When I was younger, my mom got me MARVEL: FIVE FABULOUS DECADES OF THE WORLD'S GREATEST COMICS, and in it was a little retrospective on "The Dean of Light and Dark," so named for his ability to really highlight contrasts between light and shadow, starting from his work on DAREDEVIL. In particular, his pencil work on this cover was eye-opening.
Keep in mind that throughout the book so far, I was being shown the artwork of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, Johnny Romita, and other greats of the 1960s. All greats, but not exactly the most detailed or most dependent on the use of light and shadow. Gene's stood out among that crowd as looking modern, and that's a testament to his ability and influence. You wouldn't have your Frank Millers and Mike Mignolas without him. And he stood out to me then and there, and I'd forever be happy and grateful for his work.
Gene's final work was CAPTAIN AMERICA #601, a story written by Ed Brubaker, and from the original art, he had lost none of his ability to contrast light and shadow.
Gene made his mark on titles like DAREDEVIL — I've actually heard it said over and over that if he had been on that book since the beginning, it would have been an instant hit — TOMB OF DRACULA, HOWARD THE DUCK, and CAPTAIN AMERICA. He co-created the Falcon, the first African-American superhero in Marvel and DC. He was one of the landmarks of comic book excellence, one of its stalwarts, one of its true artists.
What happened to Gene Colan in the end — his wife, his illness — is none of our business, and I'm sure you'll read about it in another places. But I will tell you this: Gene Colan is severely, severely underacknowledged in the comics industry and was severely undercompensated. He deserved more for what he did than what he got, and deserves every bit of recognition he gets.
A few days ago, at Book Sale, I spotted NIGHT FORCE #5 and instantly bought it.
I haven't had the chance to read it yet. I think I will now. Rest in peace, Mr. Colan. And thank you.
For a more personal tribute, I suggest reading this account by Clifford Meth. Furthermore, Meth writes here:
Following my earlier discussions with Gene, and one this morning with his daughter Nanci, I am setting up the Gene Colan Scholarship at the Joe Kubert School.
In lieu of flowers and such, if you would like to contribute to this scholarship in Gene’s memory, please make your check payable to “Joe Kubert School” and mail it to my attention:
Gene Colan Scholarship
c/o Clifford Meth
179-9 Rt. 46 West
Rockaway, NJ 07866
All checks will be delivered to Mike Chen, the school’s coordinator.