Saturday, July 02, 2011

gene colan, r.i.p.

award-winning hall-of-fame comic art methuselah gene colan passed away at the age of 84 on june 23th, ending an amazing 65-year career in the business. gene was a master of layout and shadow, who kept his style loose and flowing and his characters nimble, ready to spring (or ooze) off the page at the first sign of trouble.

stan lee:

gene (the dean) had been with us for many years, illustrating anything that needed an artist's deft touch and a movie-maker's eye. gene has long been one of our most cinematically-influenced artists. virtually every panel he draws gives you the feeling that you're watching a scene from a movie. a master photographer himself, gene colan is likewise a master at employing the photographer's art and translating it into the art of comicbook illustration.

... one other talent which gifted gene possesses in great abundance is the ability to make a quiet, static situation look alive and fraught with excitement. years ago, in the bullpen, we used to joke about one panel the genial one had drawn — i can't even remember which strip it was, although it may have been in a daredevil story — in which he merely showed a man's hand holding a doorknob, about to open the door. that's all it was — a hand on a doorknob. yet, because of the exotic lighting he gave to the panel, because of the perspective — the angle at which the hand was seen clutching the knob — because of the modeling of each finger that he drew, gene had made that panel as dramatic and as interesting as any other in the story. like i always say, if you've got a need for a hand clutching a doorknob, colan's your boy!

son of origins of marvel comics, 1975

creepy #10, "thing of darkness" (1965)

eerie #4, "hatchet man" (1966)

(art by gene colan, stories by archie goodwin)

gene & adrienne colan:
tom: what do you remember fondly about your time at marvel?
gene: the beginning with stan, when we were allowed such unprecedented freedom ... that's what i remember. i'd talk with stan about a plot over the phone, and i'd tape record his whole idea — it'd just be a few sentences. "this is what i want in the beginning, the middle, and what i want in the end ... the rest is up to you." i had all the characters work for me, what they looked like was up to me — except those that were already established. but whatever i did, i could do. the one time stan tells about at conventions, because it's laughable, is when i drew a whole page of a hand opening up a door. i did it to expedite matters, [laughs] so i could get through with it, but he didn't like it, he thought i was ...
adrienne: remember, he called, he says, "what are you doing?"
gene: "what are you doing — a hand opening up a door? where's the interest in that?"
adrienne: but stan loves to tell that story at conventions, and we've been there to witness him on panels, telling that story. he always says, "however, if there's anyone who can draw a hand opening up a door, and capture your attention for a whole page, [it's gene]," which is very sweet of him to say. and that's kind of ... that's what made that time very sweet for gene, because stan was wonderful to gene in that way. there was no fear; he didn't use that kind of tactic, even when gene was constantly destroying the pacing of plot. only on occasion would stan call and say, "gene!" it was kind of like that, like a brother begging another brother, "please! please!" but not with the idea like his job was at stake, or, "you don't know what you're doing."
comic book artist magazine, 2001

daredevil #47, "brother, take my hand" (1968)

colan on "daredevil":

the idea was to choreograph his acrobatics ...

comic book artist, 2001

(art by gene colan and george klein, story by stan lee)

colan on "captain america":

... the kind of man, like a gary cooper type, where you wish you could be like him, wish you knew him. that's how i looked at him, like someone i would've liked, or would have liked to have had the principles he stood for. i wanted to be like him.

comic book artist, 2001

capt. america #601, "red, white & blue-blood" (2009)

(art by gene colan and dean white, story by ed brubaker)

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