Original Art Stories: Gene Colan, Part I

I was deeply shocked and saddened to read this email, which crossed my desk this evening. From Gene Colan's wife, Adrienne, it documents Gene's current health problems. With Adrienne and Gene's permission I'm posting it here, and there'll be a plea at the end of the email itself. Not for money, but for a simple act of appreciation.


My darling, sweet, handsome and brilliantly gifted husband's liver is failing. The complications are very nasty. This week it's fluid retention and encephalitis. He's on powerful meds now to diminish the symptoms. He sleeps a lot and has very little energy. He wants you all to know how badly he wanted to attend the convention. He so seriously wanted to see you all and shoot the breeze.

Not sure how long we have left together, but our family whole and we'll be taking this sad journey together and nearby.

Anyone with commissions outstanding, I'll have a sense within the next couple of weeks if he can fulfill them, if not, please don't worry, I'll return your monies promptly. I don't want to pull the rug out from under him. But if he can do anything, he'll need to finish the 10 pgs. remaining on his 38 pg. Captain America Civil War for Marvel.

You all know how you've enriched Gene's life by coming forward and being a part of his. :)

So what's the plea? A simple one. Most people of a certain age are more than aware of Gene Colan and his art. He's one of those artists who amazed us back in the day with what he could do and he influenced a lot of those who came since. Be it his Marvel work of the '60s and '70s, or his DC work of the '80s or just his stunning commissions, he's had a genuine impact. To that end, and with the full knowledge and permission of the Colan family, I'm asking for anyone and everyone who's been touched by Gene's talent to send him a get well card. Nothing more, just a card and a short note to tell Gene how much he's meant. You can send the cards to this address:

Gene Colan
2 Sea Cliff Avenue
Sea Cliff, NY 11579

If you admire Gene then let him know. Let him know that people out there are thinking of him. And watch this space - I'm working on something more to celebrate the life and art of Gene - the man can never too many tributes!


Anonymous said…
Gene and Adrienne, two of the nicest people I have meet in the comic book business in the last 30 years. I have gotten a few commissions from them over the years and they always treat you with respect and like family.Here is to hoping that Gene starts feeling and getting better.
Anonymous said…
I'm a huge Gene Colan fan. His run on Daredevil is one of the all-time classics. I'll get a get well out to him right away. Thanks for letting us know Danny. George "The Stooges"
Anonymous said…
I'm very sorry to hear of Gene's recent problems. I was looking forward to seeing him again in San Diego. I hope he will get well soon.
Ralph Mathieu said…
Gene, I hope you get well soon. I've always loved your art and your Tomb of Dracula was one of the very best titles in the 1970's. I epecially liked the work you did with Don McGregor and Steve Gerber (and I appreciated how you always had nice things to say about working with Gerber).

Ralph Mathieu
cliff pooley said…
When I was just a small kid back in the 60's, I saw the cover to Tales of Suspense #73 and fell in love with the artwork. I couldn't wait to pick up the next issue and then the next and so on. I remember being so disappointed when the big fight between Iron Man and the Submariner wasn't drawn by the regular artist (who I later discovered was Mr Colan) - to think I was disappointed that Jolly Jack was the artist! but to this wide eyed kid, Mr Colan was THE Iron Man artist. Mr Colan was the artist who got me into drawing and made me keep redoing my scribblings until I got them as close as I could to what Mr Colan has done (or so that young boy thought).

I salute you sir for making my first foray into the world of super heroes such a pleasurable one. I wish you well and hope you get better soon. In the meantime, I will dig out those issues of Tales of Suspense and i'll be that young kid all over again.

Thank you Mr Colan.
Predabot said…
Man, this is horrible…! :( I hope Mr Colan will pull trough this and have many more years of full-filling artistic work ahead of him.

Maybe the family could set up an account that you can give donations too, as well as the auctions?

