Monday, August 19, 2019

Ernie Colón 1931 - 2019

The comic book artist Ernie Colón passed away at his Huntington, NY home. The cause was colorectal cancer. He was 88 years old.

He was a journeyman cartoonist, who worked in comic strips, and then in comic books -- both kids, books and superhero "Amethyst" and "Arak, the Barbarian") -- and then in graphic novels ("The 9/11 Commission Report"). He worked in all the popular formats and hit home runs over and over.

He was, so far as I know, the first comic book artist from Puerto Rico to work in mainstream comics. In 1955, he got a job drawing backgrounds for Ham Fisher on his "Joe Palooka" comic strip. The job was short-lived due to Mr. Fisher committing suicide near the end of the year. He then took a job in production with Harvey Comics, and soon was ghosting comic book pages for Casper and Richie Rich. According to a 2007 Comics Journal interview, he estimated he drew about 15,000 pages at Harvey Comics.

"While there he met Mr. [Sid] Jacobson, a Harvey staff editor who would become a collaborator and a lifelong friend.
"'Wherever I worked as an editor, I always hired him,' Mr. Jacobson said in a phone interview. 'We were very close. We were like brothers. We went through a lot of marriages together.'
"Mr. Colón was married four times; Mr. Jacobson, three.
"The men created several nonfiction books, including biographies of Che Guevara and Anne Frank and 'The Torture Report: A Graphic Adaptation' (2017), an illustrated summary of a 2014 Senate Intelligence Committee report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s torture of terrorism suspects.
"'He was an absolute fine artist,' Mr. Jacobson said. 'In my writing, I would give an idea of each panel, but he did the job of expanding it. ‘9/11’ is a damn good example of his ability.'"
-- New York Times obituary

Ernie became a Berndt Toast Gang member maybe fifteen years back. I remember the first time he showed up. I wasn't sure who he was, but he looked familiar. I introduced myself, and he told me his name. I was amazed. I didn't know you lived on Long Island, I said. He told me he lived right around the corner. He became a semi-regular and showed up whenever he could. Ernie was very busy, and Ernie was very humble about his work. From Casper to Amethyst to the 9/11 Commission Report. He did it all and made it look easy. He will be missed. 

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