At one end of a super-hero comic book art spectrum you have the stunning realism of Alex Ross, whose work on Marvels revealed a whole new way of looking at super-types; at the other end, you have the dynamic short-hand, almost coded style of the prolific Jack Kirby, who bestrides the comic book world like a behemoth.
But where can you place Gene Colan on this spectrum? His unique blend of naturalism, realism, photographic reference, spectacular use of shadow and focus on faces and forms was an inspiration in itself. His style was a marked contrast to the flat outlines typical of comic books of the day and his work is recognisable instantly, anywhere. Whether it was in the fluid dynamism of Iron Man (pictured) or the cityscapes and shadows of his long run on Daredevil (pictured), Colan was amazing and inimitable. Together with Stan Lee he created the alien Captain Marvel, nothing like the ‘Shazam’-speaking original 1940s bestseller. Colan also designed, with Lee, Captain America's new African-American fighting partner, The Falcon, in a story which became a Marvel Comics legend. He also drew the original story featuring the Guardians of the Galaxy.
While Lee pushed for a Jack Kirby style, which became a key part of the Marvel ‘look’, Colan was influenced by the cinema. His style was incredibly suited to night-time heroes like Daredevil or Batman. He died in 2011, but his artwork lives and breathes on every page.