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:
2 Sea Cliff Avenue
Sea Cliff, NY 11579
I've always liked Gene Colan's art. Always. I can't think of a time when I didn't. I grew up on the stuff. In the Newtons, in the Yaffas, it made no difference, all that great Marvel material, and then later via the K.G. Murrays with all of the DC work, all in glorious black and white. I found Gene's moody work and placement of shadows second to none. And he was able to scare the pants off me. He was that good.
Gene's art varied in quality depending on the inkers he was assigned. With Tom Palmer it was something special. Alan Weiss, on those all too few covers, make Gene sparkle, as did a few others. No matter how bad the inks the pencils always revealed something magic.
As time passed I found myself doing this very site. In it's original conception. I wanted interviews with people who were un-obtainable to me. I sent out a few emails and never expected any replies. I was stunned when the first one who replied with a 'Yes' was Gene Colan. I pinched myself. "Gene freaking COLAN!" I screamed. I stayed awake all night and made the call. I was lucky. I not only got to interview Gene I got to tell him how much I adored his art back then and still do now. He was very gracious, I'm sure he'd heard the same story a hundred times from a hundred adults who were once kids. I liked Gene even more when we started to talk about the old Universal Horror films. I'd grown up watching those as well and always suspected that they played a large part in Gene's inspiration. I felt good knowing I'd hit the mark. When I finally launched the site Gene sent a lovely email of congratulations. You could say that it's because of Gene Colan that I do what I now. Thank him, or blame him, but I'm glad that he is who he is - a damn nice guy.
So when I first discovered Gene was ill I wanted to do something for him. I wanted to help lift his spirits. Then I realised that too often people leave it until someone has left us before they tell us how much they cared. With this in mind I send out a few emails asking people to share their memories and thoughts of Gene, both as a man and as an artist. The replies I got staggered me. I knew that people cared, but the sheer outpouring of raw emotion was incredible. Without any further word from me here's all of the tributes that were posted on our blog, starting with the original letter from Adrienne.
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. :)
I only met Gene once, in passing, at a convention appearance (he was very gracious). However, he's always been one of my favorite comics artists, and a great visual artist in general (as his website well shows). I loved from an early age the fluid and realistic understanding of light and shadow demonstrated in his work.
Gene has always been one of my heroes. I moved to NYC in 1971 and started renewing my childhood interest in comics at the same time. Wow, was I ever bowled over by Gene's Daredevil. Not only was it brilliantly drawn but he was recreating the city in which I had just arrived. Even channel seven news showed up (Roger Grimsby as I recall). Nobody could draw the city like Gene. For that matter nobody could draw anything like Gene. After I became a comic artist, I tried swiping him but it was impossible. Gene was too one of a kind and my swipes always stood out like sore thumbs but his photographic, low angle, telescopic lens shots were too seductive not to at least give it a try.
In the late seventies I got to know Gene just a little and all too briefly when he and Marv Wolfman incorporated my stage version of Dracula into the Tomb of Dracula comic book. For three or four pages and a glorious cover, Gene drew the Marvel Dracula coming to The Cherry Lane Theatre to see the play ( and of course, practically destroying the theatre.) Seeing those pages in print were one of the biggest thrills of my career.
Gene is a generous, genius gentleman -- an inspiration and subject of my awe. He's both a pioneer and a guy who's always been years ahead of his time.
Besides being a wonderful person, Gene was definitely one of my artistic heroes. I also consider him one of the most unique artists Marvel ever used and a great "stylist". When I pencil, I've always visualized his pencils, as a model for the quality I'm going after.
Archie Comics, Charlton, DC, Dark Horse, Dell, Fiction House, Marvel and St. John.
The Avengers, Batman, Blackhawk, Captain America, Captain Storm, Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Dracula, Hopalong Cassidy, the Hulk, Iron Man, Spectre, the Sub-Mariner and Wonder Woman.
A diverse grouping? Most assuredly. The common thread? Gene Colan.
There's something to be said for having an artistic specialty, but how about the ability to move seamlessly between genres as varied as horror, romance, western, war and superhero? All have been accomplished successfully by the skillful pencils and inks of Gene Colan in a career that has spanned seven decades! His contribution to the medium is tremendous and his work has given awe and inspiration to countless numbers of satisfied readers of sequential art. Gene is the man!
