This morning I woke up to find out that comic book art legend Gene Colan had lost his battle with cancer. Mr. Colan was 84 years old. The last few years of his life were certainly difficult, as he faced many serious health issues (including loss of vision and liver disease), the loss of his wife Adrienne, and even a substantial amount of his original comic pages being stolen.
Mr. Colan’s career in the comics industry began in 1944, shortly before he served in World War II. His last published work was last year’s Captain America #601, which one an Eisner Award for best single issue. It’s really impressive when you think about a man at that age and suffering from various health complications being able to produce a full length comic at the quality he did.
He produced books for all the major publishers, but I think he will be most remembered for his work at Marvel. Back in their glory days of the 1960s, he was up their with Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, John Romita, and John and Sal Buscema as the go to guys. His work is iconic; many of the most memorable images of Daredevil, Iron Man, Namor and Dr. Strange were produced by his hands. Not to mention his 70 issue run on Tomb of Dracula, which is a definite achievement in the art form.
Not to mention he co-created the Falcon, one of the (if not the) first African-American super heroes. Here’s a quote from a Marvel Masterworks compilation:
“In the late 1960s Vietnam War and Civil Rights protests were regular occurrences, and Stan, always wanting to be at the forefront of things, started bringing these headlines into the comics. … One of the biggest steps we took in this direction came in Captain America. I enjoyed drawing people of every kind. I drew as many different types of people as I could into the scenes I illustrated, and I loved drawing black people. I always found their features interesting and so much of their strength, spirit and wisdom written on their faces. I approached Stan, as I remember, with the idea of introducing an African-American hero and he took to it right away. … I looked at several African-American magazines, and used them as the basis of inspiration for bringing The Falcon to life.”
He was also responsible for creating Blade, which later went on to become a successful crossover franchise for Marvel in the movie and television world during the early 2000s.
Mr. Colan had an amazing life and career, and the comics world will certainly not forget his accomplishments.