Friday, June 24, 2011

In Passing: Gene Colan

Howard the Duck #9 February 1977 (pencils: Colan/inker: Leialoha)

There are many titles associated with and accolades for the comic work of Gene Colan: Dracula, Daredevil, and Batman among the most popular, but for me it will always be Howard the Duck. When I was a young teenager I was constantly drawn to the weirder characters, and when Howard popped up as a counterpoint to one of my personal favorites, Man-Thing (in issues of "Giant-Sized Man-Thing" no less) he quickly became the antithesis of the stereotypical superhero, which I had begun to burn out on before finally abandoning them for the underground comix. And what with the Hollywood revival cannibalization of comics on the big, 3-D screen, it's unfortunately happening all over again:
Which tells us something about what comics can do that movies cannot: they cast their own kind of spell. No CGI, no Michael Bay-like pyrotechnics, just a glossy cover over newsprint with your basic four-color separation process. But comics have their own private voodoo, these stories you can enjoy by yourself -- and the world you voluntarily enter when you love comics and they speak to you is a private one. It is not a communal experience, a comic book: it is an intimate and personal one." - Tony Fitzpatrick on Artnet: "Bazooka Hulk" (via The Comics Reporter)
The news of Colan's passing brings up some major nostalgia for me, as Howard the Duck's attitude and ironic awareness was a stepping stone into a MADness, and the artwork of Colan gave life to a peculiar and powerful synthesis of fantasy and parody, a warped vision of reality + ridiculousness that appealed more and more to my mutating sense of aesthetics at the time. This is perfectly illustrated by the sample cover posted above: scenes like this were an inspiration in a way that no superpower could ever hope to express.
The draftsmanship and style of Colan's pencils are recognized as a one of the top-ranked talents in the Silver Age: his influence is industry-wide, testament to the tributes that are rippling out across the world of comics with his passing.

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