My first encounter with Gene Colan's work was in Tales to Astonish #71 (a Marvel Pop Art production)! I continued to follow his work at Marvel thru Iron Man and Daredevil and especially his murkily brilliant Doctor Strange. I was still a kid learning to draw at the time and I copied a lot of artists' styles, principally Kirby and Steranko. I never tried to copy Colan's work when I was a kid, tho. Reason is the same as most and the reason you don't see any Colan imitators: Gene is unique, his universe is unique, and we've all been very privileged to to be allowed a glimpse inside that shadowy, misty, mysterious realm. I long for another visit to it. Hopefully we'll see Gene's Captain America soon.
I met Gene much later. Before I even got to meet him, I worked over his pencils on the black and white Howard the Duck magazine, the Tomb of Dracula magazine, and the Rampaging Hulk magazine. Working on Howard was my favorite, tho. I identified with the character. I just hope I'm not quite as big a jerk as Howard got to be under Bill Mantlo. I never wanted Howard and Beverly to break up, even tho the story where they did was an artistic triumph for me as an inker.
I finally met Gene when he was in the office reworking a Captain America splash. Cap was in the water, swimming in New York Harbor (yecch!) with a Coast Guard Cutter behind him. Being a callow youth of 26 or so, I presumed to kibitz on his detailing of the cutter. It was missing the shield and racing stripe. Gene, a meticulous researcher, obviously had not been able to get up-to-date photos in that pre-internet age. I'd been in the Coast Guard only a few years before, so I pulled out my lighter with the insignia on it for Gene to work from. He reproduced the emblem perfectly, of course. That wasn't the amazing part, tho.
Gene already had the ship drawn, I think, before he came into the office. I watched him draw Cap's head. I had never seen anything like it. He simply started with an eye and worked out from there. It was astounding. No oval for the head, no crossbars to line up the features, NOTHING. A beautifully detailed head took shape--and form!--before my eyes, as if by magic. Graphite seemed to simply flow onto the page to create the trademark Colan shadows on Cap.
Gene later went on to DC. I wandered all over the place and wound up in the animation biz.
Gene and I re-connected at the first New York Comic Con at the Javits Center. He was wonderful, of course, as was Adrienne. In the ensuing few years we've become closer. The Colans were very supportive of me last year when I had my cancer operation (I'm fine now, thank you). They would have come to the V.A. Hospital to visit me if I'd given them the info of where I was, exactly. As it was they tried to call me but I couldn't be reached at the time since I was in intensive care with tubes stuck in me. Frankly, I felt like a Berni Wrightson drawing and somehow didn't want them to see me like that.
Gene and I had planned to get together for lunch after I completed my chemotherapy program. Somehow it never quite happened.
So hang in there, Gene! You have to finish that Captain America job and you owe me a lunch date!
There’s no way to express my feelings about Gene Colan in a few words in an email communique.
Gene is one of comicdom’s true immortals. He’s not just a comicbook artist; he’s an artist in the truest sense of the word.
Place one of Gene’s incomparable drawings in the middle of hundreds of others and you can pick his out as clearly as if a beacon is shining on it. Gene has his own sense of style and rhythm and layout and story interpretation. He has a cinematic way of illustrating a story and he never deviates from his unique and inimitable style.
When I was Gene’s editor, I could give him any story, about any subject, featuring any hero or villain or whomever and I never had to give it a second thought. Gene’s artwork is never less than the very best, always exciting, always colorful, always highly dramatic and always the finest representation of Art—with a capital A.
On a personal note—Gene Colan is a gentleman. Honorable, dependable and loyal. I’m proud to call him my friend.
Gene Colan. Gezz, I knew I loved the guy's work but my fingers are trembling as I type this. Comics have always been hugely important to me. They probably brought me more joy than anything in my life, except for maybe women (and what can compare to women?). And also more pain as I've tried to make my way through this cockamamie industry - that's how much they mean to me - no one hurts you like the one you love.
But Colan ... you go up and down with who your favourite of all time is. Kirby was they guy who took me out of this world and put me in another one after which I never wanted to be anything so much as a guy who created comics. Steranko mesmerised me, Buscema awed me and still does: he became the guy I wanted to emulate. But Colan, Colan, there was something about his work. You couldn't work out how he did it. I wanted to emulate Big John because I thought I could, but Colan, what he did was so bold and yet so subtle. Daredevil was always one of my favourite strips and it was because of Colan. I loved Stan's scripts but Colan just raised it to an entire new level. I used to anticipate the splash! Colan would always give you an extra one. Daredevil on the edge of the Trapster's floating disc, or just sweeping down the side of a building. Foggy and Karen were real people - no one could make a bunch of people having a conversation as entertaining to look at as Colan. And then when you got an inker like Syd Shores or - sharp intake of breath - Tom Palmer - could it get better? Could it get better? I don't think so. The bar has been raised pretty high these days. But the Sixties is the High Renaissance of comics and whoever you think might be Leonardo, Raphael and Michelangelo (and I'm not talking Ninja Turtles) Colan has to be one of them. Colan is a God, an Olympian. It doesn't age.
