√ 27 Shades of Swan

in India Ink


An Incomplete Inker Countdown for Curt Swan

27 ~ 19 * 18 ~ 10 * 9 ~ 1 * in the shade

27 shades superman statue

27 ~ 19

phantom zone

colletta superman27. Vince COLLETTA
Of all those who have inked Curt Swan–including all those that haven’t made it onto this list–Vinnie’s delineations are the most painful to endure. If Colletta only ruined a few forgettable stories, he wouldn’t be worth mentioning–but Colletta inks Swan so often on many different projects at different times that he will not be ignored as a Swan inker.

Where other inkers hold Curt Swan’s pencils in high esteem, it’s hard to believe that Colletta ever retained such respect for Curt or any of the other pencillers he worked over in his career. The significant facet that Vinnie fails to embellish is the face. Swan is known for the range of emotion he can convey on the faces of his characters, yet Colletta strips down the detail so that those nuances of expression are narrowed to only a few stock expressions.

If one disregards that aspect of the art, then Colletta’s inks are not as offensive. There is a consistent style there. Given that Colletta inks so many of the Hostess dessert snack ads over Swan’s pencils, his work may be sweetly nostalgic and comforting for some.


[shown above: Superman & Black Canary: A Dream of Demons, DC COMICS PRESENTS No. 30 (February ’81); story: Gerry Conway. The Dragonfly Invasion of Metropolis, SUPERMAN No. 275 (May ’74); story: Cary Bates. Superman Spectacular: The Second Coming of Superman, DC SPECIAL SERIES No. 5; story: Cary Bates. Hawkman: Concerts and Cupcakes, Hostess ad in July ’81 cover dated issues–Curt Swan illustrated most of the Hostess ads for the DC characters, with Vince Colletta usually inking them.]

sm227roussoscu26. George ROUSSOS
There is no mystery why Vince Colletta fails as an inker–he clearly never cares, forfeiting quality for speed. However, other inkers are not so easy to figure out. George Roussos is a case in point.

Here is an artist with a long history of experience in comics, who has done great work in the past. So how is it that George gets it so wrong when he inks Curt?

What’s all the more frustrating is that he works on one of the greatest Superman stories ever written, The Immortal Superman yarn in ACTION COMICS Nos. 185 – 187.

Not that the art is all bad. The fact that the Immortal Superman is grizzled and weary in this timeless tale is quite effective in some scenes. George’s inks do convey that sense of the mighty hero long passed his prime.
George Roussos

[shown aboveThe Ex-Superman, SUPERMAN No. 229 (August ’70); story: Leo Dorfman. Who Stole My Super Powers, SUPERMAN No. 220 (October ’69); story: Jim Shooter. Superman: The Home for Old Super-Heroes, ACTION COMICS No. 186 (March ’70); story: Cary Bates. Superman: Even a Superman Dies, ACTION COMICS No. 187 (April ’70); story: Cary Bates. When Superman was King Kong, SUPERMAN No. 226  (May ’70); story: Leo Dorfman.]

Jack Abel25. Jack ABEL
Unlike Colletta or Roussos, there is nothing technically bad about Jack Abel’s inks–in many ways they are quite good–but the effect that Abel has on Swan’s pencils is unsettling.

It’s a matter of taste and when compared with George Klein or Murphy Anderson, Jack’s inks are distasteful. This reader simply doesn’t like it.

However, many artists have good things to say about Jack Abel and he is a total professional–though his embellishments on any artist are always distinctive. With some heavy handed inkers that’s a plus–and there are a few embellishers on Swan where their heavy-handed style suits the art.

Even in Abel’s case, he gives a moody and sometimes frightening aspect to scenes. Jack inks Curt in the late ‘60s, when a lot of DC comics have a horror element in them–so his inks suit the times.
Jack Abel art

[shown above: Superman & Batman: The Has-Been Superman, WORLD’S FINEST COMICS No. 178 (September ’68); story: Cary Bates. Superman’s Secret Past, SUPERMAN No. 218 (July ’69); story: Leo Dorfman. Superboy’s Greatest Gamble, SUPERBOY No. 148 (June ’68); story: Leo Dorfman–other pages for this story were inked by outgoing inker, George Klein.]
survival zone

Steve Brodie Tommy Tomorrow24. Steve BRODIE
Steve Brodie is a productive and polished inker in the ’40s.

Often assigned to ink Curt Swan’s Boy Commandos work, as well as other features, Steve’s clean lines anticipate the delineations of other Swan inkers to come.

If Steve Brodie would continue as a Swan inker into the ’50s and onto the Superman titles, he likely might be better remembered now.

