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 MARVEL.
IRON 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 unread-
able.  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 tun-
nel 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 FORBIDDEN PLANET first.

8 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.

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