Kirby, Buscema, Adams, I'm still drawing on their stuff all the time, but I see Colan creeping out every now and then and it excites me no end. I've breathed in the stuff so often I'm starting to breath a little of it out. I don't see it too many places. The man must have a legion of admirers but maybe not that many followers, because, like I say, it's too hard to emulate. Mazzuchelli (there's another genius) did it on DD and I see it in some of the great Tom Mandrake's work. Particularly when I'm trying to do some suited figure in vigorous action I think, c'mon, gimme a little Colan here, that beautiful looseness and the way the cuff sort of flaps about. Colan was one of the few guys who could draw a guy flying through the air in a suit (creamed by Daredevil's fists no doubt) and make it look as interesting as a guy in a costume.
Colan on Dr Strange, with the inimitable Mr P. The layouts, no one has been more innovative! Sub-Mariner, Captain Marvel, Iron-Man. I was a Marvel nut. I loved it all, so I loved Iron Man. Could I love it more? Yep - when Done Heck (no mean talent) was replaced by Colan (Adam Austen) my God! People in comics can draw that good!
Kirby is a God, too. No doubt. He set the Marvel style but, for my money, in the game of dynamics he created, one or two people beat him at it - Buscema, and Colan. Gene could make it come off the page. If he has a peer in that regard, he has no superior. My God look at some of those spreads and covers! Iron Man facing off against the Melter on the cover of Suspense - Bucky holding up a rock over Cap on Captain America (what a run of issues that was!).
I was in Holland with my brother last year - he's an Adam's nut. Adams or Buscema: that's our big debate. But when the conversation turns to Gene there's no disagreement. It doesn't age, he said, like Adams, it's as fresh today as when it was born. And he went to his bookcase full of hardcover slipcase editions of everything from Sin City to The Authority and brought out a book dedicated to Colan -I can't remember the title - a Portrait in Shadows? And then he went off to bed and I sat there and read for half the night. Colan.
When I see a script someone wants me to illustrate, I say cool, good story, but look at the action pages, I want three four panels, max! LOOK AT THE WAY COLAN DOES IT! That's how I want my pages to look and Colan got it to look that way by pacing it himself - so what if he had to cram a little at the end. He knew what he was doing. it was magic. I read with great sadness about the hard years when Shooter was riding Gene's butt about his working methods. Man, it's Colan. Hello? You don't give a master a manual. Sure, Shooter knew his stuff. He is a genius in his own right, but he just got it wrong there. You give a guy like Colan his head and he'll give you something beautiful, every time. You don't lock him in traces and run him around a little track - here we go Gene, see, one foot after the other, cool, everyone knows where we're going, especially me who's holding the reigns - no, you set him free and let him run around the paddock bucking and kicking and he'll put on a show the crowd will come back for time and again. And John Byrne. Pfft! I don't want to rub it in, dude, you're probably old and wise enough to wish you could erase that shameful episode yourself now, but any creator confident about their own position in the pecking order is going to know better than to go up against a Titan. John Byrne is a terrific writer (which is more than a lot of my writer friends will concede) and he's been a restless innovator and worked hard on his craft (as long as I followed his work). I don't take anything away from John Byrne, but he can't be compared to a Colan - when it comes to drawing - and probably never will be on the best day of his life. I love Byrne's stuff, don't get me wrong. On a scale of 1-100 if the average professional is at 50, he's probably way up around 75-80. But you see how he does it. The formula is transparent. It just isn't as inspired. Like a musician who know ever chord and technique and can cobble together a great solo, you sound cool until Hendrix walks in the room. Or Charlie Parker. You can warble well, and have a room on it's feet, but if Stevie Wonder gets up to do a guest spot, you just know you're going to be eclipsed. That's just the way it is. There's great and there's something beyond that and that's what Colan is to me and those who appreciate him for what he is (and maybe that's what burns Byrne).
I'm about to launch into a 5-issue mini series I'm writing and drawing and Gene is in the forefront of my mind - yep, way before I got this email alerting me to his current troubles. Sure, there are other people who I'll have looking over my shoulder, but Gene is one of the elder gods. When I'm struggling for a dynamic layout, dramatic lighting, that bit of extra action in the page, it's his stuff I'll be thinking of.
