Gene Colan

ragamuffins

Ragamuffins 1 (January 1985)

Ragamuffins #1

Ragamuffins is a very strange comic. It’s unfortunate it’s strange, because in addition to being strange, it’s a lovely effort from Don McGregor and Gene Colan.

McGregor writes first person narration to introduce each of the three stories, which start in 1951 and then follow up with the protagonist some years later to show how he’s grown up. The problem is how well the stories work–Colan doing small town Americana is just phenomenal and McGregor writes the heck out of the scenes–so when the last one has a forced finish, it’s very obvious.

If McGregor had done a fourth story, or even put the three stories in a different order, it might work out. But for there to be two successful transitions between stories and then a failure on the last one. It hurts.

But the comic’s successful right up until the last page. Wonderful mix of nostalgia and reflection.

B 

CREDITS

Writer, Don McGregor; artist, Gene Colan; colorist, Steve Oliff; letterers, P. Bernard Jr. and David Cody Weiss; editor, Dean Mullaney; publisher, Eclipse Comics.

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Adventure Into Fear

Adventure Into Fear 13 (April 1973)

Adventure Into Fear #13

Oh, very good news–Val Mayerik is on the pencils (with Frank Bolle in inks). From the first couple pages of Man-Thing, it's clear the art is going to be a lot better. It shouldn't be particularly obvious, as it's a Man-Thing story and Mayerik doesn't illustrate him until later in the story but the way Mayerik draws the supporting cast is enough to show things have turned around.

Gerber fleshes out that supporting cast more here, he shows how the local girl is somehow linked to Man-Thing, for instance. But he's also got a better grip on how to write Man-Thing himself. While Gerber does fall back on Man-Thing's human side getting dialogue, the sequence is effective and doesn't seem forced.

Maybe because it's in the second act, not the third. Anyway, good feature.

The sixties backup has indistinct Gene Colan art. The Lieber and Lee story's distinctively crappy though.

B 

CREDITS

Man-Thing, Where Worlds Collide!; writer, Steve Gerber; penciller, Val Mayerik; inker, Frank Bolle; colorist, Ben Hunt; letterer, Artie Simek. Mister Black; writers, Stan Lee and Larry Lieber; artist, Gene Colan. Editors, Lee and Roy Thomas; publisher, Marvel Comics.

Detective Comics #567

Detective Comics 567 (October 1986)

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The headline on the cover promises an "off-beat" story from Harlan Ellison. Off-beat can't have been an intentional euphemism for bad… Ellison writes Batman as an insensitive, ill-mannered, narcissist.

On patrol, Batman can't find anyone actually needing his help. Instead of thinking the best of people, Batman assumes the worst. Ellison might like the character, but apparently he thinks of him as a reactionary fascist.

Batman moves from one interaction from another, never learning from his propensity to prejudge. The art, from Colan and Smith, is occasionally too rough but often okay. There are some nice Colan establishing shots but also some very undercooked panels.

The Green Arrow backup is far superior. Not for the superhero content, which is competently illustrated by Woch and Dave Hunt, just poorly composed, but the finale. Cavalieri comes up with a great finish for the storyline.

As finale for a pre-Crisis Detective, it's dreadful.

D 

CREDITS

The Night of Thanks, But No Thanks!; writer, Harlan Ellison; penciller, Gene Colan; inker, Bob Smith; colorist, Adrienne Roy; letterer, John Costanza. Green Arrow, The Face of Barricade!; writer, Joey Cavalieri; penciller, Stan Woch; inker, Dave Hunt; colorist, Shelley Eiber; letterer, Todd Klein. Editor, Len Wein; publisher, DC Comics.

nathaniel dusk II

Nathaniel Dusk II 4 (January 1986)

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Well, Dusk’s personal story arc for this series sure doesn’t go anywhere expected. Maybe it’s because McGregor didn’t set him up for enough development or maybe it’s because almost a fourth of the double-sized issue is wasted on a poorly paced resolution to last issue’s cliffhanger.

The issue has good art, even during that lengthy opening, but it’s just a bunch of action scenes strung together. The final one, involving Dusk playing Indiana Jones doesn’t even feel like the same comic. McGregor’s rushing to get in all his period detail and not worried enough about the story itself.

There are no supporting characters in this final issue. No one who’s appeared before makes any impression, not on the plot, not on the protagonist. If it weren’t for McGregor’s competence and the still good art from Colan, things would have been a lot worse.

It’s a shame Dusk’s finale disappoints.

B- 

CREDITS

Apple Peddlers Die at Noon, Part Four; writer and editor, Don McGregor; artist, Gene Colan; colorist, Tom Zuiko; letterer, John Costanza; publisher, DC Comics.

nathaniel dusk II

Nathaniel Dusk II 3 (November 1985)

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McGregor gets to a lot of revelations this issue. Well, more like two. But they’re big ones. One involves the case, one involves Dusk’s involvement with his dead girlfriend’s kids. The case one is particularly interesting because McGregor does it without much emotion. McGregor isn’t unenthusiastic, he’s just measured–both for the comic (it’s not the big reveal) and for the character. This type of thing isn’t something to get Dusk emotional. He’s disconnected from it.

