I think the first time I saw (or at least took note of) Tom Grummett’s art was on his run on Adventures of Superman, specifically during the “Reign of the Supermen” arc in the wake of the November 1992 “Death of Superman.” He and writer Karl Kesel crafted an interesting and lasting character in the cloned version of Superboy. I’m pleased to see the character design is about to make a comeback in the relaunched Young Justice comic from DC in the months ahead.
That work, and Grummett’s tenure on the subsequent Superboy spinoff series, really cemented Grummett’s reputation in the comics industry, not to mention some wonderful work on Robin. He offered some memorable visuals on the DC/Marvel Amalgam book Challengers of the Fantastic in the late 1990s, and perhaps the strongest evidence of the height of his “star power” in the mainstream comics industry was his participation in the striking but short-lived Gorilla Comics imprint at Image, through which he and a throng of top-tier talent — Mark Waid, Kurt Busiek, Stuart Immonen, Kesel and many more — delivered some strong creator-owned genre titles.
Grummett’s prominence seemed to wane in the wake of that endeavor, though he’s remained a constant presence in comics, notably contributing to many Marvel titles in recent years. Perhaps the brighter tone of his style fell out of vogue, but it’s a shame, because he always brings a great energy and sense of fun to his work. As demonstrated with his work on Superboy and Robin, he’s adept at instilling a convincing youthfulness in his characters, and he’s shined time and time again when playing with the creations of the late, great Jack Kirby. I’ve always enjoyed Grummett’s style, so when I got a chance to acquire a couple of pieces of original comic art on which he worked at prices that worked well within my budget, I jumped at it.
I won an eBay auction recently for a page from New Titans #58 for an affordable price. I’ve been a Titans fan since writer Marv Wolfman and artist George Perez first revived the property in the early 1980s, so I was pleased to get a piece of that bit of comics history. However, this board focuses on only one particular Titan. I was never a fan of Danny Chase, one of the youngest members of the team (introduced several years after the property was relaunched and re-energized). But despite Danny being front and center in this latest addition to my collection, I couldn’t pass it up — the chief reason being the talent involved in the crafting of the board.
With layouts by Perez, “finishes” by Grummett (an up-and-coming artist at the time – 1989) and inks by Bob McLeod, this affordably acquired board manages to show off all three artists’ styles. Perez’s influence is apparent in the background detail and figure forms, while Grummett’s slightly lighter style really comes through in Danny’s face. And then there’s the softer and smooth lines that McLeod always brings to bear in his inks.
I also like that one can see how Perez adapted a typical nine-panel grid layout into something a little different. The first tier is from that classic panel layout, but the lower two tiers have been broken up in a much different pattern. I particularly like how the central panel in the lower portion of the page conveys the depth of the high-tech shaft into which the young protagonist lowers himself.
Whenever I win an eBay auction for a piece of comic art, I invariably inquire with the seller if s/he might have other affordable boards in which I’d be interested so as to add to my collection without paying separate shipping for other pieces. The transaction for the New Titans page was a successful instance, as the seller had another sample of Grummett’s work available. We quickly agreed on a (more than) reasonable price. Another added bonus: it’s a page from a Superman comic (Adventures of Superman #561), plotted by Kesel and scripted by another stalwart contributor to the exploits of the Man of Steel, Jerry Ordway.
I think I’ve always found Clark Kent to be a more interesting character than Superman, and I suspect Clark’s choice in profession (and similar choices by so many other characters in the super-hero genre) played a part in my career in journalism. The modern portrayal of his relationship/marriage to Lois Lane and my appreciation for the Grummett’s style made adding this board onto my eBay order an easy choice.
I love how this simple, brief scene sums up a typical morning for a married couple as they prep for the day in tandem while also competing a bit. The humdrum routine makes the characters relatable, while the focus in the dialogue is on the fantastic.
This page is from 1998, and that means it was just on the edge of the shift from traditional comic and digital production. So we get pencils, inks and letters right on the same board. One can still see Grummett’s faint pencil marks on this page, just alongside Denis Rodier’s bolder inks. We’re more accustomed to seeing very clean ink work on Grummett’s pencils, be it the styles of his frequent collaborators Kesel, Doug Hazlewood or even Cory Hamscher. Here, Rodier brings a slightly looser tone to Grummett’s pencil lines, but his style still shines through. I note the thicker, more dominant lines Rodier employs to outline the characters, while finer strokes convey the draping of clothing, for example.
Both pages feature a variety of pre-digital vintage elements that always delight. I prefer to see as many of the creative and production efforts on a page of comic art as possible. We get lettering right on the boards, lettering corrections pasted on, edit marks in blueline pencils, copyright stamps on the reverse… these hit so many of those pitch-perfect process notes. The pages are also carry Grummett’s distinct signature.
Kesel and Grummett’s contribution to the afore-mentioned Gorilla line — Section Zero — was a great blend of super-hero fun and action and a mysterious X-Files sensibility. I’m thrilled to see that the pair has brought it back, almost two decades after they launched it. They held a successful Kickstarter campaign last year, raising more than $65,000, and they’re now offering a collection of the series and new material to finish the story. Section Zero: Ultra-Cool Collector’s Edition is available both as a hardcover and for digital download through their new publishing endeavor, Panic Button Press. And Kesel tells Eye on Comics that more Section Zero is forthcoming in 2019, with a second Kickstarter expected in February.
To see my entire original art collection, visit my gallery at ComicArtFans.com.