I better wind this up. I could go on and on about Colan forever, but other people have their thoughts and feelings to express so I'll get out of the way. But I'll just finish with a final anecdote. I had the great pleasure of meeting Marv Wolfman at a recent con here in Australia and I went to show him my portfolio, but mainly I was looking for an excuse to ask him about Gene. I loved Marv's writing on the Titans and Superman and Batman particularly. But I could hardly remember who Marv was and what he'd done when I met him because all I could think about was that he was this guy who'd worked so much and closely with GENE COLAN, and that's all I wanted to talk about to Marv. The poor guy, you'd think he hadn't had a career of his own.
Colan hit me like a cyclone in my formative years as an artist, and the winds keep blowing back ever since, and they've freshened and grown to hurricane level again in recent years. Time does a lot to establish the true worth of an artist and separates that faddish from what is truly lasting. The Marvel stuff from the 60's and seventies is engraved in my brain. And Nathanial Dusk and Nightforce, I'm starting to collect his other DC work now. I Picked up Wolverine Essentials 2 the other day - dominated by the brilliant Marc Silvestri - but nothing thrilled me more than seeing a story I'd never read before that Colan drew and inked himself (and seeing Big John ink himself after years of churning out Conan layouts was pretty cool too).
So all the best to Gene Colan and his family. My God the man has spread a lot of joy through the world with his talent. God bless.
- Jan Scherpenhuizen
Back in the day I had the pleasure to ink quite a few jobs penciled by GENE COLAN. It was a thrill for me, because as a fan, I loved his stuff. He had what actors call a unique "voice." What I mean by that is that his work was not like anything else published then and now. I guess he was most famous for his superhero work, which I loved, but I think Gene was at his artistic best when he worked for Warren Publication's: CREEPY, EERIE, and BLAZING COMBAT. Gene created many memorable stories for Editor/ Writer Archie Goodwin, which he rendered in grey tone wash with an incredible sense of speed, confidence and spontaneity; wielding a brush with the skill of a master swordsman. Check out his Vietnam war tale in Blazing Combat 4. Just great.
I loved inking his stuff, and did so when Gene worked for DC. Hi pencils had lots of black, and it was illustrative rather than cartoon-y, which excited me creatively. Gene's work was also very intimidating for me as well. His penciling style was intuitive and expressionistic, rather than literal and ordinary. Gene's style allowed for a lot of interpretation on my part, and I always hoped that the line I placed in black worked over his tonal drawing. In the end, every ink line for me was a creative choice, and inking Gene really helped me to understand that inking was an
interpretive craft which required a lot of focus and skill. Some days I was up to it, so I thought, and other days...well, I wished I could have had another shot at it. In any case, I rarely had more fun as an inker, and I guess, all there is left to say is...Thanks Gene!
I am a fan of yours from Sri Lanka...
I love your pencils... So unique and so great.
I wish you all the best to get well soon...
to be back at the drawing board where you belong...
from Sri Lanka
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 have never had the honor to meet Gene, but he is one of my icons. His moody and distorted work on such titles as Doctor Strange and Howard the Duck was such an integral part of my life. I look back to those times and remember the great times along with Gene's phenomenal work.
Gene, thanks for the memories.
Peace and health,
-Bill Banick, RYT
Of course I remember Gene Colan’s epic work on Daredevil, Captain America, Iron Man, Sub-Mariner and Doctor Strange, who doesn’t? But Gene also was also one of the few Marvel Comics artists that took risks with his work in both layout and design. Daredevil #44 - #46 was truly groundbreaking in its use of angled panels and cinematic flow. Gene’s experimentation didn’t end there. It was the variety filled pages of Marvel Super-Heroes where Gene created his most bizarre and captivating works.
One in particular was The Guardians of the Galaxy in MSH #18. The work was so far out-there and different from the other Marvel books at the time that to look at it was to expand your horizons and realize that the comics’ art form was incredibly panoramic and vast. As great as these characters were they were never captured with the same artistic intent that Gene had given them.
I’d had the privilege of meeting Gene Colan a few times through the years but one time really stood out for me. I was walking with him in the DC corridors and I expressed how much I admired his run on Daredevil. Gene had a look of both pride and a touch of sadness when he said, “Those days with Stan were the best”.
Be well Gene. Along with Jack Kirby you were the heart of Marvel Comics.
