Saturday, 23 May 2020

GENE COLAN'S CAPTAIN AMERICA #601...


Copyright MARVEL COMICS

I seem to remember reading somewhere that CAPTAIN AMERICA #601 was GENE COLAN's last work for MARVEL - and perhaps (private commissions aside) his last work anywhere.  Apparently it was originally intended as an Annual in 2007, but didn't appear until a couple of years later in this double-size issue of Cap's own regular monthly mag.

The version shown here is the one coloured by DEAN WHITE, and it has to be admitted that the art is very atmospheric.  There's also a black and white variant version printed from Colan's pencils, which I'm still waiting for despite ordering it (from a different seller) within minutes of the colour one on display before you.

Colan won an EISNER Award for this issue, but despite the reviews extolling his art, it isn't really the best thing he's ever done.  Dodgy perspectives, banana fingers, contorted anatomy, and stretched composition are occasionally in evidence, but remember that Colan suffered from poor eyesight so it's almost a miracle that he could even see to draw anything.  And he was also 82 when he produced this ish.

However, like I said, this mag has mood and atmosphere in spades, and no one did those qualities better than Colan.  When the black and white version arrives, I'll post some pages so that you can compare them against White's coloured examples and you can judge for yourself which ones you like best.  In the meantime, feel free to leave a comment saying just what Gene Colan's art means to you.







I'll show you the interiors soon - promise!

17 comments:

Graham said...

Gene Colan was a bit of an acquired taste for me. Maybe he was a little too atmospheric for me at that age. I enjoyed his Daredevil and Iron Man (as Adam Austin), his Captain America not so much....a lot depended on who was inker, I guess, but I never snatched an issue off the rack and said "Ooh, Gene Colan is drawing this one!!" I never did read Tomb of Dracula, and haven't even seen many pages from it. When he moved to DC and worked on Batman, I did enjoy his work a little more. He was a pretty good fit with the Dark Knight with all the shadows and darkness. I actually read 601 (my brother had it) and thought it was pretty good, considering he was in his 80's at the time. Over time, I have come to appreciate him a little bit more.

Kid said...

I just recently re-read all the Iron Man strips he drew in Tales Of Suspense, G, and really enjoyed them. He was at his peak then (and on the Sub-Mariner strips in Tales To Astonish), but there was still evidence from time-to-time of 'rubber' arms and legs flailing in all directions. As his eyesight got worse over time, so did his artwork to a degree (his characters didn't always stand on the same level, layout-wise), but he was certainly a master of mood and atmosphere. After an operation on his eyes (sometime in the '90s I think), his artwork noticeably improved and it was good to see him return to Daredevil for a while.

I once read an interview with him in which he said he was one of the few artists who wasn't influenced by Jack Kirby, but I see a lot of Jack in some of his figures' positions, so I believe he WAS influenced by Kirby, but perhaps just didn't realise it.

Dave S said...

Gene Colan at his best was an incredible artist, his Tomb of Dracula run is lovely. That Cap issue looks very nice too, I think I bought it when it was published, but if I still have it, I know not.

I had a brief email correspondence with Mr Colan a few years before he passed away, Kid. He told me once that he had always wanted to visit Scotland. Sadly I don't think he made it.

As much as i think he was the quintessential Daredevil artist, his Spider-Man never looked right. Then again, I don't think John Buscema or Jack Kirby ever really got the hang of Spidey either, so he's in good company.

Dave S said...

Forgot to mention that the link below has an article about various inkers working on Gene Colan's pencils, which may be of interest.

https://www.sequentialcrush.com/blog/2012/11/the-many-inkers-of-gene-colan

I'd say that Tom Palmer and Klaus Janson worked well with Colan, but I also thought Syd Shores did a really good job inking Gene the Dean on 60s Daredevil issues.

Interesting to see at that link above an example of Gene inked by Sal Buscema- it sounds like a strange combination but actually works really well, in my opinion.

McSCOTTY said...

I really like Gene's work hes one of my all time favourites. I missed this issue but it looks pretty good to me. Colans DD for me was one of the best runs in comics at times his art was stunning on that strip. I cant say I see any Kirby influence in his work but that's probably my lack of knowledge on this type of thing unless it's really obvious

Kid said...

I liked Vince Colletta's inks on Gene's Sub-Mariner pencils, DS, and although I know he's not popular with everyone, I think Colletta's inks worked on Kirby and Colan. As you know, there are just some characters that not all artists can master, and the examples you give are spot on. There are quite a few heroes that Ditko never got quite right, Thor being one of them. I'll take a wee look at that link.

