Comic book artist Ernie Colon passed away on August 8th. Colon was a versatile artist. Among the numerous projects he worked on over the decades were Casper the Friendly Ghost and Richie Rich for Harvey Comics, the fantasy series Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld with writers Dan Mishkin and Gary Cohn at DC Comics, and in collaboration with Sid Jacobson a graphic novel version of the 9/11 Commission Report titled The 9/11 Report: A Graphic Adaptation. I cannot imagine a more diverse range of projects than that!
While I certainly cannot say that I was a huge fan of Colon’s work, I certainly enjoyed it whenever I saw it. I have fond memories of several projects that he illustrated on, so I felt it would be nice to offer a brief look at his work on those books.
Colon and writer Dwayne McDuffie co-created the superhero comedy book Damage Control for Marvel Comics. Damage Control offered a humorous look at a construction company that specialized in repairing the buildings that have gotten wrecked in superhero battles. The very odd & colorful staff of the Damage Control organization made their debut in Marvel Comics Presents #19, and soon after were featured in a trio of 4 issue miniseries published between 1989 and 1991. Colon worked on all but one of the issues.
At a time when superhero comic books were very steadily heading into “grim & gritty” territory, Damage Control was certainly a breath of fresh air. McDuffie’s scripts were clever & humorous, and the offbeat artwork by Colon was a perfect fit.
For a number of years I owned a page of original artwork from the first miniseries, which had Bob Wiacek’s inking over Colon’s pencils. Regrettably I had to sell it a while back, but fortunately it went to a good home.
In the early 1990s Colon worked on several issues of Magnus Robot Fighter for Valiant Comics. In addition to penciling & inking, Colon also provided the coloring on several issues, resulting in some very striking and unusual artwork. This definitely gave Jim Shooter’s stories an unsettling feeling, bringing to life a world that was more than slightly askew.
The work by Colon really suited the 41st Century setting of the series, a seeming hi-tech utopia of gleaming steel possessed of a dark underbelly. The two part “Asylum” story by Shooter & Colon that ran in Magnus Robot Fighter #13-14 certainly contained a very palpable atmosphere.
In 1994 Colon teamed with writer Peter David on a revival of Jim Starlin’s incredible space opera Dreadstar. Published under the Bravura imprint of Malibu Comics, this six issue miniseries leaped forward a number of years from the end of the previous series. It featured Vanth Dreadstar’s teenage daughter Kalla, who has been raised from infancy by none other than her father’s arch-enemy, the genocidal Lord Papal.
The Dreadstar miniseries was very dark & serious… except when it was not. David has always proven adept at deftly blending drama and comedy in his scripts, and his work on Dreadstar was no exception. Colon adaptability as an artist was very well suited to illustrate such material. He powerfully rendered scenes of grim violence. He also ably illustrated some genuinely wacky characters and ridiculous laugh-out-loud moments.
Looking over the artwork from just these three series amply demonstrates the versatility of which I previously spoke. Colon was a very talented artist who was at home in a variety of genres.
Colon was 88 years old when he passed away. I had no idea he was that old, and that he’d actually begun working in comic books back in the late 1950s. Colon certainly had a long and prolific career. He leaves behind an impressive body or work featuring some stunningly beautiful art.