'The Medusa Chain' (1984). 

Ernie Colón was a Puerto Rican comic artist with a career in U.S. comic books expanding over 60 years, evolving from children's comics over horror and heroic fantasy to graphic documentaries about the real world. He spent 25 years at Harvey Comics, drawing kids' comics like 'Casper the Friendly Ghost' and 'Richie Rich', while contributing horror and mystery comics to both Warren Publishing and Atlas/Seaboard on the side. From the 1980s on he worked for the two major companies, drawing 'Arak, Son of Thunder' (1981-1984) and 'Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld' (1983-1984) for DC Comics and 'Damage Control' (1989) and 'Doom 2099' (1993-1994) for Marvel Comics, among other titles. He was furthermore the author of the experimental graphic novels 'The Medusa Chain' (DC, 1984) and 'Ax' (Marvel, 1988), and did notable work for smaller labels like Eclipse ('Airboy'), Malibu ('Dreadstar') and Valiant Comics ('Magnus, Robot Fighter'). Later in his career, he rose to international fame with his non-fiction graphic novels about the 9/11 attacks and the subsequent "War on Terror", and his graphic biographies of Ché Guevara and Anne Frank, which he made in cooperation with Sid Jacobson.

Early life and influences
Colón was born in Puerto Rico in 1931. His father was a detective, and his parents divorced when he was still young. At age 10, he moved with his mother and siblings to the USA, arriving by boat in New York City. They first lived in the Bronx, and later in Brooklyn, after his mother remarried. He grew up enjoying the adventure newspaper comics of the time, and especially Milton Caniff, Noel Sickles and Will Eisner left a lasting mark on his later career. In his professional career, Colón particularly underwent influences from Harvey's Warren Kremer, while later in life he expressed admiration for Marjane Satrapi, Joe Sacco, David B. and Jacques Tardi, although he underlined that he never really kept up with comics to begin with. His interest in storytelling was mainly nurtured by his passion for books and movies. His grandfather in Puerto Rico owned three movie theaters, and as a young boy Ernie went to see a movie every day he came out of school.

Professional career
Even though Colón considered himself largely self-taught, with no particular fondness for schools, he spent his high school years at the School of Industrial Art. Before his artistic career took off, Ernie Colón held several odd jobs, from messenger boy to factory worker. By 1955 he was hired by newspaper cartoonist Ham Fisher to help out with inking backgrounds in the 'Joe Palooka' strip. Fisher however committed suicide about a month later, and Colón was without a job.

'Land of the Naughty Pencils' (The Friendly Ghost, Casper #37, 1961).

Harvey Comics
Harvey Comics took him in as a letterer, but the young artist was quickly promoted to the production department. During the second half of the 1950s, he began to contribute anonymously to the company's many kid comics, and stayed with them during their heyday in the 1960s and 1970s, when they were selling in the millions. In a 2007 interview with The Comics Journal (#285), Colón figured he drew about 15,000 pages for Harvey. These featured 'Casper, the Friendly Ghost' and 'Playful Little Audrey', characters licensed from Paramount Pictures, but also 'Hot Stuff, the Little Devil', 'Little Dot' 'Spooky, the Tuff Little Ghost', 'Wendy the Good Little Witch' and most notably 'Richie Rich'. Created by Alfred Harvey and Warren Kremer in 1953, the early 'Richie Rich' stories were basically about a boy with a whole lot of money. In aforementioned interview, Colón took pride in the fact that he was the one who steered the comic towards more adventurous grounds. Desiring to "show what the money can do", the later Richie stories are situated in other countries, time periods and also in space. Colón's Richie became a genius boy inventor fighting crime, while his butler Cadbury proved capable of dashing heroics. 'Richie Rich' was effectively the company's cash cow, and the lead title spawned over fifty separate spin-off titles over the years.

'Richie Rich and the Condor's Lair' (Richie Rich Success Stories #10, 1966).