Curt Swan and Steve Brodie

[shown aboveThe Jockey from Flatbush, BOY COMMANDOS No. 26 (March-April ’48). Tommy Tomorrow: The Comet Doom, REAL FACT COMICS No. 16 (September-October ’48). T-Man in the Big House, GANG BUSTERS No. (December ’48).]

Swan/Hunt Superman23. Dave HUNT
The good thing about Dave Hunt’s inks is that they are clear.

Given the problems with DC’s printing–and they are trying out many different printing processes in the late ’70s and early ‘80s–Hunt’s thick line work has the advantage of not dropping out in the printing process–where other fine line inkers suffer by contrast.

Where Tex Blaisdell’s or Francisco Chiaramonte’s brushwork on Swan may often look muddy, Dave’s inks never have that problem.
Swan/Hunt art

[shown above: Superman & the Legion of Super-Heroes: In Final Battle, DC COMICS PRESENTS No. 43 (March ’83); story: Paul Levitz. Terra Times Two, SUPERMAN No. 377 (November ’820 ; writer: Paul Levitz. The Man Who Would Be President, SUPERMAN No. 394 (April ’84); story: Elliot S! Maggin. Warlord of Mars, SUPERMAN No. 417; story: Elliot S! Maggin. The Man Who Murdered Evil, SUPERMAN No. 419; story Elliot S! Maggin. …And We Are the Dreamers of the Dream, SUPERMAN No. 420; story: Elliot S! Maggin.]

Swan/Esposito Superman Lois22. Mike ESPOSITO
By 1968, a lot of the talent that had worked on the Superman family for years either had left DC or were switched onto other assignments. Ross Andru and Mike Esposito had mainly worked for Bob Kanigher before then, but they were now shifted onto the Superman titles. In addition to inking Andru’s pencils (a partnership that lasted for decades), Esposito was also given other art to embellish, such as Curt’s.

Esposito’s embellishments are of varying quality. Sometimes quite good and sometimes underwhelming.
Swan/Esposito cover artSwan/Esposito Joker

[shown aboveThe Devil’s Bride, SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND, LOIS LANE No. 103 (August ’70); story: Bob Kanigher. Superman: Superman’s Greatest Blunder, ACTION COMICS 369 (November ’68); story: Otto Binder. Super 25th Anniversary Issue, SUPERBOY No. 156 [G-59] (May-June ’69). Superman & Batman: The Duel of the Crime Kings, WORLD’S FINEST COMICS No. 177 (August ’68); story: Jim Shooter.]
wizard city

Swan/Blaisdell Superman21. Tex BLAISDELL
Blaisdell, like Roussos and Abel, comes to Superman with a long list of credits. As with Roussos, it’s a bit of a mystery why Blaisdell doesn’t do a better job. Given that Tex often worked with Bob Oksner in the past (albeit on humour comics), it would be reasonable to expect that his embellishments would be in the same ball park as Oksner’s. And once Blaisdell was installed on ACTION COMICS, he became the regular inker there, while Oksner continued to ink Swan on SUPERMAN.

Bob Wiacek and Terry Austin were assigned to do background work for both inkers.

By this time the printing at DC was going downhill and this might be the main reason why Blaisdell’s brushwork often looks muddy.
Swan/Blaisdell Superman art

[shown above: Superman: You Can Take the Man Out of the Super, But You Can’t Take the Super Out of the Boy, ACTION COMICS No. 466 (December ’76); story: Cary Bates. Superman: Superman’s Fantastic Face-Saving Feat, ACTION COMICS No. 453; story: Cary Bates. Superman: Think Young and Die, ACTION COMICS No. 465; story: Cary Bates. Superman: Die Now–Live Later, ACTION COMICS No. 463; story: Cary Bates.]

Swan/Giunta Superman20. John GIUNTA
In the ’40s, ’50s and ‘6os, John Giunta gets around in the comic world–best known for his art on horror titles, as well as on THE FLY.

However, Giunta is all but forgotten as an inker for Curt Swan on the Superman titles. Previously, this work has been misidentified and attributed to others, but Bob Hughes has now credited John Giunta for a fair number of stories (as per information on the GCD).

John’s delineations are quite delightful.
Swan/Giunta Jimmy and LucySwam/Giunta Jimmy Olsen

[shown above: Superman: The Super-Merman of the Sea, ACTION COMICS No. 244 (September ’58); story: Otto Binder. Lois Lane’s Sister, SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN No. 36 (April ’59); story: Otto Binder.  Jimmy the Genie, SUPERMAN’S PAL JIMMY OLSEN No. 42 (January ’60); story: Robert Bernstein.]

Swan/Fischetti SUPERMAN 7619. John FISCHETTI
During the ’40s, John Fischetti works at DC on various titles, including as an inker for Curt Swan on Tommy Tomorrow, before they are both assigned to SUPERBOY in the early ’50s.

