I was pleased to hear that my long-distance pal, artist and art historian Mark Staff Brandl has earned his PhD with a creative dissertation on visual art and metaphor theory. Mark was awarded his PhD in Art History, magna cum laude, from the University of Zurich Switzerland on May 20, 2011.
Dr Brandl's book, Metaphor(m): Engaging a Theory of Central Trope in Art, presents his thesis that the formal, technical and stylistic aspects of artists' approaches concretely manifest content in culturally and historically antithetical ways through a uniquely discovered trope. Yes, that's a mouthful. But more importantly, to this small voice, is that Mark Staff Brandl is a mensch. His dissertation is now in the process of being expanded and translated into an art exhibition and installation with the curatorial advice of Markus Landert, Director of the Art Museum of Thurgovia Switzerland. Congrats Mark!
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Gene was put to rest today with dignity and tears, surrounded by family and friends and sent off with a military honor guard marking his service to his country during World War II. It was humbling and warming and memorable.
The lessons I learned from this fine man are just starting to articulate themselves. He promised me when I was young (with regards to my writings), "If you're willing to do it for free, you'll make it." Mull that over for a while.
More importantly, Gene taught by example the importance of being happy for happy sake. He was what Pirke Avos characterized as a rich man. He was happy with his lot.
Thank you my friends across the fruited internet for your kind emails and messages during these sleepless days. Your words especially, Harlan, are always balm in Gilead.
And thank you, Gene, for sharing your final moments on this planet with this small voice.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Friday, June 24, 2011
Following my earlier discussions with Gene, and one this morning with his daughter Nanci, I am setting up the Gene Colan Scholarship at the Joe Kubert School.
In lieu of flowers and such, if you would like to contribute to this scholarship in Gene’s memory, please make your check payable to “Joe Kubert School” and mail it to my attention:
Gene Colan Scholarship
c/o Clifford Meth
179-9 Rt. 46 West
Rockaway, NJ 07866
All checks will be delivered to Mike Chen, the school’s coordinator.
On behalf of the Colan family, I regret to announce that my friend Gene Colan died at about 11 pm on June 23. Gene spent this last week in a quasi-coma state following a broken hip and complications from liver disease. He was 84.
I am terribly saddened to lose Gene. He was a gentle and deeply spiritual man, a bright light in every context, and those who knew him at any level were enriched by his warmth and generous nature. Below are some thoughts I cobbled together when he slipped from consciousness earlier this week.
I leave the historical perspective and details of Gene's significant career to my friends Tom Spurgeon and Mark Evanier. For now, I mourn.
My Friend Gene Colan
When I was in Morristown, New Jersey, in the early 1990s, there was a girl of about 12 or 13 who lived around the corner. Every time I saw her, she was out walking a German Sheppard puppy. I'd spot the pair every two weeks or so. But as the years passed, I realized the puppy hadn't aged. My young neighbor was blossoming into a young lady, but her little dog was like Peter Pan, or Jefty in Harlan Ellison’s story. Eventually, I inquired and learned that the young lady received her young dog from the Morristown Seeing Eye. After six months of house-breaking and bonding with the little dog, she returned it when it was ready to be trained to help the blind. And then she’d get another puppy and start over again.
It must be heart-breaking, I thought, getting to love something the way taking care of it will allow you to love, only to say goodbye so quickly.
I recall this as I sit to gather my thoughts on what it’s been like working with Gene Colan these past 12 months. It was a year ago tomorrow, on June 21st, that we received word that Adrienne, Gene’s wife of 45 years, had been found dead in their apartment.
Since Adrienne’s passing, I’ve managed Gene’s business affairs. It was really just an excuse to spend more time with my friend; I funneled commissions his way and reminded him what was on the agenda; arranged signings and occasional appearances and that was it. These tasks had been Adrienne’s.
Following their mother’s passing, Gene’s children and I concluded that the best thing for Gene was to keep him as busy as possible. But we needn’t have worried; Gene knew instinctively what he needed do to survive with dignity. He mourned his wife daily but never allowed himself to become depressed. Instead, he labored at his art board as often as he could, losing himself—or perhaps finding himself—in his work. At 84, with one blind eye and the other eye failing, Gene Colan continued to create art at its highest level.
