Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Honoring Genial Gene Colan

To see a slideshow of photos from the event described below, click here.

I had the great privilege to attend the annual banquet of the Cartoon Arts Professional Society (CAPS), of which I'm a member, this past weekend. Although CAPS has thrown these banquets for many years since it's founding in 1977, several years ago the group renamed the award given at the event the Sergio, for Mad cartoonist Sergio Aragones, a founding and longtime core member of the group.

This year's Sergio went to legendary comic-book artist Gene Colan. It was a great dress-up affair; the food was terrific, and among the attendees were Aragones, June Foray (a past honoree), Stan Freberg (another past honoree), Bill Morrison (who MC'd), Stan Sakai, and Scott Shaw! Speakers included Gerry Conway, Mark Evanier, and Marv Wolfman. Conway and Wolfman touchingly spoke about how Colan's artistry made them better writers, both of whom worked with Colan early in their careers. Original art by Colan was on display at the dinner, and a tribute book was assembled for the honoree.

An outstanding professional-quality video tribute was also put together by CAPS president Pat McGreal and played at the dinner. The video included glowing tributes by Dave Gibbons, Batton Lash, Rob Liefeld, Jeph Loeb, Jeff Smith, and, of course, Stan "The Man" Lee, as well as others. Numerous photos of Colan's family and of his childhood were included in the video, provided by Colan's wife, Adrienne.

A nice video tribute was also provided by Marvel Comics Editor in Chief Joe Quesada. CAPS member Bill Morrison MC'd, bringing the same style and comedy he has brought to his work as MC of the Eisner Awards.

The honoree, Gene Colan, was touched by the award and in his gracious acceptance remarks, acknowledged the people he had worked with, the fans, and CAPS.

But what made this year's tribute particularly impressive and memorable was the fact that the guest of honor actually was not in attendance—due to health reasons that have been public knowledge, shortly after he accepted CAPS' invitation, he told the group that his doctor had advised against him traveling to California from his home in New York.

So taking advantage of modern technology, using Skype, CAPS (through the tech wizardry of member Stephen Silver) was able to patch Colan in through a video-audio hook-up!! Colan and his wife were projected from a laptop onto a screen and hooked up to the room's sound system, so they were able to see and hear the whole proceeding (see photo above)! Everyone was amazed by the quality of the link from 3,000 miles away, saying it was like a NASA hookup or a remote telecast during the Academy Awards.

A special surprise was during the presentation of the actual award. CAPS had secretly sent the engraved award to Colan's wife, so when the presentation was made at this end, his wife handed him the Sergio statuette—Colan was genuinely surprised and delighted.

After the formal program ended late in the evening, Colan stayed on so that individual attendees could sit at the terminal and speak with him and congratulate him personally. All the guests also received a special edition endplate of an original piece by Colan, individually numbered and personally signed by the artist (see picture above right).

It was another classy event for CAPS from start to finish.

Another blog about the event can be found at the blogs for Mark Evanier and Marv Wolfman.

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