John Fischetti will go on to fame as an editorial cartoonist. A prestigious award is even named in his honour.
early Swan/FischettiSwan/Fischetti SuperbabySwan/Fischetti Superboy, Mars Boy

[shown aboveThe Mightiest Team in the World, SUPERMAN No. 76 (May-June ’52); story: Edmond Hamilton–Fischetti inked pages 1 -8, Stan Kaye inked pages 9 – 12 [according to Craig Delich on the GCD]. Tommy Tomorrow: Tommy Tomorrow, Movie Hero, ACTION COMICS No. 149 (October ’50); story: Edmond Hamilton. Tommy Tomorrow: The Man Who Stopped Space Flight, ACTION COMICS No. 167 (April ’52); story: Edmond Hamilton. When Superboy Was a Superbaby, SUPERBOY No. 8 (May-June ’50); story: Bill Finger. The Boy From Mars, SUPERBOY No. 14 (May-June ’51); story: William Woolfolk. Superboy on Mars, SUPERBOY No. 16 (September-October ’51); story: William Woolfolk.]

27 ~ 19 * 18 ~ 10 * 9 ~ 1 * in the shade


18 ~ 10

argo city

Swan/Giordano Krypton18. Dick GIORDANO
Dick Giordano is one of the most well-respected inkers and for good reason. However, he wasn’t exactly a regular Swan delineator, believing his style not suited to Curt’s pencils.

Thus Giordano is more likely to pinch hit on the odd assignment. Nevertheless, his inks are quite good even if they aren’t in the same ball park as Klein or Moldoff. Yet the Giordano style is not far different from Al Williamson’s work on Swan.
Swan/Giordano SupermanSwanGiordano Strange Sports

[shown above: The Fabulous World of Krypton: The Princess and the Glass Treeman, SUPERMAN No. 275 (May ’74); story: Elliot S! Maggin–Frank McLaughlin helps out on the inks. To Save a Superman, SUPERMAN No. 240 (July ’71); story: Denny O’Neil. The Private Life of Clark Kent: Who is Mr. X? SUPERMAN No. 258 (November ’72); story: Cary Bates. To Beat the Devil, STRANGE SPORTS STORIES No. 1 (September-October ’73); story: Frank Robbins. The Human Target: The Pow! Zap! Wham! Contract, ACTION COMICS WEEKLY No. 641 [7 March ’89]; story: Mark Waid.]

Swan/Williamson Superman17. Al WILLIAMSON
When brought to DC to ink Curt Swan in the early ’80s, Al Williamson is not used to inking another penciller’s work.

Of course, Williamson has countless credits to his name–EC science fiction, Flash Gordon, Secret Agent X-9, Secret Agent Corrigan, Warren’s magazine anthologies, Marvel’s adaptation of THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK.

The marriage of Curt and Al’s own styles gives the Superman art a fresh new look for the ’80s.
Swan/Williamson Superman, LuthorSwan/Williamson Supergirl death

[shown aboveThe Day the Earth Died, SUPERMAN No. 408 (June ’85); story: Ed Hannigan & Paul Kupperberg. The Sleepwalker from Krypton, SUPERMAN No. 409 (July ’85); story: Craig Boldman. Luthor–Today You Die, SUPERMAN No. 412 (October ’85); story: Cary Bates. The Origin of Superboy-Prime, DC COMICS PRESENTS No. 87 (November ’85); story: Elliot S! Maggin. Revenge is Life–Death to Superman, SUPERMAN No. 414 (December ’85); story: Elliot S! Maggin.]

As the regular inker on THE NEW TEEN TITANS, Tanghal ends up inking guest artist Curt Swan for issue No. 5 and then inks Curt on other occasions for the Titans and the Legion.

Tanghal is well-suited to inking the slick art of George Perez, and as George is an admirer of Swan, the effect of Romeo’s embellishments is rather good for Curt, too.
Swan/Tanghal TitansSwan/Tanghal Legion Annual 3Swan/Tanghal LSH 39

[shown aboveThe Curse, THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES ANNUAL No. 3 (1984); story: Keith Giffen & Paul Levitz–Larry Mahlstedt assisted on inks. Trigon Lives, THE NEW TEEN TITANS No. 5 (March ’81); story: Marv Wolfman. Fear Itself, THE NEW TEEN TITANS No. 43 (May ’88); story: Marv Wolfman. The One That Got Away, LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES No. 39 (October ’87); story: Paul Levitz.]

Swan/Adkins Superman15. Dan ADKINS
Adkins is another one of those inkers who is brought in to pinch hit, whenever the need arises. As a result his inks on Swan are spread out over time.

Dan’s inks are comparable to those of Sheldon Moldoff.

