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R.I.P. Ernie Chan

Swear to God, my first thought was, “No way. A week after Tony DeZuniga? This is so not fair.”

But fairness doesn’t enter into it, I guess. We’ve lost another great one, just a week later. Ernie Chan has passed away at the age of seventy-one.

I don’t really have any personal reminiscences about Mr. Chan– at least, not that I didn’t basically recount here last week, writing about Tony DeZuniga. Ernie Chan was seated right next to him at that same Emerald City Con, and I was equally delighted to meet and thank him there as well.

He struck me as a really sweet guy, but kind of shy– when we met, he was content to sit and sketch and let Tony do most of the talking.

I first encountered his work on Batman, when he was still going by “Ernie Chua.”

Ernie's Batman, from the mid-70s.

I wasn’t very appreciative of the work then– I considered him mostly as the guy who’d unexpectedly replaced Jim Aparo on the concluding chapters of “Bat-Murderer!” and that colored my attitude towards the work more than it should have.

Speaking of BAT-MURDERER, here's a page from that epic, co-starring Batman and the Creeper.

I got over it pretty quickly. I’ve always had a soft spot for good solid illustrators who could also tell a story, and this “Ernie Chua” guy who seemed to be all over the Bat books all of a sudden was certainly one of those. Not flashy, but good.

Ernie 'Chua' kind of sneaked up on me.

But it wasn’t until he moved over to Marvel and started going by Ernie Chan that I really became a fan. He was all over the place there too, mostly as an inker on books like Dr. Strange and Fantastic Four and Power Man/Iron Fist. He didn’t do full art that often, but when he did, it was good stuff. In particular, I loved his Hulk.

His Hulk had a weight that no one else seemed able to give him in the 1970s; Chan's Hulk was monstrous, but plausible.

I think the reason Chan’s Hulk resonated with me is because it wasn’t as much of a typical spandex book as the others he’d been working on. The super-hero stuff never felt quite like it was a good fit.

Because really, even though he did a lot of super-hero comics, my opinion was then (and still is today) that Ernie Chan really didn’t come into his own until he found Conan the barbarian.

I have a whole bunch of old SAVAGE SWORD books here and a great many of them have a Chan pinup on the inside cover.

Both as an inker over John Buscema and doing full art himself, I always thought Chan was at his best in the Hyborian Age.

Opening the book and seeing something like that... it was like an overture.

It wasn’t just me, either. Judging from the fan commissions he was doing that day at Emerald City, Conan was the clear favorite.

Here's one of those fan commissions, from a couple of years ago.

I don’t really have anything else to to say. He was good, I liked his work, it was a privilege to meet him and say so to his face. That’s all I’ve got.

Well, except for this.

We have the great good fortune, in comics, to still be able to meet and talk to the masters of this particular form, to hear their stories, to see them work. This is a gift that I don’t think gets celebrated nearly enough.

I’ve been privileged to meet a great many artists and writers at shows in recent years that worked on my favorite comics, and most of the older ones are sitting by themselves chatting with their tablemates when I come by. On the one hand I’m secretly pleased because it means they have time to talk to me, but it also annoys me because they should have lines. They should be getting more work. They should be appreciated.

We still have a great many of our Grand Masters of comics with us. For Christ’s sake, let’s take advantage of it while they’re still here– because, as this last year and particularly the last couple of months have shown us, they aren’t going to be here forever.

Our condolences to Ernie Chan’s friends and family, and also to the Phillipine art community for their second shocking loss in the space of a week. It’s just… so not fair.

39 Comments

R.I.P.

Today was not a good day for my ’70s memories.

You have a point sir. Larry Hama was looking pretty bored at his table in Calgary. He was more than willing to not just chat, but converse for quite a while. I am still shocked there was nobody in line! Why? Isn’t he a legend too? Ernie Chan worked on one of the only books I could share with my dad. He never had a problem with getting me any Savage Sword Of Conan, because he knew the story was always decent, and the artwork was amazing. It’s up to all of us, especially at the cons, to make sure these gentlemen DO NOT fall by the wayside!

Holy smoke, REALLY????

He was supposed to be a guest at last year’s Jet City Comic Show, but couldn’t make it due to an illness. I didn’t know it was this serious! I wished I could’ve met the guy.

I loved Ernie’s work. His inking tenure on books like the Hulk was great stuff. Of course, he was excellent on Conan. His DC 70’s cover art on Batman, JLA, and so many others are instantly recognizable. Such a huge loss coming right after Tony’s.

You gotta let ‘em know before they leave us. Meeting legends such as Jack Kirby and John Buscema shortly before their passings are highly memorable experiences which I’ll always treasure.

