Original Art Stories: Zeck Month Part I: J.M DeMatties & Mike Zeck's Captain America
Now, on with the show! Before J.M. DeMatties and Mike Zeck worked on Kraven’s Last Hunt they enjoyed a run on one of the most iconic of all of Marvel’s characters – Captain America. This run was notable in that Mike took the character of Captain America and changed his visuals. Previously most artists had drawn the character as muscular, albeit on the slim side. Zeck created a muscular, massive Captain America of truly heroic proportions and in doing so ensured that his rendition would remain totally unique. Zeck’s influence has been felt since he left the character and his run remains a firm favourite both amongst fans and professionals alike.
Captain America isn’t an easy character to write at the best of times. As a hero that comes straight from World War II and wears the flag the temptation to make him a right wing caricature is a trap that many have fallen into both before and since. However J.M. DeMatteis and Mike Zeck, ably assisted by inker John Beatty, managed to bring Steve Rogers and his alter ego, Captain America, up to date with the world of the day, with a focus on how difficult it is for a man out of time to adapt to society without being isolated. DeMatteis spent as much focus on the supporting cast in Steve Rogers life as he did with the villains that Captain America fought, bring back the best aspects of the original Stan Lee-Jack Kirby run of the 1960s. Recently I asked Mike Zeck how he came to be assigned as the artist for the title and the impact that it had upon his career.
I was a long time fan of Captain America so I more or less lobbied for that book when the penciling chores opened up. The pressure would have been trying to live up to the art that had come before, since I was still struggling to improve as an artist. I also lobbied to bring friend and fellow Captain America fan, John Beatty, on board as inker, and once that happened, I think we both improved and had a reasonably good run on that title. Seems like a year never goes by where I don't revisit Captain America in some manner... commissions, recreations, pinups, etc. Entering my fourth decade now of fans requesting Captain America art, so more than a few folks must remember those issues fondly.
Captain America editor Mark Gruenwald and assistant editor Mike Carlin were supportive and complimentary so that made life easy. They were also kind enough to forward to me all mail that was sent to the Captain America Letters Of Comment page, so I got a good taste of fan reaction as well. Obviously fans who took time to write were more often than not pleased with the book, so I suppose I was somewhat shielded from whatever negativity that might have been floating around. It wasn't like I could just jump on the internet and read reviews in those days.
COMING VERY, VERY SOON...a cast of many, including DeMatties and Zeck, reflect upon the story that is Kraven's Last Hunt...