However, there’s one plot point full of emotion for Dusk and McGregor does explore that point much more thoroughly. McGregor gets a lot of mileage out of the hard boiled private investigator thing. He never throws too many contrary details in, just enough to make the character compelling.

This issue, very gently, even brings attention to New York density versus something like L.A. openness.

It’s a fantastic issue. McGregor and Colan do great work.

A

CREDITS

Apple Peddlers Die at Noon, Part Three; writer and editor, Don McGregor; artist, Gene Colan; colorist, Tom Zuiko; letterer, John Costanza; publisher, DC Comics.

nathaniel dusk II

Nathaniel Dusk II 2 (November 1985)

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The second issue has a lot of action. The issues are double-sized and McGregor plots them quite well. There are three, maybe four, big action sequences in this one, along with a bunch of scenes involving the case itself, but there’s still time for the character work. McGregor always makes sure to work some of it into the investigation-related scenes too.

Even with all the character work, McGregor hasn’t hinted how the Dusk character is going to progress during this story. It’s set in the same year as the previous series, something I hadn’t realized until it came up in dialogue, so measured changes are fine. But there ought to be some change… and the only place I can guess is the easiest place.

I’ll have to wait and see.

The art’s stunning once again, those Zuiko skies are gorgeous.

McGregor and Colan are making good comics here.

B+ 

CREDITS

Apple Peddlers Die at Noon, Part Two; writer and editor, Don McGregor; artist, Gene Colan; colorist, Tom Zuiko; letterer, John Costanza; publisher, DC Comics.

nathaniel dusk II

Nathaniel Dusk II 1 (October 1985)

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For Nathaniel Dusk II, Gene Colan’s pencils go without inks. However, they go with Tom Ziuko’s colors. Ziuko’s a familiar name as a colorist but I was still a little surprised with his work here. He takes Colan’s pencils and turns them into a painted comic. The colors are muted, but still lush. There are some fabulous skies in this one and Colan probably only contributed the cloud outlines.

Don McGregor’s script is excellent. He starts out with the finish of one of titular private investigator Dusk’s cases, then gradually introduces not just the series’s case, but also plays catchup. Not so much has happened since the last series, just enough. McGregor carefully makes the issue accessible for new readers while still rewarding returning ones.

The attention to detail–1934 Manhattan–is fabulous.

McGregor occasionally gets a little too enthusiastic with that detail, but the art picks up any slack.

A- 

CREDITS

Apple Peddlers Die at Noon, Part One; writer and editor, Don McGregor; artist, Gene Colan; colorist, Tom Zuiko; letterer, John Costanza; publisher, DC Comics.

d2

Detectives Inc.: A Terror of Dying Dreams 3 (December 1987)

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The ending is worse than I expected and I wasn’t expecting much. McGregor plotted these issues awkwardly, with way too much material before the actual investigation. The stuff with following the wife beating husband around in the last issue was pretty much pointless. McGregor didn’t need it to make the mystery work. In fact, he might have done it all backwards.

There are some okay moments here. There’s good banter between the leads, though McGregor doesn’t give them enough time together. They seem familiar, sure, but McGrefor never just lets them relax together. He’s always working in exposition or some plot point.

There’s some action, some unlikely surprises and a truly terrible villain. The postscript is ludicrous too, but McGregor does get some sympathy for his characters so he can sell it. The nonsense before? He can’t sell that nonsense.

Okay Colan art. Some nice angles, but too static overall.

C 

CREDITS

The Corpse In the Bloodstained Body Bag; writer, Don McGregor; artist, Gene Colan; letterer, Mindy Eisman; editor, Catherine Yronwode; publisher, Eclipse Comics.

d2

Detectives Inc.: A Terror of Dying Dreams 2 (September 1987)

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The fight scene is painful. It goes on for three or four pages–at least, two, anyway–and is impossible to comprehend thanks to Colan only doing pencils. It’s like a sketch of a fight scene, not an actual realized sequence.

There’s some good art, of course. Colan isn’t going to do a comic without some good art in it. Most of the good art is for the establishing pages at the beginning of each chapter–there are three or four this issue. More than two. Colan takes his time with the scenery. His pencils are less rough too. There are definite lines.

As for the story, again the best part is when Denning is off on his date. It’s a very awkward romantic sequence, not too graphic, but trying very hard to be suggestive. McGregor’s writing an honest scene though. The rest of the issue feels perfunctory in comparison.

C 

CREDITS

Knishes and Boardwalk Surveillance; writer, Don McGregor; artist, Gene Colan; letterer, Mindy Eisman; editor, Catherine Yronwode; publisher, Eclipse Comics.

d2

Detectives Inc.: A Terror of Dying Dreams 1 (June 1987)

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I feel like A Terror of Dying Dreams should be a little better. Gene Colan does the art–just pencils, no inks; it’s good art but Don McGregor’s script doesn’t just play to Colan’s strengths, it plays to his standards. Inexplicably enormous scary mansion in the New York area? Check. Urban blight? Check. Even the one fight scene looks like every Colan fight scene.

