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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Both as an inker over John Buscema and doing full art himself, I always thought Chan was at his best in the Hyborian Age.
It wasn’t just me, either. Judging from the fan commissions he was doing that day at Emerald City, Conan was the clear favorite.
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.