Also to his benefit, Adkins happened to ink one of this reader’s best loved multi-part stories, ending with that *gulp* emotional proposal scene.

Not a dry eye.

Swan/Adkins Superman, LegionSwan/Adkins Calendar

[shown above: Superman: I Have Two Eyes, But I Cannot See, ACTION No. 529 (March ’82); story: Marv Wolfman. Before This Night is Over, Superman Will Kill, SUPERMAN No. 314 (August ’77); story: Martin Pasko. The Future is Forever: Third Vision, THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES No. 300 (June ’83); story: Keith Giffen & Paul Levitz. Killer Kent Versus Super Luthor, SUPERMAN No. 230 (October ’70); story: Cary Bates. July, 1978 CALENDAR OF SUPER-SPECTACULAR DISASTERS. The Man With the Self-Destruct Mind, SUPERMAN No. 323 (May ’78); story: Martin Pasko.]

Swan/Templeton Legion14. Ty TEMPLETON
Ty Templeton is one of the next generation inkers who has the opportunity to ink Swan in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

Ty’s inking style is a bit thicker and simpler than George Klein, but not as heavy as Dave Hunt. The effect on Swan’s pencils is quite nice.

And Templeton is Canadian.
Swan/Templeton LSH artSwan/Templeton Superboy

[shown aboveThe Little Clubhouse That Could, SECRET ORIGINS No. 46 (December ’89); story: Gerard Jones. Superboy, WHO’S WHO IN THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES No. 6 (October ’88). Superboy’s Pal, Lex Luthor, SUPERBOY No. 10 (November ’90); story: John Moore. Holidazed & Confused, SUPERBOY No. 12 (January ’91); story: John Moore. Invisible Kid I, WHO’S WHO IN THE LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES No. 3 (July ’88).]

Swan/Burnley Superman13. Ray BURNLEY
The brother of Jack Burnley, Ray is best known for inking Swan on SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN–although they have worked together on many other assignments.

Ray’s inks aren’t as sharp or as round as some of the other inkers, but there’s a nice comfortable feeling to his embellishments.Swan/Burnley Jimmy Olsen

[shown aboveThe Lady-Killer from Metropolis, SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN No. 33 (December ’58); story: Alvin Schwartz. Twenty Floors of Felony, GANG BUSTERS No. 27 (April-May ’52).  The Case of the Cartoon Scoops, SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN No. 17 (December ’56); story: Otto Binder. Jimmy Olsen’s Super Pet, SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN No. 29 (June ’58); story: Otto Binder. The Radioactive Boy, SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN No. 17 (December ’56); story: Otto Binder.]

Swan/Adams Superman Family12. Neal ADAMS
Adams arrives on the scene at DC in the ‘60s just as many of the established artists and writers are leaving. As such, Adams is seen as the vanguard of a new style, although he has already been working in comics for many years.

While Adams contributes a lot to the Superman titles as a cover artist–especially in the late ’60s and early ‘70s, often inking Curt Swan’s pencils–he never inks Swan on interior stories.

Had he done so, he would no doubt have a better placement on this list–as the ablity to ink a story over Swan’s pencils is one of the criteria used by this reader to judge these embellishers. Neal loses points in that area.

The effect of Adams’ inks is comparable to that of Williamson, Oksner or Giordano.
Swan/Adams colour coversSwan/Adams black & white covers

[shown aboveDollar Comics, SUPERMAN FAMILY No. 182 (April ’77). The Legion of Super-Heroes, SUPERBOY No. 147 (June ’68). Hair of Steel,  SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN No. 110 (April ’68); story: Otto Binder. The President of Steel [alternate cover], ACTION COMICS No. 371 (January ’69); story: Otto Binder–the published cover was flipped. Splitsville for Lois and Superman, SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND, LOIS LANE No. 80 (January ’68); story: Leo Dorfman–house ad in SUPERMAN No. 203 (January ’68). Jimmy Olsen’s Death Trick, SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN No. 121 (July ’69); story: Leo Dorfman.]

Where Adams is always shown to his advantage, as the production quality on DC covers is always excellent, other inkers, like Francisco Chiaramonte–who ink Swan inside the comics–suffer for poor production quality, which is getting progressively worse in the ’70s.

Looking at Chiaramonte’s inks in black and white they come through much more clearly.
Swan/Chiarmonte Superman, KryptonSwan/Chiaramonte Superman., Lois

[shown aboveThe Secret of the Super-S, ACTION COMICS No. 494 (April ’79); story: Cary Bates. Attack of the Kryptonoid, SUPERMAN No. 328 (October ’78); story: Martin Pasko. The Search for Superman’s Roots, KRYPTON CHRONICLES No. 1 (September ’81); story: E. Nelson Bridwell. The Race to Overtake the Past, KRYPTON CHRONICLES No. 3 (November ’81); story: E. Nelson Bridwell. Happy New Year…Rest in Peace, SUPERMAN No. 333 (March ’79); story: Martin Pasko.

