24 June 2011

Gene Colan: 1926-2011

The world lost a maestro today with the passing of Gene Colan.

It's a cliche, but very true in my case: as a kid, I didn't like Gene's MARVEL super hero comics.

The art was dark, moody, and the images flowed in sync with the pace of the story.  In reality, I had no idea what I was looking at and was too young to appreciate Gene's ability.  When he arrived at DC COMICS, drawing THE SPECTRE or BATMAN, I was in heaven.  Here, the content and Gene's ability were a match made by a higher power.

Simply put, Gene had the singular talent to watercolour in graphite.

Gene Colan (2007)
I don't think we have the technology to convey how Gene put depth into a two-dimensional pencil image.  Current comic artists don't understand the value of ink.  The ability to use texture to convey depth in the same way Milt Caniff, Hal Foster, or Will Eisner did.  Somehow, Gene Colan could do the same thing with pencil.

My favorite work of Gene's is PLOUGH AND STARS.  I look at this and see a Scorcese shot play out.  I can hear the train rumble, the crunch of the snow, and feel the heat of that kiss against the cold wet bite of the snow.

Gene Colan (2009)

I knew Gene in the good times, which is to say I knew Adrienne.  At any gathering, there would be a huge crowd and to the side was Gene, quiet.  In the center court was Adrienne, animated, vibrant, and full of humor.  This scene could describe an entire generation of comic artists- he would draw and she would run the show.

There's an upcoming collection of Gene's BATMAN work coming out and I can't wait.  At the time, DC and MARVEL were printing newsprint and the colour quality was lousy.  This volume should be a wonderful celebration of his talent.  His Batman was a dark and moody adventure, something I hear that is popular with the kids today.

I wish I could see the world the way Gene did.

His artwork is the closest thing we have and I'll treasure it always.

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