Saturday, August 6, 2011

Gene Colan (1926-2011) - The Timely Years


Gene Colan sketching, 11/29/03



It is with much sadness that I report the death of Gene Colan, a giant of sequential art storytelling, who passed away on Thursday June 23, 2011.

There will be many tributes and accolades published, both online and in print. His close friend Clifford Meth and industry veteran Mark Evanier both posted wonderful accounts of his life and career:



Major newspapers also carried his obituary:




Even the news media carried the story:




I write these words after coming home from a graveside service for Gene on Sunday, June 26, one year and one day from an identical service for his beloved wife Adrienne. The service for Gene was sad but not in a tragic way. Gene lived a long and fruitful life surrounded by the love of his family and the love from his fans. The sadness stemmed from his loss to those closest to him, his immediate family and dearest friends. As Gene was a WW2 veteran, a military honor guard played "Taps" graveside, removing the American flag from his coffin, folding it in the manner accorded by military tradition and presenting it to his family, who spoke eloquently and poignantly about their beloved father and grandfather. There was a great sense of finality that Gene was now at peace in a better place with his beloved Adrienne once again. Tears were shed but they were good tears this time.

I had been friends with Gene and Adrienne since the 1990's, having met them at cons in New York City where I often sat with them at their table and picked Gene's memory about the early years of his career at Timely. It's unfortunate I never carried a tape recorder because while details of his tenure were vague, he would talk about other artists he recalled and some of the fun times they had. 

Gene and Adrienne in New York, 10/20/04

Adrienne was a gal originally from Forest Hills, who when she found out I had lived there for seven years, took an immediate liking to me, asking me about my old haunts and stomping grounds. Always with a camera, I took quite a few photos over the years. One particular instance after taking the photo above I switched my camera to video mode and scanned around for 32 seconds soaking up the scene. The video is a bit grainy, the audio is a bit loud, but the ambiance is golden! This is how I remember them. Adrienne is conducting business on commissions, chatting and enjoying herself immensely. Gene is talking to fans, signing autographs and working on sketches. It's a moment frozen in time that I wish was much longer than the 32 seconds shown. What is not shown is Adrienne giving me a sly smile before the video started when she saw me take out the camera, knowing I was going to start taking photos (as I always did when I met them). Adrienne was quite camera shy and it took a while (and several cons) for her to allow me the freedom to do what I wanted without her paying attention. 


video


There were so many events I spent with them. One of my favorite was at the Montclair Art Museum gala, Reflecting Culture: The Evolution of American Comic Book Super Heroes in Montclair, New Jersey on September 15, 2007. Also in attendance was Allen Bellman, Joe Kubert, Murphy Anderson, Irwin Hasen and others. I attended as a guest of Allen Bellman with my wife Maggie and spent quite a bit of time with Adrienne at the event.

Program book

  Gene with fellow Timely alumnus Allen Bellman
at the Montclair Art Museum on  9/15/07

Another time I introduced Gene to my then 14 year old son Jason at the New York Comicon in 2007. Jason frequently attended shows with me back then, although his interest in comics was not as fanatical as his dad's. Gene was as gracious as could be and my friend Barry Pearl captured the moment nicely. (a)

myself, Jason and Gene on 2/24/07


Adrienne was quite a prankster on occasion. While sitting with her at the 2009 San Diego Comicon (Gene was off attending a panel), she grabbed my arm, whispered in my ear "watch this" and inexplicably began telling fans coming to the table looking for Gene that I was her other son, much to my embarrassment! She kept it up for about 20 minutes until my wife and daughter arrived at the table, whereby I told them I'd just been adopted!

I kept up with them on their own Gene Colan Yahoo list where Adrienne held court on all things Colan.  It was a unique situation, an online list devoted to a beloved creator with daily access and interaction to both of them. Gene wasn't too facile with computers so Adrienne did most of the heavy lifting and kept a daily presence where the group of us became almost like a family. I miss it a great deal. 

There have been several books written over the last decade celebrating the life and career of Gene Colan. The earliest book was The Gene Colan Annual, with the wonderfully appropriate subheading "Painting With Pencil"That is exactly what Gene did, paint with a pencil, using graphite the way a master artist paints a canvass. 



Published in 2000 by As You Like It Publications and produced by Colan fan Matt Poslusny and his wife Tina, the book is a series of essays by Gene about his life and times, filled with beautiful black and white copies of original art and commissions he's done up to that time.  I helped contribute to the Colan bibliography at the end, a listing now out of date as many previously unknown stories have been discovered in the last decade. Gene's collaborator Marv Wolfman wrote the introduction and Gene himself wrote the dedication in the beginning, which brings tears to my eyes when I read it.....

I dedicate this book to my wife, Adrienne...

From the late 1950's to the early 1960's, I was in quicksand. I was way too deep to climb out and there was nothing to grab hold of to assist me to firm ground. Each one of us though, as I see it, has a 'Clarence' at their elbow to show us the way, like the one Jimmy Stewart had in "It's A Wonderful Life". Mine was presented to me up in the Pocono's where I was vacationing. What a dream she was and still is ... and with one hand, she yanked me free. Nothing would have turned out like it did without Adrienne. She was my 'Clarence' and has been ever since.

Gene

The very best biographical book on Gene Colan (and by extension, Adrienne) was written by my pal Tom Field, Secrets in the Shadows, The Art & Life of Gene Colan.  Published by TwoMorrows in 2005, this gorgeous book covered every aspect of Gene's life and career with photos, original art, sketches and commission drawings, including a color section. From his early life, through his entry into the industry and eventual stardom, all aspects of Gene's highs and lows are expanded upon wonderfully and in great detail. The introduction to the book is by noted author and Colan fan Glen David Gold. The afterword is by artist and art historian Mark Staff Brandl.


The most recent book on Gene Colan was a Marvel-centric book published by Marvel Comics in 2009, The Invincible Gene Colan. Edited by family friend Clifford Meth, the book is a real labor of love with  hundreds of reproductions of Colan's cover art for Marvel along with original art scans and sketches/commissions.  I'm not going to be the first person to say that the commissions Gene did after he retired from comics were probably some of the finest artwork he ever produced. In spite of battling vision and health problems for years, he suffered no diminishing of his enormous talent. In fact, a case could be made he somehow compensated to render even more spectacular scenes and vistas. 

Every aspect of Gene's career at Marvel is covered, Sub-MarinerDaredevilDr. StrangeIron ManCaptain AmericaHoward the Duck, and his masterpiece (and possibly the greatest single run in comics history), the incredible 70 issue run on Tomb of Dracula, arguably the finest presentation of graphic horror ever depicted on the four color pages.

There's an interview with Gene conducted by Meth and industry chronicler Tom Spurgeon adds an article "The Forgotten Comic Book Superstar" at the end. My only problem with the book is its physical size.  It's small, with the dimensions of a standard comic book. I only wish this were an oversized, coffee-table book, the format it deserves.



In both of the above two books, I contributed chapters detailing Gene's early career at Timely and Atlas in the 1940's and 1950's.  In The Invincible Gene Colan, I lead off the book with chapter one titled "Before The Marvel Age".

Marvel had one additional book about Gene in 2009. Published in conjunction with the Hero Initiative, A Tribute To Gene Colan reprinted a core of six Colan classic Marvel stories featuring Iron Man, Dr. Strange, Daredevil, Dr. Doom and Dracula. The cover image below is the actual audition piece that Gene produced to win the assignment drawing Tomb of Dracula!


The sales proceeds to both The Invincible Gene Colan and A Tribute to Gene Colan went towards offsetting Gene's extensive medical bills as the industry and fandom rallied around one of the most beloved creators in comics history.

One of the best takes on the Gene and Adrienne relationship was in the first chapter of my pal Blake Bell's book "I Have to Live With This Guy!", published by TwoMorrows in 2002. The book was a unique look at creator couples, the dynamics of their personal lives within the framework of their artistic accomplishments.  The Colans lead off the book and it's a wonderful inside look at their history together and what made them work as a couple. 



The most difficult part for me to read was the trouble Gene had with then editor-in-chief Jim Shooter, leading to Gene's departure from Marvel in 1981. Shooter (as was his right) had very definite ideas about what constituted storytelling in the books he oversaw and was responsible for. Somehow this idea now clashed with what Gene had been doing for 30 years, including recent work considered the finest of his career. Ultimately, Gene moved on to DC but was extremely hurt by the entire affair.

Blake has put the entire chapter on his "new" blog in three parts. They can be found here:



Gene Colan at Timely:(1)


Gene Colan entered the comic industry in 1944 at Fiction House and after a brief stint left to enter the service, where he was stationed in the Philippines producing art for the Special Service in the Army Air Corps (2).  His debut at Timely has long been shrouded in lack of exactness. Colan biographer Tom Field, during an interview with both Gene and Stan Lee, asked Gene when he first met Stan. The answer was 1946 (3). In a conversation I had with Gene while sitting with him at a New York convention, I broached the same subject, asking him exactly when he recalled starting at Timely. The answer was 1946 (4).  Finally, in an interview with Clifford Meth, Gene answered the exact same thing, narrowing it down further to the summer of 1946(5)

Let's look at this a little more closely. In the summer of 1946 Timely published exactly two types of comic books, superhero comics and humor comics, which can further be broken down into teen-humor and funny-animal comics. We can immediately throw out the humor comics because Gene did not contribute to them in any capacity. That leaves superhero comics, which by the summer of 1947 would have had Sept/46, Oct/46 or Fall/46 cover dates. The hero titles on the stands would have been approximately :

All Select #11 (Fall/46)
All Winners #19 (Fall/46)
Captain America #58 (Sept/46)
Human Torch #24 (Fall/46)
Marvel Mystery Comics #76 (Sept/46), #77 (Oct/46)
Sub-Mariner #21 (Fall/46)
Young Allies #20 (Oct/46)

Now if Gene's recollection is accurate and he began immediately penciling for Stan Lee, his work would have "likely" appeared cover dated about six months in the future. Using July 1 as an arbitrary "summer" start date, that takes us to a Jan/47 cover date. These are the superhero books on the stands with an approximate Jan/47 cover date:

All Winners #21 (Winter/46-47)
Blonde Phantom #12 (Winter/46-47)
Captain America #60 (Jan/47)
Human Torch #25 (Winter/46-47)
Marvel Mystery Comics #80 (Jan/47)

That's it. By all accounts (and this is not 100% certain as I have not seen all the books above), Gene's artwork is not in any of the hero books of the time. So how do we reconcile this problem? The likely scenario is that Gene is actually off by a year and it's actually the summer of 1947 when he walked into the 14th floor of the Empire State Building with a sample story, met Stan Lee wearing a beany propeller hat, and walked out with a staff job.

In late1946 an important event occurred. As superhero sales continued to spiral downward following the end of the second world war, Martin Goodman decided to take the plunge into a new genre that was pioneered by Lev Gleason in 1942 when Silver Streak Comics was changed into Crime Does Not Pay. Hidden behind the war boom of hero and humor titles, crime comics as a genre stayed in the background until 1947 where it exploded onto the newsstands. Leading the title barrage was Timely Comics who debuted two crime titles with Fall/47 cover dates, Official True Crime Cases #24 (Fall/47) and Justice Comics #7 (Fall/47). 



















Both covers above were penciled by artist Syd Shores, the unofficial art director and the most veteran artist on the Timely staff, having been the long-running artist on the main Captain America feature in Cap's own book since Al Avison's departure earlier in the decade . Gene Colan has mentioned Syd Shores many times as having mentored him when he arrived. In fact, Gene talks about Syd in the following piece written for Blake Bell's "old" website, now available here on his "new" blog at this link:



By cover date 1948, Timely adds five additional crime titles:

Crimefighters #1 (Apr/48)
Lawbreakers Always Lose #1 (Spring/48)
Crime Exposed #1 (June/48)
Complete Mystery #1 (Aug/48)

Recall that at this time Timely still had no horror, romance or western titles. Westerns wouldn't appear until cover date Spring/48, Romance not until cover date Sept/48 and Horror not until cover date May/49.

So using the evidence of the actual books, Gene Colan appears to have made his Timely debut in the crime comics of early 1948. Sorting by job #, his first 3 stories were:

#2401 Lawbreakers Always Lose #1 (Spring/48) "Adam and Eve - Crime Incorporated!" (7 pages)
#2505 All-True Crime #27 (Apr/48) "The Cop They Couldn't Stop!" (5 pages)
#2574 Lawbreakers Always Lose #2 (June/48) "Killers Can't Win!" (6 pages)

Pre-dating Lawbreakers Always Lose #1 (Spring/48) and All-True Crime #27 (Apr/48) are only five prior crime issues and Gene Colan is not evident in any of them below.

Justice Comics #7 (Fall/47)
Justice Comics #8 (Winter/47-48)
Official True Crime Cases #24 (Fall/47)
Official True Crime Cases #25 (Winter/47-48)
...... which becomes...
 All-True Crime #26 (Feb/48)

Announcement of title change in #25 (Winter/47-48)

The question has always been as to "which" of the above two earliest stories was on the stands first. Does a Spring/47 cover pre-date an April/47 cover? The answer has now been solved. Thanks to fellow researcher Robert Wiener, I learned that Lawbreakers Always Lose #1 (Spring/48) was on the newsstands on Jan 9, 1948 and All-True Crime #27 (Apr/48) was on the newsstands on January 13, 1948. These on-sale dates were found in issue #74 (March 1, 1948) of  COMIC MAGAZINE PUBLISHING REPORT published by Edward H. Dougherty and George W. Dougherty. (6) So the job # sequence accurately reflects the published sequence of Gene's first 2 earliest stories. 

Another question is whether April/48 and Spring/48 cover dates coincides with my guess that Gene's recollection was off by one year. Taking the standard 3 months back from a cover date, the two debut stories, as seen,  were on the newsstands in early January of 1948. Taking it back another 3 to 4 months to when it was prepared/created, places us squarely to September or possibly as early as August of 1947, close enough to coincide with a "summer" start at Timely for my liking. I don't see any way it's possible that crime material could have been in production as early as the Summer of 1946 for a Spring/48 cover date. It's just too long a spread, especially when only two titles were published to start.

So until evidence proves differently, Gene Colan starts in mid 1947 at Timely.  

For the last 20 years I've scoured the Timely era books for Gene Colan's work. At first it was difficult as I had no idea what it looked like. Slowly, story by story, his early pencil style became second nature to me. I missed stories early on that I spotted later. Some stories only give a hint of Colan buried under all sorts of different inkers. I also believe Gene put more effort into some stories over others as well as possibly only doing light pencils/breakdowns on occasion. What I present below are exactly 62 stories (and one cover) I have found that were penciled by Gene while on staff at Timely on the 14th floor of the Empire State Building. All this work was produced from mid-to late 1947 to about January of 1950. After that the staff was let go and all work ongoing was done primarily on a freelance basis. This is Gene Colan artwork most people have never seen and is certainly the first time it's ever been assembled sequentially in one place. 

As we get to the end of the list on stories with cover dates early in 1950, a mixing will occur and I'm not 100% sure where to cut it off. I'm using "style" as a guideline. When it looks like Gene is inking himself, it's likely freelance work. Understand that he never stopped to even breathe. As soon as he left Timely's employ he continued to turn out work for them non-stop as a freelancer. One thing to consider is the fact that "after" being fired, he still could have freelanced pencils to be inked by a small handful of inkers that Timely had either on staff or used freelance for inking purposes. Using my own judgement, I cut off the list at 62 stories.

I will mention all of them below and provide many, many story scans in their entirety but space precludes all from being shown. I will, at the very least, show the book's cover and the Colan splash, as well as any pertinent panels and commentary.

Comments, corrections and any discussions at all are welcome and I urge the reader to comment directly on the blog post so all can see and read my responses.


1) #2401 Lawbreakers Always Lose #1 (Spring/48) "Adam and Eve - Crime Incorporated!" (7p.)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?

cover artwork by Syd Shores








By virtue of its lowest job #, this is likely Gene Colan's debut story for Timely. It's an immaculate job, immediately recognizable as being penciled by Gene Colan. The storytelling is excellent and the prototypical Colan "woman" is in display at the very start. This woman in the story is pure evil and Gene's art makes her a sultry black widow! I don't know who the inker is here but the art is so similar to examples of Colan's own illustrations from his late teen-age years that I wonder if he could have inked this himself. All in all, an incredible start and one of the very finest examples from the entire 60 story list.

page 1, panel 3
page 2, panel 2
page 6, panel 2


2) #2505 All-True Crime #27 (Apr/48) "The Cop They Couldn't Stop!" (5 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: George Klein (?)

cover pencils possibly Mike Sekowsky







This story often has been pegged as Gene's first story but that's only because no one knew about the earlier one. The inker here looks like it could be George Klein. Another slinky Colan moll putting on make-up panel and excellent storytelling. Gene is just great from the start and contrary to his modest claims that he had a lot to learn from Syd Shores, et al, he was already one of the best pencilers on staff.

page 3, panel 1


3) #2574 Lawbreakers Always Lose #2 (June/48) "Killers Can't Win!" (6 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: George Klein (?)

