A semi-regular column about great comics you probably don’t know about. These could be Indie comics, comics with small print runs, or foreign comics. As reader and lover of comics for over 35 years, I’ve accumulated a huge collection. And this collection runs deep with the weird and the esoteric.
FUTURE DAY is a hardcover collection of Gene Day’s sci-fi stories that was published way back in 1979.
But who is Gene Day, some of you might be asking. He really only had one lengthy run in comics, and that was on MASTER OF KUNG-FU, a comic that Marvel has been reluctant to reprint. But those 20 issues penciled by Day are really something extraordinary.
If we are being honest here, maybe Day’s work isn’t quite as polished as Mike Zeck’s or Paul Gulacy’s. But what he did just about better than anybody is compose a page. From the panel layout to the figures and backgrounds that make up those panels, he came up with some wonderful stuff. It was evident that he really thought about the page as a whole. And that he didn’t want his pages ever to get boring or repetitive. He pushed the comics medium forward, even while getting pushback his boss.
Which brings me to something of a controversial point in history: Gene Day died in 1982, at the age of 31.
Dave Sim, creator of CEREBUS and a friend of Day’s, blames Marvel Comics for his death. You can read Sim’s interview here: http://www.collectortimes.com/2005_07/Clubhouse.html
Jim Shooter, the head of Marvel at the time, disputes pretty much everything Sim says. You can read Shooter’s recollection of what happened to Gene Day here: http://www.jimshooter.com/2011/08/comment-and-answer-about-gene-days.html?showComment=1314657775071
Either way, we lost a very talented, young artist.
Gene Day started his career by doing short sci-fi stories for magazines. He was hungry for work, hungry to get his stuff out there, to build an audience. His art was rough in some ways, but you could tell that he was learning with every page. And that he wasn’t afraid to take chances.
These short stories were collected into a book with the title, FUTURE DAY, which is a terrible pun on Gene Day’s name. But you gotta love this back cover.
Here’s a picture of Day in his studio, along with a short bio. But we also get this silly strip explaining the concept of a “Graphic Album” to the buying public. Wow, it’s hard to imagine a time when the idea of comics in book-form was so unheard of.
So let’s talk about the stories. Unfortunately, the writing is over-wrought and full of “purple prose”. The characters are one-dimensional and the plots are cliché. But we didn’t come here to talk about Gene Day’s writing, we came to talk about his artwork.
And just look at these pages. He shares Jim Steranko’s staggering sense of design, but there’s also a bit of Wally Wood mixed in there, too.
The guy can draw, that’s for sure! And he gives us details where they count without cluttering up the page.
As you can see, Day can draw everything from aliens, to spaceships, to dinosaurs, and do so convincingly. His dinosaurs looks absolutely terrifying, with rippling muscles and giant teeth.
For the story, “Hive”, every page (except the title page) is laid-out so that the panels form an uppercase letter. But it’s not obtrusive. You don’t even notice it until the last page, which is obviously an “N”. Then you go back and look and sure enough, Day has spelled out “Queen” over the course of the story. Yes, it’s a bit gimmicky, but it’s also really well-done.
He was always striving for greatness.
If Day didn’t die so young, there’s no telling how massive his career would have been.
There was a rumor that Day was going to leave Marvel with Doug Moench, and the two of them were going to work on Batman together. Moench did end up doing a long run on the character. But obviously, Day died before he ever got the chance.
Can you imagine, Gene Day’s Batman?! It certainly would have been a legendary run.
Next time in The Comic Exotic; Published in China, but printed in English, this volume collects the “unseen” work of Japanese Manga Master, Yoshihiro Tatsumi.
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See ya’ next time, true believers!!