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Eli Katz was born in Latvia on April 6, 1926. His family emigrated to New York in 1929, while he was still 3 years old. An avid reader of comics and pulps, gil broke into the comic field in 1941 as an assistant in the Jack Binder shop erasing pencils and eventually became an inker and penciled while still there Also during this time he began drawing comics for MLJ, the publishers of Archie. He drew the Scarlet Avenger for almost two years at MLJ and at the same time free-lanced at Street and Smith, Quality, Holyoke and then Timely Comics as well. He worked for Joe Simon and Jack Kirby during 1943 - 44, and here he said he learned many things from Kirby.
Then he made a career move that would mark his future in comics and inextricably tie his name to the field. That move was to begin working for DC National shortly before going into the army in 1944. When he returned home he went back to DC, illustrating whatever characters they gave him. He drew Wildcat and the Sandman and still he free-lanced at other companies as well. There was barely a company that didn't benefit from his services during this period.
click the art to see a larger image of this panel All through the fifties, Gil continued to free-lance work, but through out this time he maintained a steady paycheck working at DC, illustrating everything from mysteries and science fiction to Rex the Wonder Dog and his favorites, Gil was one of those versatile artists whose career was not particularly disturbed by the comic witch-hunt of the period and the subsequent forming of the Comics Code Authority in 1954. He continued working steadily and was on hand when the next big moment in comics would arrive. During this period that he would gain his recognition however. In 1956 DC editor Julius Schwartz let artists Joe Kubert and Carmine Infantino revive the golden age character, the Flash. Immediately thereafter, Jack Kirby introduced the Challengers of the Unknown, followed by several other new super heroes, including Adam Strange in Showcase Comics # 17, illustrated by Gil Kane. The character proved to be very popular and was given his own regular feature in Mystery in Space - BUT DRAWN BY CARMINE INFANTINO!
Somehow, Gil had not retained the character, an oddity at DC. Then he helped to re-introduce another golden age character. The Green Lantern first re- appeared in Showcase # 22. He was very simply, a smash! Not long after Green Lantern appeared in his three issue run of Showcase (#'s 22 - 24), he appeared on the newsstands in his own title, and Gil illustrated the covers and the interiors. It was to become one of the most popular books of the silver age era.
A couple of years later, Gil helped re-introduce another golden age super hero - the Atom - in Showcase # 34. He had another hit on his hands and began illustrating another character in his own title. Gil was now the lead artist on two super hero comic titles, and still he drew sci-fi and fantasy stories for DC. Finally however Gil had "burned out" on the DC titles and began doing free-lance work at Tower Comics for Thunder Agents, and over at King for Flash Gordon. He also started working at Marvel again. Then he left DC doing his last regular Green Lantern with issue # 61 coming back for #'s 68 - 75.
He would not be associated with this title again for about ten years. His last issue of the Atom is # 38. He stayed at Marvel for a period doing the Hulk, Conan, Captain Marvel, Spider-Man, Captain America, the Avengers and many others. He produced work of such high quality at this time that it was obvious that Gil had become one of the masters of the comic field, and many began to emulate his stylized interpretation of the comic medium. Dave Cockrum's artwork for the New X-Men is one of the most obvious examples of this emulation. In 1971, Gil wrote and illustrated what would be recognized as the first Graphic novel.
Titled Blackjack, the sci-fantasy epic was a financial disaster, but it was a critical success. He also created the Morris villain in Spider-Man # 101, and Iron Fist in Marvel Premiere. Iron Fist was an interesting creation as it preceded the martial arts explosion of the middle seventies due to the popularity of Bruce Lee's and Jackie Chan's films. After leaving Marvel Gil created and drew the Starhawks comic strip for almost five years, maintaining an absence from comic books. He came back to DC doing all sorts of comic titles, not being identified with any particular character at this time.
Then he moved out to California, becoming closely associated with the development of cartoons for Hanna-Barbera. During the last five years, he has re-entered the comic book field doing a book here and there, but his greatest contribution today is his constant appearances at comic book conventions around the country. Bibliography:
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