******

I think Kirby's influence can be seen in some of Colan's foreshortened figure work, McS, but that's probably about the extent of it. That apart, he was pretty much his own man, art-wise. I doubt that Gene was aware of it or did it consciously, but Jack had such an impact on comics that just about every artist around couldn't help but be affected by it, whether they were aware of it or not.

Fantastic Four follower said...

When you look back at his body of work it is simply amazing.I was always more interested in the story than the art when I was young but then obviously as I got older and began identifying the various artists the art became more important.Looking back he was not the typical Marvel artist in the way of Kirby,Romita,Buscema etc but it worked.In theory he should never have been assigned Daredevil and especially Captain America but he made them his own and certainly for me is the definitive DD artist.The 20 issue run on Cap from #116 to #136 is sensational with the Wood inked #127 a personal favourite and the cover of #116 being a belter!(Might be other hands involved in that cover,not sure!)His artwork in DD,Cap and Dr.Strange stands the test of time whereas the stories by Lee and Thomas are all over the place in quality.Adams and Steranko were regarded as the trailblazers but,looking back,was there ever an artist who did not conform to The Marvel Style who we now associate with Marvel more?If that makes sense.

Kid said...

Makes perfect sense, Triple F, though I still think of his art as being part of the Marvel style because he was just as much a dynamic storyteller as Kirby or Buscema, but in his own way. Funnily enough, I wasn't so keen on his DC Batman stuff, but because of his eyesight, his work had deteriorated around that time, and it wasn't until he had his eye operation years later that he regained his old touch.

Marcus said...

Gene was an teacher of mine at the School of Visual Arts. I took his class three times. He was very influenced by movies and felt he was creating a mini-movie when drawing a comic. He taught to use reference photos and even dolls to help with figures. In fact, he bought one of the early VCRs to play the Dracula movie starring Jack Palance to base his Drac on Palance. He also, showed us the movie Bullitt with Steve McQueen. His advice on perspective? Make it look right. This was the late '80s and he wore thick glasses but didn't complain of sight issues to us.

Kid said...

For details of Gene's vision problems, M, type 'The Invincible Gene Colan' into this blog's search box. His advice on perspective is good, but, unfortunately, what may have looked right to him (because of his poor eyesight) didn't always look good per se. Back in the early '80s, his problems with rendering people on opposite ends of a room on the correct level in relation to one another were something even other Marvel and DC artists had noticed and commented on.

Marcus said...

On yeah, you can see some of that earlier, too. I just meant that he never mentioned his vision to us. I think he kind of always had those tendencies. His better inkers like Tom Palmer, Frank Giacioa and Klaus Janson helped him out a bit.

Dave S said...

Ross Andru also had eyesight problems in his later career that distorted his drawings. According to Dick Giordano, Andru would trace a mirror image of his work to make corrections to it- having no artistic ability whatsoever, I've no idea how this would work, but apparently it did!

Kid said...

Yes, I was surprised to see the occasional dodgy perspective in his Iron Man/Tales Of Suspense stories when I re-read them recently, so as you say, it goes back a fair bit in his work. Tom Palmer was certainly a great inker when it came to disguising weaknesses in any penciller's art.

******

Many a piece of art that looks good to the eye often appears distorted when reversed or flipped, DS, so if it looks noticeably distorted in its pre-flipped state, it'll be even more pronounced when reversed. Therefore, if the artist corrects the flipped image, it'll also (usually) reduce any faults when returned to its original state.

Dave S said...

Ah, that makes sense. Shows what pride Ross Andru took in his work- I remember reading about a penciler who couldn't quite get something correct, so he smudged the pencils with a sock so that the inker would have to fix it!

Kid said...

When you think about it, DS, it's amazing how many penciller's reputations were enhanced by having a good inker. No doubt the reverse was also true on occasion when an inker didn't really suit the penciller.

Phil S said...

I am a big fan of Colan, I think he Black Widow Amazing Adventures work was the best ! Sure he could draw heroes but his women were gorgeous . I actually own one commission and three pages of his art, one DD page ( no DD but Matt Is in it) and two pages of Wonder Woman. I just love looking at his use of blacks. Him and Wood were the best at spot black .

Kid said...

As was Alex Toth. I'd imagine Gene's original art looks even better than the printed version, PS. Lucky man that you are.

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