There are three Colan penciled stories in this issue.

cover artist unknown








Another great story with a gorgeous Colan "woman". The wafting cigarette smoke is likely George Klein rendered, hence his likelihood as the inker.

page 3, panel 5
A nice panel:

page 1, panel 3

Another Klein hint is his use of checkered clothing on shirts or coats, as in these two examples:

page 5, panel 2 checkered shirt

Colan/Klein (Dec/68) checkered suit on man at bottom


4) #2616 All-True Crime #28 (June/48) "I Married Murder!" (7 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?

There are two Gene Colan penciled stories in this issue:

cover artist unknown



Not much to say about this story. Standard crime far with another evil woman.


5) #2634 Crimefighters #1 (Apr/48) "A Client For The Hangman!" (10 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: George Klein (?)

cover artist unknown


A long 10 page crime story likely inked by George Klein.



6) #2653 Lawbreakers Always Lose #2 (June/48) "Too Big For His Boots!" 6 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?

This is a second Colan penciled story from this issue.




7) #2669 Lawbreakers Always Lose #2 (June/48) "Business Was Bad!" (4 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?

Third Colan story this issue.






8) #2682 All-True Crime #28 (June/48) "Horror In The Hills!" (6 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?

The second Colan story this issue.




9) #2786 Crimefighters #2 (June/48) "When Terror Came to Town!" (7 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?

cover artist unknown




10) #2844 Human Torch #31 (July/48) "The Man Who Could Foresee Doom!" (6 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?
Feature: Human Torch









The first of three instances I've found Gene Colan drawing Timely super hero features. Excellent storytelling and wonderful action scenes. Backgrounds could be by George Klein but I don't see him in any of the figures.

The Human Torch and Toro by Gene Colan! Here are some hero panels...








10/8/11 addendum
11) #2867 Wild West #2 (July/48) "The Town That Wasn't There!" (6 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?
Feature: Arizona Annie

A Syd Shores cover starts off this book, the second longest running "Timely/Atlas" era western (name changing to Wild Western with #3), running 57 issues from Spring/48 to the Atlas implosion cover dated Sept/57.  Kid Colt Outlaw's 74 issues from 1948 to 1957 is the genre's leader.




Syd Shores cover art


Arizona Annie was featured in the first 4 issues of this title, all stories seemingly with a different artist. Pierce Rice seems to have penciled the story in issue #4 and the rest are currently unknown to me. Gene does a great job on this 6-page installment.
















12) #2924 Two-Gun Kid #4 (Oct/48) "The Two-Gun Kid, Killer!" (10 pages)
Pencils: Syd Shores (with Gene Colan?) ; Inks: ?
Feature: Two-Gun Kid

This is really a Syd Shores Two-Gun Kid story that seems to exhibit panels with Gene Colan in them. Shores (and Russ Heath) were the primary Two-Gun Kid artists during his early run. Is Colan penciling heads? Is he inking Shores in a few panels? I have no idea.

Syd Shores pencils
Gene Colan Two-Gun Kid??? p.4




13) #2936 Justice Comics #5 (Sept/58) "Blueprint For Terror!" (14 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?

Stylized inking hides a lot of Colan.

cover artist unknown




14) #3000 Justice Comics #4 (Aug/48) "Murder For Christmas!" (4 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?

cover artist unknown



15) #3042 Complete Mystery #1 (Aug/48) "Seven Dead Men" (25 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?

We already discussed this book-length Colan treasure in a different blog post here: Complete Mystery

To quote myself.... 

"Timely was also at this time experimenting with book-length comic stories. We had previously seen extra long stories in the classic Human Torch/Sub-Mariner battles as well as in titles like YOUNG ALLIES where a story was broken up into 5 or so chapters all linked to the main story. The debut issue of JUSTICE COMICS ran a whopping 46 pages and the just launched esoteric IDEAL - A CLASSICAL COMIC also sported book-length tales. Now Timely released COMPLETE MYSTERY #1, a title that would cap the first wave of Timely/Atlas crime books, each issue a book-length story followed by a short 1 to 4 page filler.

What's special though about COMPLETE MYSTERY is not the story length, but the creators. With issue #2 Stan Lee takes over the scripting chores and scripts issues 2,3 and 4. The artists are absolute vintage Timely circa 1948. #1Gene Colan (25 pages), #2 Syd Shores (25 pages), #3 Carl Burgos (25 pages), #4 Carl Burgos (18 pages)."

25 pages of Colan pencils at the age of 21! I'll post several pages again but not the entire story. The cover itself always looked Colan-esque to me but I can't convince myself he penciled it.



p.1
p.6
p.10
p.11
p.15
p.23
p.25

16) #3233 Captain America #72 (May/49) "Murder in the Mind!" (12 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: George Klein & ?
Feature: Captain America

Golden-Age Captain America by Gene Colan! 

This 12 page masterpiece logging in as his 15th story for Timely is a Gene Colan tour-de-force! Beautifully inked by George Klein, Colan already has the skills to depict the myriad psychedelic vistas of the subconscious mind in a prototypical manner later developed further when drawing Dr. Strange. The panels brim with self-confidence. Page 4 is a triumph of panel design and innovative netherworld imagery. Gene probably knocked this out in a few days as he was furiously penciling crime and the recent 25 pager above in Complete Mystery #1. Just an exquisite piece of work. Bookended perfectly with the Human Torch story above, I'm hoping there are a few more superhero stories lurking in books I've not seen!

cover artist Syd Shores (?)















If you notice above at the end of the story, there is a house ad for Amazing Mysteries #32 (May/49), Timely's debut horror issue. We know it's issue #32 because of the cover date of this Captain America issue, May/49. Starting in late 1948 the story contents in Captain America began to take on an ever increasing "mystery" tone culminating with #74's title change to Captain America's Weird Tales featuring Cap battling the Red Skull in hell and two additional pre-code horror type stories. By #75 the conversion was complete and no Captain America appeared at all, just horror/mystery. It was the title's swan song.

It's actually quite interesting to see the changeover starting in the late 1948 across the entire line as hero titles waned and were replaced with new genres just getting started. (In 1948 this would be romance and westerns). While there was a last attempt to rally super hero titles in 1948 with the publication of The WitnessNamoraSun GirlBlacktoneVenus and a second All Winners title, all would immediately be cancelled except for Venus, which survived by it'a ability to change genre to suit the way the winds were blowing. So coupled with the immediate failures of the above titles, the Human Torch ended with #35 (Mar/49), Blonde Phantom with #22 (Mar/49), Sub-Mariner with #32 (Aug/49), Marvel Mystery Comics with #92 (June/49, changing to the horror/mystery Marvel Tales #93), and finally Captain America ended as Captain America's Weird Tales #75 (Feb/50).

Amazing MysteriesCaptain America's Weird Tales, Marvel Tales and The Witness will all be dealt with below as all have contributions by Gene Colan.



17) #3432 Justice Comics #7 (Dec/48) "Tiger By The Tail!" (10 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?


cover artist unknown




18) #3566 All-True Crime #34 (July/49) "Death House Alex!" (12 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?

The first of two Colan stories this issue. The second will be down below.

We jump ahead a bit now as this job #'d story apparently was placed in inventory for a while. In 1949 Timely changed the appearance of their splash panels to an ugly "grid". Compare the splash above with the one below or the Captain America story just shown. All splashes top tier panels in 1949 have the title in one panel and a usually tepid image in the other. I call it "the 1949 Timely grid look". In addition, much of the artwork in 1949 is constricted into a standardized 6 panel grid leaving little room for experimentation. Figures in these panels are smaller and stories are more talking heads than action oriented. Note that the cover artwork is by John Buscema.