Colón was the creator of the extraterrestrial time traveller Timmy Time, who came from the futuristic year 2019(!). The character only appeared in the comic book 'Richie Rich Meets Timmy Time' (September 1977), and was initially meant to be called Mark Time. Colón was upset by the fact that the editors renamed him and presented him as a 'Richie Rich' spin-off, which caused the project's discontinuation after only one issue. Cólon remained employed by Harvey Comics until shortly before the company ceased their publications in 1982. All this time he was never allowed to sign his name, although the recalled sneaking in his name on storefronts or billboards every once in a while. During these formative years, Colón learned a lot from Harvey's top artist Warren Kremer. He also struck a lifelong friendship with his editor Sid Jacobson, with whom he would work on several other projects in his later career.

From: 'The Black Comic Book'.

Black Comic Book
The first non-Harvey collaboration between Ernie Colón and Sid Jacobson was the groundbreaking 'The Black Comic Book' (Price Stern Sloan, 1970). In a 2011 interview with Scarce, the artist remembered the idea came about when Harvey Comics received a letter from a soldier in Korea asking why African American characters were never included in the comic books? Jacobson quickly created an African American friend for Richie Rich, and wrote this independent comic book as a parody of comics in general. The book presented alternate versions of several famous comics, and showed how they would be when their main heroes were black instead of white. The authors spoofed Allen Saunders and Ken Ernst's 'Mary Worth' ('Mother Eartha'), Chester Gould's 'Dick Tracy' ('Dark Racey'), Otto Soglow's 'The Little King' ('King Coal'), the 'Charlie Chan' franchise ('Charcoal Chin'), DC's 'Batman' ('Blackman'), Mort Walker's 'Beetle Bailey' ('Boll Weevil Barley') and Archie Comics' 'Archie' ('Darkie'). While the names of the spoofs alone would be considered racially offensive to modern-day standards, at the time the comic took a daring stance against the industry's focus on Caucasian heroes.

'The Summer House' (Creepy #29, 1969).

Realistic comics
In addition to his daytime job at Harvey Comics, Ernie Colón contributed to some other companies on the side. First of all, he is believed to be the artist of the adaptation of Grimm's 'The Pearl Princess' for Gilberton's 'Classics Illustrated Junior' series in 1961. Between 1968 and 1979 he broke free from the kids stuff and illustrated several horror stories for Creepy, Eerie and Vampirella, the black-and-white magazines published by James Warren. Working from scripts by writers like Bill Parente, Don Glut and Nicola Cuti, the Warren stories allowed Colón to experiment graphically, which was not possible with Harvey's strict modelsheets. In 1968 and 1969, he furthermore illustrated three issues of 'Doctor Solar, Man of the Atom' for Western Publishing's Gold Key line. In 1974 he provided the illustrations for the kinky novel 'The Sexorcist', published by Bleep Publications in France. It wasn't a project Colón was particularly proud of...

'Deathslaker' (Eerie #37, 1972).

In the mid-1970s, he also worked for the short-lived Atlas Comics line by Seaboard Periodicals, which was edited by former Marvel editor Larry Lieber. He continued in the supernatural genre for 'The Grim Ghost' (1975) and 'Weird Tales of the Macabre' (1975), and also contributed to 'Thrilling Adventure Stories' (1975) and the first issue of 'Tiger-Man' (1975). Around the same period he also appeared in Marvel's humor magazine Crazy. To Sal Quartuccio's indie comics paper Hot Stuff, Colón contributed 'Manimal' (1978), a story about a man who transforms into an enraged beastlike creature and hunts down ex-nazis in the more furtunous layers of society. The story was collected in a comic book by Renegade Press in 1986. In January-February 1979, Ernie Colón filled in for Gil Kane on the 'Star Hawks' newspaper comic for the NEA Syndicate.