Swan/Vey Superman10. Al VEY
In the late ’80s, after Curt Swan is no longer the main Superman artist, Al Vey emerges as the best inker on Curt’s pencils.

Al Vey’s embellishments are like a fusion of Klein and Anderson, with the added benefit of sharper production at DC.

Not only is Al technically superb, but he gets all the emotion of Curt’s faces.

Had Swan continued as regular Superman artist, Al Vey would have been the best choice to ink his work. The mind boggles at what might have been.
Swan/Vey TitansSwan/Vey Aquaman B&WSwan/Vey Aquaman, Mera

[shown above: Superman pin-up (3/6/93). [War of the Gods 23], THE NEW TITANS No. 81 (December ’91); story: Marv Wolfman. Starfire’s World: Chapter Two, THE NEW TITANS ANNUAL No. 6; story: Marv Wolfman.  Still Waters, AQUAMAN No. 2 (July ’89); story: Keith Giffen & Robert Loren Fleming; layouts: Keith Giffen. The Tide of Battle, AQUAMAN No. 4 (September ’89); story: Keith Giffen & Robert Loren Fleming; layouts: Keith Giffen. Battle Royal, AQUAMAN No. 5; story: Keith Giffen & Robert Loren Fleming; layouts: Keith Giffen. Aquarium, AQUAMAN No. 1 (June ’89); story: Keith Giffen & Robert Loren Fleming; layouts: Keith Giffen.]

27 ~ 19 * 18 ~ 10 * 9 ~ 1 * in the shade


9 ~ 1


Swan/Barry Clark Kent9. Sy BARRY
Sy is the brother of Dan Barry–who is perhaps better known for his work on Flash Gordon. Like his brother, Sy practiced the New York slick stye which so dominated DC’s adventure comics in the ’50s.  

Sy Barry is far and away one of the best inkers on those comics from that era.

A lot of Sy’s ink work on Swan was for the Superboy feature.
Swan and Barry Lana Lang
Barry’s version of Lana Lang is always quite striking.

Sy brings out a Norman Rockwell aspect in Swan’s art often lost with other inkers. The perfect mood for the Smallville world of Superboy.

Had Barry stayed on at DC through the ’50s and into the ’60s and not gone on to make his fortune in syndicated comics, he doubtless would have emerged as one of their most valuable players.
Swan/Barry Superboy 33Swan/Barry KryptoSwan/Barry Jimmy Olsen No. 4

[shown above: King for a Day, SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN No. 4 (March-April ’55); story: Otto Binder. The Runaway Rocket, SUPERBOY No. 34 (July ’54). The Pet from Outer Space, SUPERBOY No. 33 (June ’54); story: William Woolfolk. The Super-Dog from Krypton, ADVENTURE COMICS No. 210 (March ’55); story: Otto Binder. The Hunted Messenger, SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN No. 4 (March-April ’55); story: Otto Binder.]

Swan/Forte Superman8. John FORTE
Another experienced comics illustrator, John Forte joins the team of Superman family artists in the late ‘50s. He is known for his odd, somewhat stilted style on features like Bizarro Tales, Jimmy Olsen and Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes.

In this period between the departure of Stan Kaye and the return of George Klein, in the early ‘60s, Forte is one of those tagged to ink Swan (Sheldon Moldoff is another). John’s inks on Swan are beautiful and create a look very different from his solo work.

Unfortunately, John Forte passed away in 1966.
Swan/Forte HypermanSwan/Forte Jimmy OlsenSwan/Forte Action 277 Superboy

[shown above: Superman: The Superman from Outer Space, ACTION COMICS No. 265; story: Otto Binder. The Invisible Life of Jimmy Olsen, SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN No. 40 (October ’59); story: Otto Binder. Jimmy Olsen, the Boy Swordsman, SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN No. 41 (December ’59); story: Otto Binder. Superman: The Conquest of Superman, ACTION COMICS No. 277 (June ’61); story: Bill Finger. Superboy Meets Supergirl, SUPERBOY No. 80 (April ’60). The Untold Story of Red Kryptonite, SUPERMAN No. 139 (August ’60); story: Otto Binder.]

Curt Swan Superman7. Curt SWAN
During his service in World War II, Douglas Curtis Swan is an artist for STARS AND STRIPES. Shortly after the war, Swan comes to work at DC, where he draws for features like Boy Commandos, Tommy Tomorrow and the GANG BUSTERS title, before getting assignments on Superboy and the rest of the Superman family.

In his career, Swan mostly concentrates on pencil work, leaving the inking to others; however, there are times when he inks his own pencils.

