Jack Katz (artist)
September 27, 1927 |
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
|Pseudonym(s)||Jay Hawk, Vaughn Beering, Alac Justice, David Hadley|
|Notable works||The First Kingdom|
|Awards||Inkpot Award, 1982|
 Early life and career
Katz was born in Brooklyn, New York and moved to Canada days after he was born. He returned to the United States when he was around eight years old. While attending the School of Industrial Arts in New York, NY, he established bonds of friendship with future comic artists Alex Toth, Alfonso Greene and Pete Morisi.
Katz's work in mainstream comics spans both the Golden and Silver Ages, and was done under a variety of pseudonyms such as Jay Hawk, Vaughn Beering, Alac Justice and David Hadley. He got his start in the industry in 1943, working on the C. C. Beck and Pete Costanza project, Bulletman. Before landing at King Features in 1946, Katz worked briefly for Jerry Iger and Ben Sangor. The time spent at Iger's shop in 1944 is notable for the young Katz's acquaintance with, and admiration for, artist Matt Baker. 'He was, in my opinion, one of the top illustrators, and a good storyteller'.
The move to King Features as a "detail man" brought Katz in contact with Hal Foster and Alex Raymond, two of the artists that inspired him most in his early years. Katz has considered Foster his "guiding light" since the age of six and believes that he laid the foundations for the graphic novel. Raymond praised Katz's illustrative style and said that working in comics was a waste of his time. Stanley Kaye, on the other hand, told Katz to stick with it: 'You're going to do something with comics'.
Katz went to work for Standard Comics (Better/Standard/Pines/Nedor Comics) in 1951, doing horror, war and some romance comics until the company went out of business. From this period comes some of the earliest work that can be identified as his, such as Adventures into Darkess #10 (June 1953). In the mid-1950s Katz landed a job with Jack Kirby and Joe Simon, working alongside Mort Meskin and Marvin Stein. Kirby taught Katz how to ink and use lighting to emphasize dramatic scenes. A slow-worker due to heavy detailing (influenced by the style of illustrator Dean Cornwell), Katz was let go and moved on to Timely Comics under Stan Lee around 1954. Katz worked on war and horror comics, as well as Westerns, but his pacing continued to cause friction. Without Lee's knowledge, Katz worked on the side for Fiction House, which slowed him down even more. In 1955 he left mainstream comics to paint and teach art, both privately and for the YMCA in New York City. His hiatus from the industry lasted fourteen years.
Impressed by Jim Steranko's Captain America, Katz entered mainstream comics for a second time in 1969 and bounced around from job to job. He first found work with Stan Lee at Marvel Comics and worked on books such as Sub-Mariner, Monsters on the Prowl and Adventure into Fear. Katz then worked on House of Secrets and romance comics for DC before moving on to write and illustrate stories for Jim Warren.
Katz got a job with Skywald Publications around 1970, where he believed that he would be able to write his own stories. While there he worked on "Zangar" (from the Jungle Adventures comic book) and is credited with the full art and script for "The Plastic Plague" from the horror comics magazine, Nightmare #14 (August 1973). Katz moved permanently to California in the early 1970s while with Skywald as an associate editor. It was there that he began writing The First Kingdom, integrating ideas into the story that he'd had since his time with Warren Publications.
 The First Kingdom
Moving to California in the early 1970s led to Katz's introduction to underground comics. Through independent publishing he saw the potential to create his own story without editorial interference. The First Kingdom is a 24-issue, 768-page graphic novel that took Katz twelve years to complete, outside of writing the story. He finished two books per year, intentionally totaling twenty-four in order to mirror the number of books in Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. During Kingdom's creation, many sacrifices were made and harships endured by Katz and his wife at the time, Carolyn. For this reason, every issue is dedicated to her.
The epic was published by Comics & Comix Co. from 1974 to 1977, at which point publication was taken over by Bud Plant (a Comics & Comix co-founder) and completed in 1986. Early praise for Kingdom came from Playboy magazine and the Rocket's Blast Comicollector fanzine, but it was never a commercial success due in part to the frequency with which it came out and its adult content. Another contributing factor may have been that Kingdom was sold strictly through mail-order and specialty comic stores.
Attempts have been made to reissue Kingdom as collected volumes. Wallaby Pocket Books published a large-format version of the first six books in 1978. In 2005, Century Comics (under its former name, Mecca Comics Group) released the first volume of an anticipated four-volume set, collecting issues 1-6. The second volume collected issues 7-12 and followed months later, but Century Comics went out of business before it could publish the final two volumes.
There are a number of things that set Katz's illustrative style in Kingdom apart from that of other comic artists. It is hyper-detailed, all of his human (and humanoid) forms have ideal, heroic bodies rendered with anatomical accuracy, there are no gutters and murals fill single-panelled pages throughout the work. The quality of Katz's art matures as he progresses further into the story: the panels get larger and he shifts from pen to brush in the fifth book, a suggestion from Jim Steranko.
