Thursday, February 25, 2010

I Am Gene Colan's Dawg

The below is an interview that I just gave to John Hogan, the editor of, regarding The Invincible Gene Colan (Marvel Entertainment), which I believe is just weeks away from shipping.

When and how did you and Gene meet?

I met Gene at the first MarvelCon in New York City in 1976. I was 15 and Gene sketched a little Captain America head for me in the program book. Those were the good old days—guys like Gene and John Buscema and John Romita doing free sketches for kids. It was like being at the Yankees’ dugout in ’51 with a pen and a baseball.

How did you first get involved in comics professionally?

I read and collected comics as a little kid starting in 1966, then became a fanzine contributor as a teenager. When I was in my 20s, my local comics shop (The Comic Book Emporium in Union, NJ) went up for sale so I bought it, renamed it “Clobbering Time” then opened two more shops. I had frequent guest artists coming in to sketch for my customers and befriended several of them. I was also writing for ComicScene and Wizard and making new friends. So one thing lead to another and in 1994 Jim Reeber and I launched Aardwolf Publishing with the help of Dave Cockrum and Gray Morrow.

You’ve been working in the comics industry for decades now. Do you enjoy it as much now as you always did?

Now that I’m back to freelancing I enjoy it more. I was frustrated as a full-time professional. It was political instead of creative. I suppose everything is when you get too close.

What is the industry like now versus when you first became a part of it? Has it changed for the better?

From what I can see, it is more political than ever. Business is always about making money but there was more of a sense of fraternity in the ‘70s, when I started hanging around. I suppose you had jerks then, too, but I didn’t know them.

You do a lot to acknowledge the impact and importance of comics’ legends, recently with both Colan and Dave Cockrum. Does the industry as a whole do enough to recognize its classic talents?

You can’t personify the industry—there’s just individuals doing what they do. In the 80’s, Neal Adams set a great example for the rest of us; he wasn’t only about his own pocket—he was willing to invest in helping two impoverished old men who’d created Superman and seen little for their efforts. Today, it’s a little easier on old timers, but not much. Most of them didn’t get their due, let’s face it… People pretend to be rebels today, but real rebels, as I see it, run the risk of rejection, of disapproval. The old guys—some of them like Ditko and Gerber—risked shock, disgust, outrage, censorship... The new rebels might be willing to risk rolled eyes and yawns but outside of Alan Moore, I don’t see risk takers—not creatively and certainly not when it comes to watching out for the guys who came before them.

How do you define Gene Colan’s influence on comics?

Gene was cinematic in a time when artists were still Kirby-esque. He was terribly important.

What made you decide to do a book on his art and his life at this point?

Gene came to me and said that he wanted to retire; he asked if I would negotiate a retirement package with Marvel for him and I agreed to. What I did for the Cockrums is fairly well known among the older generation of comics’ creators, and Gene and I have been friends for decades, so it made sense that he came to me. The Invincible Gene Colan was part of the deal; Marvel allowed me to reprise what I had done with The Uncanny Dave Cockrum collection; they said they would publish it and give all profits to Gene. It was a win-win for everyone.

How is Gene doing now? He continues to work—is he going to be involved in promoting the book?

He’s out there to the extent that his health allows him to be out there.

Does any of Gene’s work stand out and particularly resonate with you? Was there any series that you consider definitive in terms of his style?

Despite the fact that I created Snaked and write what Barnes and Noble and others have described as “dark fiction,” I am not a horror reader. So I was never a Tomb of Dracula fan. But I believe Gene was at his best there—he had evolved from Daredevil into a place where he could stretch the limits. I personally preferred DD and Iron Man and especially his run on Captain America, but that’s because I prefer superheroes. Gene’s style, as I said, is cinematic. He goes beyond the necessity just to tell a story—he infuses his visual storytelling with mood. Most comic artists recognize that but are incapable of producing it; they wow you with fantastic figure drawings, but there’s no soul. With Gene…It’s a feel that he has, I think—not something that can necessarily be learned. We recognize and adore certain writers by their voices. With artists, it’s by their taste.

What are you working on next? What other projects can we expect from you?

I continue to write fiction and find different vehicles for it. My next book will be a collaboration with Jeffrey Catherine Jones. You can see my current projects—including some signed and remarqued copies of The Invincible Gene Colan—at


Mike P said...

The photo is almost as enjoyable as the article. Thanks! Can't wait for the fine book.


Mark Staff Brandl said...

great post. Gene is an excellent artist AND excellent human being, and you are a darn good one too!