The Brewer Report: Gene Colan Was My Hero



The just-departed Gene Colan, a name that might be somewhat strange to a new generation of comic book reader, was more than just an artist who was gosh-darn-hard to ink. He was a personal hero of mine, and today my heart feels both empty and thankful.

When I first entered the House of Ideas back in the heyday of the Merry Marvel Marching Society, and long before the fan movement known as F.O.O.M. (Friends of Ol’ Marvel), Gene Colan was one of a handful of creators that brought the tales of the Marvel Universe together with the realism first introduced by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby. Along with Kirby and Steve Ditko, Colan, John Romita Sr., the Buscemas and a few others ushered in the Silver Age of Comics – my youth – and defined the characters that are now making their ways across the cinema screens of the 21st century.

Colan could make any character look great: Iron Man, the Sub-Mariner and especially Daredevil. The Daredevil soap opera that was the Matt Murdock/Karen Page affair (later involving the Black Widow), and the superheroic adventures that surrounded it, was brought to life by the pencils of a man who drew people better than anyone I ever saw.  Colan’s eight-year love affair with Daredevil was one of dark joy, angst and the noble nights of a man without fear, a man really without major powers fighting his own way for justice. A Batman for our times before the Dark Knight returned from “camp” to the comic page.

picGene’s images became reality-electric when (by chance and thanks to Dan Adkins’ schedule) Colan was thrown into the late-1960s adventures of Dr. Strange inked by Tom Palmer. After the two became a team, no one’s inks over Colan pencils were ever as satisfying, IMHO. With Roy Thomas at the writing helm, this art duo put out the most imaginative panel work of daring-do until the names Miller and Starlin were commonplace on the Bullpen scene. Thumb through any Colan/Palmer art from those colorful adventures of the good doctor in the late 1960s and, if you put them on today’s paper stock, they would greatly stand the test of time.

The Colan/Palmer team continued their greatness on Tomb of Dracula, from its start to its finish. Marv Wolfman hopped on board early-on in the life of the mag, and the story became less about horror and more about the tales of a creature who used to be human striving to, if not return to that, at least fool itself into that belief — and also of the different people who hunted down he and his kind, and the various motives (good and evil) for that hunt. Not so much magic as character (although the crossover TOD/Dr. Strange adventure by writers Wolfman and Steve Englehart and drawn by Colan/Palmer is still a personal favorite).

Why Gene ever wanted to give up TOD (actually driving it into cancellation, the last of Marvel’s great 1970s monster line) for a duck, I will never understand. For a person who drew realism with a pencil stroke, the idea of doing a satirical duck book with Steve Gerber rankled my feathers! I guess that Howard was so popular then (at one point, even more so than The All-New, All-Different X-Men, believe it or not!) that maybe Gene wanted one last day in the sun, like he had lived with DD. The downward spiral of Howard, starting with the inane movie, was a sad one indeed.

Colan has done hundreds of comics and other media, but these are the bodies of work by which I knew and loved him. When I write my own comic character’s prose adventures, Gene and Tom are mentally drawing The Wonder Worlock in my mind.

Be at peace, Mr. Colan, and thank you from a fan and admirer for the memories!

pic pic

Covers and Gene Colan image via