Only two years ago, at the height of my love affair with Tomb of Dracula, Gene was part of a panel at HeroesCon regarding said title… I hung around briefly after the panel when, as I started to leave, a nice old man, asked me where the artists’ tables were. This nice old man, of course, turned out to be none other than The Dean himself. I was such a little kid at 28… completely starstruck and at a total loss for words. “Sure, I said, it’s around 15 corners and down 8 halls…” oh, wait… My girlfriend had her wits about her… Just walk with him! I was the worst possible choice with my long nervous strides covering far too much ground at once as I tried to not completely geek out and talk about something, anything, other than “omg I luv your comix!” It was an everyday occurrence… nothing out of the ordinary. But I was, and still am, completely blown away by the fact that *I*, a total nobody, was walking through the convention hall side-by-side with one of my true idols. Gene and Adrienne were some of the kindest and most generous people I’ve ever met. And still capable of instilling within me a complete sense of dread. It’s a tiny but wonderful memory that I’m sure exists nowhere but in my mind. All of my best to him and his family. Thank you for the years and years of wonderful stories; I’m looking forward to even more! Good luck and God Bless J
I met Gene Colan and his lovely wife, Adrianne, at Comicon International, San Diego around 2002 or 2003. Sorry the memory isn't what it used to be and it wasn't too good back then. I was attending the Con with my wife, Linda, and working away in Artists Alley. A long time friend of ours, Dr. Ron Zodkevitch, stopped by our table to chat and invite us to dinner after the show that day. He mentioned that he had also invited Comics Legend Gene Colan and his wife, Adrienne, to the same dinner. How could I refuse.
As a teenager I had seen Gene's work on Daredevil, Doctor Strange, Captain America, Tomb of Dracula and IronMan. I still have a copy of IronMan #1 illustrated by Gene "the Dean" Colan in my collection. I must add that he drew THE best Wonder Woman and Supergirl I ever saw in "The Phantom Zone" mini series for DC. I knew way back then that this artist was special. I learned at that dinner in San Diego just how special he really is.
Gene was so easy going and humble. He immediately made everyone at the table feel comfortable. He was as interested in us as we were in him. I sat across from Gene at the dinner table. In my mind I was fan boy (okay a very old fan boy) meeting one of his comics heroes. Within minutes he and I were talking like a couple of old Bullpen Buddies grousing about editors, writers, payscale and credit. Adrienne and Linda talked about the real world, family and stuff. Gene and I were on a roll about really important stuff. Comics!
Linda and I went to that San Diego dinner to meet my boyhood hero. We left with two new friends, Gene and Adrienne Colan.
With apologies to the late Bob Hope...Gene, thanks for the memories!
Turning 13, I was just about to give up on comics back in 1977. I had been reading them for years – always as a DC fan – and had grown tired of the same Superman stories over and over again. Still, I thought I would give Marvel a shot just to see if there was anything interesting happening there. So I went to the local Kroger store and flipped through the spinner-rack to see what caught my eye.
It was HOWARD THE DUCK #24, which featured Gene Colan’s art along Steve Gerber’s script. The issue, featuring Howard trying to come down emotionally after having saved the galaxy in the previous issue, held me so strongly that I had to pick up the next issue. And then the next. And then some Spider-Man issues and, what the heck, maybe some Dr. Strange and some Fantastic Fours on top of that.
So I can blame Mr. Colan for getting me hooked on comics for good. Oh, sure, I was drawn to Gerber’s writing and found his work to be of personal influence in my own writing over the years, but it was the artwork that told half the story and from then on Gene would always be THE Howard the Duck artist for me. Sure Val Mayerik may have been there before him to kick things off, but it was Colan who was there by the time I got a chance to pick up the comic and no one else ever caught the emotions and look of Howard better than Colan. Heck, he even got the size right – making Howard duck-size but without making him looking too much like a duck that you couldn’t see the human element in his guise. Howard (and Bev as well) never looked better.
Oddly enough, for a visual medium, I never followed particular artists. I knew people’s art when I saw it, but it never was a particular driving factor in my choices for comics. The writers were what had me coming back. That is, except with it came to Gene Colan. His art I followed. I picked up TOMB OF DRACULA because of him, as well as starting to read AVENGERS when he did some work on the title back in ’81. I also remember fondly his work on a much-too-shortlived title for DC called NIGHT FORCE, which was another chance to watch Colan in his smoky environment of mystical happenings. Over the years, I can immediately recall many moments in his comic-book art from particular issues of DC & Marvel comics; moments that have stuck with me long after I can name particular issues or text associated with them.
I know I can’t add much to what has already been said about Gene, but I can say that his work had an impact on me and I am glad I had a chance to become a fan.
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.
- Barry Pearl
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
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.
- Cliff Pooley
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.
- Ed Zybul
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
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
I think Herb Trimpe said it best when he used the word modesty to describe Gene Colan. Having had the pleasure of meeting Gene and his wonderful wife, Adrienne, I can relate what a modest and personable guy he is.
