The Door Is Always Open
Friday Comic Book Day.
Gene Colan was one of Stan Lee's major talents in the late fifties. Even though he had managed to sell himself to DC and was doing quite a ot of work there, Lee was happy to have him for his books as well. So happy, that Colan was one of the only artists allowed to work on smaller pages and he was given permission to open eacht story with a full page splash - all, to allow for the smaller pay rate (especially compared to DC). More often than not those stories and those splashes were used as the first story in the book, showing the amount of respect Stan Lee had for Colan. In my opinion (which I have laid out in an article for Alter Ego, I hope Roy Thomas will find droom for one of these days) I think his work for Stan Lee was better than that which he did for DC. Even though Colan himself adopted the current DC opinion that slicker art was better, it's the rough work for Stan Lee, which stands out today as more personal and well, just better comics. A major factor in that is the fact that he inked his ow work for Lee, something which he wasn't allowed to do at DC. And I think he did so very well. I know even in later days, Colan himelf came to believe that his work could not be inked and looked better in pencil, but for me those pages he inked himself are the pinnacle of his work as a comic book artist.
Anyway, rates kept on dropping at Lee and Goodman's and finally, they stopped production for a while, forcing artists to go and look for other work. Gene Colan stayed at DC and ended up doing oads ad loads of blandly drawn and inked romance stories. In the early sixties, when things started looking up at Marvel, he returned (often using a pseudonymn, so his bosses at DC wouldn't know he was 'moonlighting'). I had always thought he returned with the earliest superheroes, but a recent look at the pre-hero books showed me he did in fact return at the end of the pre-hero period. Here are two of his earliest stories, unsigned but mentioned at his own website (although I have to say that I don't agree with every attribution on that site).
What is remarkable is that the first story in Strange Tales (although not the first he did for Stan Lee after all those years, as he had stories in Journey Into Mystery and some roamnce comics) is a story full of shots with people opening doors. This is one of Colan's signature images and it is surprising to see it featured so prominently in what must have been a scripted story. How did Stan Lee know to write this story for Colan, or if he didn't write it himself, how did he know to assign it to him? Was it because some of those 'opening doors' had already appeared in Colan's work in the late fifties...?
From Strange Tales #97:
From Strange Tales #102: