Saturday, September 02, 2006

Here's the way it works, apparently: since I don't really know of any resources extant by which to be informed of comics creators' birthdays, generally I see them at Comics Reporter or the Beat, and a day later I pass them along.

Which is the case in my first BSBdG: Gentleman GENE COLAN aka "The Dean" (so nice, Stan nicknamed him twice), who turned 80 yesterday. I couldn't tell you the first time I saw Colan's distinctive, fluid art in a comic; probably an Iron Man under the "Adam Austin" pseudonym he used upon occasion. I also have an old coverless issue of Warren's Eerie in which he did a gorgeously inkwashed horror tale, so that may have been it. Anyway, he was one of the Gods of Comics as far as I was concerned; he drew just about every Marvel superhero and supernatural book at one time or another for over a dozen years- most notably Daredevil, Doctor Strange, and Iron Man in Tales of Suspense, but he had what I consider excellent stints on Captain America and The Avengers as well. Hell, he even drew an issue of Amazing Adventures with Killraven! Then of course, there's Tomb of Dracula, which he drew an amazingly long time (I think every issue, as a matter of fact, but there may have been a fill-in; this was 1970's Marvel after all) and most certainly can be regarded as his crowning career achievement. Unfortunately, after ToD eventually wore down and got canned he went to DC in the 1980's, and while his work was still high quality he just didn't seem to have the same spark. I wrote a bit about him the other day; guess you can tell he's one of my, in that phrase I tend to over-use I know, all time favorite artists.

Also, Spurge informs us that today is the 60th birthday of WALT SIMONSON. Simonson's art was just so radical and different, with its dynamic action staging and everpresent clever onomatopoeia that it grabbed me hard and wouldn't let go. First time I ever saw Simonson's work was in Detective Comics #438, which featured chapter two of the excellent Manhunter serial he did with the late great Archie Goodwin. I have always been notorious for picking up great comics in their second issues. Anyway, blew me away, it did, and I followed Simonson's DC career religously thereafter on such fringe books as Metal Men and Hercules Unbound (covers above). He did two of my all-time fave Batman stories as well: "The Cape and Cowl Deathtrap" from Detective #450, in which his art completely transformed and invigorated into what would have been a mediocre story in the hands of many others, and Batman#312, in which Simonson and Len Wein revamp the Calendar Man, and made me a fan of the character. When Walt went to Marvel later, he had a nice run on Mighty Thor which a lot of folks revere; me, I liked it, thought it was fun, but it didn't really blow me away like it has so many others. I didn't pick up on what he did thereafter all that much; 1980's and 1990's Marvel was just not putting out comics that I wanted to read, with very few exceptions, so I probably missed out on some good Simonson stuff, but I doubt it. Towards the end of the 90's, he went back to DC for a damn good writer/artist run on Kirby's Fourth World, in the Orion book, which I consider the best handling of Kirby's oft-misused creations since the King himself laid his pencil down after finishing Mister Miracle #18.

As a special bonus birthday spotlight, here's a page of art from some of Simonson's earliest work- Sword of Sorcery #5, an adaptation of Fritz Leiber's "The Sunken Land" scripted by Denny O'Neil and featuring Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. As I'm sure you recall, I just got a set of those, and I thought the timing was fortuitous! As the saying goes, click to see it all biggerish.

And while I'm thinking about it, Happy Labor Day weekend from all of me to all of youse. Yes, I still have reviews to write- I'm getting even more behinder since I got a new comics shipment yesterday. Today's not looking good; I have two fantasy football drafts to participate in, which in the case of the one tonight means much drunkeness. And of course, the upcoming NFL season means another round of Johnny B's Fearless NFL Picks, most likely over on the LJ. Can you stand the wait? Work at the radio station tomorrow morning, so it's looking like (barring extreme hangover) that tomorrow afternoon or Monday is our best bet. In case you care.

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