Cover artwork by John Buscema



19) #3833 All-True Crime #31 (Jan/49) "The Case of the Outlaw in Black!" (9 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: Syd Shores

This story has me puzzled. At first I thought this was a Syd Shores story with Colan panels. Now I believe this is a Colan story "inked" by Syd Shores, with Shores taking liberties to add his own additional figures in. The man in the lower right corner of panel 3 on page one looks to be all Shores. Yet the faces of all the other characters are Colan. I didn't post the entire story but did add page 4 for additional study. There Colan really comes through.


cover artist unknown

p.1





20) #3834 Ideal - The World's Greatest Stories #4 (Jan/49) "Diamond of Destiny!" (7 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: George Klein (?)
Feature: The Witness

This entry is a real treat, I mentioned above that in 1948 Timely attempted one last hero push as hero sales were dropping and crime, romance and westerns were edging in. One of the titles was called The Witness #1 (Sept/48), a sort of  Shadow/Phantom Stranger type character who introduced/narrated  human drama type storylines. The first and only issue had 3 Witness stories and the book was cancelled. 

Over the next nine months five additional Witness stories would show up as fillers in various titles like Amazing Mysteries #32 (May/49), Captain America #71 (Mar/49) & #72 (May/49), Marvel Mystery Comics #92 (June/49), and the issue below, Ideal - The World's Greatest Stories #4 (Jan/49).

Ideal was a novel title that featured book-length historical adaptations of 34 to 38 pages per issue, backed by a filler. The filler in issue #4 was a 7 page story introduced by The Witness and penciled by Gene Colan, the only notable penciler I've seen in any of the eight total Witness stories.


The story below by Gene Colan is really a human interest story about a diamond and two Brazilian hobos who discover it.The Witness is really only the framing sequence. The hobos are depicted humorously in a Latin American stereotypical fashion and Colan's art is very dark. Actually, the whole story is very physically dark and I think I see evidence of George Klein, but am not certain.
















21) #4191 Crimefighters #6 (Mar/49) "Terror By Remote Control" (8 pages) 
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: George Klein (?)


cover artist unknown


The first of two Colan stories this issue. The first is slickly inked and has that beautiful Colan "woman"!




Colan's "woman'!


22) #4279 Crimefighters #6 (Mar/49) "Gangster's Goal!" (7 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?

A different inker.






23) #4293 Suspense #7 (Mar/51) "I Was Locked In a Mansion With ... Murder!" (10 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?

This story is well out of order. Published in late 1950 with a Mar/51 cover date, it was inventory from Jan/Feb, 1949. Very hard to see Colan under this but it's there.

cover artist unknown but with Carl Burgos




24) #4430 Lawbreakers Always Lose #6 (Feb/49) "Dream of Doom!" (6 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?


cover artist unknown










25) #4482 Sub-Mariner #31 (Apr/49) "Personal Interview with the Man who Killed Captain America" (6 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan; Inks ?
Feature: Captain America

This second Colan Captain America story was easy to miss because the first page barely hints of Colan's pencils. On pages 2-6 the pencils are much easier to see and I have no idea who inked this.


















26) #4615 Captain America #71 (Mar/49) "Trapped By The Trickster!" (8 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?
Feature: Captain America


A third Colan penciled Captain America story! This story actually appears on the stands one issue earlier than the  Captain America story in issue #72, which was executed first and held over a bit. There's a hint of an additional pencil hand here but I'm not completely convinced of this.
















27) #5038 All-True Crime #33 (May/49) "Frank Leason, The Man They Called : Madman!" 
(10 p.)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: Chris Rule (?). George Klein (?), Bill Walton (?)

Seems like a multiple hands inking job! The cover artwork is by John Buscema.


John Buscema cover art!



28) #5200 Amazing Mysteries #32 (May/49) "The Menace From The Past!" (6 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?

Amazing Mysteries #32 was the very first Timely horror/mystery issue and one of the most important books of this Timely period. I also mentioned above that it was one of the issues where unpublished Witness stories were filed following the demise of the one and only issue of The Witness. Gene Colan did not pencil the Witnes story in that issue but did pencil this one below. Surprisingly, this reads exactly like a Witness story and I wonder if it was originally supposed to be one but the script was modified after the fact. Look to see a "Witness" like character narrating the story! The cover below is possibly by Martin Nodell and actually illustrates the issue's text story.



cover artwork could be Martin Nodell












29) #5253 All-True Crime #34 (July/49) "Mama De Pard and Her Family of Fiends!" (8 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: George Klein (?)

The second Colan story this issue. The first was up above, already seen.






30) #5267 Amazing Mysteries #33 (July/49) "The Monster That Prowled!" (8 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?

The second Timely horror/mystery issue. With #34 the title changes to crime content sporting photo covers for its final two issues.  


cover artist unknown





31) #5378 Marvel Tales #93 (Aug/49) "The Haunted Room!" (7 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?

Another very important Timely issue from this period. This is the very first horror/mystery issue of what had been Marvel Mystery Comics. There are two Colan stories here.


cover artwork by Martin Nodell



32) #5418 Marvel Tales #93 (Aug/49) "The Man Who Fled From The Future!" (8 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?













33) #5466 Captain America's Weird Tales #75 (Feb/50) "Hoof Prints of Doom!" (8 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?
Cover pencils: Gene Colan

Another Gene Colan Timely treasure. One of the most important books of the period, this is the very last issue of Timely's venerable Captain America Comics. At this point Captain America is out of the book and the issue is a straight pre-code horror/mystery issue. But even more importantly, the cover artwork is also by Gene Colan! I wanted to scan the entire story but my copy is too high a grade to do so without structural damage to the book.

cover artwork by Gene Colan!





34) #5591 Rex Hart #6 (Aug/49) "When East Meets West!" (7 pages)
Pencils: Russ Heath (w/Gene Colan ?) ; Inks: Russ Heath
Feature: Rex Hart

This one is really a Russ Heath story with Colan faces I've found. I don't know if they co-penciled the story or what. A second story follows in the same issue with the same anomalies.


page 1 looks like Russ Heath

p.4, panel 2, Colan on horse
p.6, panel 5, Heath on left, Colan on right
p.7, panel 4, Colan on left, Heath on right
p.7, panel 6, Colan on left inked by Heath?



35) #5586 Rex Hart #6 (Aug/49) "Empty Holsters!" (5 pages)
Pencils: Russ Heath (w/Gene Colan ?) ; Inks: Russ Heath
Feature: Rex Hart




p.1, panel 3 Colan on horse?
p.3, panel 2 Colan ?
p.4, panel 3 Colan on right?




36) #5??? Marvel Tales #94 (Nov/49) "The Haunted Love!" (7 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?

Colan using very small figures in what is essentially nothing but a "talking heads" Gothic romance story. Great cover, though!


cover artist unknown






As we reach the approximate half way point, we can see that 65% of the work Gene penciled above was in Timely's crime comics, a genre that flourished from the moment he stepped foot into the Empire State Building in 1947 and would continue to do so until late 1952. Also seen were stories in the very earliest horror/mystery books starting with Amazing Mysteries #32 (May/49), a genre that would mostly supplant crime across the newsstands. There is a third genre that was now in full bloom, the romance genre.  Romance comic books were inaugurated by Simon & Kirby's Young Romance Comics #1 (Sept-Oct/47) for Prize/Headline. An immediate sales sensation, it spawned what is now known affectionately as the "Love Glut" of 1949. Nowhere was the glut more apparent than at Timely.

Starting with My Romance/My Own Romance #1 (Sept/48), Timely waited six months to see the sales results then added Ideal - Love & Romance/Love Romances (Mar/49), Lovers (May/49), Love Tales (May/49), My Love (July/49), Best Love (Aug/49), Molly Manton's Romances (Sept/49) and Our Love (Sept/49) in quick succession.

Then the deluge hit! Starting with Actual Romances #1 (Oct/49), 22 additional romance title were added in the next 3 months! By cover date Mar/50, 21 of them were cancelled, 3 after a single issue. Only Girl Comics survived.

During the run up to this glut of romance titles, Timely must have practically converted an entire section of the artist floor to romance comic story production as so much product was needed, and after the mass cancellations,stored in inventory. Many of the newer artists were broken-in on romance stories. Staffer Marion Sitton's entire tenure on staff in 1948 and 1949 seemed to be exclusively on romance stories. It also appeared frequently that the worst inkers were assigned to some of the fastest pencilers. No one penciled more Timely romance than Mike Sekowky (over 120 romance stories by my count) and the quality of the work would range from superb (inked by Christopher Rule) to horrendous (inked by god-knows-who). 

