It’s been quite sometime since we’ve done a Fantasy Friday here at Nostalgia King with our featured spotlights on Vampirella artwork as well as artists Earl Norm and Sanjulián. Continuing on with a long overdue return, we explore the art and illustrations of Ernie Chan whose work was published by both Marvel and DC Comics and most notably his work on Conan The Barbarian.
Ernesto Chan, born and sometimes credited as Ernie Chua, was a Chinese-American comics artist, known for work published by Marvel Comics and DC Comics, including many Marvel issues of series featuring Conan the Barbarian. Chan also had a long tenure on Batman and Detective Comics. Other than his work on Batman, Chan primarily focused on non-superhero characters, staying mostly in the genres of horror, war, and sword and sorcery.
Ernie Chan was born Ernie Chua due to what he called “a typographical error on my birth certificate that I had to use until I had a chance to change it to ‘Chan’ when I got my [U.S.] citizenship in ’76.” He migrated to the United States in 1970 and became a citizen in 1976. For a number of years, he worked under the name Ernie Chua but he was later credited as Ernie Chan. He studied with John Buscema and worked with him as the inker on Conan during the 1970s. He also inked the art of Buscema’s brother Sal on The Incredible Hulk.
Chan entered the American comics industry in 1972 with DC Comics as a penciler on horror/mystery titles such as Ghosts, House of Mystery, and The Unexpected. By 1974, he was working regularly for Marvel Comics on Conan the Barbarian. From 1975–1976, Chan worked exclusively for DC including the artwork for Claw the Unconquered which was written by David Michelinie. While working on the Detective Comics series, he drew the first appearances of Captain Stingaree in issue #460 (June 1976) and the Black Spider in #463 (Sept. 1976). Under the name Chua, he was DC Comics’ primary cover artist from approximately 1975 to 1977.
Chan pencilled several issues of Conan and Doctor Strange, and worked on Kull the Destroyer in 1977 and Power Man and Iron Fist in the 1980s. From about 1978 onward, he worked almost exclusively for Marvel and focused on Conan in the 1980s. In the early 1990s he joined Sega, providing character design and art for video games such as Eternal Champions. In 2002, he retired except for commissioned artwork but returned to comics to draw writer Andrew Zar’s adult-oriented webcomic The Vat #1 in 2009.
Ernie Chan died on May 16, 2012 after a nearly yearlong battle with cancer but his artwork forever lives on, on the pages of our favorite comics and magazines.