Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Comic Legend Gene Colan passes away

This is the part of the comic news I don´t like and the reason why I hate going on the internet after a long weekend. Because more often then not somebody you really liked and admired has died.

Which was the case this Monday when I read that Gene Colan had died at the age of 84. I had followed the news about him tackling his health problems but I was still sad that he had finally succumbed to illness. One of the few things I took comfort in was that he had finally begun to get widespread recognition for his art and knew how loved he was by comicfans of all ages. He even got back to doing comic work for BART SIMPSON´S TREEHOUSE OF HORROR and CAPTAIN AMERICA 601, the last one even won Gene Colan the 2010 Eisner Award for best issue.

I´m probably not the most qualified to write about Gene Colan since - like in the case of Jack Kirby - it took me quite a while to be able to appreciate his craftsmanship and artistical brilliance. Growing up reading the german comics of the Williams Verlag Gene Colan for me was this guy that appeared throughout various collections and who had a really strange style. He was in DOKTOR STRANGE DER MAGIER , which lasted 12 issues

and also on DER DÄMON, how Daredevil was called here in Germany. Or at least that´s how he was called when Williams Verlag published the series as back ups in their DIE FANTASTISCHEN VIER books ( Fantastic Four ).

Before that the Bildschriften Verlag published the series under the name of DEVIL - MAN but thankfully I missed that whole period because their production values wer not very good, the translations were horrific and the jumped ahead and backwards in the publishing schedule.

CAPTAIN MARVEL was another series that was published as a back up in Germany, this time in the pages of DIE RUHMREICHEN RÄCHER , which had also been in the bulk of Marvel publications by Bildschriften Verlag.

NAMOR DER SUBMARINER was also a back up feature, in DIE SPINNE 

as was DER EISERNE whose own series sadly only lasted 12 issues and who then was relegated to the role of back up feature in issue 45 of DIE RUHMREICHEN RÄCHER where he replaced the Captain Marvel series.

I especially remember reading the issues with Iron Man fighting the Mandarin and his armor was out of power and he was stuck in some kind of canyon or whatnot. What I can´t remember is him going up against Whiplash but during my research I came upon this cover so Gene Colan´s claims to have created that particular character may be more valid then Marvel is willing to confirm. I guess they owe him some residual money now that they have used Whiplash in the new IRON MAN II movie.

Gene Colan also did some issues of DIE RUHMREICHEN RÄCHER 

and of course DIE GRUFT VON GRAF DRACULA with CAMBER OF CHILLS as a back up then stories from MYSTIC, MYSTERY TALES, MARVEL TALES, JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY, JOURNEY INTO UNKNOWN WORLDS, WORLD OF FANTASY, CRYPT OF SHADOWS, ADVENTURES INTO TERROR, ADVENTURES IN WEIRD WORLDS, ASTONISHING, TALES TO ASTONISH, STRANGE TALES, UNCANNY TALES and TALES OF SUSPENSE. Boy, they really threw anything in there they could get their hands on. Now coming back to Gene Colan, when I first saw his artwork in the books I was reading I found it strange.

Strange because it was so unlike most other artists. Man, at that time I didn´t like it but Today I would just love to re - read those comics again. Gene Colan also was on a lot of DC books edited by Ehapa I read later on, mostly his work on WONDER WOMAN or WUNDERGIRL how it was called,


or SUPERMAN where he did a story of which I only remember that some guy with a headband wore his costume while Superman wore a different garb. And it somehow involved the Phantom Zone and strange horned kryptonian animals which I mention in part 3 of my COVERSTORY series .

I only began to appreciate Gene Colan through the internet where I found some of his comission work and for the first time saw his incredibly detailed pencils in a high resolution.

I never knew that most inkers had problems bringing his work to the printed page adequately but I actively began to look for his work. The really weird thing was that at that time companies were reluctant to give Gene work and it was only through a friend who built a website for him that he could finacially support himself through comissions. Looking at his comissions you could see that he was still as good - or even better - as in his active days. And now that the technology was finally able to do it his penciled work was being brought to printed comics like in his participation in Michael Chabon´s THE ESCAPIST comics.

As for me I began to collect his work and one of the highlights of his career is his TOMB OF DRACULA work where he co - created BLADE .

Here in Germany it was recently reprinted in a color version that´s very expensive ( although you can find some issues pretty cheap on comic fairs and online since nobody has enough money to finish the collection ) and drowns the linework with too much color. So my tip is to get Marvel´s ESSENTIAL COLLECTION of the series which is not as expensive and you can really appreciate the great art by Gene Colan and Tom Palmer, one of the few inkers capable of adding some depth and mood to Gene´s pencils.

And if you have the possibility get the spanish BIBLIOTEKA MARVEL version which is in a smalller format but is printed really well. Even Gene Colan himself was impressed by the quality of the spanish version.

Last but not least I want to recommend a book by TwoMorrows Publishing before letting others chime in who knew the man much better than me. SECRETS IN THE SHADOWS : THE ART & LIFE OF GENE COLAN is a great book with tons of art by the master himself and interviews with about everyone he ever worked with.

CBR´s George Khoury remembers Gene Colan , Greg Hatcher´s Gene Colan memorial references his Phantom Zone story with Steve Gerber, and The Comics Journal has an extensive feature on Gene Colan by Tom Field .  He is also mentioned in an episode of Comic Geek Speak .

There are also articles on 999 , Actua BD , Comic Box , Comic is art , El Factor G , El lector impaciente , Es muy de comic , Lola Fett , The Dreamers , The Los Angeles Times , The New York Times , The Sun Star , Spiegel online , Sci Fi Forum , Williams Marvel Comic Archiv , Zona Negativa and Zoo le mag to name just a few.

EL SHOW DE LOS HOMBRES LOBO has a nice collection of spanish links about Gene Colan for readers who are fluent in the spanish tongue.

Oldies but goodies are Gene Colan´s interview on ComicGeek Speak and the book of the month : Essential Tomb of Dracula Volume 1 episode. Great episodes that you should listen to if you haven´t already done it.

Before closing the post for Today I want to thank the guys from MARVEL - COMICS ONLINE for their invaluable information on the back up features in the William comics. They also have all the info for the Bildschriften Verlag and any other german comic companies that published Marvel.

edit : Today I was going over the links because I was working on my new BEST OF THE BEST post that is going to be included in future posts. There were some I had to delete because they didn´t work anymore but I want to include a new one. CRIVENS ! COMICBOOKS, CARTOONS & CLASSIC COLLECTABLES ! is doing a series about the favorite comics of his youth and part 1 is about DAREDEVIL 53 . The post is not as long as most posts here but it does have some nice Gene Colan art in high resolution. And who knows, you might find some other stuff you want to check out.

There are a few tribute videos on YouTube but instead of other people talking about him, here´s the master himself talking about his work on Daredevil from the Man Without Fear : Creating Daredevil documentary.

New to the blog ? Everything you need to know about TALES FROM THE KRYPTONIAN : top ten posts / more posts of interest

No comments: