Friday, 24 June 2011

RIP Gene Colan

I was genuinely saddened today to hear of the passing of one of my greatest art heroes - 'Gentleman' Gene Colan. It wasn't a surprise to he honest, he'd been ill for a long time and took a turn for worse earlier in the week, as reported by Gene's good friend Clifford Meth.

It was Meth who also passed on the news of Gene's death this morning. He wrote:

"I regret to announce that my friend Gene Colan died at about 11 pm on June 23. Gene spent this last week in a quasi-coma state following a broken hip and complications from liver disease. He was 84.

I am terribly saddened to lose Gene. He was a gentle and deeply spiritual man, a bright light in every context, and those who knew him at any level were enriched by his warmth and generous nature. [...]

I leave the historical perspective and details of Gene's significant career to my friends Tom Spurgeon and Mark Evanier. For now, I mourn."

Those who know me will know how much I love Colan's work and what an influence it has been on me ever since I was a kid - I've mentioned him several times on this blog, in my Influence Map and in my First Tastes blog a few weeks ago. As I type this there are two framed prints of Colan sketches on the wall over my bed. Gene will probably be best remembered for his long incredible run on Marvel's Tomb Of Dracula comic in the 70s or for his equally brilliant Howard The Duck run around the same time, but there's barely a character at Marvel and DC he didn't leave his mark on: Daredevil, Batman, Iron Man, Captain America, Wonder Woman, Doctor Strange, The Spectre... the list goes on. And there wasn't a genre that Gene couldn't draw with class and consummate skill: horror, superhero, humour, SF, western, war, detective, romance, drama... 

Colan also co-created and illustrated original comics for DC such as detective Nathaniel Dusk, Jemm Son Of Saturn, Silverblade and Night Force as well as illustrating the comics adaptation of the films Little Shop of Horrors (for DC) and Jaws 2 (for Marvel).

Gene also went on to do some superlative work for indie publishers like Comico, Eclipse and Dark Horse on titles like Ragamuffins, Bloodscent, Detectives Inc, Stewert The Rat and Curse Of Dracula. Gene was a notoriously tricky artist to ink and from the late 80s his work was usually printed straight from his pencils to stunning effect.

My first exposure to Colan's work - and probably still my favourite - was Night Force the 80s horror comic written by Marv Wolfman for DC. Gene's art seemed to be formed from smoke and shadows; free and expressionistic yet always completely real. It was love at first sight for me. 

I could go on and on, but really I think the best tribute I can pay the man is to simply post a gallery of his work, but before I do that I just want to strongly recommend to everyone reading this that they pick up Essential Tomb Of Dracula v1-4 and Essential Howard The Duck - as well as being just plain great comics to read these fat affordable paperbacks present Colan's art in glorious black & white. 

I also recommend TwoMorrows' brilliant book Secrets In The Shadows: The Life And Work Of Gene Colan. (A new printing of this please, TwoMorrow people!)

To DC Comics I respectfully plead for collected editions of Night Force and Colan's Batman & Detective Comics runs.*

And finally to Gene Colan's family, friends and fellow fans I send my sincerest condolences.

Addendum 1 *Turns out they are! Hardcovers are scheduled for Night Force in October and his Batman/Detective Comics run in August! I may cry. Right, now how about Nathaniel Dusk, Wonder Woman and Jemm, Son Of Saturn?

Addendum 2 Clifford Meth is setting up the Gene Colan Scholarship for The Kubert School

Here's some of the amazing comics art 'The Dean' produced throughout his career...


And here are a few examples of the sketches and commissions he did. Amazing work.

RIP Gene Colan 1926-2011

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