[Visions of Horror] Gene Colan And The First Appearance Of Blade

bladetombgene

With Visions of Horror successfully launching last week, Farah Al-Hakkak (ShadowJayd) and Lonnie Nadler (Lonmonster) are excited to bring you more weekly commentary on the best horror artists and artwork the comics industry has to offer. The new art column will showcase specific pieces of work that have made an impact on the horror comics industry, in hopes of battling the apparent lack of appreciation for comic book artists and their creations. In our effort to meet the various needs of our diversified and well-cultured readers, we hope Visions of Horror encourages community engagement and proves to be a welcomed new addition to Bloody-Disgusting’s Comics section.

This week features the late and great Gene Colan, and his Bronze Age horror classic “The Tomb of Dracula” (as written by Marv Wolfman). Specifically, we take a look at issue #10 (July 1973), and the introduction of one of the earliest African-American comic book heroes, Blade the vampire hunter. You may know the Wesley Snipes version of the character, but he means oh-so-much more in the comics industry.

Having worked in the comics industry for nearly 70 years, Gene Colan’s legendary career spanned the Golden, Silver, and Bronze Ages of mainstream American comic book history, and advanced far into the Modern Era. A master of dramatic lighting and known for his extensive use of shadow effects, his ability to create rich, energetic, and vibrant worlds that accentuated texture and motion was unparalleled. It was also why he was such an organic and unrefined force in horror comics. Marvel’s complete 70-issue run of “The Tomb of Dracula” being one of his major achievements in that genre.

The publication of this series in 1972 came at such a significant time in comic book history, as The Comics Code had just been updated to allow vampires in books, a year prior. Yeah, they were banned for a long time along with words like “horror”, “terror”, and “death”. The fact that it featured a super villain as the series’ namesake, and main character — without completely writing him off as pure evil — is only one of the reasons why it was so ground-breaking. The system of tones and tints Colan managed to produce in order to create his authentic and atmospheric illustrations for Wolfman’s series, effectively made him stand out amongst the best artists in the comics industry at the time. His legacy still continues to thrill and spawn new generations of fans and creations.

Many of these creations were inspired by Wolfman and Colan’s co-created character, “Blade,” who first appeared in “The Tomb of Dracula” #10 in July of 1973. Having already spearheaded the creation of the comics industry’s first mainstream, African-American superhero, The Falcon, with Stan Lee, he continued to produce more inclusive artwork, leading the way for other artists to follow suit. Blade, as a character, became so popular that he made several appearances in various Marvel horror magazines and titles, surpassing his supporting character role, and going on to star in numerous comic books. As you all know, he eventually branched out into film and television. Moreover, Blade was the first Marvel comic book franchise to be successfully adapted into film in 1998, and only one of a mere few, to star a person of colour.

The dagger-wielding Blade found in “Tomb of Dracula” #10 is not quite the slick blood-sucking version from the film, but there’s no denying his badass presence in that panel. Just look at him! That fro! Those shades! An iconic introduction to what became an iconic character in comics. Colan’s artwork is the star of this presentation, beautifully stark and superbly inked by Jack Abel.

The Cover:

The Introduction:

If you want Bloody Disgusting to cover one of your favourite horror artists, or a fantastic piece of horror-related comic book art, head down to the comment section, or hit up Farah or Lonnie on Twitter.

  • Evan3

    This is an awesome new series, and I had never seen the first ever panels of Blade. His character design is clearly of its time, but as you said, the charm of the character is already apparent in his opening lines. Has there ever been a Blade solo comic?

    My vote is for Spawn of course, though it would be neat to look at Solomon Grundy as well. Hell, you could probably do a multi-part series on Bat-villains alone (Scarecrow, Killer Croc, Two-Face Man-Bat, his arch-nemesis is an evil clown for goodness sakes. The Bat rogue’s gallery was the best way to get around the Comics Code to introduce clear horror elements. Isn’t Batman himself somewhat based on Dracula?). I also would love a look at the Marvel Zombieverse.

    • ShadowJayd

      @evan3 Thanks for your suggestions, Evan. And Yep! Besides all the solo stories and one-shots which began a mere year after the character was created, Blade starred in:

      Blade: The Vampire Hunter (1994-1995).
      Blade (1998-1999), discontinued for reasons I don’t know.
      Blade: Vampire Hunter (1999-2000);
      Blade vol. 2 (2002);
      Blade vol. 3 (2006-2007).

      And of course, official comic book adaptations of the movies, etc.