Gene Colan, a stylish and influential American comic book artist, whose work bridged the Golden and Silver Ages and extended well into the modern era, has died at age 84 from complications of liver disease and a broken hip. Colan, who was born in the Bronx in 1926, began working in comics in 1944 on Fiction House’s Wings Comics. After serving in the military he went to work for Timely Comics, the company that later morphed into Marvel. During the 1950s, as the comics industry imploded under the dual strains of censorship and television, he scuffled (as did many artists) finding work on numerous war comics and DC’s licensed Hopalong Cassidy comic.
Colan worked on a number of other titles for Marvel including Dr. Strange where he experimented with photomontage and in general let his imagination, which was occasionally fueled by amphetamines in order to make deadlines, run wild.
During the last two decades of the 20th Century Colan also worked for Eclipse (Detectives Inc.), Archie (Jughead’s Time Police), and Dark Horse (Predator: Hell & Hot Water). After the turn-of-the-century he continued to work occasionally, notably drawing a couple of vampire stories for Dark Horse’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer and in 2009 illustrating Ed Brubaker’s Captain America #601, which won the “Best Single Issue" Eisner Award for comics published in 2009.
In his mastery of dramatic lighting and widespread use of shadow effects Colan stood out from the other major artists of the Silver Age and his Caniff-influenced style looked forward to the work of Frank Miller and the neo-noir comics of the modern era. As DC co-publisher Jim Lee succinctly put it: “Gene Colan was like no other artist of his generation. His ability to create dramatic, multi-valued tonal illustrations using straight India ink and board was unparalleled. The comics industry has lost one of its true visionaries today.”