The art reflects the man, and Gene's work certainly does. In his characters he brought humanity, even to a man in an Iron mask. His characters express emotions that we can relate to; his cinematic eye is superb and his sense of motion is palpable.
The man and the work is unique.
My thoughts and prayers are with you.
- Nick Caputo
I’ve written about Gene’s stuff (and its impact on me and my own work) more than once but I’d like to tell a quick tale of when I first met him. I was at a San Diego con several years ago and saw him at a table by himself (Adrienne must’ve been away for a bit). I was both elated and immensely disappointed, as I had no idea he was going to be there. If I did, I would have brought something for him to sign (most likely my treasured copy of CAP #116, one of my earliest and most fondly-remembered Colan stories).
After a quick beeline to the nearest dealer’s table with Silver Age comics on sale (I’d spent most of my dough, as usual), I returned with a “generic” Gene issue of DAREDEVIL (of course, a generic Colan-drawn issue was the same as a “standout” issue by nearly anyone else) in hand. I told him how much I adored his work and of course, he was gracious and generous. Feebly reaching for a topic with which to open a dialog (other than, “What’s a great artist like you doing in a place like this?”), I asked him who his influences were. I’d always wondered this, as, unlike most other artists I could not see anyone else I recognized in his work.
Almost immediately he said “Milton Caniff and Hal Foster.”
And almost immediately my jaw hit the floor. Because frankly, I couldn’t see ANY evidence of either guy in Gene’s stuff. While I respect the first and love the latter, I think Colan’s figures and faces are yards better than Caniff’s, and his storytelling and action are yards more dynamic than Foster’s. I just didn’t see it.
Then it hit me—DUH!! THAT’S ANOTHER REASON WHY GENE IS SO INCREDIBLE! Not just what he draws, but the fact that he could synthesize two incredibly diverse greats into a completely unique style all his own. Like a Kirby or a Ditko, you can spot his stuff a mile away, despite his influences being the same as most of his generation.
It took me awhile to realize that, but when I did, it helped inspire me even more...as well as grow my appreciation for all things Colan...just when I thought it couldn’t grow any more.
I thank God I was able to tell Gene how much his work meant to me that day, and that I’d get the chance several more times in the future. And I thank Gene for everything he’s done for my work, my life, and my soul from childhood to the rest of my days. God bless him now and forever.
I love you, Gene.
- Mike Pascale
I can't begin to tell you what your work has meant to me for so many years, and today. You're an inspiration at all times!
I thought Gene Colan was brilliant. I did a couple of stories with him on Daredevil but I never understood him the way Tom Palmer does. There are certain guys for certain guys. A guy like Gene sees everything in shades of black and white. He doesn't see line. Gene was the most difficult guy to ink because he doesn't use lines he uses shading. Light and dark, light to dark and the lines are created by the separation between light to dark. He doesn't use a contour like Frank Giacoia, like me, like Ross and I wanted. We'd outline our stuff. Gene was a painter, but you needed an inker who knows how to do it.
Gene was a very creative guy. The two of us, when we were young fellows, about 21 worked at the Timely Comics Bullpen. He used to sit right behind me and we'd joke about who was the youngest guy in the business. He was a good looking little kid, and I was a good looking guy, so we were both good looking kids. He had a great desire to do sound effects and things like that. He had a tape machine, which wasn't common in those days, and he'd record things. I'd say, "How do you record that 'smack' sound?" and he'd say, "You take a beefsteak and slap it on the table." This was back in about 1949. Quite a while ago. I'm very sorry to hear about his current problems.
- Mike Esposito
I first encountered Gene Colan’s unique work in 1962 via one of those delicious 5-pagers Stan Lee was running in Journey into Mystery. He stood out from the pack almost as if he had parachuted in from other comic house. (In a way, he did!) To my innocent 8-year old eyes, “I Was a Prisoner of the Voodoo King!” was genuinely frightening. Colan’s work, realistic in a creepy and crepuscular way, was nothing like that of Kirby, Ditko, Ayers or Heck.
I didn’t encounter him again for years. And when I did, I didn’t recognize him on the new Sub-Mariner strip in Tales to Astonish. Obscured by Vince Colletta inks, he was hiding behind the pen name Adam Austin. I liked this new guy very much. Unreservedly.
Soon enough he unmasked. From Sub-Mariner he went to Iron Man, and then on to his tremendous run on Daredevil. I’m not sure I immediately connected Gene Colan’s name with “I was a Prisoner of the Voodoo King!” but I found his style, as it evolved, sometimes unsettling. Was I subliminally reacting to burned-in-my-brain memories of that old horror story? Could be. But that’s how powerful Colan’s work was.