Gene Colan was no exception. Starting with a story in Our Love #1 below, he will work almost exclusively in the romance books for his next 16 stories. Quality will vary from "great" to "barely-can-recognize-it's-Colan".




37) #5701 Our Love #1 (Sept/49) "Guilt!" (7 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?















38) #5888 True Life Tales #8 (#1) (Oct/49) "The One Who Didn't Belong!" (7 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?








39) #6115 Loveland #1 (Nov/49) "I Bet My Heart!" (7 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?

It almost looks as if John Tartaglione inked this, but not possible as he was not at Timely at this time.










40) #6136 My Own Romance #13 (Oct/50) "The Choice" (8 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ? & Joe Maneely (?)
Splash: Christopher Rule  

A few things to point out. The splash panel below is drawn by Christopher Rule and the cover date of Oct/50 makes this story an older inventory story sitting on a pile somewhere. In fact, I've come to some possible conclusions about Timely romance inventory from this period. It's obvious at the time of the "love glut crash and burn" that there was a ton of romance inventory left over from 21 titles that were cancelled over the course of 2-3 months. All these stories were created in mid 1949 at the height of the ugly "Timely grid" tier splash.When this inventory began to be burned off in late 1950 and beyond, the aesthetic approach to the splash panel had progressed to one much pleasing to the eye, reverting to pre-1949 sensibilities. So what were Timely editors to do? Get a staff artist to draw "new" splash panels!. Christopher Rule probably never left Timely's employ. He was on staff from the early 1940's onward and possibly remained on staff even after the rest of the staff was let go. He drew the preponderance of the "new" splash panels needed to replace ugly inventory splashes from 1949. Other artists also helped but Rule was the most prolific.


cover art by Christopher Rule

Christopher Rule splash replaces original top tier and
panel 1 is mover over to the right


One additional observation about this story. Call me crazy, but I'm convinced I'm seeing Joe Maneely's hand in a few panels. Why? I have no idea. Maneely came over to Timely after Street & Smith closed down. His very first full story was in Western Outlaws and Sheriffs #60 (Dec/49), #6760 "The Kansas Massacre of 1864", on the stands in September of 1949 and drawn possibly 3 months earlier in June of 1949. I believe I've found him earlier in other stories as part of a collaborative approach to some stories. This story penciled by Colan has these panels that perplex me. It's always the same man, with the blue hair.....









41) #6146 Young Hearts #2 (Feb/50) "Was Marriage My Mistake?" (8 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?

Stiff talking heads only. Cross-eyes on the female lead character makes me wonder if Ann Brewster inked this! Not visible below (because I only posted page 1) is the fact that Colan used the same stock pose of the woman in 3 different panels.






42) #6226 My Own Romance #16 (May/51) "Rude Awakening!" (6 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?, Chris Rule (?)
Splash: Christopher Rule

Now this is inventory! Job # from 1949, story published in 1951! Another Christopher Rule splash panel and possibly some story inks.


Christopher Rule splash panel



43) #6262 My Love #3 (Jan/50) "I Loved A Man Whom I Didn't Dare Marry!" (8 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?

Such heavy, overwrought inks, I can barely even see Gene Colan. Gene is doing light pencils and most of the art seems to be in the inking. 






44) #6310 True Western #1 (Dec/49) "The Kid Who Couldn't Stop Shootin'!" (9 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?

This western is 10 times better than the romance stories we've seen so far. Easily seen as Colan and a much better inker.





45) #6333 Lovers #26 (Nov/49) "I Gave My Kisses To The Wrong Man!" (8 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?



This almost looks like Maurice Del Bourgo is the inker. I can't say with any certainty, though.








46) #6375 Love Adventures #2 (Jan/50) "I Wasn't The Kind Of Girl He Could Marry!" (8 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?

Wait a minute, this cover looks awfully familiar to me... Here it is! This cover was taken from an earlier Apr/47 Goodman movie magazine cover:










47) #6523 Best Love #36 (Apr/50) "Storm In My Heart!" (8 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?
Splash: Joe Maneely

Inventory story from mid 1949. This time Joe Maneely draws the splash panel, taking out the top 2 tiers of the original. I've counted 20 instances where Joe Maneely drew splash panels for stories drawn by other artists, all from cover date Mar/50 to Nov/50:

Joe Maneely Timely splash panels:
Colan stories in red

2951 Nov/50 ALL - TRUE CRIME #41 When Death Wore a Dress!
5492 Nov/50 SUSPENSE #5 Hangman's House
5557 June/50 WESTERN OUTLAWS AND SHERIFFS #62 El Sombro!
6169 Apr/50 MY LOVE #4 Deception!
6330 Nov/50 ALL - TRUE CRIME #41 Lou "Lucky" Raven
6523 Apr/50 BEST LOVE #36 Storm In My Heart!
6591 Apr/50 MY LOVE #4 I Was Engaged To A Puppet!
6926 Mar/50 WESTERN OUTLAWS AND SHERIFFS #61 Chief Tall Wolf's War!
6993 Apr/50 WILD WESTERN #10 Killer For Hire!
7005 June/50 WESTERN OUTLAWS AND SHERIFFS #62 Thirty-Five Notches!
7039 June/50 WESTERN OUTLAWS AND SHERIFFS #62 Judge Ron Thomas' Gun-Gavel!
7164 Apr/50 GIRL COMICS #3 Second Fiddle!
7206 May/50 SUSPENSE #3 The Man Who Lost His Head!
7315 May/50 KID COLT OUTLAW #9 The Man From Nowhere!
7343 May/50 TRUE ADVENTURES #3 Killer At Large!
7348 May/50 KID COLT OUTLAW #9 The Gun - Shy Sheriff!
7355 May/50 KID COLT OUTLAW #9 The Meanest Man In The World!
7374 May/50 KID COLT OUTLAW #9 The Secret Of The Hidden Mine!
7513 Sept/50 BLACK RIDER #10 Six - Gun Lesson!
7529 Sept/50 BLACK RIDER #10 The Legend Of The Black Rider!





Joe Maneely splash panel




48) #6536 Rangeland Love #1 (Dec/49) "Lasso 'Round My Heart!" (8 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?

Very heavily inked making Colan all but invisible!




Starting cover date Oct/49 Timely tried a mixed genre line of titles. If westerns sold well and romance sold well, then western-romances would sell even better! Right? Wrong. Six titles and 11 total issues got out and became swamped in the romance glut. All had photo covers. Here is an ad for the line of titles:

Ad from Rangeland Love #1 (Dec/49)





49) #6724 Love Romances #10 (Feb/50) "Lost: One Love!" (8 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?

Here we go again... Ok, not an exact steal like Love Adventures #2 and Screen Stars above, but similar gal, similar title and same background color. Love Romances #10 (Feb/50) and Goodman's Life Romances (Oct/52) magazine. Notice the Atlas globe on the cover. 
























The inker is unknown but Colan is easily seen here. 












Here's an additional coda to this story. The text story in Love Romances #14 (Jan/51) sported 3 head shots taken from panels in this story: 



Here's the cropped center:


And here are the panels where the head shots came from, some even touched up.

page 8, panel 4

page 4, panel 1

page 3, panel 3





50) #6773 Suspense #2 (Feb/50) "I Bet With Death!" (11 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?

A long 11-page thriller.















51) #6960 Love Romances #17 (July/51) "Don't Leave Me, My Love" (6 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?
Splash: Christopher Rule

Another inventory story published in the Spring of 1951 with a job # from Dec/49-Jan/50. This western romance was probably left over from the cancelled western-romance titles mentioned above



Splash panel by Christopher Rule



52) #6966 My Own Romance #18 (Sept/51) "Her Brother's Keeper!" (7 pages)
Pencils/layouts (?): Gene Colan ; Inks: Mike Becker
Splash: Christopher Rule

The first thing to note below is that this is the latest Colan inventory story in this entire survey, appearing nearly 18 cover months late from what the job # would indicate. It's also another western romance story left over from the Western-romance title glut and collapse. The inker here is Mike Becker, a very stylized artist who tends to make every story look like a Mike Becker story. For years I had this down as Mike Becker until one day I realized I saw Gene Colan heads on page 7. The more I examined it the more it began to dawn on me that Colan was the likely pencil artist buried underneath! I've only included the splash page as it's not a very good story. You can see a hit of Colan in the face of the man in the middle of panel 3 below. While I've talked about Heath stories with Colan faces above (which are "Heath" stories), this is a probably a Colan story in spite of it also only being heads.

