Gene Colan was a comic book artist who mainly worked for Marvel Comics as a freelancer. I just read that he passed away last night after a long period of illness. He's an important figure in the history of comic books, and for me personally, he was an important artist. He was one of the first artists I discovered on my own and knew by name--and by style. I could always spot a Gene Colan page--he was a unique artist whose drawing style ran counter to the popular mainstream comics styles of the day (typified by John Romita and John Buscema). When I was in junior high, I fell in with a group of kids who were into comic books. They (Jim Mooney, Bud Thomas, Jonathan Kessler, Larry Garrett, and John Richardson) got me interested in comics as well. Despite this, we remain friends. I already liked comic strips and MAD a lot, so it was a natural step. This was the mid-70s. One of the first comics I ever bought on my own was this one:
Gene Colan, Howard the Duck #4
Colan was the primary visual artist on the comic book Howard the Duck, which quickly became my favorite. I would say that he is best known for Howard the Duck, Tomb of Dracula (another 70s era Marvel comic) and Daredevil, a long-running comic (still being published today) that he drew from the mid-60s to the early 70s. This is one of my favorite Daredevil covers by Colan:
Gene Colan, Daredevil #38 cover
Colan was a master of chiaroscuro. A lot of my favorite cartoonists are such masters--Milt Caniff, Chester Gould, Frank Robbins and more. Colan had a particular skewed and dynamic style of laying out panels on the page and depicting the action within. It always seemed to me that his style would have been perfect for straight-up hard-boiled detective fiction, but in the world of mainstream comics with its insanely constricted choice of acceptable genres, Colan had to draw a whole lot of superhero comics. (He was luckier than a lot of his peers in this regard in that he had successful runs on a satirical comic and a horror comic in addition to his superhero work.)
Here are a couple of pages from Howard the Duck--the first comic book I ever loved. Its two main creators, Steve Gerber and Gene Colan are now dead, which is making me feel pretty old today.
Gene Colan, page from Howard the Duck #26
Gene Colan, Howard the Duck #5, p. 31
Rest in peace, Gene.