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Gene Colan and the Silver Age of Comics

Lawrence Bush
August 31, 2017

Comic book illustrator Gene Colan, who spent nearly seventy years drawing the Batman, the Hulk, Captain America, Daredevil, Wonder Woman, Howard the Duck, the Submariner, and numerous other characters, was born in the Bronx on this date in 1926. He was “expert at conveying shadows and atmosphere,” writes Paul Gravett in the Guardian, and created drawings “lauded for their realism, expressiveness and painterly qualities,” writes Margalit Fox in the New York Times, “using a realistic look that emphasized texture and fluidity: the drape of a hero’s cape, tilt of a head, the arc of an oncoming fist.” Colan was a product of New York’s Art Students League, and was a lifelong film buff, which lent his artwork “a noirish, cinematic quality.” He died at 84 in 2011. To see a video tribute to his artwork, look below.

“He was referred to as a painter with a pencil. Comic books had been put together like a production line: There’s someone who writes the script, someone who would letter the words onto the pages, someone who would do the pencil illustrations. And typically another artist would come along with India ink and embellish those illustrations so they would stand out for the printer. In Gene’s case, the pencils were so rich and lavish that when the technology evolved to that point, the publishers stopped putting ink on his pencils and reproduced the work just as it was drawn.” --Tom Field, Secrets in the Shadows: The Art & Life of Gene Colan

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.