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Gene Colan

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Colan at the Big Apple Summer Sizzler in Manhattan, June 13, 2009.
Birth Date = August 1, 1929
Location = The Bronx, New York
Nationality = American
Area = Penciller, Inker
Alias = Adam Austin
Notable works = Daredevil, The Tomb of Dracula, Howard the Duck, Detectives Inc.
Awards = Eagle Award, 1977, 1979

Eugene "Gene" Colan (born September 1, 1926) is an American comic book artist best known for his work for Marvel Comics, where his signature titles include the superhero series, Daredevil, the cult-hit satiric series Howard the Duck, and The Tomb of Dracula, considered one of comics' classic horror series.

Colan was inducted into the Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame in 2005.

Contents

Biography

Early life and career

Daredevil #48 (Jan. 1969). Gene Colan (penciler) and George Klein (inker) slip an in-joke into this Times Square scene. Whatever caused the apparent frustration, note the word at Daredevil's left hand.

Born in The Bronx, New York City, New York, Gene Colan began drawing at age three. "The first thing I ever drew was a lion. I must've absolutely copied it or something. But that's what my folks tell me. And from then on, I just drew everything in sight. My grandfather was my favorite subject". He attended George Washington High School (New York City) in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan, and went on to study at the Art Students League of New York. His major art influences are Syd Shores, Coulton Waugh, and Milton Caniff.

He began working in comics in 1944, doing illustrations for publisher Fiction House's aviation-adventure series Wings Comics. "[J]ust a summertime job before I went into the service", it gave Colan his first published work, the one-page "Wing Tips" non-fiction filler "P-51B Mustang" (issue #52, Dec. 1944). His first comics story was a seven-page "Clipper Kirk" feature in the following month's issue.

After attempting to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II but being pulled out by his father "because I was underage", Colan at "18 or 19" enlisted in the Army Air Corps. Originally scheduled for gunnery school in Boulder, Colorado, plans changed with the war's sudden end. After training at an Army camp near Biloxi, Mississippi, he joined the occupation forces in the Philippines. There Colan rose to the rank of corporal, drew for the Manila Times, and won an art contest.

Upon his return to civilian life in 1946, Colan went to work for Marvel Comics' 1940s precursor, Timely Comics. He recalled in 2000,

"I was living with my parents. I worked very hard on a war story, about seven or eight pages long, and I did all the lettering myself, I inked it myself, I even had a wash effect over it. I did everything I could do, and I brought it over to Timely. What you had to do in those days was go to the candy store, pick up a comic book, and look in the back to see where it was published. Most of them were published in Manhattan, they would tell you the address, and you'd simply go down and make an appointment to go down and see the art director". Al Sulman, listed in Timely mastheads then as an "editorial associate", "gave me my break. I went up there, and he came out and met me in the waiting room, looked at my work, and said, 'Sit here for a minute'. And he brought the work in, and disappeared for about 10 minutes or so... then came back out and said, 'Come with me'. That's how I met [editor-in-chief] Stan Lee. Just like that, and I had a job". "

Comics historian Michael J. Vassallo identifies that first story as "Adam and Eve — Crime Incorporated" in Lawbreakers Always Lose #1 (Spring 1948), on which is written the an internal job number 2401. He notes another story, "The Cop They Couldn't Stop" in All-True Crime #27 (April 1948), job number 2505, may have been published first, citing the differing cover-date nomenclature ("Spring" v. "April") for the uncertainty.

Hired as "a staff penciler", Colan "started out at about $60 a week. ... Syd Shores was the art director. Due to Colan's work going uncredited, in the manner of the times, comprehensive credits for this era are difficult if not impossible to ascertain.

After virtually all the Timely staff was let go in 1948 during an industry downturn, Colan began freelancing for National Comics, the future DC Comics. A stickler for accuracy, he meticulously researched his countless war stories for DC's All-American Men at War, Captain Storm, and Our Army at War, as well as for Marvel's 1950s forerunner Atlas Comics, on the series Battle, Battle Action Battle Ground, Battlefront, G.I. Tales, Marines in Battle, Navy Combat and Navy Tales. Colan's earliest confirmed credit during this time is penciling and inking the six-page crime fiction story "Dream Of Doom", by an uncredited writer, in Atlas' Lawbreakers Always Lose #6 (Feb. 1949).

He would rent 16 mm movies of Hopalong Cassidy Westerns in order to trace likenesses for the DC licensed series, which he drew from 1954 to 1957.

Dr. Strange #180 (May 1969). Cover art by Colan and inker Tom Palmer, utilizing photomontage.

Silver Age

While freelancing for DC romance comics in the 1960s, Colan did his first superhero work for Marvel under the pseudonym Adam Austin. Taking to the form immediately, he introduced the "Sub-Mariner" feature in Tales to Astonish, and succeeded Don Heck on "Iron Man" in Tales of Suspense.

Shortly afterward, under his own name, Colan became one of the premier Silver Age Marvel artists, illustrating a host of such major characters as Captain America, Doctor Strange (both in the late-1960s and the mid-1970s series), and his signature character, Daredevil. Colan's long run on the series Daredevil encompassed all but three issues in an otherwise unbroken, 81-issue string from #20-100 (Sept. 1966 - June 1973), plus the initial Daredevil Annual (1967). He returned to draw ten issues sprinkled from 1974–79, and an eight-issue run in 1997.

Dracula and Batman

Colan page from The Tomb of Dracula #40 (Jan. 1976). Inked by Tom Palmer.