Marvel Comics
With his collaboration with Harvey Comics coming to an end, Ernie Colón looked for work elsewhere. He allegedly sent Marvel editor Jim Shooter a letter with Casper the Friendly Ghost begging on his knees to be rescued. Shooter took him in, and assigned him to make a comic book adaptation of the pilot TV movie of the sci-fi series 'Battlestar Galactica' (1978) with writer Robert McKenzie. With the adaptation finished in three issues, the comic book series continued with other pencillers, such as Walt Simonson and Sal Buscema. Colón furthermore illustrated four issues of 'John Carter, Warlord of Mars' (1978-1979), written by Chris Claremont and based on Edgar Rice Burroughs' space opera hero. His other early Marvel jobs included being co-artist with Tony DeZuñiga and Alan Kupperberg on the two issues of the 1983 'Red Sonja' series, starring the sword-and-sorcery heroine created by Roy Thomas for the 'Conan the Barbarian' franchise.

'Arak, Son of Thunder' #9.

Arak, Son of Thunder
By the early 1980s, Ernie Colón landed a regular job at DC Comics. His first job was pencilling 'Arak, Son of Thunder' from scripts by Roy Thomas, while Tony DeZuñiga provided the inking. The fantasy hero Arak was initially mostly a rip-off of Marvel's 'Conan the Barbarian', even sharing the same writer, but it gradually focused on the mystique of the character's Native American origins. Colón was the regular penciller of the first twelve issues (1981-1982), and he returned for the 37th issue in 1987.

Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld
His other major series for DC was 'Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld' (1983-1984), which he co-created with the writers Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn. In the original twelve-issue maxi-series, a thirteen-year old girl from the suburbs called Amy Winston learns that she is the orphaned princess of the magical land of Gemworld. Throughout a magical gem given to her by her birth parents, she is able to travel between Earth and her homeworld. It is now ruled by the evil Dark Opal, who had also caused the death of her parents. Time passes differently in Gemworld, so she changes into a woman in her early twenties when she goes there. In her efforts to overthrow Dark Opal, she is aided by the evil ruler's banished son Granch and a host of other allies. The series continued in the regular 'Amethyst' series (1985-1986), which ran for 16 issues. These stories featured pencil art by several other artists, most notably Ric Estrada, but Colón returned in 1985 with the 9th issue. By then the series was plotted by Gary Cohn, who was succeeded by Keith Giffen for the final issues. Some sporadic appearances aside, Amethyst largely disappeared from the DC Universe for many years, until resurfacing in the 2005 'Infinite Crisis' mini-series. 'Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld' is nowadays largely forgotten, but the series stood at the forefront of other magical girl franchises like 'Jem and the Holograms' and 'She-Ra: Princess of Power'.

'Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld' #5.

Graphic novelist & editor at DC
Colón's personal favorite of his DC work was the science fiction graphic novel 'The Medusa Chain' (1984), which he wrote, drew and coloured (with magic markers) all by himself. The story centers around Chon Adams, a mass murderer transported to space prison on the ship The Medusa Chain. The convict quickly teams up with the ship commander Kilg-9, a woman with unusual powers, to use a destructive energy source on board of the ship to wipe out Earth. Even though the story shows Colón at his graphical best, the story failed to captivate an audience. Ernie Colón did fill-in art on stories and covers for several other DC titles, and worked as an editor on titles like 'Green Lantern', 'Wonder Woman', 'Flash' and 'Blackhawk' for one year during the mid-1980s. The heavy workload and the competitive office politics however led him to quickly abandon this position. He subsequently illustrated the mini-series 'Cosmic Boy' (1986-1987, with Keith Giffen) by Paul Levitz and 'Underworld' (1987-1988) by Robert Loren Fleming.

'Bullwinkle and Rocky' #3.

Marvel's Star line
In 1987 Colón also made his comeback at Marvel Comics, first as the penciller of three issues of 'Star Wars: Droids' (1987), then as an artist for Marvel's short-lived children's comics Star imprint. Colón provided pencil art to issues of 'Flintstone Kids' and 'Thundercats', but worked mostly on 'Bullwinkle and Rocky ', based on the animated TV series by Jay Ward Productions about an anthropomorphic flying squirrel and a moose. Colón's return to kids' comic books did not meet with equal success as his Harvey Comics work. In The Comics Journal #285, the artist looked back on the Star period with bitter thoughts, feeling that Marvel wasted its imprint with "poor writing and rip-off characters". In 1990-1991 Colón pencilled several issues of Paul Terry's 'Mighty Mouse', which were then inked by Marie Severin. Always at the vanguard of technological developments, he produced a whole issue on an Apple Macintosh. An innovative undertaking at the time!


