Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Gene Colan (1926-2011)

Gene Colan: Master Of Darn Near Everything (2008)
Art by Dave Sim
(from Obsessions, Hard Truths, & A Plush Aardvark, Comics Bulletin, 19 January 2013)
One of my favourite books is Tomb of Dracula. What Marv Wolfman and Gene Colan did with Dracula was to make him someone you could understand and feel complex levels of sympathy for. In the series, the reader's impulse is always with the vampire hunters because Dracula’s evil. He kills people. Wolfman has Dracula marry and have a child who betrays him. Before the end of the series, Dracula is turned into a human and he is put into a position where he needs to defend a group of innocent villagers against a group of vampires. As he does so, there's this amazing scene where Dracula picks up a cross to ward off the vampires. His hands are burning as he fights, you see the steam flying off his hands and the look of pure torture on his face as he's doing it to save these children. It's a reminder that beneath his evil exterior there is the soul of a good man.

Several issues later, in the last issue of Tomb of Dracula, Dracula is killed -- oh, 'spoiler alert' for a comic that came out in 1979 -- and his castle is blown up. Wolfman writes: 'Aye, he was a hero. A hero and a scourge. A ruler and a despot. A savior and lord of darkness. He died for his country and he was reborn without his soul. His name was Dracula, and his history was a tapestry of terror sewn across the ages… We who have chronicled his five hundred years and more have stood back and shown his existence without critique. But now that it is over we have but one thing to say. Dracula was a man. And that should never be forgotten.' In an odd way, I think that's a great analogy for Sim. He's not a life sucking vampire; no one would ever accuse him of that. He's a man who has done amazing things and he's created some work that we find aberrant. He's a man and that shouldn’t be forgotten; he's got all the complexities that any of us have, only he's played them out in public. If we can't accept him as a person in all his complexity then I don't think we're doing justice to the full panoply of human experience or emotions.

Eugene Jules "Gene" Colan (1926-2011) was best known for his work for Marvel Comics, where his signature titles included DaredevilHoward the Duck, Doctor Strange, and between 1972 and 1979 he drew 70 consecutive issues of The Tomb of Dracula, one of comics' classic horror series. 

1 comment:

Max Southall CerebusTV CTO said...

We've got a Gene Colan interview and multimedia episode in unfinished pieces for CerebusTV. At some point, if there's enough financial support forthcoming, it can be aired as a finished production at http://Cerebus.TV ... the interview was completed while Gene was still with us and covers much of the above. Right now, our next episode is finally nearing production, as Gerhard has said the DV tapes are in the mail!