Trouble with Comics, Giffen vs. Janson

Giffen vs. Janson

Diversions of the Groovy Kind has a nice group of splash pages from Keith Giffen’s 1977 run as penciler of Marvel’s The Defenders. It makes me kinda want to read them, which I think I have somewhere, but what struck me first is not so much what Giffen brings to these pages but what you get from Klaus Janson. Giffen and Janson are credited as the “artists,” which can cover a wide range of things, but clearly Janson is not just faithfully putting ink where Giffen’s pencils were. Janson has always been an overpowering inker, but he’s so good that usual works out fine, just different. Many prefer John Byrne or Frank Miller inking themselves, but Janson’s inking over them resulted in some of my favorite comics art. 

What you see here is a young Giffen who hadn’t quite found his style yet. Not that he’s ever settled on one style for very long, but he’s not as confident here, judging by the results later when he’s inked by Chic Stone. Chic Stone is an inker who will generally diminish the power of one’s pencils, and we see an awkward Namor image for the issue where Stone inks Giffen. And earlier, once Janson has left the book, we see that what Giffen is most comfortable doing at this stage in his career is aping Jack Kirby’s style. It’s right there in the splash to #48 with a Kirbyesque Scorpio, Giffen and Dan Green doing a credible imitation of Kirby’s distinctively jagged contour lines, while in the next issue we get an excellent, Kirbyesque Moon Knight. No surprise, as frequent Kirby inker Mike Royer inked this issue. Still, I much prefer a Janson job than another Kirby knockoff. 

—Christopher Allen

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