Eugene Colan was a comic book artist, best known for his work on Silver Age 'Daredevil', 'Howard the Duck' and his horror comics. Born in The Bronx, New York City, Colan began his career in comics at Fiction House in 1944. Among his earliest credits are 'Wings Tops', 'Clipper Kirk' and 'Suicide Brigade' for titles like Wings Comics. After spending the remainder of WWII in the Air Force, Colan spent about a year in the Art Students League. In the following years, Colan did artwork for Ziff-Davis ('Ken Brady'), Dell Publishing ('Ben Casey'), Ace, Charlton and Quality.
Possessed! (Adventures Into Terror #21, 1953)
In 1947, he tried showing work to both National (DC) and Timely (Marvel) Comics. Stan Lee at Timely Comics was impressed enough to hire him for about sixty dollars a week. He worked on titles like 'Menace', 'Mystic', and 'Journey into Mystery' before heading over to DC for a while to do art on several war titles and on 'Sea Devils' and 'Hopalong Cassidy'.
The Lost Patrol (Battle Ground #16, March 1957)
He continued to work on DC's romance comics in the 1960s, but he also returned to Marvel to work on the superhero line, initially under the pen name Adam Austin. He started out by drawing 'Sub-Mariner' in Tales to Astonish, and by succeeding Don Heck on 'Iron Man' in Tales of Suspense. Colan, by then under his own name, continued to work on features like 'Doctor Strange' and 'Captain America'. He co-created 'The Falcon', the first African-American superhero in mainstream comics, in Captain America #117 from 1969. But his signature series became 'Daredevil', that he drew from 1966 from 1973 and then occasionally throughout the following decades.
Covers for Daredevil issues 24 and 40
In the 1970s, Colan specialized in horror comics, when his work appeared in the Warren magazines Creepy and Eerie throughout the 1970s. He also did the entire run of Marvel's 'Tomb of Dracula' with Marv Wolfman from 1972 to 1979. He took over 'Howard the Duck' from Val Mayerik and made this cult series about Marvel's ill-tempered duck together with Steve Gerber for several years. Another 1970s co-creation by Colan is 'Brother Voodoo', that he made with Len Wein for 'Strange Tales' from 1973.
In the 1980s, Colan moved over to DC, where he was the main artist on 'Batman' between 1982 and 1986. He also drew issues of 'Wonder Woman' and worked with Marv Wolfman again on the new series in 1982. He also co-created 'Silverblade' with Cary Bates and 'Jemm, Son of Saturn' with Greg Potter. As well, he drew the first six issues of Doug Moench's 1987 revival of 'The Spectre'.
One of his most notable DC series was the miniseries 'Nathaniel Dusk', which he drew in graphite and watercolor from scripts by Don McGregor starting in 1984. Gene Colan always enjoyed the detective genre, and this was one of the first times a book went to press with colors done directly over the pencils - there was no inking involved.
From 1985, Colan was also present at Eclipse Comics, where he published black-and-white pencil comic 'Ragamuffins'. He used that same technique in 'Curse of Dracula', a new 'Dracula' series in cooperation with Wolfman, and published by Dark Horse in 1998. Other independent works include the 1985 Eclipse graphic novel 'Detectives Inc.: A Terror Of Dying Dreams', written by McGregor and reprinted in sepia tone as an Eclipse miniseries in 1987, as well as miniseries 'Predator: Hell & Hot Water' for Dark Horse Comics.
Howard the Duck
Colan was additionally working as a writer and artist for Archie Comics in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Series he worked on include 'Jughead's Time Police' and the 1990 one-shot 'To Riverdale and Back Again'. He also took on a new run on 'Daredevil' in 1997, as well as the 'Batman' graphic novel 'The Bat and the Bird'. From 2001, he took over the graphical part of the classic pulp fiction charcter 'The Spider', while also drawing 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' stories for Dark Horse.
He was one of several veteran comics authors to contribute to Matt Groening's 'Bart Simpson Treehouse of Horror 11' (2005), along with Angelo Torres, Al Williamson, Mark Schultz, Len Wein, Berni Wrightson, Marv Wolfman and John Severin.
Besides his work as an artist, Colan has taught at Manhattan's School of Visual Arts and Fashion Institute of Technology. Allthough suffering from ill health, Colan continued to produce comic book art until 2009, when he did the lead feature in 'Captain America' #601. Gene Colan died on 23 June 2011, following complications from liver disease and a broken hip received in a fall.
Silver Surfer (1968)