I know that I myself would never be able to afford what the auctioned pieces will sell for, but I would be able to give a small monetary contribution.
Anonymous said…
Gene Colan has made countless people happy through his work alone, let alone by being the kind of guy he seems by all accounts to be. I hope he knows that he continues to make people of all ages happy even today - I literally was at my local comic store just this afternoon and delighted a kid with some of his Iron Man work.
Barry Pearl said…
There were few things that made me happier than opening a comic, in the 1960s, and seeing that “Adam Austin,” that is, Gene Colan was the artist. His work was moving and sometimes breathtaking. I have never been turned down asking for an autograph. Of course I have been to only one book signing and have asked for maybe five autographs. GENE COLAN, who was sitting next to Tom Palmer and promptly agreed to sign one for me. Julius Schwartz called to him and he'd said be back in a moment. I asked him if he could start signing it and I’d have Palmer finish it. He left and that was that. It would take me six more years to get that autograph!
The MARVEL AGE was built on the foundation created by Jack Kirby, Stan Lee and Steve Ditko. They gave us the original look and feel of the Marvel Universe. The only other artist to create more than one marquee character was Bill Everett, who gave us The Sub-Mariner and Daredevil.
Among the next wave of creators was Gene Colan, who was introduced as Adam Austin, when The Sub-Mariner began his run in “TALES TO ASTONISH” #70. Colan was one of the most talented people who helped enlarged and prolong the MARVEL AGE. Gene Colan preformed two comic book miracles, maybe three.
The first was Iron Man. Tony Stark was a man trapped in armor and until Gene Colan got there he seemed more like a robot with a man’s brain. Colan was able to show us the man inside. He became a living breathing human being. In fact, when Stark suffered, you suffered; when he smiled, you smiled; and when he was hurt you began to feel it. For the first time you were able to, or at least I was able to, relate to the man inside. When he left no one was able to bring that much humanity back to the character.
Next came Dr. Strange. No real good artist can be replaced, their styles are too individual. After Steve Ditko left Dr. Strange, none of the new artists gave you the feeling that you were in another dimension like Ditko did, until Colan. Gene Colan’s style here brought you back to unreality, but in a style quite different from Ditko’s. While Ditko’s world was stagnating, dark and wet, Colan was a swirling, moving, uncomfortable place of great imagination.
His final “near” miracle was Daredevil. Daredevil was blind, for gosh sakes, and no one could do what he did sighted. This includes virtually flying through the air using a billy club like Spider-Man used his webs. But Colan’s artwork was so beautiful, so full of action and motion, that you just forgot all the impossible stuff and just sat back and enjoyed the show.
In an underwater world, the swirling movement made a great environment for The Sub-Mariner. It was Gene who made me a fan of the Sub-Mariner. He took the Lee/Kirby version, the only version I had known, of a super-villain and made him a heroic, complex figure. I swear Colan drew him underwater, his artwork was so suited to the task. It was such a disappointment when he left.
Like Namor, Dracula often existed in a real world and an imaginative one and no one was better than creating those worlds than Gene Colan. In fact, the run of Tomb of Dracula was my last regular marvel comic. By the way, Colan drew some of the most beautiful women in the world of comics.
Oh yes, Nick Caputo and Mike Vassallo introduced me to Gene and the charming Adrienne at the NY Conn last year. He couldn’t have been nicer and gave me that autograph and let us take a few pictures.
Scott said…
Gene and Adrienne, you are in my prayers. I can't remember the first time I saw Gene Colan art in a comic book (Daredevil? probably), but I do know that the first piece of art I ever bought was a beautiful page of Batman in a rainstorm at night. It was classic Colan, so moody and evocative that I can't begin to describe it. Thanks for sharing your beautiful art with us Gene. you are loved and appreciated.

--Scott Rowland
bermudaman44 said…
Oh my goodness. This news is . . . not good. I join with others here in expressing my support and prayers for recovery. For reasons too numerous for this venue, I've yet to attend a major comic-con. I feel I've missed out on meeting the creators of my heroes. Bur something really sweet and kind happened for me a few years ago. On a whim, I sent and email to Mr. Colan, something about Dr. Strange I'm sure. What occured? He sent me a reply--personalized. I was floored. I felt like a kid from the 1960s all over again. I gather from reading Internet articles how much he loved doing DD. Even though I have most all DD isses he pencilled, my favorite work of his involved the good Doctor, specifically his portrayal of Clea (wonder why)--in my mind the definitive version of the character. I loved his work since the days of "Adam Austin," followed his work over to DC, relished the wonder of Howard, and immersed myself in the power seen in TOD. To the Colan family--my prayers are with you all

Anonymous said…
I stumbled upon Gene Colan's website several years ago and posted a brief thank you for his work on DD, Iron Man, Tales of Suspense, etc over the years and how much his style defined Tony Stark and Iron Man for years.

To my GREAT surprise, I got an nice short email thanking me for my kind words!
This is the ONLY time a creator had responded in person to anything I had ever said.

Last year or so, I was fortunate to stumble upon a "live" podcast interview of Gene on Comic Geek Speak, and listened with fascination to the voice that belonged to this talented artist. I was so surprised. Although it is not a complete comparison to make, I was reminded slightly of Truman Capote, and the false impressions that one could get if they only listened to the voice without knowing the tremendous talent behind the name.

I'm sending a card today. I encourage others to express their appreciation before another giant slips away.

Thank you Gene for years of entertainment. You are one of the great Marvel artists for 1960s fans.
Gene is a wonderful artist. His run in Incredible Hulk comics is short; so we (the Hulk fans) would love to see him extend it! Here's my humble tribute to you, Gene: Hulk Artists: Gene Colan Bio. I hope you get better very soon!!
Unknown said…
I love Gene Colan's work and have ever since I saw his tiny panels excerpted for How to Draw Comics the Marvel Way. Even among samples from such giants as Jack Kirby and John Buscema, Gene's shadowy figures and unusual angles hooked me.

I donated via PayPal... I hope many other Gene Colan fans are doing the same to help his family through this difficult time.
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…
Gene and your family will be in our thoughts. Wishing you the best. - Ben Smith
MFC Studios said…
I'll make sure to mention it on my show. Hope it will help
Anonymous said…
I had the pleasure of meeting Gene and Adrienne at my first San Diego Comic Con (1999?)

My favorite of his work would have to include: Daredevil, Iron Man, Sub-Mariner, Howard The Duck, Jungle Action, and Tomb of Dracula.

His Batman, Wonder Woman, Nathaniel Dusk, and Silverblade weren't too shabby either. :)

With the current Iron Man movie, I've been doing some Silver Age Iron Man reviews, including some Tales of Suspense by Gene Colan.

Here are the links:



For me, Gene Colan (along with Don Heck) are the versions of Iron Man that I see first in my mind's eye.

Get well, Mr. Colan, and thanks from this longtime reader.

Steve Chung
I am old enough to remember Gene Colan's work, and being blown away by the illustrative quality of it, compared to the cheesy work of others in his peer group The man is an amazing talent.
Anonymous said…
Gene Colan's art - "painting with pencils" - is truly timeless and a tribute to the personality of "the Dean" by itself. I'm sure there must be a line of people spanning the globe wishing Gene Colan a speedy return to good health. In my case, the spot on the map to which his oeuvre has brought so much pleasure over the past 30+ years is Switzerland.
Anonymous said…
I can't begin to tell you how sad and upset I am to hear of Gene Colan's illness, he has been my favorite artist ever since Daredevil 20, I have several pieces of Mr Colan's art framed and on my walls, comic pages as well as commissions I've bought from him over the years, everytime I've emailed him and Adrienne, they've emailed me right back, thanking me for my comments. Gene and Adrienne, you are in my prayers.

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