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Friday, March 13, 2009

This Week's Suspended Animation - Comics Legend Bob Layton

When discussing legendary comic book creators, no roll call is complete without the inclusion of Bob Layton.

A former apprentice of Wally Wood and protégé of Dick Giordano (two more comics legends), Layton is part of that “plucky” group of comics professionals who got their start producing fanzines. Most notable in that field was his co-founding of CPL/Gang Publications (CPL being short for the fanzine Contemporary Pictorial Literature) and his work on The Charlton Bullseye for Charlton Comics.

Layton’s work could be described as “polished”, clean lines and clarity of storytelling being hallmarks of his realistic art. He is at his best when he inks his own pencil work, but is also known as a strong inker all around, improving on the work of many pencil artists. No doubt the word “polished” is, in part, a subconscious influence of the work for which he is probably most fondly remembered by fans: that on Marvel’s Iron Man.

Layton worked on two different runs of the original Invincible Iron Man series, co-plotting with writer David Michelinie on both. He inked the pencils of John Romita, Jr. on issues 116 through 154, and finished the art of (primarily) Mark D. Bright and Jackson “Butch” Guice between issues 215 and 250, acting as primary penciler on several of the last ten issues. Layton helped give a more technological look to Iron Man, and aided Michelinie in developing a deeper and more emotionally vulnerable man inside the armor, Tony Stark. Their “Demon in a Bottle” storyline is considered legendary in the comics industry. (Note: "Demon in a Bottle" was originally the name of the story in issue #128, but has become the popular delineation for the entire storyline. That particular work was first published as "The Power of Iron Man".)

Layton is also known for being one of the primary creative minds behind the Valiant Universe. He is the co-creator of DC Comics’ Huntress and Marvel’s X-Factor, working with Paul Levitz and Jackson Guice, respectively. He also created Marvel’s second comics miniseries ever in Hercules: Prince of Power, a beautiful and extremely underrated work.

The work of Bob Layton is some of the most memorable in comics history, and is recommended for..., well, everyone.

Mark Allen

Click here for a review of The Power of Iron Man, and here for a review of another great Michelinie/Layton Iron Man story.

Also, for more "power", click here.