R. I. P. Gene Colan (1926 – 2011)

Posted by Grey Saturday, June 25, 2011

Comic book legend Gene Colan has passed away on June 23rd, 2011. He was 84.

The comic book industry across the globe mourned as legendary comic book artist Gene Colan passed away at about 11pm on June 23rd, 2011. Colan has been in poor health for some time and has spent the last week in a quasi-coma state following a broken hip and complications from liver disease. The sad news was announced by writer Clifford Meth, a close friend of Colan and his family.

Long considered as one of most important creators who defined the illuminating days of the the Silver Age of comic books, Colan has left behind a remarkable legacy of compelling storytelling and influential artistry in the modern comic book industry. One of the most prolific artists during the Silver Age of Marvel, Colan is best known for his work on Marvel characters like Captain America, Daredevil, and Doctor Strange. During his legendary stint in Marvel, Colan also co-created two of the most prominent African American superheroes: Sam "Snap" Wilson, better known as The Falcon (with Stan Lee) was the first African-American superhero in mainstream comics, while Blade (with writer Marv Wolfman) went on to far-reaching popularity with the series of live-action films starring Wesley Snipes. Apart from his work on the superheroes, Colan's work on the satirical series Howard the Duck, and The Tomb of Dracula was also met with critical acclaim with many calling the latter as comics' best horror series. In addition, Colan also work with DC Comics with most of his work found in the pages of “Batman” and “Detective Comics.”

While inducted into Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2005, Colan was later awarded the Eisner Award for Best Single Issue for his work on "Captain America" #601 with Ed Brubaker.

The sad news of Colan's demise is currently circulating around the net with numerous fellow creators and colleagues of the legendary artist stepping forward to share their memories. Here are just a selected few:

"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."
Jim Lee

"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."
- Mark Millar

"We haven't found a way to measure the value of a talented man or woman. There are so many categories. There's the work, of course, and I have watched it evolve, and I recommend viewing that evolution. There's inspiration. Who was not inspired by Gene Colan? I was. I would search for his work whenever it popped-up, long before he became established at Marvel. Then there's the artist that could add the finishing touches to less finished charters, like Ironman, and Daredevil, making them suddenly real, and almost alive. I read every book he drew."
- Neal Adams

"Gene is one of those rare breed of comic book artists that invent their own idiom. Colan’s work never looked like anybody else’s—he was a true originator, a one-of-a-kind visionary. In terms of both tenure and quality of work, it would be hard to point to many peers who had a career the equal of Gene Colan’s. Beyond that, he was a gentle pixie of a man, sensitive and almost childlike in the glee he took in old black and white movie, and, of course, the work."
- Tom Brevoort

"As much as I loved all of Gene's stuff -- Batman, Dracula and Daredevil at the top of the list -- I think my favorite of his work is Nathaniel Dusk, which was a DC mini from the '80s, a period detective story. The art was printed directly from Gene's pencils, no inks, and I think it was the first time I'd ever seen unvarnished pencils printed. It was a revelation for me, just beautiful, expressive stuff."
- Ron Marz

"Gene Colan absolutely terrified me. And that's a huge compliment. His work on Tomb of Dracula was the first comic books that really spooked me as a kid. Scary, moody work. His images and innovative storytelling were instantly and uniquely identified, they stood out from all the rest. Classic illustrations with distinct page designs and layouts. Tomb of Dracula stood tall next to every great work of its time. There has never been another talent like his, he remains a true American original. I recommend to any reader not familiar with his work to pick up the Tomb of Dracula collections as well as his work on Daredevil, Iron Man, Night Force and Batman."
- Rob Liefeld

"Gene Colan may be best remembered by some as "a master of light and shadow" whose amazing run on Tomb of Dracula has recently been collected and reprinted by Marvel in their Omnibus editions. But for me, that's too obvious. I look for the fascinating jobs he did where he seemed to be "cast against type" -- a guy who drew all soft, curvy, side-of-the-pencils stuff drawing a hard, sharp, metallic character such as Iron Man for so many years and making it his own. Lots of shadows and contrast? Interesting angles? Some of us were influenced by him in ways we don't even realize, until we think about it."
- Mike Deodato Jr.

"Gene Colan was a titan of the Silver Age of comics. His beautiful Golden Age-worthy rendering flowed seamlessly with his use of jarring, dynamic camera angles. I always thought Gene was ahead of his time with those dynamic layouts and fearless P.O.V’s. Works of his that stand out to me are Captain Marvel #2 and the battle with the Super-Skrull. I loved this comic as a kid and like many of Gene’s stories, his versatility as an artist is on full display here."
- Dale Eaglesham

In lieu of flowers, Clifford Meth is currently setting up the Gene Colan Scholarship at the Joe Kubert School following earlier discussion with Colan. For those interested to contribute, you can find details on the method of donating on Meth’s blog.

The Daily Zombies would like to offer our condolences to Colan’s family and friends.


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