Earlier inks by Swan are tight like those of George Klein, but later inks are much looser like those of Bob Oksner.
Curt Swan early art. LSHCurt Swan Mordru splashCurt Swan, New BeginningCurt Swan Krypton, Superman

[shown above: Superman: The Man of Many Faces, SUPERMAN No. 245 [DC-7] (December ’71 – January ’72). Early art (1944). YELLOW HAIR (circa 1954)–an unpublished comic strip by Swan, in CURT SWAN: A LIFE IN COMICS (2002). THE OFFICIAL LEGION OF SUPER-HEROES INDEX No. 2 (January ’87). Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes: Mordru the Merciless, ADVENTURE COMICS No. 369 (June ’68); story & layouts: Jim Shooter–Curt Swan inked  this splash page, while Jack Abel inked the rest of the story. A New Year Brings a New Beginning for Superman 1971–carried in all January ’71 cover-dated issues.  The Fabulous World of Krypton: Prison in the Sky, SUPERMAN No. 234 (February ’71); story: E. Nelson Bridwell. I Flew with Superman, SUPERMAN ANNUAL No. 9 (1983); story: Cary Bates & Elliot S! Maggin.]

Swan/Scaffenberger Superman6. Kurt SCHAFFENBERGER
Schaffenberger is an all around great artist and nobody could ink his own pencils as well as Kurt himself. But by the mid’-70s, Kurt’s pencils were usually being inked by others–perhaps to increase the number of pencil pages he could generate. At the same time, Schaffenberger was sometimes assigned to ink the pencils of other artists.

Had Schaffenberger been a full time inker, he’d probably be as celebrated for that as Sid Greene or Murphy Anderson–whose inking styles his resembles.

In the ‘80s, Schaffenberger was paired with Swan more often–so in a sense he was one of the next generation of inkers on Swan.
Swan/Schaffenberger Secret YearsCurt/Kurt Clark, MaskCurt/Kurt Superman in Action

[shown above: Superman & Clark Kent: When You Wish Upon a Planetoid, DC COMICS PRESENTS No. 50 (October ’82): story: Dan Mishkin & Gary Cohn. Dreams and Schemes and Feeling Proud, SUPERMAN: THE SECRET YEARS No. 1 (February ’85); story: Bob Rozakis. Reach Out and Touch, SUPERMAN: THE SECRET YEARS No. 2 (March ’85); story: Bob Rozakis. Beyond Terminus, SUPERMAN: THE SECRET YEARS No. 4 (May ’85); story: Bob Rozakis. Jacana’s Revenge, MASK No. 6 (July ’87); story: Michael L. Fleisher. Superman: The Midnight Murder Show, ACTION COMICS No. 442 (December ’74); story: Cary Bates. Superman: Endings, ACTION COMICS No. 556 (June ’84). Superman: Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow,  ACTION COMICS No. 583 (September ’86)–Murphy Anderson assisted on inks.]

Swan/Moldoff Superman5. Sheldon MOLDOFF
As with Forte, Moldoff often inks Swan in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s–when Stan Kaye is leaving and George Klein is yet to return.

The clean inks that Shelley uses for Curt’s art are very close to those of Klein. Moldoff brushwork seems a little softer and not as sharp–but really it’s very hard to spot the differences between these inkers.
Swan/Moldoff Lois Lane 27, Jimmy Olsen 60 Action 309Swan/Moldoff pages

[shown above: Superman & Batman: The Game of Secret Identities, WORLD’S FINEST COMICS No. 149 (May ’65); story: Edmond Hamilton. Lois Lane’s Super-Brain, SUPERMAN’S GIRL FRIEND, LOIS LANE No. 27 (August ’61); story: Robert Bernstein. The Fantastic Army of General Olsen, SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN No. 60 (April ’62). Superman: The Superman Super-Spectacular, ACTION COMICS No. 309 (February ’64); story: Edmond Hamilton. The Night of March 31st, SUPERMAN No. 146 (May ’61); story: Jerry Siegel. The Legion of Super-Villains, SUPERMAN No. 147 (August ’51); story: Jerry Siegel. Superman Owes a Billion Dollars, SUPERMAN No. 148 (October ’61); story: Robert Bernstein. Superman & Batman: Superman and Batman–Outlaws, WORLD’S FINEST COMICS No. 148 (March ’65); story: Edmond Hamilton. Superman & Batman: The Infinite Evolutions of Superman and Batman, WORLD’S FINEST COMICS No. 151 (August ’65); story: Edmond Hamilton & Cary Bates.]

Swan/Kaye Superman4. Stan KAYE
Despite being more closely associated with Wayne Boring, of all those who embellished Curt Swan’s art, Stan Kaye has probably had the most varied and wide-ranging collaboration with Swan.

