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Charles Saunders’ recent post over at his blog on the late Gene Day got me to reminiscing about the early days of TGR. Way back in 1976, he was among the first artists I contacted to do artwork for TGR. Gene was one of the nicest and most sincere people I’ve ever had to pleasure to have known. The first piece he did for me was Bran Mak Morn for the cover of TGR #2 and over the next three years he did a good bit of artwork for my zines.
In 1980 when I was planning to re-launch TGR, the first artist I contacted was Gene; unfortunately that TGR rocket never got off the ground. But he was eager to do some artwork for me even though he was quite busy with his Marvel comic projects.
Gene was also the publisher and editor of the legendary fanzine Dark Fantasy, which featured fantasy, horror and sword and sorcery stories. Imaro made his debut in the pages of Gene’s fanzine and issues 9, 11 and 16 of Dark Fantasy featured poems by Howard. Of course Gene’s artwork was prominently featured, along with other up and coming fantasy artists such as Ken Raney and Stephen Fabian.
His many years of hard work and dedication to his art paid off when commissions began to roll in from Marvel, Skywald, Star Reach and other comic book companies. To this day, Gene has quite a following among comic book fans and collectors, primary for his work on Marvel’s Master of Kung Fu title.
Artist and publisher Dave Sim, who considers Gene to be his mentor, sums up Gene’s influence on him this way:
“Gene Day really showed me that success in a creative field is a matter of hard work and productivity and persistence.”
Gene, ever the perfectionist, pushed himself beyond the limitations of a mere mortal. Working through day and night, surviving on cigarettes and coffee, this drive for perfection took its toll and on September 23, 1982 he suffered a massive coronary in his sleep. He was only 31 years old.
Gene was inducted into the Canadian Comic Book Creator Hall of Fame in 2007.
Gene also has an annual award named in his honor. The Gene Day Award for Canadian Self-Publishing honors the intrepid Canadian self-publishers, creative teams and artists of comic books who toil away in the trenches, striving for their big break. The award falls under the umbrella of the prestigious Joe Shuster Awards and in addition to the award, the recipient(s) receive a $500.00 bursary.
Gene’s pencil, pen and brush have been stilled for the past 18 years, but his legacy lives on through his artwork and the efforts of his brothers David and Dan and his widow Gail Day.
And don’t be surprised to see a few more examples of Gene’s fine artwork in upcoming issues of TGR.