The Batman cover you chose for this article happens to be for the very first Batman comic I ever owned. Some years ago, I was at a convention Mr. Chan was attending, and I decided to go over and tell him this and thank him. Of course, he had a portfolio of art for sale, and I paged through that as he chatted with/sketched for another visitor. The portfolio was crowded with incredible pictures of barbarians…and a re-creation, randomly, of the cover of Batman #269. I quickly bought the piece, told Mr. Chan my story, and he was as amazed as I was. We had a very nice, if brief conversation, but it’s an encounter I won’t forget, and I’ll think of him fondly every time I look at that cover.

Duff McWhalen

May 17, 2012 at 10:57 pm

Donna Summer just passed, as well. What an unfortunate week/month/year for so many influential people.

I’m a big fan of the Conan work. RIP Ernie, thanks for giving us so much.

I’ve been reading a bunch of 70s Batman in the past few weeks and thoroughly enjoying Ernie’s work there. I haven’t read any of his Conan stuff, but those pictures you posted here are amazing. Deepest condolences to his friends and family.

I like what many of you have said about meeting these masters of comic book art. I have been lucky to meet many like Jack Kirby, Gil Kane, Will Eisner, Ernie Chan, etc. There have been just as many I have missed out on meeting. Meeting Steve Ditko would be major thrilling although at this rate I don’t think that will happen. It is sad there are less and less each year of these classic artists left. If you see them at a con at least say hi I always say. I recall meeting Alex Niño a fews years back and really enjoyed talking with him. Anyways Chan was one of my favorite Conan artist. RIP Mr. Chan!

[…] en Comic Book Resources la triste noticia del fallecimiento del dibujante Ernie Chan, a la edad de 71 años, justo una […]

Just saw a brief post about this on another forum and my first reaction was “son of a b—! And right after De Zuniga!” Another one of those seemingly tireless artists who did so much of the art I enjoyed back in the ’70s and ’80s. My sincere condolences to his family and friends…

Awful news.

Am a HUGE fan of His Savage Sword work, it is very sad. RIP Sir, and my condolences to his family and friends.

Sad, terrible news. Similar to Mr. Beechen’s comment, the cover of The Incredible Hulk #219 pictured above was the very first comic I ever bought as a young lad of six years old. It made a huge impact on my very impressionable mind! I then went on to enjoy his work on the various Conan titles and was actually just taking a stroll down memory lane with the recently released Dark Horse compilation Savage Sword Of Conan #11 when I read the news of Mr. Chan’s passing. His images meant so much to me through the ’70s & ’80s and still do today. My deepest condolences go out to his family and friends. Thank you so much, Ernie.

Pete Woodhouse

May 18, 2012 at 3:37 am

Chan’s long run on Batman/Tec gets overlooked as it’s between (a) the more lauded early 70s work by O’Neil/Adams (plus Novick, Brown, Aparo, etc) which laid down the modern Batman template; and (b) the classic Englehart/Rogers/Austin late 70s run.

Plus, I’ve been following this site (my main source of comics news ‘n’ nostalgia) for about 3 years & during that time it seems to be a continual stream of legends passing away: Frazetta, Colan, Simon, Robinson, lately DeZuniga & Chan, and so on.
A real shame, it seems part of my early childhood is gone. I entered comics in the late Bronze Age, but thru reprints – my older brother had plenty of 100-pagers – was aware of these earlier names.

My favorite Conan story was SSOC #125; The art told the story more effectively than the words. RIP,Ernie-you were the best!

I was at the same Emerald City Comi-Con and I got him to autograph some of my favorite SSOC issues. Great artist and his inking and penciling was great. A great artist that I will miss seeing work from.

Veidt

My immediote reaction involved a four letter word and, yeah, also thinking it was so unfair for this to happen immediately after Tony DeZuniga’s passing. What a rotten way to start a Friday :(

Thomas Suhling

May 18, 2012 at 6:38 am

Loved his artwork… LOVED it… or better yet… love it! It lives on and for that Mr. Chan… I thank you!

R.I.P Mister EC.. and deepest condolances to his family.

What Greg told about ‘old ‘ artist being alone at the booth reminds me of that strange day at Angouleme (more than 10 years ago) Gilbert Shelton and Hunt Emerson were sitting there, all alone, talking with each other.. -Shelton lives in paris, and Emerson in brighton..so not so frr from angouleme..but still !!! they’re both icons from the underground comix scene….. and both do speak quite a good french .. it helps in angouleme.

