Colan and semi-Colan
Saturday Leftover Day.
Gene Colan's development as an artist in the late fifties is a remarkable and rarely noted part of his career. As I said yesterday, I have written an article about this turbulent phase of his life and am waiting for Alter Ego to find room for it. But since we have broached the subject of Colan's early work here, I would like to share with you some of the relevant artwork.
Somewhere in 1956 Gene Colan started using full page splash pages in all his stories. Although it later became the norm at Marvel, it still was a daring and unique thing to do, undoubtebly born from the need to give the artist less work for his rapidly dwindling page rate, as the comicsindustry was experiencing a downturn that would lead many artists to leave the field. Colan looked for work at DC and found it, although they soon started assigning him inkers that would slick down his very personal art style. Over at Timely/Atlas/Marvel Stan Lee had another approach. He valued Colan's work so much that he let him do the full page splash pages and allowed him to work on a smaller sized paper. And he was allowed to ink his own work, allowing him to pencil quicker and earn an extra buck with the inking. The result, in my opinion was striking. Fpr three years Colan did some of the bst work of his career, his stories often used to open the book by Stan Lee (who recognized quality when he saw it).
The stories I am showing here, show the progress of his style. I had no problem picking them. Apart from pencilling a full Hopalong Cassidy book every month from 1954 to 1958 as well as contributing single stories to House of Mystery, House of Secrets and other books at DC, I recon he managed one story every week for Stan Lee as well. Although some of them are more rushed then the rest, all of them are impressive and deserve a closer look.
This first signed story shows an early appearance of the full page splash. When he got the chanc, Colan often tried to approximate his pencil style with an overworked feathered approach, which didn't really work. By the midfifties he had all but abandonned that approach, but traces of it remain.
Marines in Battle #10:
Not much later (we still are in the H job numbers), Colan drops his signature. It's around this time that he starts working on a smaler size paper. Maybe the two are connected and maybe he felt that he hasty work he did for Stan Lee wasn't worth his signature.
But it is here that we start seeing his growth as an inker. He drops the impuse to overwork the feathering and adopts a lush chiascuro style, that suits his pencils really well. It's a pretty open style, that's har to color, though. Colan's stories, more than others seem to ask for impressionistic rather than realistic coloring. I wonder how these stories would have done with the more painted modern computer look...
Somewhere in 1956, he hits his stride and knocks one out of the ballpark every time. It's a shame that none of these splash pages have been saved, because thy would have done great in any art gallery.
Marines At War #5:
Marines At War #6:
Marines At War #7:
His last stories for Sta Le appear in 1958 and 1957, but looking at the job numbers I wouldn't be surprised if they were all drawn in 1957. The one story appearing in 1959 has a job number only one digit away from the last one in 1958, a year earlier. The job numbers started their life with the scripts, so their approximity doesn't mean anything artwise, but it seems like too much of a coincidence. Still, they could be later as well. This story (toward the end of Colan's run of job numbers, after which he doesn't appear for a couple of years) shows a delicacy that isn't typical of his late fifties style. Maybe a different inker was involved?
Kid Colt Outlaw #79:
For comparison: this is the sort of work Colan was doing at DC in 1957. Inked by one of DC's house painters, er.... artists.
Hopalong Cassidy #102: