Original Art Stories: Gene Colan, Part II, A Living Tribute, Part II
When I went to work for Marvel, I was surrounded by giants--Kirby, Romita, Everett, Giacoia, Sinnott, Buscema, Ayers and many others. And then there was Gene, with his powerful classic flowing style, his well defined blacks and exciting composition. I was a piker in this company and I knew it. I was on Mount Olympus and the heights were dizzying. Only through the Grace of Stan and his Upstairs Man could I maintain a viable position among such ranks. I have to say one thing: This generation consisted of people of modesty. They, and particularly Gene, had no delusions of being anything but what they presented themselves to be--comic book artists, doing the job, making a buck. But to me, they were comics' greatest generation--where then, still are. Using this a model, I began a career in comics. The fact that I lasted as long as I did in the comic business is a tribute to Gene and to the others that came from the same mold. Gene, if you are reading this, I wish you the best and want you to know that my and my family's prayers are with you. God bless.
I am a HUGE Gene Colan fan. He is someone I always point to when the discussion arrives at mood conveyed in comics. I can't think of anyone better at illustrating grace than Gene. His figures, from pose to line, seem to effortlessly portray motion, carrying the eye through the movement to the visual destination/ intended focal point. My first and favourite memory of Gene's work is the "Thief of Night" story arc from Batman and Detective Comics. Only Gene could have captured Bruce Wayne's anxiety over losing custody of his ward, and Batman's anxiety over losing control of Gotham City's nights with equal pathos and sincerity.
I wish Gene and his family all the best, and send a heartfelt thank you to a man who had such a strong influence on my own aesthetic and taste in art.
Looking back on the Marvel Comics of the 60's, Gene Colan was a unique, and singular, artistic voice. While most other Marvel artists—with the notable exception of Steve Ditko—followed in the great Jack Kirby's footsteps, Colan was...well, he was Colan: his work on IRON MAN, CAPTAIN AMERICA, SUB-MARINER and (my personal favorite) DOCTOR STRANGE was moody, emotional, subtle, idiosyncratic and elegant. (Not a word you can apply to a lot of comic book art.) You couldn't confuse him with anybody else. He got even better in the 70's with his extraordinary run on TOMB OF DRACULA, a series that seemed tailor made just for him.
When I started at Marvel in the early 1980's, I wrote a couple of stories, for the black and white RAMPAGING HULK magazine, that Gene drew. I had yet to come into my own as a writer—I wouldn't find my own distinctive voice for a few more years—but Colan took those stories, warts and all, and knocked them out of the park. I'm sorry I never had the chance to work with him again: it would have been great to write Gene a story worthy of his enormous talent.
I'd like to add my two cents. I've been a fan of Gene's work since I was a youngster with his first issues of Daredevil. Much, much later in life, I discovered that my favorite artists sometimes did commission work. Gene was near the top of the list for all of the obvious reasons. My wonderful wife contacted Gene and Adrienne to arrange a commission of Daredevil and Black Widow. My full description read "DD and BW swinging around town."
With that trivial description, Gene created the attached for me. It is amazing.
But as great as the drawing is - and it is one of the most viewed and commented on in my CAF and in Gene's - the thing that most impressed me was they way he treated my wife.
Gene's notes to Kathy were kind and enthusiastic. Kathy's not a huge comic OA fan and didn't really know what I wanted, but Gene couldn't have been kinder working with her on all the details. She really appreciated it and I am grateful to him for his patience as well as his skill and timeliness. A great artist and a wonderful person.
Gene all my best. You and your family will be in our prayers.
I'm José Luis, 29, from Madrid, Spain. I've been a fan of Mr. Colan work since I was aware of who were doing the comic-books I liked so much. I love his work on Daredevil & Iron Man, but specially, in Tomb of Dracula. This is my fav. comic book ever and the art of Gene in this book never ceases to amaze me. When I was a child and readed it for the first time I was totally petrified, I even got nightmares at bed! I even met my girlfriend at a proyection of Tomb of Dracula's anime, and raving with her about the comics. Mr. Colan, you got to get well and visit Spain. You got a lot of fans overseas who will be delighted of thank you, personally, for so many years of sharing your talent with us.
All the best.
As a child, reading and collecting comic books, Gene Colan was one of the few select artists whose work was filed in its own category rather than by the series titles, in which much of my comics collection was arranged. That's how it was for an aspiring artist such as I who differentiated between the conventional comics and those which stood out in craftsmanship and style. Gene's work always struck me as being accomplished art, as relative to much of what the comics industry was producing... and only a handful of artists impressed me as such at that young age. Which wasn't to diminish from the work of anyone else who didn't receive this special attention. It was rather a distinction made in order to more easily reference the type of art that I sought to influence my own during this primordial stage of self-training, on the road to perhaps becoming a comic book artist myself one day.
More than anything else, Gene Colan's art exuded a rhythm and grace in structure, composition and drawing technique, that stood out from amongst the more forceful and sometimes overly dramatic styles emerging in the late 1960's and 70's. It was a sort of grace mixed with an air of humility that was felt even in the acting of the characters he drew. His people were more human and realistic, not only in drawing proficiency but mainly in how they felt and the impression they made on the reader. Combined with his striking use of shadows as an integral part of the art, often forsaking a sharp linear delineation, all these contributed to bringing Gene Colan's art into the forefront of the comics medium of his time.
This magic became profusely magnified upon becoming a comic book artist myself and coming into contact with his original pencil art, and seeing first hand the source of its strength. It was here that I came to understand that what made Gene's work so magical was inherent in the investment he made in the pencil stage, treating it as if it was the finished work that would be used for print. It was this integrity that distinguished his pencils, regardless of who inked them.
For the generation of aspiring comic book artists of the 1970's, Gene Colan's pencil work was a primary reference for craftsmanship, technique and artistic proficiency. His evident dedication became a source of added inspiration that subliminally influenced an entire generation of comic book artists. The type of influence that inspired an investment in the totality of the craft, though it might not have always been stylistically visible in everyone's work. This is perhaps of the greatest legacies that Gene Colan has given to the craft of comic book art. Integrity, grace... and a humility, both in his work, and in the character of the artist evident within it.
It is difficult to fathom that such a landmark artist of the comics medium, one who gave us the memorable runs on Daredevil, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Tomb of Dracula, and co-creator of properties such as Howard the Duck... an artist who helped shape the comics revolution sweeping our culture... that such a venerable personality of the medium would be in the position that Clifford Meth and Daniel Best describe today.
Deteriorating health conditions and a difficulty in coping with rising medicinal expenses are once again raising a call for action from the comics community to help level the playing field for one of our very own... and very dearly beloved.
I am saddened to announce that Gene Colan is suffering liver failure. He is not entirely aware of this and need not be told. To make matters worse, his wife reports that they have zero pharmaceutical coverage and are paying crippling prices for meds. To alleviate this--to show our support for a man who has meant so much to our industry, and to many of us personally--I am coordinating efforts to raise money for the family the traditional way. Please join my friends Harlan Ellison, Neal Adams, Neil Gaiman, Stan Lee, Marv Wolfman and Peter David in contributing a drawing or a page or some signed books to aid this effort. Details of the auction will be announced at my blog
I can be reached via email here.
Thank you in advance for your support.
And here ends part two of this living tribute. I've been told that Gene is enjoying this so keep 'em coming. If you want to be part of this then drop me a line and let the world, and more importantly, let Gene how you feel about him.
In the meantime my good friend Clifford Meth is gathering items for a more substantial effort on Gene's behalf. Check out Cliff's blog and get in touch with him as well - let's help Gene with everything we have.