Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2007
Howard Gene Day (1951-23 September 1982) was a Canadian comic book artist best known for Marvel Comics’ Master of Kung Fu and its Star Wars licensed series. Day was also a mentor to pioneering Canadian self-publisher Dave Sim, and has two brothers, Dan and David, who are also comic book artists.
Gene Day began his career with Canadian underground and independent comics, for which he published the short-lived title Out of the Depths in 1974, and collaborated with Dave Sim on Oktoberfest Comics#1 (Now and Then Publications, 1976). Day also penciled for Skywald Publications’s horror-comics magazines Psycho and Nightmare, starting in late 1974, as well as the science fiction-oriented “Orb.”
For Mike Friedrich’s early independent-comics company Star Reach, in 1977 and 1978, Day variously wrote/drew stories for the namesake anthology title Star Reach and its sister magazines Imagine and Quack, the latter a funny animal comic. Other work includes “Cheating Time!”, written by Mark Burbey, in Dr. Wirtham’s Comix & Stories#4 (1979).
Graphic novel and Marvel Comics
In 1979, Day wrote and drew an early graphic novel, Future Day (Flying Buttress Press), a hardcover collection of seven stories that he called a “graphic album”. Dave Sim was letterer. Day also did illustrations for the fantasy role-playing games Arena of Khazan: A Tunnels & Trolls Solitaire Dungeon (1979) and Call of Cthulhu (1981).
Day began his seven-year association with Master of Kung Fu by inking penciler Mike Zeck starting with issue #76 (May 1976). He began doing finished art over Zeck’s breakdowns starting with issue ##94 (Nov. 1980), and became series penciler from #102-120 (July 1981 – Jan. 1983), after having split the work with Zeck on the double-sized #100. Day inked Carmine Infantino on Marvel’s 1977-1986 Star Wars sequel series, occasionally doing finished art over breakdowns, and pencilling the well-received issue#69 (March 1983), which took place at Boba Fett’s ancestral homeworld of Mandalore. Day also had significant stints inking The Mighty Thor, and Marvel Two-in-One featuring the Thing.
Day died of a coronary in his sleep.
From 1985 to 1986, Renegade Press published four issues of Gene Day’s Black Zeppelin, an anthology series primarily featuring stories and painted covers Day completed before his death, as well new contributions by Sim, Bruce Conklin, Augustine Funnell, and Charles Vess. It was edited by Gayle Day and Joe Erslavas. More of his work appeared posthumously in Caliber Comics’ anthology series Day Brothers Presents, which also featured the work of Day’s comics-artist brothers, David Day and Dan Day.
From 2002-2006, Sim and his Cerebus collaborator Gerhard created The Day Prize, an annual award given to a comic creator chosen by them from the exhibitors at SPACE (Small Press & Alternative Comics Expo) held in Columbus, Ohio.
Dave Sim: “Gene really showed me that success in a creative field is a matter of hard work and productivity and persistence. I had done a handful of strips and illustrations at that point mostly for various fanzines but I wasn’t very productive. I would do a strip or an illustration and send it off to a potential market and then wait to find out if they were going to use it before doing anything else. Or I’d wait for someone to write to me and ask me to draw something. Gene was producing artwork every day and putting it out in the mail and when it came back he’d send it out to someone else. He would draw work for money and then do work on spec if the paying markets dried up. He kept trying at places where he had been rejected. He did strips, cartoons, caricatures, covers, spot illos, anything that he might get paid for. He gave drawing lessons and produced his own fanzines.
“It was easy to see the difference, to see why he was a success and I was a failure. It was in the fall of 1975 that I bought a calendar and started filling the squares with whatever it was that I had produced that day and worked to put together months-long streaks where I produced work every day. The net result was that I started to get more paying work and a year later I was able to move out of my parents’ house into my own one-room apartment/studio downtown. I doubt that would ever have happened without Gene’s influence”.