Other Marvel and DC work
Colón also wrote, drew, colored and lettered the spiritual fantasy graphic novel 'Ax' (1988). It appeared under Marvel's Epic imprint and allowed Colón full artistic freedom, without any interference from an editor. The graphic novel therefore has a very "European feel", following three sets of characters in different storylines, timelines and cultures, while leaving much to the reader's own interpretation. With writer Dwayne McDuffie, he notably co-created 'Damage Control' (1989-1991), a comic book about the company that has to rebuild damaged properties after a devastating battle between Marvel's superheroes and supervillains. Further Marvel work include issues of 'Power Pack' (1990), 'Doom 2099' (1993) and '2099 Unlimited' (1995). In the late 1990s he briefly returned to DC Comics as a penciller of 'Scooby-Doo' stories for the company's Cartoon Network line.

Return to Harvey
Harvey Comics had resumed its publishing activities in 1987, and was sold two years later to HMH Communications, who outsourced the publishing activities to Marvel Comics in 1994. During these transitions, Colón sporadically returned to his original boss, drawing new stories and gags with 'Richie Rich', 'Casper and Wendy' and 'Little Audrey'. He also served as penciller for the celebrity comic book about the boyband 'New Kids On The Block' (1990-1991) and the comic book based on the media franchise 'Monster in My Pocket', while participating in the label's short-lived venture into superheroes as the penciller of the first issue of 'Ultraman' (1994). In 1995 Colón pencilled the graphic novel adaptation by Angelo De Cesare of the 1995 Universal Pictures film 'Casper, the Friendly Ghost', which was by then published by Marvel Comics.

'Magnus, Robot Fighter' #14.

Work for smaller publishing labels
During the 1980s and 1990s, Ernie Colón also worked for smaller, independent labels. He illustrated a cartoony issue of 'Jonny Quest' for Comico in 1987 and became the regular penciller from issue #46 on of the revival of the Golden Age superhero 'Airboy' by Chuck Dixon for Eclipse Comics in 1989. His tenure however came to an end after only four issues, when he failed to reach his deadline as a result of his inker running late. Between 1992 and 1993 he worked for editor Jim Shooter again, this time at Valiant Comics, providing art for 'Magnus Robot Fighter' and one issue of 'Solar, Man of the Atom'. Especially his 'Magnus' work is notable because of Colón's impressive coloring. For Malibu Comics, he illustrated a six-issue mini-series about the superheroine 'Dreadstar' (1994-1995), written by Peter David.

Throughout the 1990s, Ernie Colón and writer Seymour Reit made many 16-page comic adaptations of classic literary works for Boys' Life, the monthly magazine of the Boy Scouts of America. The authors tackled Jonathan Swift's 'Gulliver's Travels' (1990), Cervantes' 'Don Quixote' (1990), 'The Travels of Marco Polo' (1990), 'The Legends of King Arthur' (1992), Arthur Conan Doyle's 'Sherlock Holmes' (1993), Jack London's 'The Call of the Wild' (1994), Robert L. Stevenson's 'Treasure Island' (1995), H.G. Wells' 'War of the Worlds' (1996), Mary Shelley's 'Frankenstein' (1997) and Stephen Crane's 'The Red Badge of Courage' (1998). These stories were later compiled in collections by the World Almanach Library, aimed at public libraries and schools.