One of the things I most admire about Gene Colan and his work is that while other artists mutated over time, some simplifying their stylistics, others becoming parodies of themselves, Gene Colan stayed eternally Gene Colan.
And now, his health faltering, he is working on a Captain America story. I admire his professionalism, and I hope he finds the strength to finish that story. But a part of me feels that Gene Colan has earned his days. Ultimately, that single story won’t add very much to his towering body of work. How he spends this precious time does matter. Good luck, Gene. Use these days wisely and well.
- Will Murray
I know Gene and I share a love of the film, 'To Kill A Mockingbird' and as I sit here writing this I can't help but think how much Gene parallels Atticus Finch.
They are both men of honesty, honor and compassion. Their keen intellect let them see things below the surface and to bring out the best in those around them. They lead by example and do their best everyday to make the world a better place. They carry themselves with dignity and grace and their body of work leaves a deep and indelible mark on the world... - and let's not forget that they are both characters in the truest sense of the word.
While Atticus fought injustice, segregation and prejudice in a courtroom residing in Harper Lee's imagination, Gene did it in comics. From his artistic approach and vision in bringing characters like the Falcon, Brother Voodoo and Blade to life, to his iconic images in Daredevil #47's, 'Brother, Take My Hand', Gene Colan transcended the world of comic books to a much higher socially aware place.
Thank you Gene for not only so many wonderful years of sharing your gift with us but for making us all better people in the process. You have touched so many lives on so many levels - we can never all start to repay you for your kindness. Atticus would truly be very proud of you.
With Much Love & Respect,
Last week, before I headed off to NYC to help chaperone my son's 8th grade class trip (and caught a hellish cold), the lovely Liana K forwarded me a link to an online discussion of the rapidly deteriorating health of Gene Colan. As Liana knew from our conversation at Ad Astra in Toronto earlier this year, Gene has been a hero of mine since I was nine or ten years old.
We are all the sum of our parts, and it is no exaggeration to say that without TOMB OF DRACULA and the art of Gene Colan, I might well never have become a writer. (So, yes, you have Gene to blame, along with the creators of Kolchak, Stephen King, and Charlie Grant.)
Back up. When I was a kid, whenever I was sick enough to need medicine, my mom would come home from the pharmacy with a small stack of comic books. She knew nothing about them, of course, except that I liked them, so in addition to Justice League and Avengers, I would get Richie Rich and even the occasional Jughead. One summer--when, as I said, I was either nine or ten--my parents rented a house on Cape Cod and my brother and I walked down to the country store with some loose change. It was the first time I had ever picked out a comic book for myself, and it was TOMB OF DRACULA #15, written by Marv Wolfman and drawn by Gene Colan, who had already had legendary runs on a number of series, including Daredevil.
It altered me. The story was always entertaining, of course, with the great Marv Wolfman at the top of his game. But Gene's art drew me into the world of that series in a way that no comic book before or since has ever managed. It was like watching Christopher Lee in Hammer films, only better, a sexy, textured, ominous world in which Dracula was both the ultimate evil and the ultimate tragic hero. He was written that way, of course, but Gene *made it work.*
The only piece of original comic book artwork I've ever bought is a page from TOMB OF DRACULA #15, which I bought from Gene himself at a convention, the very first time I met him. It hangs, signed and framed, in my home.
My good friend Tom Sniegoski can (and apparently could, back then) tell you who wrote and drew every issue of every comic book he read throughout his youth. Not me. Truth is, at that age, I didn't even know who Jack Kirby was. I paid no attention to the names of artists, except for one: Gene Colan. While the rest of the industry was trying to learn to draw like Kirby, Colan was just being Colan.
Fast forward. I don't have the dates in front of me, but let's call it mid-nineties. Marvel had drastically altered the characters of Blade (who first debuted in the pages of TOMB OF DRACULA of course) and Hannibal King (ditto) for a series called Nightstalkers...but the Blade movie was in the offing and Marvel wanted to hit the restart button, to get back to the character's origins. Editor Ralph Macchio asked me to do a one-shot that would be its own story, but that would also retell the origin of Blade and reintroduce some of the characters from his past. I was thrilled, but worried. As a novelist, I was always being told my comics writing was too wordy (it was) and what Ralph wanted--in a 40 page comic--would be pretty text heavy. He assured me he wanted it that way. With meat on its bones.
The pitch was called BLADE: CRESCENT CITY BLUES. I turned in the breakdowns for the plot, and a couple of days later, Ralph called. "It looks like we're going to have Gene Colan draw it."
