RINGGENBERG:Gil, when did you start in the comics business?
KANE: I started during the forties when I was a teenager, and was in the, I would say, the last half of the Golden Age and went into the Army in 1944 and when I came out, when the war was over, the field was winding up. It was pretty dead. Nothing much was happening except that the superheroes were dying, and the replacement seemed to be a kind of true comics and animation (funny animals). They dominated. Most publishers were turning out either true crime or true war or heroic material but all essentially, or supposedly, based on true material.
And the other thing that was extraordinarily popular was animation. And then of course romance started at the end of the forties and that turned the whole field around because it allowed a lot of the straight guys to come back to the field. I forgot also that westerns seemed to be starting about that time, too. So, I had done some work for DC when I was a teenager but ultimately I came back to the field, to DC, around '47 and then came back again, this time to stay, around '49. And from about '49 on I've been there, you know, ever since. I mean I've been out for sometimes as much as four or five years, sometimes even more, but essentially that's the company that I've been with for the last, almost fifty years.
RINGGENBERG: And what kind of work were you doing for them in the late forties?
KANE: In the late forties? Well, when, in '47, I started doing Wildcat and then after that when I came back in '49, I started doing romance and westerns and then during the fifties they were trying everything. They were trying westerns, they were trying science fiction, they were trying licensing big names like Hopalong Cassidy and so on and so forth. I did that also and I did what I did, "Rex the Wonder Dog". I did whatever, you know, DC determined that, because they, essentially were the creators of the comics, not the writers or the artists, so they said they wanted this kind of a book and then everybody went about giving them what they required, but they wanted what they ordered, what they wanted made to order.
And that's the way it went pretty much on through the fifties, and then westerns died and the field started to change again. And they fooled around and they came up with the superheroes in Showcase, which did very well. And on the strength of DC doing well with their superheroes, Marvel tried it and by 1960 the field was off and running all over again.
RINGGENBERG: How did you happen to do Green Lantern?
KANE: Uh, well, Carmine (Infantino) and Joe Kubert were doing The Flash for Showcase and they decided they had so much success with The Flash that they would try a second character. So they decided on The Green Lantern and they picked me to do it.
RINGGENBERG: You designed his costume didn't you?
KANE: Oh, yeah. And I, in fact, I did another book for them called The Atom, which I pitched to them myself. I designed the character and the costume and everything else, and showed them my drawings and sketches and they decided to build a magazine around it.
RINGGENBERG: What inspired you to rework the Atom character?
KANE: Well, first of all it was very much like characters done by my favorite artists Louie Fine and Reed Crandall and so I, and they owned the title, The Atom, and it just seemed to me it would be a perfect situation, so I suggested it and the book was, you know, successful for, for a very long time, and as was The Green Lantern, but I must admit that I, it was sort of boring doing it. I really didn't enjoy it.
RINGGENBERG: Oh, really?
KANE: No. First because I longed to ink my own pencils, which they wouldn't let me do, and, the only time they would let me ink pencils is when I did westerns. It just so happens I like westerns better than superheroes, so I started to ink more and more of my westerns and then finally when the opportunities came, they would let me ink and just little by little, and I finally went over to Marvel, having worked for them on and off also for a period of years. I first started working for Marvel in 1942, and then I worked for Jack (Kirby) and Joe Simon as their assistant in 1943 and stayed with them until they both went into service.
RINGGENBERG: That must have been great training.
KANE: Well, I must tell you, it wasn't training at all, because they simply wouldn't tell you anything and I didn't work there. I worked home and brought the work in, and what they would say is: it was either lousy or it was acceptable, you know, so, because some of my stuff was just you know, a sheer copy of what they were doing and it wasn't all that great.
go to part two of the interview here
check out the Gil Kane biography here