There’s some reality to those sequences usually absent from Colan’s mainstream work. The fight scene is a social worker fighting back against an abusive husband who’s targeting her. The urban blight is one of the leads, Rainier, hanging around at nudie bars on Broadway. McGregor’s trying hard to update the miserable detective but doesn’t have much for him to do.

The other lead, Denning, is dealing with his mother’s illness. Those scenes are beautifully written, but Colan’s out of his element on them.

Still, ambitious stuff.

B 

CREDITS

Cheerful Lies and Desperate Truths; writer, Don McGregor; artist, Gene Colan; letterer, Mindy Eisman; editor, Catherine Yronwode; publisher, Eclipse Comics.

Nathaniel-Dusk

Nathaniel Dusk 4 (May 1984)

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Dusk is a good comic and all and McGregor does good with it and all but I’m shocked he could pull this issue off.

He resolves a drowning cliffhanger, he corrects his plotting problem from last issue very obviously (Dusk actually investigating), he has two or three major action sequences, he has a hallucination and he has an epilogue.

And it’s all fantastic. Even that leftover scene with Dusk’s interview for his investigation, even it works.

McGregor changes up the emphasis a little the issue. These scenes work because of the characters. McGregor has been gently establishing them, both in scene and in Dusk’s narration, and he uses that familiarity to make his scenes work here.

Colan’s art is fantastic. The way he can do a big scene in two pages, but then slow down for an action layout where only a few seconds pass on the page.

Outstanding work.

A 

CREDITS

Lovers Die at Dusk, Part Four; writer, Don McGregor; artist, Gene Colan; colorist, Tom Zuiko; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Alan Gold; publisher, DC Comics.

Nathaniel-Dusk

Nathaniel Dusk 3 (April 1984)

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How do you have a private eye comic without a mystery? This issue of Dusk is the perfect example of such a thing. Now, Chandler didn’t always have the most intricately laid mysteries–the investigation mattered. And McGregor has gotten to that point in this mystery. The investigation is the thing. Only, it’s not particularly compelling.

McGregor is very serious about the setting and he’s got some great details for thirties New York. He even sets the series during a cab strike, which figures into an action sequence. Hopefully it’ll figure into the story at some point and not just a set piece. All the pieces are here, all are beautifully constructed, they just aren’t doing much special.

It might just be the medium. Comics lend towards action or dialogue. A detective story needs moments of quiet introspection, it needs thinking.

Still, it’s a good comic with some great art.

B 

CREDITS

Lovers Die at Dusk, Part Three; writer, Don McGregor; artist, Gene Colan; colorist, Tom Zuiko; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Alan Gold; publisher, DC Comics.

Nathaniel-Dusk

Nathaniel Dusk 2 (March 1984)

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It’s a fast issue, which is strange given there’s so much exposition. McGregor really gets into the private eye running monologue thing. It could go either way–and he does get long-winded during the action sequences (Colan’s pencils can handle them on their own)–but it works out by the end. McGregor writes Dusk really, really well and gives him a number of things to deal with.

There’s the big thing–the inciting tragedy to motivate Dusk for the rest of the issue (and presumably series)–but the little details are far more interesting. Dusk trying to relate to his girlfriend’s kid, Dusk realizing it’s the girlfriend who taught him a thing or two in the sack–those two are the most salient because they haunt the character throughout the issue, even in the big action scenes.

It’s an excellent, if wordy, comic.

The beautiful artwork from Colan continues.

B+ 

CREDITS

Lovers Die at Dusk, Part Two; writer, Don McGregor; artist, Gene Colan; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Alan Gold; publisher, DC Comics.

Nathaniel-Dusk

Nathaniel Dusk 1 (February 1984)

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There are no inks on Gene Colan’s pencils in Nathaniel Dusk. It’s pencils and color. To. Ziuko uses really bright colors too, often it’ll just be a single color across objects. Colan’s not too concerned about universal detail.

Don McGregor is clearly a fan of detective novels. He puts a lot of time into the lead’s first person narrative. Probably too much work, since some conversations get cramped, but McGregor is definitely committed. He’s doing a grownup comic for a mainstream publisher in the eighties. It’s a crazy thing.

But it’s also a totally mediocre thing. Besides Dusk’s girlfriend having a couple kids while still being a femme fatale, there’s nothing to the story. There’s great mood and a lot of nice details, but the story just drags.

There are some great period set pieces and McGregor and Colan certainly get a bunch of credit, but who knows what’s next.

B 

CREDITS

Lovers Die at Dusk, Part One; writer, Don McGregor; artist, Gene Colan; colorist, Tom Ziuko; letterer, John Costanza; editor, Alan Gold; publisher, DC Comics.