21st century
Even though he was past his retirement age, Colón continued to work well into the 21st century. He was involved in online and digital comics like 'Doodle Movies' (2001) for the Komikwerks company and ventured into pornographic comics with the audacious 'Strip Search' (2002), which was published under the Fantagraphics imprint Eros Comix. Between 2001 and 2003 he pencilled gag pages with the teenage characters from Archie Comics, such as Archie, Betty, Veronica and Jughead. He also drew two stories for John Lustig's classic romance comic book parody 'Last Kiss' in 2002-2003. In 2003 he was the artist for two issues of the Jewish-oriented comic book series 'Mendy and the Golem', written by Matt Brandstein for The Golem Factory. Other artists for the series were Stan Goldberg and Joe Rubinstein. From 9 May 2005 until the tabloid's demise on 20 August 2007, he made the weekly comic strip 'SpyCat' in the Weekly World News with writer Dick Siegel.

'The 9/11 Report'.

The 9/11 Report
Ernie Colón perhaps had his biggest claim to fame when he was already in his seventies. The artist was reading the 9/11 Commission Report, issued by the US government in 2004, which documented the events leading up to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. He was confused by the many names and dates provided in the document, and the idea rose to rework the information into an extended comic book. He called his old friend Sid Jacobson, who was immediately on board. They got film producer Roger Burlage to fund the project, and Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (FSG) in New York City to publish it. Colón went to great lengths to capture the likeness of the people involved, and to avoid racial stereotyping or making political statements. 'The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation' (2006) had a foreword by the Commission chairmen Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, and thus proved to be a legitimate undertaking. The book was widely picked up by both national and international media, and was translated into most European languages, as well as Japanese. A follow-up titled 'After 9/11: America's War on Terror' was published by FSG in August 2008. It addressed the direct aftermath of 9/11, focusing on what was and what wasn't accomplished during the War on Terror, again without offering the authors' opinions.

'Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography' (Dutch edition).

Other non-fiction works
These new types of non-fiction works obviously struck a chord, and Colón and Jacobson continued to work together on similar projects in the following years. They produced a biography about Che Guevara, called 'Che: A Graphic Biography' (2009), which was followed by 'Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Graphic Biography' (2010). The latter was made under supervision of the Anne Frank Foundation in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Hudson Street Press released their 'Vlad the Impaler' (2009), which explored the Vlad II Drakul, the Romanian warlord who inspired Dracula. 'The Warren Commission Report' (2014) was another "graphic investigation" drawn by Ernie Colón, and dealt with the Kennedy assassination. It was made in cooperation by Colón's 'Gemworld' colleague Dan Mishkin, and published by Harry N. Abrams. With teacher and author Ruth Ashby, Colón told the story of the United States through the major speeches, laws, proclamations, court decisions, and essays that shaped it in the book 'The Great American Documents' (Hill and Wang, 2014). With Jacobson, he furthermore provided a graphic adaptation of 'The Torture Report' (Nation Books, 2017), in which the CIA is strongly condemned for its secret and brutal use of torture in the treatment of prisoners during the George W. Bush Administration after 9/11. In 'Three-Fifths a Man' (FSG, 2017), Colón and Jacobson explored the key events in African American history, from the sixteenth-century Atlantic slave trade to the election of Barack Obama and the Black Lives Matter movement.

Final years and death
In the 2011-2012 period, Ernie Colón returned to 'Richie Rich' once again when he drew some new stories for the digital comic book 'Richie Rich Gems' by Ape Entertainment. He also returned to the horror genre with the solo anthology 'Inner Sanctum: Tales of Mystery, Horror & Suspense' (NBM, 2012), in which he either told his own stories or loosely adapted 'Inner Sanctum' radio episodes or other short stories. Colón filled his spare time with doodling and experimenting with graphical software tools like Photoshop, Flash, Sketchbook Pro, Smoothdraw, Softdraw, Art Rage and Manga Studio. Suffice it to say that Ernie Colón remained very much active until the very end. He passed away on 9 August 2019 after a year-long battle with cancer. One of the true veterans of American comic books, the news of his death still took many by surprise, even though the artist had already reached the respectable age of 88.

One of Ernie Colón's three daughters is the actress and writer Luisa Colón.

Self-portrait from the 'Ax' graphic novel (1988).


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