Remembering Gene Colan, Comic Book Legend

June 24, 2011 by  

Gene Colan at WonderCon 2007 (photo by Chip Mosher)

As CBR reported last night, comics creator and Eisner winner Gene Colan passed away at the age of 84 last night.

“The legacy of his artistic storytelling and abilities played a key role in cementing the enduring popularity of characters like Daredevil, Iron Man, Howard the Duck, Blade and Dr. Strange, and garnered him praise and fans the world over,” columnist George Khoury said in an obituary on Comic Book Resources this morning.

In lieu of flowers, Colan’s friend Clifford Meth is asking folks to contribute to a scholarship being set up in Colan’s name for The Kubert School. Details on how to donate can be found on Meth’s blog.

Fellow creators, fans and friends of Gene Colan are sharing memories. Here are a few; as always, click through to see the entirety of what they have to say about one of comics’ legendary artists:

Clifford Meth: “I knew this day would come but it came too quickly. It’s been a rare pleasure working with Gene. He knew who he was—how valuable his contributions to the world of comic art have been—how prized it remains by so many. Yet he never felt less than grateful to anyone who’d even read a single panel that he’d drawn. Until he was too weak to hold a pencil, he put his whole kishkes into everything he drew—whether it was a $5000 commission or a small drawing for someone’s child. And he was never satisfied with his artwork but always eager to learn a little more, do a little better, try something new. At 84.”

Mark Evanier: “Gene was so much a part of comics as long as I’ve read comics. He was the kind of artist who rarely drew less than two comics a month (sometimes, three) and I think a lot of people took him for granted. If he had drawn a handful of comics as fine as what he did in the sixties and seventies and then gotten out, readers would still be haunting their comic shops, praying for his return. I also enjoyed his friendship…and I have to tell you that the one time he drew a script of mine was one of those moments when I would have paid the company for the honor. I received Xeroxes of his pencilled pages — so much more wonderful, of course, than the printed product — and I just grinned for days…because I’d just written a comic drawn by Gene Colan. He always made everything look so damned good.”

Gene Colan Hero Initiative lithograph

Bob Greenberger: “He is a talented, enthusiastic fan of the form. Among his peers, he had one of the most distinctive art styles that was surprisingly adaptable from war to romance to horror to heroic adventure. Gene the Dean remains a titan of the field and deserves not only our accolades while he can still hear them, but our support.”

Steve Epting: “…at a dinner Marvel hosted one night his wife Adrienne came to my table and told me that Gene wanted to meet me. It turns out he had been referencing issues of Captain America that I had drawn while he was working on issue #601 and wanted to tell me how much he admired my work. Needless to say I was (and still am) floored by this. I sat and talked with him about art and sequential storytelling for longer than I probably should have, but he was still so enthusiastic about what he was doing and saw something of a kindred spirit in me I suppose, particularly in the way we both approached shadows and spotting blacks. I could never hope to be in Gene’s class as an illustrator or storyteller, but I can try to live up to the praise he gave my work, even if he was being overly generous in giving it.”

Scott Allie: “Gene hated the way his pencils looked after being inked by someone else, although I’d say it was no better to see the result of early computer coloring over his beautiful, un-inked pencil drawings. By 1998, he had tried to avoid inks for a long time. Colorists had started experimenting with coloring directly over pencils, and there had been reasonably good results. But not many. Gene knew what he wanted his work to look like, but had yet to achieve it, and it was in working with Gene that Dave nailed down the techniques that would later make it possible for him to do his award-winning work with Cary Nord on Conan, and on his recent Solomon Kane covers, where he convinced the celebrated oil painter Greg Manchess to let him color over his grey washes.”

Mark Millar: “I first discovered Gene Colan in the Dracula pocket-books, reprinted here in Scotland when I was ten. When I think of his art it’s always in black and white because Marvel UK is where I was most exposed to it, but I also feel it’s where it looked best. Dick Giordano is a massive Batman fan and when he became editor of the books in 1980 he nabbed Gerry Conway, Gene and Don Newton who were all at the top of their game, producing I think the most underrated run on Batman ever. I loved seeing Gene drawing superheroes because he brought a realistic, painterly quality, a European brush-line to the characters that made them look like people in unusual clothes as opposed to the cardboard cut-out figures icons we’re generally used to. His Superman looked like a brooding Brando, never moreso than the beautiful, spooky Phantom Zone mini-series he did with Steve Gerber. Bryan Hitch and I would reference his stuff regularly when we were on Ultimates, that quiet naturalism John Buscema (and Hitchy himself) was so good at very evident in every page of his work.”

Scott McCloud: “The first full run of a comic book series that I read was Daredevil (lent to me by Kurt Busiek in middle school), including many issues drawn by Gene. The first drawing I made of an established comic book character may well have been based on images he created for that series.”

Heidi MacDonald: “Colan was part of the glorious ’60s Bullpen era with work on Iron Man, Dr. Strange, and especially Daredevil — it was great, pioneering work, dynamic with an unusual style that was a whole different school from the angular Kirby, more fluid, and observed. As great as his superhero work was, he found an even better fit for his style in the ’70s with a 70-issue run on TOMB OF DRACULA — despite the lurid title, Colan’s artwork, always sensitive to small nuances of characters, perfectly mirrored the horror soap opera that Marv Wolfman crafted.”

Brian Fies: “I first saw Gene’s work in the pages of Marvel’s ‘Avengers’ series. He wasn’t best known for doing that book–in that period he was much more closely associated with ‘Daredevil’ and ‘Iron Man’–but I read and collected the ‘Avengers’ so that’s where I found him. He had an instantly recognizable style unlike anyone else’s in the business. His compositions and figures were fluid, like they were poured onto the page with liquid mercury. Arms and eyelids and staircases and cityscapes thrust back and forth between shadow and light. His art was energetic and peerlessly graceful. It was also unique. In a business in which success is quickly imitated–where originals like Neal Adams and Frank Miller and Alex Toth have dozens of clones–no one ever copied Gene Colan. No one could.”

Jim Lee: “Gene Colan was like no other artist of his generation. His ability to create dramatic, multi-valued tonal illustrations using straight india ink and board was unparalleled. The comics industry has lost one of its true visionaries.”

Dan DiDio: “Gene Colan was one of the great draftsmen in the industry and his work is a fond part of some of my best comic book memories.”

Vaneta Rogers has rounded up some others over at Newsarama.

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