Will Eisner and Jerry Siegel among many others considered Kingdom to be innovative in many respects. In the foreword to Book 23, Eisner claims that the work helped carve a niche for the graphic novel medium. Comics historian R. C. Harvey believes that Katz was the, '...first person in comics to pursue a personal vision at such length'. Its density of plot and art alike pushed beyond comics' unidimensionality: "[Katz] believed in the unlimited potential of the comic art medium to become a vehicle for mature, literary, and sophisticated storytelling". To trailblaze was Katz's intention from the start, stating in the introduction to Book One that, "The work I am undertaking...is the first in a series of books in which I hope to extend the dimension of comics to the potential art form that one of its earliest and greatest artists, Hal Foster, laid down the foundations for."
The First Kingdom is the first part of a trilogy, which will include Space Explorers Club and Destiny. Its genre is sci-fantasy with a heavier emphasis on science fiction after Book Six. The story opens on a new, post-nuclear prehistoric era with tribes fighting for survival on a primitive, fantastic Earth filled with gods and monsters. Gods meddle in human affairs, their appearance, temperament and vices resembling the gods of Ancient Greece. The story spans generations and has a huge cast of characters. It abounds with theories to account for religion, evolution, migration and why humans allow themselves to be distracted from the, "plaguing questions of our existence". The story's protagonist, Tundran, is introduced in Book Four. He overcomes obstacles in order to return to his father's usurped kingdom of Moorengan as a liberator. Along the way he falls in love with Fara, a "transgoddess" incarnate, and their adventures together represent the most linear plot line in the story.
Katz admits that the first twenty issues are the introduction to the real Kingdom story, issues 21-24. The first twenty issues are filled with past histories that are interwoven and repeat the same doomed cycle: a hard-won ascent from primitivity blossoms into a golden age of scientific advancement which inevitably devolves into war and a preoccupation with survival and superstition. Katz's fears concerning the human condition are revealed here. His characters haven't been able to transcend their "early programming" born out of environmental stresses; they can't escape their base motivations such as greed, envy, jealousy, etc. The chance for humanity to break this cycle comes with the arrival of Queltar in Book 20, who encourages a select few to join him and embrace their true potential among the stars.
 Later life and career
Since the Kingdom years, Katz has focused on teaching, painting and working on graphic novels. Katz currently teaches art at a community college in Albany, California. Students of his have helped publish a number of books of his works. These include an anatomy book for students (Anatomy by Jack Katz, Volume One) and two books of his sketches (Jack Katz Sketches, Vol. 1 and Jack Katz Sketches, Vol. 2). In 2009, Graphic Novel Literature published Katz's second graphic novel, Legacy. Charlie Novinskie, former president of Century Comics, helped script Legacy. Katz has three graphic novels awaiting publication, two of which are the final parts of the Kingdom trilogy: Space Explorers Club, Destiny and Cry of the City.
Katz's painting style - like his comic art style - focuses on human subjects and anatomy. "The figures in the paintings...embrace, entwine, writhe, contort, and suckle. The work blends the realistic with the exaggerated. It is a 1930s, 1940s world, its view unimpeded by fifty years of art trends and theory. The Ashcan School comes to mind."
Katz won the Inkpot Award in 1982 at the San Diego Comic-Con.
 Selected bibliography
Katz's work spans decades and includes contributions to mainstream comics, graphic novels and art books.
Source for Katz's work in mainstream comics:
 Archie Comic Publications, Inc.
