Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Gene Colan and Syd Shores

After creating my (for the moment, defunct) Steve Ditko website – Ditko Looked Up – in 1998, I embarked on creating a similar (for the moment, defunct) site for my Golden Age comic-book heroes, Bill Everett, Alex Schomburg, and Syd Shores.

Having discovered that Syd was a primary influence on Gene Colan’s work and his career, I sent Gene an email through his website, asking if he’d like to write a piece for the site on Syd. He graciously agreed to do so.

In memory of Gene's passing last Thursday, here are Gene Colan's words on one of the first-generation comic-book artists:

A Tribute to Syd Shores
By Gene Colan, August 3, 1999

There was a magic to Syd Shores' work that eluded me. Oh how hard I tried to imitate it.

My first real professional start in the comic book business began in the summer of 1946, and that is when I met Syd Shores. He was the head man in the Art Department of Marvel Comics. I was twenty years old and was hired on to illustrate whatever subject matter came my way. I was flying by the seat of my pants...hoping that everything would turn out. I didn't want the seams to show but that was all part of the learning process and Syd helped me wade through.

I remember working on a panel showing a young girl making up in front of a mirror. No matter how hard I worked at it, constantly looking for a certain naturalness, the worse it turned out. The truth was I just didn't know how to do it. I brought the problem over to Syd. He sat about three art tables behind me. In less than a minute, he sketched out the entire thing and with such ease.

His realistic style, for some time, became an obsession with me. His characters looked like the real thing. Whatever he had them doing was as real to life as you could get.

Syd Shores could draw a horse from any position and all out of his head. His cowboy heroes and villains would literally leap off the page. Their gun belts were real...their hats were real...everything about them you could almost touch!

Syd gave me the biggest push to start me off.

He moved about with a slow Robert Mitchum gate...always with a cup of coffee in one hand and a cigarette in the other. He had seen action in World War II, but seldom spoke about it.

After about a three year stint with Marvel, I left to go out on my own into the freelance field. The last time I met Syd again was many years later at a gathering amongst other fellow artists. He appeared with his wife that evening and it was plain that he was quite upset. He was not getting very much work to do in the business. New people were coming on board and they were the ones the publishers of comic books favored.

What A Terrible Mistake They Made in Syd's Case! He was a seasoned veteran and we all could have learned so much from him.

Shortly after that meeting, Syd Shores passed away. He will remain in my heart forever. I still think of him quite often.

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