The second thing of note is that this is one of 3 romance covers this very month by Joe Maneely, the only three complete Atlas romance covers he ever drew, all the same month. Later in 1954 and 1955 he would draw backgrounds on two Vince Colletta romance covers. In addition to this My Own Romance #18 cover, the others are Love Tales #48 and Lovers #35, all Sept/51.

Joe Maneely cover art

Colan / Becker



53) #7054 My Own Romance #11 (Mar/50) "Second Meeting!" (9 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?



There are two Colan stories in this issue. Here are the first two pages from story #1.





54) #7100 My Own Romance #11 (Mar/50) "Ruthless!" (11 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan & ? ; Inks: ? ; Additional artist: Christopher Rule
Splash: Bob Brown (?) and Christopher Rule (?)

The large image on the right of the splash looks like it could be the work of Bob Brown. The couple on the left look like Christopher Rule. The splash page is unnumbered. The next page is numbered page 1. Some pages almost look like John Buscema assisted. Almost a Timely staff jam job.


splash page in not numbered

p.1

p.4

Also a Christopher Rule panel touch up above on page 4 (cropped below):

Chris Rule p.4, panel 4



55) #7206 Suspense #3 (May/50) "The Man Who Lost His Head!" (9 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?

The first issue of the change over to horror/mystery from crime. The entire first page splash is by Joe Maneely!



Entire splash page by Joe Maneely










56) #7268 Girl Comics #4 (June/50) "Mother Knows Best!" (8 pages)
Pencils/layouts (?): Gene Colan ; Inks: ?
Splash: Christopher Rule

Another extra-large splash panel by primarily Christopher Rule (the man on the right does not look like Rule). I almost left this story out of the list as I've dithered back and forth as to whether Colan is underneath but have come to the conclusion that he is. The story is not worth wasting blog space with so here's the splash.


splash panel art by Christopher Rule



57) #7284 Marvel Tales #96 (June/50) "The Return of The Monster" (9 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: Vince Alascia (?)
Splash: Syd Shores

This is a great 9 page horror story based on the Frankenstein monster story. With horror flourishing across the industry, Marvel Tales became Timely's flagship horror title (continuing off of Timely's flagship hero title, Marvel Mystery Comics). The cover below is a gorgeous Syd Shores cover and the illustrations in the cover boxes on the left side were drawn by Joe Maneely. The splash panel is Shores swiped from the cover but Colan pencils the entire story. The man on the left side of the splash holding the torch near the story title is neither Shores nor Colan. Hmm.. It almost looks like Bill LaCava. I really wanted to scan the entire thing but the book would have been damaged in the process. If I ever get a lower grade copy I'll do so.



Syd Shores splash panel is from cover image



58) #7368 Sports Action #3 (June/50) "Herman Sandow" (7 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: George Klein (?)

The first appearance of a new genre here, sports. Martin Goodman only published a single sports comic title throughout his long publishing history, Sports Action, which ran 14 issues from cover date Nov/49 to Sept/52, taking the title from his long running sport pulp with the same name. The very first issue was titled Sports Stars and issues #1 and #2 had painted covers utilizing his pulp cover artists. The prolific Allen Anderson painted the cover to issue #2.

In fact, considering how many sports pulps Goodman published in his history, 13 titles and around 150 total issues, it's surprising sports comics didn't really catch on. Just to give examples:
All-Baseball Stories
All Basketball Stories
All Football Stories
Best Sports Magazine
Big Baseball Stories
Big Book Sports
Big Sports Magazine
Complete Sports
Real Sports
Sports Action
Sports Leaders Magazine
Sports Short Stories
Star Sports Magazine

Yet sports comics didn't really sell for some reason. Maybe the market for comics were in children who were not as inclined to play sports, I don't know. What I do know is that there are 2 Gene Colan stories in this issue. I'll present them both in order although the second story should be Colan story #58. The cover below is by Joe Maneely, in the month he began to flourish as cover artist for the line. Maneely's first cover for Timely/Atlas was Kid Colt Outlaw #9 (May/50). By the next month (June) he had jumped to 4 covers : Black Rider #9, Sports Action #3, Western Outlaws & Sheriffs #62, Wild Western #11, and a 5th drawing the cover boxes seen above in Marvel Tales #96.




The first story below is a semi-biographical take on the famous old-time strongman and physical culturist Eugen Sandow, the father of modern bodybuilding.  The question I have is why the editor changed his name to "Herman"? And if his name was changed, how accurate is the actual story? The inker may be George Klein.

Here is a video clip of Sandow from June 11, 1903. There is existing footage of him from as far back as 1894, filmed by Thomas Edison.
















The second Colan story this issue is actually #58 but we'll present it as #56.

59) #7402 Sports Action #3 (June/50) "Al Lassman" (6 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: Mike Becker (?)

The story of the NYU college football star. Some claim his death was a suicide:


Only some of the inks below seem to be Mike Becker.










60) #7390 Suspense #4 (Aug/50) "The Man In Black" (7 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?

Two Gene Colan stories in this issue. The first is heavily inked by someone.

Joe Maneely cover art











61) #7426 Suspense #4 (Aug/50) "The Closing Door" (4 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?









62) #7393 Kid Colt Outlaw #9 (May/50) "The Man Who Refused To Die!" (3 pages)
Pencils: Gene Colan ; Inks: ?

The cover artwork is Joe Maneely's debut cover art for Timely/Atlas and Stan Lee. The story was reprinted in the Atlas title Western Thrillers #1 (Nov/54), one of a handful of Atlas titles that resorted to reprints to fill certain issues. In 1954 there must have been a need for story art to fill an expanded line and before material could be produced, a decision was made to cull from the past. Issues I've seen with reprint stories are:

Apache Kid #11 (Dec/54)
Apache Kid #12 (Feb/55)
Western Thrillers #1 (Nov/54)
Western Thrillers #2 (Dec/54)
Western Thrillers #3 (Jan/55)   ...which becomes...
Cowboy Action #5 (Mar/55)

Love Tales #60 (Feb/55)
Love Tales #61 (Apr/55)

In all cases, these were new titles or titles started up after a hiatus. Apache Kid had ended with #10 (Jan/52) and then was suddenly restarted again with #11 (Dec/54) before any new Apache Kid stories had been completed. The answer was "reprints" until they were ready. 

Western Thrillers was a new western anthology that started immediately with reprints. Issue #4's stories hail from the same 1949 period and may be reprints also, I just haven't been able to cross check them with certainty yet. When it changed to Cowboy Action #5, the first issue continued the reprints before new material began with issue #6.

Love Tales restarted with #60 (Feb/55) after a hiatus of 30 months, last seen as #58 (Aug/52). There was no issue #59. The title was cancelled before issue #59 could be published and the stories slated for it were instead published as Lovers #42 (Oct/52).
.

Joe Maneely's debut cover for Timely/Atlas
A short 3-page western filler.











And now one final anomaly. The story below does not appear to be a Gene Colan penciled story.

Page 1 splash: Nothing resembling Colan. Inks are of a loose-slick Bill Everett-like quality throughout the entire story

Page 2, panel 2: Colan-esque head on boy on right with white hat.
Page 2, panel 3: Same
Page 2, panel 6: Same

Page 3, panel 3: Same
Page 3, panel 5: Same

That's it. Colan only seemingly glimpsed in one character (the boy). I also see how this could also be Syd Shores in the face but I guess after overdosing on 60 Colan penciled stories, I'm subconsciously registering Colan rather than Shores.


Another thing to mention is that this story appears in that Colan twilight zone period after the Timely staff was let go by Jan/50 real time. We get these 2 straggler held over Colan penciled stories in Suspense #4 (Aug/50), then nothing until "all" Colan in Journey Into Unknown Worlds #37 (#2) and War Comics #1, both Dec/50.

This "Greed" story comes in Nov/50 as a non Colan story with a handful of Colan heads (by my eyes). The job # of #7633 places it well past the last Colan staff effort in Kid Colt Outlaw #9 (May/50), #7393.

So logic is telling me I have to be wrong...but damn those Colan-esque heads!



? 63) #7633 Black Rider #11 (Nov/50) "Greed!" (3 pages)
Pencils: ? & Gene Colan (?); Inks: Bill Everett (?)


