Ernie ColÃ³n turned eighty in 2011, and the comics legend celebrated by not slowing down. This year, the artist returned to Richie Rich, a character he worked on for many years at Harvey Comics, Dark Horse reprinted a number of stories ColÃ³n worked on in the most recent volume of the “Eerie Archives” and NBM just published “Inner Sanctum,” a book ColÃ³n wrote and illustrated based on stories from a vintage radio show.
It may seem all-ages stories and moody horror tales have little in common, but ColÃ³n has made a career from jumping from one genre to another with astonishing ease. There’s his work at Harvey Comics on “Casper” and “Richie Rich” and his contributions to Warren Comics’ magazines including “Creepy,” “Eerie” and “Vampirella.” At Marvel, he was an early contributor to the adult-oriented anthology magazine “Epic Illustrated” and collaborated with the late Dwayne McDuffie on “Damage Control.” Many fans are aware of ColÃ³n’s fantasy and adventure work thanks to titles like DC Comics’ “Arak, Son of Thunder” and “Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld,” the latter of which he was surprised to hear will be appearing on Cartoon Network’s “DC Nation” animated series in 2012, with the artist expressing his disappointment in not negotiating better control over the character he co-created.
In recent years, ColÃ³n has worked with longtime collaborator Sid Jacobson on a series of nonfiction graphic novels including “The 9/11 Report,” “After 9/11: America’s War on Terror (2001-),” “Che: A Graphic Biography” and “Anne Frank: The Anne Frank House Authorized Biography,” which ColÃ³n and Jacobson discussed with CBR last year.
As always, ColÃ³n was modest when discussing his body of work, which has grown longer and deeper in recent years,. We spoke about his latest book, “Inner Sanctum,” a black and white graphic novel he wrote, pencilled and inked, what it was like working with a young Dwayne McDuffie .
CBR News: What’s your earliest memory of the “Inner Sanctum” radio show?
Ernie ColÃ³n: Gluing my ear as close to the speaker as I could so I wouldn’t miss a grunt or gurgle. My mom stayed out of the room. I loved mysteries and horror stories. When I ran out of “Jekyll and Hyde” practically in a panic, she got angry and made me go right back to the movie house with her. At exactly the point when I ran out, she made a move to leave — nah, nah, I said in triumph — we’re staying. It was “Inner Sanctum,” “I Love a Mystery,” “Suspense” and a clutch of other imitators.
You recently collaborated with Sid Jacobson on some new Richie Rich stories. I’m curious what that experience of returning to the character in a new context was like.
It was a little odd. It felt like [I was coming] full circle — which would be good title for an “Inner Sanctum” [story]! It was fun. [Richie Rich is] a good little guy.
I wanted to touch on a few other projects that you’ve worked on in your long career. You were a contributor to “Epic Illustrated” when the magazine first came out. Can you talk about the experience and working with editor Archie Goodwin.
Archie was a gem editor, a gentleman and a real talent. Our collaboration was much too brief for me. In comics, editors come and go faster than a checkout line at an everything under a dollar store — me included. Archie’s long run is testament to his skills in the medium and with people.
In the eighties and nineties. you worked for Marvel with a young writer, the late Dwayne McDuffie, on “Damage Control.” What do you remember about the book and working with McDuffie?
“Damage Control” was unique in comics. It actually featured cause and effect, something almost completely out of comics language and concern. What would happen if these super powers (fill in the blank)? What mess would they leave behind, both in material and human cost?
Dwayne posited this concept with great good humor, another element largely ignored in the fight-every-three-pages formula followed by writers for so many years.
Dwayne was very smart, very alert to good storytelling, with the talent to produce it consistently. He left us much too soon.
On the books you’ve done in recent years, you’ve inked yourself, which is something that you didn’t always do in your career. Do you enjoy inking yourself?
It’s not a question of being a better inker than the next, [it’s about having] control over your own work. Of course, there were times when an inker would use my tight pencils as if they were roughs, drawing their own versions of a page, making my drawings redundant. I’m not comparing myself to him, believe me, but I always thought Kirby’s pencils were brilliant. The inking, less so.
You and Sid Jacobson are collaborating on another book together, “3/5ths of a Man,” about slavery in the United States. At this point, since you’re still in the midst of working on it, is there anything about it you can share?
It’s a tough topic, just as Anne Frank was tough. Both demand the best you can give. I hope I’m doing that.