Saturday, 22 April 2017

THE INVINCIBLE GENE COLAN...


Images copyright MARVEL COMICS

Here's a great book I acquired recently.  It's a great book that really should have been even greater, but I'll get to that presently.  If you're a genuine comics fan, you'll know of GENE COLAN.  Gene was a master of light and shade, and one of the finest contributors ever to freelance for MARVELIRON MAN, SUB-MARINER, DAREDEVIL, HOWARD The DUCK, and DRACULA are just a few of the titles he drew for 'The House Of Ideas' in the '60s & '70s.

There are some great images in this 132 pager, but, alas, also some not-so-great ones.  It's always somewhat disappointing to read what a sublime artist someone is, and then see art which doesn't quite bear that out.  Case in point is the example below.  Nice pencil work, superb texturing, but that apart, it's a dreadful drawing.  The figure is too squat, the head's too big, the body's too small, and the legs aren't right in any way.  And the fact that ol' DOOM's left arm appears to be sprouting from the middle of his torso all result in a less than perfect illustration.  (And the right arm is seriously dodgy as well.  Where exactly does the elbow bend?)


For all the excellent examples of Gene's artistic ability, there's a few I wish they'd just left out, because they don't do his reputation any favours at all.  It's not the first time I've found myself wishing that compilers of books like this had been just a little more discerning in their choices, and, unfortunately, this is another such occasion.  It also suffers from several areas of over-printing, where one caption has been printed on top of another, resulting in something that's practically unreadable.  Don't they have proofreaders any more?

However, it would be remiss of me not to put things in context by mentioning that Gene suffered from glaucoma for many years (being almost blind in one eye and having tunnel vision in the other), and had to draw with his face practically pressed up against the page.  This no doubt explains the instances when his art wasn't at its best, and makes it all the more amazing when it was.  So despite its few shortcomings, this tome should be a welcome addition to the bookshelf of any devoted fan of 'The Dean'.  Published in 2010, it may yet be available.  Try your local comicbook store right away.

18 comments:

Phil S said...

Got this book also. Your criticism made me think. You're quite right that they didn't use his best images and I'm wondering why not. I'm assuming because Gene didn't own the artwork or the rights to publish those images so they had to use what he had on hand. It's sad to think that for a retrospective of work for a giant of the industry which helped to make the company, Marvel couldn't come to some deal which wouldn't break the bank. A dozen or so pages of Gene's work at his prime instead of later pencil commissions.

Kid said...

Perhaps whoever compiled the book simply thought that everything Gene produced was wonderful, and wasn't able to distinguish the superior work from the not so good stuff, PS? Regardless, there's definitely some images in there that I'd have left out.

Rip Jagger said...

Colan's name is often mentioned but just as often overlooked when Marvel gets discussed, but the amount of work he did on both high profile and lower profile stuff was just astounding really, particularly by modern standards. His work on Daredevil is my favorite, his lithe figures tumbling across the page were ideal for that highly kinetic comic, and his work on both Doc Strange and Dracula is properly legendary. His Iron Man is less mentioned, but I notice the recent Epic volume is all Colan and rich and colorful Colan at that.

Rip Off

Kid said...

I've got that very Epic volume, RJ, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Colan (mostly) at his best. His art is always wonderfully atmospheric. (Incidentally, there's some Jack Kirby art in that volume as well, because he filled in for Gene as he had the flu. He still managed to do the first 2 pages of that strip 'though.)

karl said...

I got this book several years ago and found it dissapointed. Considering the large body of work Colan did there wasn't much to this book it seemed rather thin almost like an art book and not a celebration of his work.

Kid said...

I certainly thought it could have been better than it was, K. Perhaps it was compiled in haste.

Norman Boyd said...

Good critique Kid. I LOVE Colan's work but, like you, find some rather strange. He was definitely pushing the boundaries in terms of perspective so I think i excuse him, but you're right. I love some of his portraits of kids and as for Natasha, the Black Widow washing in Amazing Adventures I still remember what I thought of that, as a teen!

Kid said...

What I find interesting, NB, is the fact that Colan says in an interview at the back of the book that he didn't try to emulate Kirby and did his own thing. However, I think it's fairly evident from some of his figures that he had Kirby in mind ('though perhaps subconsciously) when he drew them. Yeah, I remember that Black Widow scene as well. I don't think anybody who saw it will ever forget it.

bob said...

The Doctor Doom is an " upshot ' so your explanation of the arm and head are Way Off. Also, it had one of the most hits and Positive comments on his website at that time.
Lastly, Clifford Meth who was Gene's rep for years stated it is one of the best commissions that Gene ever did !! I value his op-inion more.

I agree with him. I know art is to each there own but your seeing things way off base.

Kid said...