Joe Maneely cover artwork






At this point I have to stop. We've reached the period where the line is beginning to blur between what was done on staff at Timely and what was done freelance after the staff was let go. Have I missed any stories? The answer is probably yes, but I'd bet it's less than 5 stories. I'm hoping there are more in the concurrent hero titles of late 1948 and 1949, right before they were cancelled. The four I've found (one Human Torch and three Captain Americas) are fantastic and the idea there may be a few more keeps me looking. I've just about accounted for every crime and romance story. There still may be a handful of westerns as I have not seen every issue from this period yet.

As I moved towards the stories at the end of the list, my certainty about a Timely staff origin began to waver. All the stories here appear to be inked by other hands. Right after this last story, it appears Gene was inking himself, or at least the inking is consistent with what he did as a freelancer.

Where Colan went in the immediate aftermath of the Timely staff's demise can be documented but he next shows up at Timely/Atlas cover date Dec/50 in Journey into Unknown Worlds #37 (#2), #7636 "No Escape", and in War Comics #1, #7689, stories that look completely different, probably inked by Colan himself. In the debut Atlas war comic, a book that wasn't conceived until the Korean War began on June 25th, 1950, when North Korea (backed by Soviet built tanks) poured over the border into South Korea, a tentative dating can occur. War Comics #1's lead story was titled "Peril in Korea!", a propaganda piece that was an attempt to sell the war to readers so it was conceived right there at the end of June.

So cover date Dec/50 seems to be the cut off. Every story that month and beyond looks like Colan inked it himself and every story prior, including Nov/50 cover dates, look like Timely staff jobs.

Gene was now right back freelancing at Timely, now called Atlas, on about 250 additional stories from mid 1950 to April of 1957 (real time). His greatest Atlas output was in the war titles where from 1951 to 1957 he drew about 135 stories, 100 in the two-year post-code period alone from 1955 to 1957.

It's also a possibility that after the staff was let go, Gene could have freelanced pencils and the inks could have been farmed out to a freelance inker on the last few stories, giving them the Timely appearance but still executed after the staff closed. We'll never know and the reality is not even really important. What is important is that these are earliest works by one of comic's greatest artists. I'm very happy to be able to show them to the world at large.

Comments, corrections and additions welcome!

For those who like lists, here is the entire Colan Timely bibliography:

Gene Colan at Timely (1948-1949) :

1)   #2401 Lawbreakers Always Lose #1 (Spring/48) "Adam and Eve - Crime Incorporated!" (7p.)
2)   #2505 All-True Crime #27 (Apr/48) "The Cop They Couldn't Stop!" (5 pages)
3)   #2574 Lawbreakers Always Lose #2 (June/48) "Killers Can't Win!" (6 pages)
4)   #2616 All-True Crime #28 (June/48) "I Married Murder!" (7 pages)
5)   #2634 Crimefighters #1 (Apr/48) "A Client For The Hangman!" (10 pages)
6)   #2653 Lawbreakers Always Lose #2 (June/48) "Too Big For His Boots!" 6 pages)
7)   #2669 Lawbreakers Always Lose #2 (June/48) "Business Was Bad!" (4 pages)
8)   #2682 All-True Crime #28 (June/48) "Horror In The Hills!" (6 pages)
9)   #2786 Crimefighters #2 (June/48) "When Terror Came to Town!" (7 pages)
10) #2844 Human Torch #31 (July/48) [H. Torch]"The Man Who Could Foresee Doom!" (6 pages)
11) #2867 Wild West #2 (July/48) [Arizona Annie] "The Town That Wasn't There!" (6 pages)
12) #2924 Two-Gun Kid #4 (Oct/48) "The Two-Gun Kid, Killer!" (10 pages)
13) #2936 Justice Comics #5 (Sept/58) "Blueprint For Terror!" (14 pages)
14) #3000 Justice Comics #4 (Aug/48) "Murder For Christmas!" (4 pages)
15) #3042 Complete Mystery #1 (Aug/48) "Seven Dead Men" (25 pages)
16) #3233 Captain America #72 (May/49) [Captain America]"Murder in the Mind!" (12 pages)
17) #3432 Justice Comics #7 (Dec/48) "Tiger By The Tail!" (10 pages)
18) #3566 All-True Crime #34 (July/49) "Death House Alex!" (12 pages)
19) #3833 All-True Crime #31 (Jan/49) "The Case of the Outlaw in Black!" (9 pages)
20) #3834 Ideal - The World's Greatest Stories #4 (Jan/49) [Witness]"Diamond of Destiny!" (7p.) 
21) #4191 Crimefighters #6 (Mar/49) "Terror By Remote Control" (8 pages) 
22) #4279 Crimefighters #6 (Mar/49) "Gangster's Goal!" (7 pages)
23) #4293 Suspense #7 (Mar/51) "I Was Locked In a Mansion With ... Murder!" (10 pages)
24) #4430 Lawbreakers Always Lose #6 (Feb/49) "Dream of Doom!" (6 pages)
25) #4482 Sub-Mariner #31 (Apr/49) [Captain America] "Personal Interview with the Man who Killed Captain America!" (6 pages)
26) #4615 Captain America #71 (Mar/49) [Captain America]"Trapped By The Trickster!" (8 pages)
27) #5038 All-True Crime #33 (May/49) "Frank Leason, The Man They Called : Madman!" (10 p.)
28) #5200 Amazing Mysteries #32 (May/49) "The Menace From The Past!" (6 pages)
29) #5253 All-True Crime #34 (July/49) "Mama De Pard and Her Family of Fiends!" (8 pages)
30) #5267 Amazing Mysteries #33 (July/49) "The Monster That Prowled!" (8 pages)
31) #5378 Marvel Tales #93 (Aug/49) "The Haunted Room!" (7 pages)
32) #5418 Marvel Tales #93 (Aug/49) "The Man Who Fled From The Future!" (8 pages)
33) #5466 Captain America's Weird Tales #75 (Feb/50) "Hoof Prints of Doom!" (8 pages)
34) #5591 Rex Hart #6 (Aug/49) "When East Meets West!" (7 pages)
35) #5586 Rex Hart #6 (Aug/49) "Empty Holsters!" (5 pages)
36) #5??? Marvel Tales #94 (Nov/49) "The Haunted Love!" (7 pages)
37) #5701 Our Love #1 (Sept/49) "Guilt!" (7 pages)
38) #5888 True Life Tales #8 (#1) (Oct/49) "The One Who Didn't Belong!" (7 pages)
39) #6115 Loveland #1 (Nov/49) "I Bet My Heart!" (7 pages)
40) #6136 My Own Romance #13 (Oct/50) "The Choice" (8 pages)
41) #6146 Young Hearts #2 (Feb/50) "Was Marriage My Mistake?" (8 pages)
42) #6226 My Own Romance #16 (May/51) "Rude Awakening!" (6 pages)
43) #6262 My Love #3 (Jan/50) "I Loved A Man Whom I Didn't Dare Marry!" (8 pages)
44) #6310 True Western #1 (Dec/49) "The Kid Who Couldn't Stop Shootin'!" (9 pages)
45) #6333 Lovers #26 (Nov/49) "I Gave My Kisses To The Wrong Man!" (8 pages)
46) #6375 Love Adventures #2 (Jan/50) "I Wasn't The Kind Of Girl He Could Marry!" (8 pages)
47) #6523 Best Love #36 (Apr/50) "Storm In My Heart!" (8 pages)
48) #6536 Rangeland Love #1 (Dec/49) "Lasso 'Round My Heart!" (8 pages)
49) #6724 Love Romances #10 (Feb/50) "Lost: One Love!" (8 pages)
50) #6773 Suspense #2 (Feb/50) "I Bet With Death!" (11 pages)
51) #6960 Love Romances #17 (July/51) "Don't Leave Me, My Love" (6 pages)
52) #6966 My Own Romance #18 (Sept/51) "Her Brother's Keeper!" (7 pages)
53) #7054 My Own Romance #11 (Mar/50) "Second Meeting!" (9 pages)
54) #7100 My Own Romance #11 (Mar/50) "Ruthless!" (11 pages)
55) #7206 Suspense #3 (May/50) "The Man Who Lost His Head!" (9 pages)
56) #7268 Girl Comics #4 (June/50) "Mother Knows Best!" (8 pages)
57) #7284 Marvel Tales #96 (June/50) "The Return of The Monster" (9 pages)
58) #7368 Sports Action #3 (June/50) "Herman Sandow" (7 pages)
59) #7402 Sports Action #3 (June/50) "Al Lassman" (6 pages)
60) #7390 Suspense #4 (Aug/50) "The Man In Black" (7 pages)
61) #7426 Suspense #4 (Aug/50) "The Closing Door" (4 pages)
62) #7393 Kid Colt Outlaw #9 (May/50) "The Man Who Refused To Die!" (3 pages)