Colan also garnered praise in the 1970s for illustrating the complete, 70-issue run of the acclaimed horror title The Tomb of Dracula, as well as most issues of writer Steve Gerber's cult-hit, Howard the Duck.

According to Jim Shooter, Marvel's editor-in-chief at the time, Colan acquired a reputation in the late 1970s as a difficult artist for writers to work with, particularly on superhero titles. In order to make production deadlines, Colan would from time to time rewrite plot points so that they were easier to draw. Colan made no secret of his preference to work on horror titles. Colan admitted relying upon amphetamines in order to make deadlines for illustrating Doctor Strange when he took over the series from Steve Ditko.

Back at DC in the 1980s, following a professional falling out with Marvel, Colan brought his shadowy, moody textures to Batman, serving as the Dark Knight's primary artist from 1982–1986, penciling most issues of Detective Comics and Batman during that time. He was also the artist of Wonder Woman from early 1982 to mid-1983. Helping to create new characters as well, Colan collaborated in the 1980s with The Tomb of Dracula writer Marv Wolfman on the 14-issue run of Night Force; with Cary Bates on the 12-issue run of Silverblade; and with Greg Potter on the 12-issue run of Jemm, Son of Saturn. As well, he drew the first six issues of Doug Moench's 1987 revival of The Spectre.

Colan's style, characterized by fluid figure drawing and extensive use of shadow, was unusual among Silver Age comic artists, and became more pronounced so as his career progressed. He usually worked as a penciller, with Klaus Janson and Tom Palmer as his most frequent inkers. Colan broke from the mass-market comic book penciller/inker/colorist assembly-line system by creating finished drawings in graphite and watercolor on such projects as the DC Comics miniseries Nathaniel Dusk (1984) and Nathaniel Dusk II (1985–86), and the feature "Ragamuffins" in the Eclipse Comics umbrella series Eclipse #3, 5, & 8 (1981–83). All these were written by frequent collaborator Don McGregor.

Independent-comics work includes the Eclipse graphic novel Detectives Inc.: A Terror Of Dying Dreams (1985), written by McGregor and reprinted in sepia tone as an Eclipse miniseries in 1987, and the miniseries Predator: Hell & Hot Water for Dark Horse Comics. He contributed to Archie Comics in the late 1980s and early 1990s, drawing and occasionally writing a number of stories. His work there included penciling the lighthearted science-fiction series Jughead's Time Police #1-6 (July 1990 - May 1991), and the 1990 one-shot To Riverdale and Back Again, an adaptation of the NBC TV movie about the Archie characters 20 years later, airing May 6, 1990; Stan Goldberg and Mike Esposito drew the parts featuring the characters in flashback as teens, while Colan drew adult characters, in a less cartoony style.

Back at Marvel, he collaborated again with Marv Wolfman on a The Tomb of Dracula series and with Don McGregor on a Black Panther serial in the Marvel Comics Presents anthology.

Later life and career

Colan did some of the insert artwork on Hellbilly Deluxe (released August 1998), the first solo album of Rob Zombie, credited as Gene "The Mean Machine" Colan.

In the 2000s, Colan returned to vampires by drawing a pair of stories for Dark Horse Comics' Buffy the Vampire Slayer series.

Colan and his second wife, Adrienne, moved from New York City to Vermont late in life. At various points he has taught at Manhattan's School of Visual Arts and Fashion Institute of Technology, and had showings at the Bess Cutler Gallery in New York City and at the Elm Street Arts Gallery in Manchester, Vermont.

He penciled the final pages of Blade vol. 3, #12 (Oct. 2007), the final issue of that series, drawing a flashback scene in which the character dresses in his original outfit from the 1970s series The Tomb of Dracula. That same month, for the anniversary issue Daredevil vol. 2, #100 (Oct. 2007), Colan penciled pages 18–20 of the 36-page story "Without Fear, Part One"; the issue additionally reprinted the Colan-drawn Daredevil #90-91 (Aug.-Sept. 1972).

On May 11, 2008, Colan's family announced that Colan, who had been hospitalized for liver failure, had suffered a sharp deterioration in his health. By December, he had sufficiently recovered to travel to an in-store signing in California. He has continued to produce original comics work as late as 2009, drawing the lead feature in Captain America #601 (Sept. 2009). Subsequently, he was nominated for an Eisner Award for Best Single Issue (together with writer Ed Brubaker) for his work on that issue.

Colan's estranged wife Adrienne was found dead in their family home on June 21, 2010.

The previous December, the 67-year-old Adrienne briefly stayed at a mental health facility in New York after an alleged self-harming incident. The couple's children, Eric and Nanci, then became involved in Colan's business affairs, taking it over fully in March. On March 31, Adrienne physically assaulted Colan, leaving him with a separated shoulder that resulted in hospitalization. Colan had an order of protection served against her, and remained in the hospital. Adrienne pleaded guilty to the assault in mid-May.

Bibliography

Interior pencil art includes:

DC Comics

Marvel Comics

Awards and honors

Colan won for the Shazam Award for Best Penciller (Dramatic Division) in 1974. He received the 1977 and 1979 Eagle Award for Favorite Comic Book (Humor), for Howard the Duck, and was nominated for five Eagle Awards in 1978.

In 2005, Colan was inducted into the comics industry's Will Eisner Comic Book Hall of Fame.

The Cartoon Art Museum in San Francisco, California, presented the retrospective "Colan: Visions of a Man without Fear" from November 15, 2008, to March 15, 2009.

Colan is the recipient of the 2008 Sparky Award, presented December 4, 2008.

He won the Comic Art Professional Society's Sergio Award on October 24, 2009.

Audio

References

Further reading

External links