Whether it’s cover art, comic strips or comic book stories, Kaye contributes greatly to all.
Swan/Kaye Linda Danvers

As Curt’s artistic approach evolves, Stan adapts to these changes.

One of the distinct features of Kaye’s later inks on Swan are the faces of his women, pregnant with meaning.

For the sheer depth and breadth of his contribution, Stan Kaye deserves to be considered in the first ranks of Curt’s dedicated delineators.Curt Swan Stan Kaye SM76/comic strip
Curt/Stan Miss Jimmy

[shown above: SUPERMAN No. 6775 (2nd of September ’60); story: Jerry Siegel–r. SUPERMAN: THE SILVER AGE DAILIES Vol. 1 (1959 – 1961). Jimmy Olsen Marries Supergirl, SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN No. 57 (December ’61); story: Jerry Siegel. The Mightiest Team in the World, SUPERMAN No. 76 (May-June ’52); story: Edmond Hamilton–John Fischetti inked pages 1 -8, Kaye inked pages 9 – 12 [according to Craig Delich on the GCD]. SUPERMAN Nos. 6799, 6800 (30th of September ’60, 1st of October ’60); story: Jerry Siegel–r. SUPERMAN: THE SILVER AGE DAILIES Vol. 1 (1959 – 1961). Superboy: Lois Lane Meets Superboy, ADVENTURE COMICS No. 261 (June ’59); story: Otto Binder. Superman: The Red Kryptonite Menace, ACTION COMICS No. 283 (December ’61); story: Robert Bernstein. The Marriage of Batman and Batwoman, BATMAN No. 122 (March ’59); story: Bill Finger. Batman: Batman Meets Bat-Mite, DETECTIVE COMICS No. 267 (May ); story Bill Finger.]

fortress of solitude

Swoksner Superman3. Bob OKSNER 
After the departure of Murphy Anderson (who later returns on a part-time basis)–and after a short stint by Vince Colletta–Bob Oksner becomes the new Swan inker in the ‘70s. But Oksner’s approach to Swan is quite different from the New York slick style practiced by so many of the other inkers on this list.

Joe Orlando advises Bob to use thinner brush lines when Oksner switches from humour art to adventure art in the early ’70s. This seems like one of the distinctions between his inks and Blaisdell. However, there is still lots of lush brush work on the Superman pages. As well, Swan’s Lois Lane has never looked more beautiful than when inked by Bob Oksner.

There’s an absolute feeling of fun and joy to be found in Swoksner’s Superman art.
Swan/Oksner Superman art B&WSwan/Oksner calendar etcSwan/Oksner Superman 2001

[shown above: Superman’s Mystery Masquerade, SUPERMAN No. 283 (January ’75); story: Cary Bates. The Miracle of Thirsty Thursday, SUPERMAN No. 293 (November ’75); Elliot S! Maggin–Bob Wiacek assisted on backgrounds. Clark Kent Forever–Superman Never, SUPERMAN No. 297 (March ’76); story: Cary Bates & Elliot S! Maggin–Bob Wiacek assisted on backgrounds. Christmas with the Super-Heroes, LIMITED COLLECTORS’ EDITION C-43 (February-March ’76). When Lightning Strikes…Thunder Kills, SUPERMAN No. 303 (September ’76); story: Gerry Conway. Superman: Clark Kent Calling Superman…Clark Kent Calling Superman, ACTION COMICS No. 446 (April ’75); story: Cary Bates. May, 1977 SUPER DC CALENDAR. Superman 2001, SUPERMAN No. 300 (June ’76); story: Cary Bates & Elliot S! Maggin.]

Swanderson Superman2. Murphy ANDERSON
After George Klein leaves DC, Murphy Anderson almost immediately becomes one of the primary inkers on Swan’s cover art. Yet it takes three years for DC to finally team the two artists on stories inside the books.

When that happens, the Swanderson Superman becomes the trademark image of the Man of Steel (so much so that Murphy is often employed to re-ink the work of other artists to give their Superman the same look).Curt/Murph Superman art

During the Sand Superman Saga, Anderson’s inks (along with beautiful colour work from the production department) gives Superman a sombre aspect. But later, the Swanderson Superman becomes less care-worn and brighter in outlook.