I talk with them a little, asked for a comission ( both great ones) and had to go for another meeting i had.

I had the pleasure of meeting Ernie Chan a few years ago at a small Portland con. I must admit I gushed quite a bit. His work was the first first I could ever identify by name. I used to pore over his PM/IF covers.

I was fortnate enough to have some extra money and was able to commission a sketch of Powerman. As I came by later in the day to pick it up, I saw several of the current generation of comic creators gathered around, watching him draw. Truly he was a master.

Rest in peace.

Last year at Calgary Expo I was able to get an issue of Captain Marvel that he inked signed. It was the oldest book that I owned that he worked on. Should have bought some original art from him. He will be missed.

Google Images of Mr. Chan’s Conan is a trip down memory lane of my formative years

An amazing talent, and a very hard worker. I just couldn’t believe how much good material he was able to create every month in his heyday. A fifty-page Savage Sword Of Conan issue, pencilled and inked, inking the regular Conan the barbarian mag, creating several pin-ups and maybe a King Conan as well, and he made it all seem easy. Ernie Chan will be missed and admired for a very long time to come.

Very sad to hear this. I liked Mr. Chan’s work a lot, For the record, though, he only inked the cover of Incredible Hulk #223 posted above. The penciller is Rich Buckler (using the pseudonym “Validar” for some reason).

[…] week Tony DeZuniga, this week Ernie Chan. Another sad time for comics.  CBR had a nice write up about Ernie and his career.  Well worth a minute or two of your time to […]

Damn it all, this is another of my favorites. :( Four of the greats gone in just a few months.

Y’know, I never knew much of Ernie Chan, but I do recall on several occasions seeing really amazing pieces of art from the ’70s and ’80s and thinking “Whoever this ‘Chan’ guy is, he sure did a lot of great work.”

We’ve been losing way too many great talents lately, both in and out of comics. Though I may not be as familiar with Mr. Chan as I was with many of our other recent losses, my heart goes out to his family, friends, and fans. He was obviously an enormously talented artist, and it sounds like he was a great guy, too.

Ernie Chan drew one of the first and best covers that i’ve ever seen. It was Justice League of America #135 and as a little kid, it blew my mind! So many heroes, some that were variants of each other, such a huge dude! i wish that Ernie did the art on the inside [no disrespect to Dick Dillin] cause his cover was so cool!

Here’s a link to it: http://www.comicbookdb.com/graphics/comic_graphics/1/23/15259_20051205224152_large.jpg

RIP Ernie and thank you.

Travis Pelkie

May 19, 2012 at 12:44 am

Sad news. I’m not too familiar with his stuff, but what I’ve seen is pretty neat. I think he might have done some of the art on one of the Pendulum “classic comics”-type novel adaptations that I have.

Any thoughts on why the artists from the Phillipines seemed to mesh better on books like Conan or Jonah Hex rather than superhero stuff?

Here’s what bleeding cool had to say: http://www.bleedingcool.com/2012/05/18/ernie-chan-passes/

And here’s a neat story that Mark Evanier told about Mr Chan, and how he might have the earliest “Ernie Chan” signed art: http://www.newsfromme.com/2012/05/18/ernie-chan-r-i-p/

[…] Comic Book Resources. Tags: Conan, Ernie Chan, muerte Artículos […]

Mike Loughlin

May 19, 2012 at 7:09 am

Sad news. I’ve always liked Mr. Chan’s work. His inks over John Buscema’s pencils on Conan were gorgeous.

It’s sad to see great creators virtually ignored at cons just because they’re not working on current hot titles. At this year’s Boston Comicon, there were little or no lines for Joe Sinnott, Kevin Maguire, Michael Golden, Geoff Darrow, Peter Bagge, and Bob Layton. It was nice, however, to see a crowd form where Herb Trimpe sat down.

Travis Pelkie

May 20, 2012 at 11:15 pm

Man, seeing Mike’s comment makes me wish I’d gotten up to Boston for the Con this year. Who knows how long some of those guys will still be around, y’know?

So sad: Mr. Chan’s Batman was what got me into superhero comics, and still get a thrill when I stumble upon one of his bat-covers.

Condolences to anyone close to him.

[…] R.I.P. Ernie Chan (goodcomics.comicbookresources.com) […]

calvin walker

June 24, 2012 at 6:05 pm

I HEAR YA DUNKIN MASTER..ANOTHER GREAT MASTER HAS PASSED FROM THIS MYSTIC ORB…BUT ERNIE AND THE MASTERS HAS LEFT AN IMPRESSIVE MARK IN THE ART WORLD BEHIND…LOVE YOU ERNIE…

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