Sadly, that ended a few months ago. Two tumors on his liver, which appeared more than a year earlier, had grown much larger. Gene phoned me one night literally gasping for breath. He was hospitalized and a few weeks later taken to Calvary, a hospice in the Bronx. Gene wouldn’t go home again.
But Gene never lost hope. He continued to talk about his plans for the future. Mind you, this was not a feeble-minded man. An occasional short-term memory loss notwithstanding (and who doesn’t have those after high school?) Gene was clear-thinking and real-world oriented. He just wanted to go home. And he believed that wanting to was enough. This had been a recurring theme in his life. Gene wanted a career drawing comics. He wanted to work for Marvel. He wanted to be the best artist in his field. He wanted to marry Adrienne the minute he laid eyes on her... Gene believed that if he wanted something badly enough, focused and stuck to his guns, he’d eventually get it. And he usually did.
“There isn't anything I have to be afraid of,” Gene said in his final interview. “Love is the answer.”
Each time we spoke at the hospice, Gene discussed what he was going to do when he got out. He remembered every promised, unfinished piece of artwork. He thought about moving back to Vermont. And there was still that livingroom wall he wanted to paint horses on. He wasn't deluding himself; he understood instictively the sublime magic of possitive thinking.
I didn’t speak to Gene on Saturday. Then Sunday was Father’s Day and my entire family was home for a change. I figured I’d catch up with Gene on Monday.
Today is Monday. On the Hebrew calendar, it’s my father’s yahrzeit, the anniversary of the day he passed. Art is long but life is short. And this morning Gene’s daughter Nanci told me that Gene fractured his hip over the weekend.
Gene had already been declining rapidly. Now, with this fracture, he was sedated into a sleep state and would not likely waken again. Without drinking, his already fragile kidneys would fail. His family and doctors decided there was no point hydrating Gene intravenously because if he did awaken, he would be in terrible pain and the morphine necessary to alleviate that pain would just put him under again.
“Seven to 10 days is the usual,” Nanci said. “Could be sooner or later.”
Newspaper people are in the practice of writing obituaries long before well-known people actually pass away. That’s the demand of the trade. My grandmother would have considered that an ayin horah. I guess I do, too. But I know that when I get that call, I won’t be able to write a blessed word for a long time. So I’m writing this now.
This is not a eulogy—it’s some thoughts about a man I always liked very much and grew to love; a pal I spoke with nearly every day because he needed help. Now, at the end of the road, I realize how much he’s helped me.
I knew this day would come but it came too quickly. It's been a rare pleasure working with Gene. He knew who he was—how valuable his contributions to the world of comic art have been—how prized it remains by so many. Yet he never felt less than grateful to anyone who’d even read a single panel that he’d drawn. Until he was too weak to hold a pencil, he put his whole kishkes into everything he drew—whether it was a $5000 commission or a small drawing for someone’s child. And he was never satisfied with his artwork but always eager to learn a little more, do a little better, try something new. At 84.
Gene would look at artists like James Bama and says, “Now that’s really something. Oh boy, can this guy paint!” He was a kid again looking at Milt Caniff renderings and floored by his friend John Buscema's work.
My pal Gene was generous and funny and kind. He was exactly the type of man who should be drawing superheroes for young people to marvel at. Exactly and precisely. I’m richer for having known him. He was truly an original.
Seven to 10 days. It’s heart-rending growing to love someone that you know you’ll be saying goodbye to so soon, but worth every moment.
4:30 pm, June 20, 2011
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Here's three more Russ Heath sketches (bound for CGC) available now. Russ is only doing a limited number of these. Interested? Contact Chris Seminara at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Note: numbering below continues from previous post)
5. Capt. America with tank in background - $260 (sold)
6. Capt. America and soldiers - $270 (sold)
7. Woman with sword and werewolf - $210 (sold)
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Joe Kubert asked me to work with Russ Heath and boy am I glad he did. Russ, at eighty-something, is still turning out the highest quality art... and at prices that are rediculously low. He is doing a limited number of sketches that I am witnessing for CGC's signature series. Interested? Contact Chris Seminara at email@example.com. There won't be a lot of these.
Here's a few that are available now:
1. Capt. America with plane - $270 (sold)
2. Capt. America large bust with gun - $225 (sold)
3. Weird Capt. America battle scene with horse - $220 THIS IS THE ONLY ONE LEFT!
4. Capt. America w/ skeleton-like face leading the charge - $250 (sold)