Swanderson Superman 242

It’s that sunny quality in Murphy’s embellishments that is so identifiable. Along with his fine line work and lush feathering technique.
Swanderson Superboy

[shown above: Superman: The Face and the Voice, ACTION COMICS WEEKLY No. 636 [24th of January ’89]; story: Roger Stern. Superman: The Immortal Superman, ACTION COMICS No. 385 (February ’70); story: Cary Bates. How to Tame a Wild Volcano, SUPERMAN No. 234 (February ’71); story: Denny O’Neil. The Day the Cheering Stopped, SUPERMAN ANNUAL No. 10 (1984); story: Elliot S! Maggin. The Ultimate Battle, SUPERMAN No. 242 (September ’71); story: Denny O’Neil. Superboy’s Red Letter Days, SUPERBOY No. 165 [G-71] (May-June ’70). Don’t Call Me Superboy, DC SUPER STARS No. 12 (February ’77); story: Cary Bates.]

Swan/Klein Jimmy/Superman1. George KLEIN
George Klein narrowly beats out Murphy Anderson (really it’s a tie), but where Swanderson art shows the hand of the inker over the penciller, it seems like George complements Curt rather than overwhelms him with his own style. Swan and Klein are the near perfect marriage of pencil and ink.

Which is not to say that their work never changes.

George is one of the first embellishers that Curt ever has at DC. But by the late ’50s, Klein is almost completely gone from the Superman books. He returns at full strength in the early ’60s and there are clear developments in how George chooses to interpret the pencils with his line.

Even before George Klein has made his final departure from DC to join Marvel (and George would pass away less than two years later), his brush style changes again.

About the only problem with Klein’s version of Swan is that Superman’s hairline is so high. Even Superboy sometimes looks like he’s in the early stages of male pattern baldness. However, next to all of George’s great qualities, this is a minor quibble.


On top of everything else, George Klein wins points because he inked Swan on so many different Superman family books–SUPERBOY, ADVENTURE COMICS, WORLD’S FINEST COMICS, ACTION COMICS, SUPERMAN, SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN–on both covers and inside stories. And he did so at a time when the Superman mythology was being built up.

Thus the Curt Swan and George Klein Superman has become the standard by which all others shall be judged.

[shown above: Jimmy Olsen and Superman, in CURT SWAN: A LIFE IN COMICS (2002). Boy Commandos: Brooklyn and Columbus Discover America, WORLD’S FINEST COMICS No. 21 (March-April ’46); story: Jack Kirby–one of the first jobs by Curt for DC and possibly the first pairing of Swan and Klein. Boy Commandos: The Man Who Brought ‘Em Back Dead, DETECTIVE COMICS No. 133 (March ’48). Superboy: Superboy’s Romance with Cleopatra, ADVENTURE COMICS No. 291 (December ’61); story: Robert Bernstein. Jimmy Olsen’s Captive Double, SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN No. 83 (March ’65); story: Jerry Siegel. Tales of the Legion of Super-Heroes: The Legion Chain Gang, ADVENTURE COMICS No. 360 (September ’67); story: Jim Shooter. Curt Swan/George Klein model sheet, in THE KRYPTON COMPANION (2006). Superboy and the Five Legion Traitors, SUPERBOY No. 117 (December ’64); story: Jerry Siegel. The Team of Luthor and Brainiac Part III: The Hour of Kandor’s Vengeance, SUPERMAN No. 167 (February ’64). Superboy: The Bird With Super Powers, ADVENTURE COMICS No. 225 (June ’56); story: Alvin Schwartz. Jimmy Olsen’s Blackest Deeds, SUPERMAN’S PAL, JIMMY OLSEN No. 110 (April ’68); story: Jim Shooter. Superboy’s Greatest Gamble, SUPERBOY No. 148 (June ’68); story: Leo Dorfman–other pages for this story were inked by incoming inker, Jack Abel.]

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in the shade

The Full Countdown at a Glance

27. Vince COLLETTA
26. George ROUSSOS
25. Jack ABEL
24. Steve BRODIE
23. Dave HUNT
20. John GIUNTA
16. Romeo TANGHAL
15. Dan ADKINS
12. Neal ADAMS
11. Francisco CHIARAMONTE
10. Al VEY
8. John FORTE
7. Curt SWAN
5. Sheldon MOLDOFF
4. Stan KAYE
2. Murphy ANDERSON
1. George KLEIN

Needless to say there are many notable inkers that have been left off this short list. Those that have been included have been because they contributed a significant amount to Curt Swan’s output over the years. It was a tough call who to include and who to leave out. And some of those on this list were not even considered until their contribution became apparent–thus others initially on the list were left off.

Among the many considered but left out (in random order):

Jerry Ordway, Kim DeMulder, Joe Giella, George Perez, Larry Mahlstedt, John Beatty, Mike Manley, Brett Breeding, Frank Giacoia, John Byrne, Eric Shanower, Rodin Rodriguez, Frank Springer, George Freeman, Tony DeZuniga, Joe Rubinstein–even Wayne Boring!



Who Inked Curt Swan on Superman? by Bob Hughes

The Grand Comics Database

Mike’s Amazing World of DC Comics by Mike Voiles

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