mention:

Back in the late '90's, Scott was editing books for Wildstorm and asked Gil Kane to pencil this cover.  Gil sent the pencils directly to me to ink because time was short.  I faxed a copy of the pencils to Scott's office.  We all hit the panic button: Kane drew Zealot, one of the WildC.A.T.S. fighting an alien, just like Scott asked him to, but  for the alien, he drew a creature in a space suit, not a Giger/Movie Alien.  In Gil's defense – since as Scott knows, I always side with creative people against management – I asked Scott if he mentioned to Gil that this was specifically one of the aliens from the movie franchise. In the most contrite voice I'd ever heard from Scott, he said, "Well, no..."  Then, to extend his discomfort a little longer, I said, "Did you send him any reference for the alien?" "Well, no..."

Think about how long Gil had been drawing Science Fiction comics.  For more than four decades, when an editor or a writer asked for "an alien", without supplying reference or directing him to a previous story or series, it meant that Gil was supposed to create a new alien.

Scott agreed but later quoted Arthur Adams' words of support, "What did Gil think this was, 'WildC.A.T.S. vs Make-up-your-own-alien?!"

Scott and I have had a couple of angry disagreements over the years, but this isn't one of them.  He was reluctant to make this story public, even after Gil passed because he didn't want to embarrass an artist he revered.  I pointed out that if he told the story correctly, he (Scott) was the only person who would look foolish. Every once in a while we have a laugh over it, and yes, I really did respond to his "What are we gonna do?" question with, "Whattaya mean WE, white man?" That was the first and probably the last time I've had a chance to quote that old Tonto punchline from MAD magazine.  Most of you are probably too young to get the joke.


  1. Another example of that famous "lack of communication" we hear so much about! But at least we're left with two great pieces of artwork. I don't know which I like more: your absolutely menacing version of Giger's Alien, or Gil's old-school-but-cool generic alien. ( OK, I can't choose - they're both great! )

    Thanks for posting this fascinating piece of comics history!

  2. Kevin tells this story better than I do but leaves out a couple of minor details—I had asked Gil to draw the entire issue, not just the cover (he later opted out, for health reasons) and did point out to Gil it was for a WildStorm and Dark Horse X-Over, citing that the Aliens made up the Dark Horse side of the job (hence the Art Adams comment). But, as Kevin points out, I never sent him any reference on the Aliens.

  3. Something so does not leave anything.

  4. Man, I absolutely LOVE this story--both versions. While it's a shame Gil had to bow out due to health reasons, Chris did an incredible job on the interiors, and your inking along with Laura's coloring really breathed life into an already excellent script. Kudos to Scott for assembling a great team and to you, Kevin for replacing that alien with an ALIEN in time to make the deadline...

    I miss Gil Kane.

  5. Great save with the alien switchero! Kane drew badass aliens 'til the end. I admire your ability to stay faithful to Kane's line while invoking your look.

  6. Kevin:

    When you draw the Alien, what do you refer to, if anything, for the anatomical details? Giger art? Screen caps? An action figure maybe? Do you just wing it?

  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. An amazing story behind TWO great pieces of art! Thank you for sharing!

  9. Your stories are the best, Kevin! I swear I've read your volume of Modern Masters at least 5 times! Thanks for sharing this!

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