I thought he was joking. Gene hadn't done anything for Marvel in a while at that point. When I realized he was serious, I was so overwhelmed that I nearly wept. Mock if you will, but *that's* how much it meant to me. Working with Gene was a dream come true. He was a consummate gentleman, a blast to brainstorm with, a pleasure to talk to, and every page came in just as beautiful as any he had done on TOMB.
When we were done...after the comic book had come out...I called Gene one day to thank him again. I asked him if, once he got the artwork back, he'd be willing to sell me a page or two of the comic we'd done together. Gene had gotten 22 of the 40 pages. The inker, Mark Pennington, received 18. Gene refused to let me pay him. He said that he'd had such a good time and liked the one-shot so much that he wanted to send me a couple of pages, and he wouldn't let me talk him out of it.
The next day, a FedEx box arrived containing NINETEEN pages of Crescent City Blues. Gene had kept the three he liked best, and sent me the rest. It was an extraordinary gift, and I'll never forget it.
In the time since then, I've only spoken to Gene once or twice, and not for years. He remains my favorite comic book artist of all time.
I am an Argentinian artist of comic books and through this letter I wanted to leave my absolute support to Gene. Gene: you are one of the really BIG authors of the North American comic. And, mainly with a strong character, absolutely unique graphics. Your work, so much in the Tomb of Dracula, in Daredevil and in the infinity of productions that you have carried out throughout your extensive career, they are a continuous source of inspiration. The work of the light and the shade is unique in the field of the comics books. The atmosphere achieved with the light and the shade makes that "common" scenes (dialogue scene) transform into something memorable. And the action scenes, simply superb.
The other factor that impressed myself of youth was the incredible fluency of your narration, to read a comic drawn by you was to have the feeling of a to flow continuous of movements and action. Very personal and always different to all your great friends artists in the '70s.
With the years and with my intention of beginning career in the art of the comic, I have appreciated every time more your incredible work and I come back every time to your work, an irreplaceable reference. Your magnificent work has accompanied in all stages, of adolescent reader until mature professional. Always for different reasons, you are an irreplaceable author.
From here I sends you, with all respect, my biggest hug and all my support to you and your family. I hope it can overcome this moment positively. I love your work and I respect it a lot you. One of the really BIG authors and artist of the industry of the North American comic.
- Luis Guaragna
MARVEL AND HERO INITIATIVE SEND IRON MAN TO GENE COLAN'S AID
Print at Wizard World Philadelphia kicks off series of Colan-centric products
LOS ANGELES (May 22, 2008)-Artist Gene Colan has been one of comics' favorites for a staggering seven decades. Now, as Gene is suffering illness, some of the characters Gene worked on are coming to save the day.
The Hero Initiative in conjunction with Marvel Comics is launching a series of Gene Colan-themed products, starting with a limited edition print of Gene's cover art to Invincible Iron Man #1, available at Wizard World Philadelphia, May 30-June 1. Only 200 prints will be available at the show at a cost of $25 each. Net proceeds from sales of these prints by The Hero Initiative will benefit Gene Colan. Another 50 prints will be available at a later date, with plans to have them autographed by both Gene Colan and Stan Lee.
Also at Wizard World Philadelphia, guest writers and artists at the Marvel Comics booth will be signing and sketching two large poster-sized boards, which Hero will auction benefiting Gene at a later date.
And that's just the start. Wizard World Chicago, June 26-29, will see the release of a second print featuring the cover art to Daredevil #47, the legendary "Brother, Take My Hand" story by Stan Lee and Gene Colan. A third print will be available later in the year, along with other products.
For August, a Gene Colan Tomb of Dracula poster will be available for order via Marvel Previews with proceeds routed to Gene; and in September, a special book reprinting some of Gene's greatest stories will be made available. In addition to these items, The Hero Initiative will take additional steps to help Gene in his convalescence.
"Gene Colan," said Roy Thomas, longtime Marvel Comics writer and Hero Initiative Board member, "is one of the most amazingly talented comic book artists in the history of the field. When I was scripting one of his stories, there was no one-not even Neal Adams or John Buscema-whose pencils could make me feel more strongly as if I were looking into a real world. He combines often-photographic realism with dynamism worth of a Kirby.and that makes him unique."
"Speaking as an artist, in addition to his awe-inspiring renditions of classic comic book heroes, 'Gentleman' Gene Colan has been a tremendous inspiration to those of us who have drawn Daredevil," said Marvel Editor in Chief Joe Quesada. "I'm happy to say that Marvel is working along with The Hero Initiative to help one of the industry's greats and a member of the Marvel family. Our hearts and thoughts go out to Gene and his family during this tough time, and we hope the rest of this great community can do what they can to help support one its founding members."