My first encounter with Gene Colan's work was in Tales to Astonish #71 (a Marvel Pop Art production)! I continued to follow his work at Marvel thru Iron Man and Daredevil and especially his murkily brilliant Doctor Strange. I was still a kid learning to draw at the time and I copied a lot of artists' styles, principally Kirby and Steranko. I never tried to copy Colan's work when I was a kid, tho. Reason is the same as most and the reason you don't see any Colan imitators: Gene is unique, his universe is unique, and we've all been very priviliged to to be allowed a glimpse inside that shadowy, misty, mysterious realm. I long for another visit to it. Hopefully we'll see Gene's Captain America soon.
I met Gene much later. Before I even got to meet him, I worked over his pencils on the black and white Howard the Duck magazine, the Tomb of Dracula magazine, and the Rampaging Hulk magazine. Working on Howard was my favorite, tho. I identified with the character. I just hope I'm not quite as big a jerk as Howard got to be under Bill Mantlo. I never wanted Howard and Beverly to break up, even tho the story where they did was an artistic triumph for me as an inker.
I finally met Gene when he was in the office reworking a Captain America splash. Cap was in the water, swimming in New York Harbor (yecch!) with a Coast Guard Cutter behind him. Being a callow youth of 26 or so, I presumed to kibitz on his detailing of the cutter. It was missing the shield and racing stripe. Gene, a meticulous researcher, obviously had not been able to get up-to-date photos in that pre-internet age. I'd been in the Coast Guard only a few years before, so I pulled out my lighter with the insignia on it for Gene to work from. He reproduced the emblem perfectly, of course. That wasn't the amazing part, tho.
Gene already had the ship drawn, I think, before he came into the office. I watched him draw Cap's head. I had never seen anything like it. He simply started with an eye and worked out from there. It was astounding. No oval for the head, no crossbars to line up the features, NOTHING. A beautifully detailed head took shape--and form!--before my eyes, as if by magic. Graphite seemed to simply flow onto the page to create the trademark Colan shadows on Cap.
Gene later went on to DC. I wandered all over the place and wound up in the animation biz.
Gene and I re-connected at the first New York Comic Con at the Javits Center. He was wonderful, of course, as was Adrienne. In the ensuing few years we've become closer. The Colans were very supportive of me last year when I had my cancer operation (I'm fine now, thank you). They would have come to the V.A. Hospital to visit me if I'd given them the info of where I was, exactly. As it was they tried to call me but I couldn't be reached at the time since I was in intensive care with tubes stuck in me. Frankly, I felt like a Berni Wrightson drawing and somehow didn't want them to see me like that.
Gene and I had planned to get together for lunch after I completed my chemotherapy program. Somehow it never quite happened.
So hang in there, Gene! You have to finish that Captain America job and you owe me a lunch date!
(11th May, 2008)
Dave loved Gene Colan, not just as an artist. He was in awe of what Gene could do with a pencil and a blank piece of paper, and didn't have much time for anyone who thought otherwise. When I first told Dave that Gene was ill in May 2008 he instantly jotted down the words on this page and sent over art to Clifford Meth to auction on Gene's behalf. There wasn't much that Dave wouldn't do for Gene and that appreciation worked both way. When Bob Shaw, Clifford Meth and myself launched the Dave Simons Appeal Gene and Adrienne Colan were the first to contribute. As Adrienne told me at the time, "Frankly, Gene and I remember very few from his past. But Dave is someone we never forgot." When I passed that sentiment onto Dave he was lost for words, but only briefly.
Once Dave and Gene reconnected they never lost touch. Each man would suggest something to the other, such as Gene suggesting that Dave explore the possility of teaching at the School Of Visual Arts, or Dave finding an obscure influence through Gene's pencils (Robert Fawcett). It was fitting that one of the last people Dave spoke to on the phone before he passed was Gene. Dave would have liked that.
Dave felt honoured that Gene considered him a friend and that Gene also held his skills and talents in such high regard. Gene has a reputation for being somewhat harsh on inkers, but Dave was able to do what few others before him were able to do - ink Gene's pencils in such a way that he was able to bring out the complexities of the art and actually enhance the work that was there. Very few other inkers can say the same.
That Rampaging Hulk story was also the only story I know of where Gene didn't do full pencils. This was probably due to the editor at the time. Anyway, I was asked to not only do finishes on much of the job, but to change the character's faces as well! "Excuse me Dave, but do you mind going into that church and taking a crap on the altar? We'll pay you extra."
The story behind that particular page is that it was mostly pencilled, but some background elements, etc. were loose. The kids were tightly pencilled and it shows. The dog, as I recall, was very loose. I added the cat, just because I thought the dog should be looking at something.
Typical of Dave there was a bit more to this story than what met the eye...perhaps one day I can share the whole story, but until then, this snippet will suffice.
(scan kindly supplied by Craig Rogers)
I did more stuff over Gene Colan, Howard the Duck, Tomb Of Dracula and the Hulk magazine. I inked him on a Captain America annual.
Gene Colan was always my favorite penciler to work on. That was like a match made in heaven because a lot of people didn’t understand Gene’s shading. I thought ‘this is great, this is a great jumping on point if you’re gonna do black and white stuff’.
As I've said elsewhere, the bulk of the inking that first appeared under my name in 1980 in the black and white Howard the Duck numbers 1 and 2 was by Armando Gil. He didn't seem all that career-oriented and was happy to make a few bucks drawing while I got the credit. I did feel bad about it, though, so I split and continued inking Howard on my own.
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