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Gene Colan

PostPosted: Sun May 11, 2008 4:53 pm
by Jan Scherpenhuizen
Daniel Best sent me a note that Gene Colan is unwell and he's collecting tributes to send to his wife and hopefully pick their spirits up. Here's what I sent Daniel. If you've got a tribute for Gene, send it to Daniel: His email is at the end of this piece.

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.

Date: Sun, 11 May 2008 07:07:40 +0930
Subject: Gene Colan Tribute

Hi Everybody,

I hope this finds people in excellent health and spirits.

As you might, or might not, be aware Gene Colan's health isn't the greatest at the moment. Gene's wife, Adrienne, has recently posted some details of Gene's health struggles and what he's going through and it's not pretty. To that end I thought I'd take a bit of time and prepare an on-line tribute to The Dean with the aim of both lifting his spirits somewhat and also to show him how much love and respect there is out there for him - as if he didn't already know! So what I'm asking is if people would be willing to send through a few words - as many or as few as you like - about Gene, the man and/or the artist. It doesn't have to be much, but you want to write something substantial then by all means, do. I'll gather them up and post them on-line in the coming days and make sure Gene gets them. If you know anyone else who you think would like to contribute then certainly pass this message, and my email address, on to them and I'll be more than happy to include them. The more the better.

Thanks in advance - it's greatly appreciated, as usual. Let's spread some love.


Daniel Best

PO Box 3315
South Australia, 5067

Re: Gene Colan

PostPosted: Wed Sep 19, 2012 7:34 am
by Richard Rae
Agreed... very sad passing.