Recent Dorkiness

More Shades of Gray: The Pencil Art of Gene Colan

So it was Gene Colan’s birthday earlier this week, and in marking the occasion over on our social media (shameless plug), I realized that we haven’t done a proper Colan post in SEVEN FREAKING YEARS. I figure that means we’re overdue, so I thought we might take a look at the great man’s work in pencil.

Because Colan’s pencils were sublime, full of shading and graceful, swirling lines that… made his art difficult to ink. All that delicacy and grace were hard to translate into the harder-edged blacks of funnybook inks. So it was gorgeous work, but maybe not proper traditional production art of the kind most comics consist of. Jim Shooter certainly didn’t think so; he fired Colan from Marvel after fifteen or twenty years of faithful service because his work just did not jibe with Shooter’s idea of what comics art was supposed to be.

Eh. His loss.

At any rate. A lot of the work we’ll be looking at here tonight isn’t comics art, anyway. It’s sketches and commissions, done later in Colan’s career, but featuring characters he was known for. Black Widow, for instance…

…both with and without Daredevil.

And speaking of Daredevil, here he is again, alongside the artist himself, AND the character that Colan is perhaps most-associated with…

That would be Count Dracula, whose adventures Colan drew for the entire 70-issue run of Tomb of Dracula. There’s lots of great Colan Dracula sketches out there, and here are three of them:

 

Finely-rendered images, all. But sometimes Colan didn’t work in such great detail. Even in a quick sketch with blunter instruments, however, his Dracula work still retains a certain majesty.

The thing I like most about that sketch is that it looks good enlarged so you can see the linework, but when you shrink it down to thumbnail size, it comes off looking almost as sharp as his more polished illustrations.

But speaking of more polished Colan Dracula pieces, here’s one featuring the good Count in competition, perhaps, with a certain Victorian Ripper…

…and also making his presence known to a great detective from the same era.

Dracula’s greatest enemy in the funnybooks, however, was probably the vampire-slayer known as Blade.

Colan’s work isn’t confined to just Dracula, though. He’s also done some nice work on Frankenstein…

 

…and his bride.

And other, less well-known (but even better-drawn) monsters, too.

Colan didn’t just draw monsters, though. He had a long run drawing Iron Man, too…

…and I think even Namor, the Submariner.

It wasn’t all monsters and super heroes, though. One thing that set Colan apart from many super hero artists was that he excelled at drawing regular people, as well.

Albeit in often macabre circumstances. He had a sense of humor, as well, though, which often came through in his self-portraits.

That humor was also on display in Colan’s long run on another of my favorite 1970s comics, sort of the polar opposite of his Tomb of Dracula: Howard the Duck! Even though this isn’t technically a pencil drawing, I love it too much not to share. And, honestly, can’t think of a better way to wrap things up this week. So from me, and Howard… Good night.

 

About Mark Brett (539 Articles)
Shaved Yeti. Alien. Writer of stuff. Read my fiction at http://reportsfromthefieldblog.wordpress.com/. Read my thoughts on comic books and other dork culture ephemera at https://dorkforty.wordpress.com/.

3 Comments on More Shades of Gray: The Pencil Art of Gene Colan

  1. Dale Bagwell // September 4, 2019 at 3:32 pm // Reply

    Shooter really fired Colan for not fitting his era of Marvel Comics? Wonder why Stan Lee never stood up for him then. Such a dumb move by Shooter, especially when you look at these sketches.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I never knew why Shooter fired him until recently, but apparently that’s it. He didn’t like those pages where Colan would draw “swirly things” instead of doing straightforward panel arrangements and just telling the story in the most efficient manner possible. A lot of great comics came out under Shooter, but he lacked a certain appreciation for more artistic approaches.

      Liked by 1 person

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