? 63) #7633 Black Rider #11 (Nov/50) "Greed!" (3 pages)


Additional Bibliography and Sources:

  1. Vassallo, Michael J., Every scan and iota of Timely data and research taken from my own primary sources except three cover scans, the Captain America #72 cover, sourced from www.atlastales.com, and the cover and story scans to Captain America #71 sourced from fellow researcher Dusty Miller, and Sub-Mariner #31, sourced from Cory Sedlmeier.
  2. Bell, Blake, "I Have To Live With This Guy!", TwoMorrows Publishing, 2002, page 7
  3. Field, Tom, Secrets in the Shadows, TwoMorrows Publishing, 2005, page 56
  4. Vassallo, Michael J., private conversation with Gene Colan, 2003
  5. Meth, Clifford, The Invincible Gene Colan, Marvel Entertainment, Inc., 2007, p.122
  6. Comic Magazine Publishing Report, #74, March 1 1948,  Edward H. Dougherty and George W. Dougherty publishers

Notes:
  • (a) Historian Barry Pearl has written what is probably the greatest book on the silver age of Marvel Comics that can ever be written, The Essential Marvel Age Reference. At 1147 pages, it's a lifetime labor of love 40 years in the making and available only as a PDF file, covering "every" creator, title, issue and story from 1961 to 1977 and contains critical commentary, analysis, credits, lists, everything you could possibly think of. The supplementary material is beyond belief as every fanzine article, newspaper and magazine coverage of the material is listed, interviews conducted, and to top it all off, it even has some multimedia parts. it can be ordered here. Tell him Doc V. sent you!

14 comments:

  1. Nicely written article for a dentist.....seriously, a very impressive little blog you've started here. Cant't wait to read the next.

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  2. Mike,

    This is an excellent appreciation of Gene and a history of his early work. I was at many of those cons with you when we spoke to Gene and Adrienne and it was alwaus a pleasure to chat with both of them. Adrienne was always enthusiastic and made you feel special. Gene was thoughtful and enjoyed discussing his work. I was always amazed at how very good he was with his later commisions.

    Your post is a lot to digest; its an incredible gathering of Gene's efforts at Timely, and shows just how good he was early on. I don't yet have anything different to add, except the inking in "Greed" looks like Everett may possibly had a hand involved and i see Colan in some of that Shores story also.

    Nick Caputo

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  3. You're right, Nick. There's something decidedly Everett about the inks in "Greed!". It could be a case where Gene penciled the story either just before or just after leaving Timely. Stan then turned the story over to whoever was available, in this case, it looks like perhaps Bill Everett.

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  4. Thanks Franklin! If only I had more time!

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  5. Being no expert, my question is this (and note I'm only part-way through reading this book-length post):

    What do you see in the very early art, under the inks, that to you says "Colan"?

    I remember in the 70s seeing a reprint of a 40s horror story, as I recollect, penciled and inked by Colan. While awful work to my young, ignorant eyes, the art in places nonetheless said Colan. Indeed, Colan said somewhere or other decades ago that his early work was the usual trial an error: He hadn't yet learned what looked on the art board that would still look good printed. And indeed this story was an example of that. The inks, terribly muddy, looked like the birth of his mature inking style (at least when he inked predominantly with a pen; his brushwork was vastly inferior, wash jobs notwithstanding). Likewise, his shading which, sometime in the 50s, got firmed up, unique, and brilliant.

    And, too, there was his ability to position his characters at the peak of action, so to speak. (His work had almost as much force and energy as Kirby -- likely the reason wLee didn't make him work off Kirby layouts when he came to Marvel in the 60s, yes?)

    So again: What's in the early work that identifies it as Colan's?

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  6. A good question, but somewhat difficult to put into words. The way I learned what the nascent Colan looked like was a study over the course of 20 years of indexing Atlas comic books. The freelance Atlas era Gene Colan is fairly recognizable if you are familiar with his silver-age work. All his work from cover date May of 1956 to April of 1957 (about 200 stories!) is unsigned but all have full-page Colan splash panels and is stylistically what we all know as Colan. He didn't sign them because he was moonlighting for Stan Lee while working full-time for DC. I also believe he inked them himself although many look like Mort Drucker inked them, something Colan denied to me when I asked him. I've concluded it's just a quirk of similarity.

    As you work backwards from 1956 to 1955 the stories are all signed and as you continue back into 1954 and 1953, all these signed stories subtly change to a more "standard" comic style with Gene's inking and facial structures. As you go back even further (and having now looked at about 300 stories), Gene's artwork becomes second nature. The signatures stop in early 1952 but the style is the same as signed stories in 1953.

    Now take it back further into the Timely staff period of 1948-1949. The tics that make up the young Colan are now hard-wired onto the brain. The entire experience over the course of 20 years was like learning a language through repetition. Colan's faces, head shots, mannerisms depicted by individuals in panels, his women, panel-to panel storytelling (cinematic in an embryonic form to his later development), etc, now have to be found "under" a bevy of inkers that often did not do the pencils justice. For years I kept a tally as I indexed and studied these books. Years later re-indexing wouyld reveal stories I missed earlier. This continued until the list reached the 60 stories above. Some (as I indicated) I cannot explain why Gene would be evident in a Syd Shores story, or a story that looks 100% Michael Becker because of overwhelming inks but then a sliver of Gene comes through (where I indicate).

    Finally, about half of these stories were confirmed by Gene himself in my presence when we discussed them about 8-12 years ago. The other half were discovered later and I didn't have the opportunity to show them to him.

    So I don't expect someone to look at many of these and immediately see Gene Colan but if I could "teach" you by virtue of total immersion of Colan's work starting in 1957 and working backwards, I think anyone with a basic eye for art spotting would tend to agree with me.

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  7. Doc; As I said, that reprint from the 40s *did* have "tics" that became common later, albeit the 40s job was tentative.

    And of course I understand the idea of "reverse engineering".

    Where I start to get lost is amongst the Quality jobs Ger posted on his blog. If I recall correctly, one job *did* have Colan's style fairly evident, one not at all (neither inked by Colan).

    So I guess the question is: What were Colan's "tics" in the early years that he dropped as he started forward? Yeah, yeah, I know it must be difficult to articulate; if you can.

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  8. And another thing to consider, but when you get to the Atlas chapter: IIRC, Colan did a story or two for Kurtzman at EC. Did doing a story under the circumstances have any significant affect on Colan? Was it a learning experience?

    I certainly can't say. To me, the contemporaneous Quality stuff Ger posted looks like a penciller majorly steamrolled by awful inking. Yet, within a couple of years, we have the mature Colan. And I's submit that he was one of the artists *helped* by the reduced art boards in the mid-/late 60s.

    What say you, Doc? Anyone?

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  9. Mike,

    Something about the figurework on pages 5 and 8 in particular say Colan to me.

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  10. Um, I was speaking about the "new" Cap story...

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  11. This is one of the most amazingly well researched and written articles I've ever seen, and on a subject near and dear to my heart. I've been back here four or five times now and still haven't assimilated all of the information. Thanks, Doc! - Coop

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  12. Thanks, Coop! Gene's earliest work done for Timely has historically been overlooked in every discussion or compilation of his career. I'm happy to be able to "finally" show readers exactly what it was, after writing about it for years.

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  13. Doc,
    Your posts are without a doubt the most massive and well informed on any blog! Concerned readers and Timely/Atlas/comics connoisseurs such as myself need to pack a bedroll and a few picnic baskets of food to sustain their nourishment while enjoying the incredible details you have documented here! Fantastic posts, wonderful and informative! Thank you! Looking forward to more.
    RIP Mr. Colan, one of comic arts true originals.

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  14. Timely artist Allen bellman asked me to forward the following comments about Gene:

    Michael, Gene and I became good friends after meeting again (we worked together in the Timely Bullpen in the 1940's), about 60 years later at Mega Con in Orlando Florida. The only way I could describe Gene's artwork was that he was "Disgustingly Talented"! I admired his work a great deal and I do not mind tipping my hat to him. He called me sometime before his passing and told me he missed his wife.

    Allen Bellman

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