'Bob', you'd have more credibility if you used your real name, but regardless of that, you're talking pants. I'm well aware that it's an 'upshot', but it's still not a very well constructed drawing. Because of his bad eyesight, Gene produced a few 'dodgy' drawings in his time, but he also drew a hell of a lot more great ones. To recognise when he occasionally had an 'off' day in no way diminishes his overall talent. Just about every artist you can name has a few drawings that could stand improvement - even Kirby. What's really off-base is your spelling.

bob said...

You speak like you have the ultimate say in good or poor art. Your statement that artist's have an off day is not a point to support your opinion.

Sorry if my spelling also is not up to your standings. Again, the spelling had nothing to do with our conversation.


We can disagree on a piece of artwork as many do. It was the first piece shown in the book so I would think they liked it well enough.

I respect your thoughts, just felt you should do the same.

Kid said...

Now you're back-pedalling, because telling someone that they're 'Way Off' gives the impression that you think you have the ultimate say in good or poor art. And I'm using Gene's art at its best as the standard (not 'standings') here, and that drawing simply just doesn't measure up. I don't doubt that those behind the book liked the drawing well enough, but that doesn't in itself make it a good drawing. Take a look at the other comments - you'll find that you're in the minority here. And telling me that I'm 'way off base' is hardly a sign of respect for my opinion. However, I'm not getting involved further in this dance, so that's your last comment.

bob said...

I know you have the "last word" because it is your website.
The other comments on your site do not address the Doom drawing but just agree with your general thoughts on the book.

Remember, others are entitled to their opinion as well as you are.

Hard concept I know.

My last word to you as well.

Kid said...

As it's my website, I also reserve the right to change my mind about whether I publish a comment or not. I used the Doom drawing as an example of why I regarded the book as I did, so therefore those who agree with my view of the book are implicitly agreeing with my opinion on the Doom drawing itself. (Phil S's comment about later commissions, of which this drawing was one, is proof of that.) And nobody's disputing your right to an opinion, only your judgement on what constitutes good or bad art. Being an artist myself, I understand anatomy and that Doom drawing is an anatomical abberation.

As you persist on arguing the toss on a post which is over a year old, it's clear that YOU'RE the one who has difficulty with other people's entitlement to their opinions.

Now go find yourself a hobby - 'bob'.

Anonymous said...

Being an "artist" you must hate Kirby drawings as he was never a master of anatomy as you so skillfully are as you sit in judgement. I know you will give him credit for his power and feeling that jumped off the page at the viewer. The comments that "generally" agree with you on the Colan book once again have not judged the Doom piece specifically as you have so again you just bundle up anything to support your thesis.

I just happened to come across this blog and that is why I wrote in. I thought that was the idea. My hobby is comic artwork so I have found my hobby.

You should not get so defensive if you want a blog where someone might not share your opinion.

Kid said...

Don't think I haven't detected the underlying agenda of your comments, but I'll give you enough rope to hang yourself. I put up the Doom illustration as an example of the deficiencies of the book and most of those who commented were in agreement - based on that one example. Therefore it's clear, even without them specifically mentioning the drawing, that they concur with my assessment of it - otherwise they would have disagreed with me, which no one has but you. (You see, their agreement is implicit in the absence of dissent.) That's called joined up thinking, a concept which you clearly have no understanding of. Did you get that? No one else (apart from you) has disagreed with my assessment of the drawing, so that means you're the odd man out. You clearly dismiss the screamingly obvious to support your out-of-sync 'thesis'.

Now, your obsessive persistence in disagreeing with me has become monotonous. You should get another hobby if you can't recognise a bad drawing when you see one. And yes - there are quite a few Kirby drawings I'm not too impressed with, which is why the choice of inker was always an important factor with Kirby's art. Hunger Dogs is an abomination, but Jack was old and ill at the time, so allowances have to be made, as I have made for Gene in this instance. Therefore you are completely presumptuous in 'knowing' what I will give Kirby credit for, and once again you are mistaken.

What you seem to be missing here is that you didn't merely express an opinion, you 'rubbished' mine while doing so. You're therefore not in a position to take the moral highground in this discussion. Any further comment will be ignored as it will merely prove that you're more interested in arguing for the sake of it and trying to wind me up in the process.

And finally - if, as you say, Clifford Meth described that Doom drawing as one of the best commissions that Gene ever did, then it doesn't say much about the others. And you can tell him I said so.

Now 'bob'-off.

Kid said...

And (should anyone be interested) 'Bob' is still plugging away, trying to insult me and completely misrepresenting the situation. Had he merely said he disagreed with my opinion and that he liked the drawing, I wouldn't have had a problem with him. However, in dogmatically saying that I was 'Way Off' (note the caps) and 'seeing things way off base', he was egotistically elevating his judgement over my own (ironically, the very thing he accuses me of), not simply disagreeing with me. His spelling is atrocious, so unless it's a ploy to throw me off the scent as to his true identity, I can only conclude that he's not very well educated - in English as well as art.

He's bibbed his last bob.

Kid said...

Yep, you guessed it - he's still at it. Some people never give up - or learn.

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