by Don Mangus, Heritage Auctions
With his recent passing, comics legend Gene Colan has left a sterling career highlighted by his superb comic art. During his 60+ year run he worked for Fiction House, Timely/Atlas, EC, DC, Marvel, Warren, Archie, and many other publishers.
Colan had a robust illustrational style, but he wasn't bound by it; he was able to adapt to every comic book genre -- war, Western, superhero, action-adventure, crime, humor, horror, or whatever else was needed. He had a rich pencil line that was nuanced and evocative, and often used subtle modulations of intermediate grey tones that posed a challenge for inkers to interpret. For some, Colan was his own best inker and although he seldom inked his own work, top-notch examples can be found among his early war stories for Atlas, and his later wash tone horror and war tales for Warren Publishing. On several occasions, comics were produced directly from his pure, unadorned pencils.
In the mid-sixties, following John Romita's lead, Gene Colan left the romance comics of DC for the super-heroics of Marvel, where as "Gene the Dean" Colan or "Genial" Gene Colan he built a loyal following. After making a splash on the Sub-Mariner feature at the House of Ideas, he soon established himself as a key creator on the Iron Man and Daredevil franchises. He also enjoyed celebrated stints on Doctor Strange and Captain America.
Colan drew all 70 issues of Tomb of Dracula.
A natural visual storyteller, Colan thrived using Stan Lee's "Marvel method," with its bare-bones art direction and scripting. He plotted and laid out his stories freely in a fast-moving "cinematic" manner with varied panel shapes and points-of-view. In contrast to so many illustrational cartoonists of his era, Colan had managed to learn from the Noel Sickles/Milton Caniff school of storytelling without actually appropriating their art styles.
In the seventies Colan chalked up long, fan-favorite runs on the startlingly offbeat Marvel series, Tomb of Dracula and Howard the Duck.
In the eighties, after an unhappy dispute over changing editorial dictates, Colan left the "Batty Marvel Bullpen" to return to DC, lending his distinctive touch to such icons as Batman and Wonder Woman, as well as on the new series Night Force and Jemm, Son of Saturn.
Like so many comic artists of his generation, Colan was extremely talented, hard working, and dependable. As a reader, it was a luxury to be able to count on his fine work with its consistent drama and verve, month-after-month, like clockwork. We mourn the loss of this towering talent, and offer Gene Colan's family and friends our best wishes; meanwhile, his many fans will continue to enjoy his legacy in the pages of the comics.