Friday, May 23, 2008

Never too late to Pollardize

Today's Comic Art Friday is dedicated to a genuine legend of the comic book medium, artist Gene Colan. The man whom Stan Lee dubbed "Gene the Dean" is one of comics' most distinctive stylists, due to his instantly recognizable sweeping, swirling linework and shadowy textures.

Colan worked on numerous titles during his 60 years in the industry, including memorable stints on Dr. Strange and Iron Man for Marvel Comics, and Wonder Woman (a seemingly unlikely choice, but it worked) for DC. Colan's legacy, however, was secured by his artistic contributions to three vastly different Marvel books: the superhero series Daredevil, the updated horror saga Tomb of Dracula, and Steve Gerber's wildly satiric Howard the Duck.

Recently, Colan's wife Adrienne announced that the great artist is suffering serious health complications related to liver failure. Like many old-time comics veterans, Colan didn't make a fortune at his craft. In the absence of health insurance, Gene and his family are struggling to pay his rapidly mounting medical bills.

Comics historian Clifford Meth is coordinating a benefit auction to which dozens of comics professionals and fans have contributed. If you have a few extra simoleons in your pocket, the Colans would, I'm certain, appreciate anything you might care to bid. (I don't know why Clifford didn't call the project "Simoleons for Colan." I would have.)

Occasionally someone asks me, "What's your favorite piece in your entire comic art collection?" My usual answer is, "The piece I commissioned most recently." Truth to tell, there are some perennials that would top the list, even though I've owned them for years. But here's a recent addition that will likely find its place among my all-time greatest loves.

Keith Pollard was one of the pencilers in comics whose work I most enjoyed, beginning in the late 1970s and continuing for the next two decades. Of the many artists who took stylistic cues from the late, great John Buscema — in my opinion, among the three or four finest comics artists ever — Pollard comes the closest to channeling Big John's unique amalgam of heroic power, majestic scope, and superlative anatomy in the classical model.

During his years at Marvel, Pollard worked on every major character from Spider-Man to the Fantastic Four, the latter of which he drew for two classic runs a decade apart. His most memorable run may have been on Thor, on which Keith was the regular penciler from 1979 to 1982.

When I heard recently that Keith Pollard was accepting commissions after a lengthy stretch away from comics, I could scarcely restrain my giddy glee. (If you've ever seen my giddy glee, you know it isn't pretty.) You can see in the drawing above that Keith's creative chops remain as sharp as ever, as evidenced by his stunning rendering of mace-swinging superheroes Thunderstrike (a Thor spinoff whose adventures Pollard drew in a pair of 1994 issues) and Hawkman (whom I'm not sure Keith had ever drawn before).

But wait! There's more!

Among Keith Pollard's most triumphant additions to comics lore were the 300 or so character model sheets he created for The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, Master Edition, from 1991 to 1993. (EDIT: As noted in the comments, I originally misstated the date of this edition. Thanks to Bob Almond for keeping me on my toes.) The assignment reflected Pollard's talent for drawing practically every significant (and many not all that significant) Marvel hero and villain with equal aplomb. Joe Rubinstein, an inker likewise skilled at handling a broad diversity of characters, garnered the job of finishing Pollard's hundreds of pages.

When I saw Keith's dazzling addition to my Common Elements theme, I realized that this was the perfect opportunity to reunite this incredible artistic team. Joe, who's done several commissions for me previously, readily agreed to the proposal. The results, I believe, speak for themselves.

Yep... giddy.

Did I mention that I actually own a couple of those original Pollard and Rubinstein Official Handbook pages? Indeed I do. This one features bionic private detective Misty Knight...

...while this one depicts Battlestar, one of Captain America's many sidekicks.

My third OHOTMU page retains the raw Keith Pollard pencils (Joe Rubinstein inked a blueline copy of this page for publication) of Drax the Destroyer.

Pollard and Rubinstein: No wonder they called it a Master Edition.

And that's your Comic Art Friday. (Do a good deed for a worthy recipient this weekend — check out the Gene Colan benefit auction.)

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2 insisted on sticking two cents in:

Anonymous Bob Almond offered these pearls of wisdom...

Among Keith Pollard's most triumphant additions to comics lore were the 300 or so character model sheets he created for The Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe, Master Edition, in 1983.

Actually, Michael, that edition was in the early '90s. I believe the first series was '83.

4:10 PM  
Blogger SwanShadow offered these pearls of wisdom...

Bob: The only thing I hate worse than being wrong is having someone point out that I'm wrong. ;)

You're absolutely right, of course. I've fixed the body copy. Your comment will stand as testimony to my initial error.

4:13 PM  

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