- Archie (pencils, inks, 1943)
 Fawcett Comics
- Bulletman (full art, 1943)
 Hillman Periodicals
- Western Fighters (full art, 1949)
 Quality Comics
- Doll Man (inks, c. 1950)
 Better/Standard/Pines/Nedor Publications
- Adventure into Darkness (pencils, 1952–53)
- Exciting War (pencils, 1952)
- Lost Worlds (pencils, 1952)
- New Romances (pencils, 1952)
- Out of the Shadows (pencils, 1952)
- The Unseen (pencils, inks, 1952–53)
 Feature Comics
- Black Magic (full art, 1952)
- Annie Oakley (full art, c. 1955)
- Arrowhead (full art, 1954)
- Astonishing (full art, mid-1950s)
- Battle Action (full art, mid-1950s)
- Battle (full art, 1955)
- Battlefront (full art, 1954–55)
- Battleground (full art, 1954–55)
- Fear (pencils, 1972)
- Journey into Mystery (full art, 1955)
- Journey into Unknown Worlds (full art, 1955)
- Jungle Tales (full art, mid-1950s)
- Marines in Battle (full art, 1954)
- Marvel Tales (full art, 1954)
- Menace (full art, 1954)
- Monsters on the Prowl (pencils, 1971)
- My Love (full art, c. 1971)
- Mystery Tales (full art, 1955)
- Mystic (full art, 1954)
- Strange Tales (full art, 1954–55)
- Sub-Mariner (pencils, 1969)
- Uncanny Tales (full art, 1954–55)
- Unknown Jungle (full art, 1954)
- War Comics (full art, 1955)
- Western Kid (full art, mid-1950s)
- Wild Western (full art, mid-1950s)
 Skywald Publishing Company
- Nightmare (pencils, 1970–1973)
- Psycho (pencils, 1971–1974)
- Tender Love Stories (pencils, 1971)
- Zangar (pencils, 1971)
- Falling in Love (pencils, 1972)
- Heart Throbs (full art, c. 1972)
- House of Secrets (pencils, 1972)
- Love Stories (pencils, 1972–73)
- Young Love (pencils, 1971)
- Young Romance (writer, full art, 1972)
 Warren Publications
- Creepy (writer, full art, 1972)
 Comics & Comix Co./Bud Plant, Inc.
- The First Kingdom (writer, artist, 1974–1986)
 Wallaby Pocket Books
- The First Kingdom (includes #1-6, 191 pages, 1978, ISBN 0-671-79016-1)
 Mecca Comics Group/Century Comics
- The First Kingdom, Book 1 (includes #1-6, 198 pages, 2005, ISBN 0-9766651-0-7)
- The First Kingdom, Book 2 (includes #7-12, 2006, ASIN 097666514X)
 Graphic Novel Literature
- Legacy (2009, ISBN 0-9766651-9-0)
 Other Works
- Jack Katz Sketches, Volume 1
- Jack Katz Sketches, Volume 2 (2004)
 Windcast Publications
- Anatomy by Jack Katz, Volume One (2nd ed., 152 pages, 2008, ISBN 0-9772926-1-4)
- Amash (2010), p. 3
- Zimmerman (1982), p. 38
- Evanier, Mark (April 14, 2008). "Why did some artists working for Marvel in the sixties use phony names?"". P.O.V. Online (column). Archived from the original on November 24, 2009. Retrieved July 28, 2008.
- Amash (2010), p. 4
- Zimmerman (1982), p. 54
- Amash (2010), p. 5
- Amash (2010), p. 5
- Amash (2010), p. 17
- Amash (2010), p. 21
- Amash (2010), pp. 37-38
- Amash (2010), p. 40
- Zimmerman (1982), p. 37
- Amash (2010), p. 46
- Amash (2010), p. 46
- Levin (2005), p. 199
- Amash (2010), p. 48
- Amash (2010), p. 50
- Amash (2010), p. 53
- Zimmerman (1982), p. 38
- Amash (2010), p. 54
- Amash (2010), p. 56
- Amash (2010), p. 55
- Levin (2005), p. 197
- Sherman (1977), p. 55
- Katz (1978), inside cover
- Levin (2005), p. 204
- Fultz (2007)
- Katz (1974), inside cover
- Sherman (1977), p. 55
- Zimmerman (1982), p. 54
- Levin (2005), p. 198
- Amash (2010), p. 58
- Amash, Jim (2010). "We Considered [Comics] An Art Form", Alter Ego, 3(91), 3-21.
- Zimmerman, Howard (1982). "Jack Katz Part II: Dreams, the Early Days and the Kingdom", Starlog Presents Comics Scene, 1(4), 37-40, 64.
- Zimmerman, Howard (1982). "Jack Katz: An Intimate Chat About First Kingdom", Starlog Presents Comics Scene, 1(3), 52-55, 65.
- Amash, Jim (2010). "I'm Trying To Prod People to Think", Alter Ego, 3(92), 37-58.
- Levin, Bob (2005). Katz Feat, Outlaws, Rebels, Freethinkers & Pirates (193-205). Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics Books. ISBN 1-56097-631-4
- Sherman, Bill (1977). "The Kingdom and the Power of Jack Katz", The Comics Journal, 38, 51-55.
- Katz, Jack (1978). Foreword to Book Nine, The First Kingdom. Grass Valley, CA: Bud Plant, Inc.
- Fultz, John R. (2007). From Stone Age to Starships: Evolving Comics with The First Kingdom. Treasures of the Old-School. Retrieved from http://http.www.comicon.com/ubb/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=396959#Post396959
- Katz, Jack (1974). Introduction to Book One, The First Kingdom. Grass Valley, CA: Comics & Comix Co.
- Again...the art and thought of Artist Jack Katz
- Comic creator: Jack Katz
- Comic Book Artist Collection, Volume 3
- Madinkbeard: The First Kingdom, Vol. 1