Dave Sim tells the story about Gene Day’s health problems and death here:
To summarize… Day came down to Manhattan to do a rush ink job on an issue of Master of Kung Fu. Marvel put him up in a roach-infested hotel, and when he complained he was told he could either stay there or sleep at the Marvel offices. He chose the latter, not realizing the heat would be turned off in the office at night. It was winter, and sleeping in the very cold Marvel offices caused him to develop a kidney infection, which was the beginning of serious health problems that culminated in his tragic death by heart attack.
I haven’t read Moench’s comments, but I would assume he blamed Shooter for the above incident with the infested motel/cold Marvel office (though Shooter was not directly involved in the situation or even aware of it as far as I know). Chronic kidney problems can be a contributory factor in heart disease, so I assume he then blames the situation for ultimately causing Gene’s death.
Added to this I guess is the fact that Day and Shooter locked horns over the layout style on Master of Kung Fu, with Day wanting to do elaborate Sterankoesque panel layouts and Shooter feeling it impaired the storytelling and wanting him to stick to a more conventional grid layout. Ultimately Day was fired by Shooter for refusing to modify his layout style, and was quite broken-hearted over this.
Gene was flown down to New York at Marvel’s expense to meet with Denny O’Neill and other people. Such visits were normal. We often brought in artists and writers just to have face to face meetings and to wine and dine them. It was a perk. Denny picked the Chelsea Hotel for Gene because it had “literary history.” He thought it would be an interesting place to stay. Ask him. The second or third day of Gene’s visit, I took him to lunch. He wasn’t one to complain and he didn’t mention roaches, but he said the hotel was sort of shabby. I had my secretary, Lynn, move him to a good hotel right away.
No one would have asked Gene, or anyone else to sleep in the office.
If Gene worked late at the office — and I wouldn’t put that past him, because he was a near work-aholic — he wouldn’t have gotten cold. I spent many an all-nighter at the offices at 387 Park Avenue South. It was a modern, completely custom built space. We had control of our own HVAC. The heat was not turned off at night and it didn’t get uncomfortable. The same can’t be said for the old 575 Madison Avenue office, by the way, but that’s not where we were.
Gene may have done some inking while visiting, but he wasn’t there to ink a rush job. If he had to ink in a hurry, wouldn’t he do it faster in his own studio and without wasting time flying to New York?
For sure, Gene ate well while on his visit. I took him to a couple of nice places and editors loved such opportunities to exercise their expense accounts.
I did find some of Gene’s layouts confusing and spoke more than once to the editor about it. I spoke at least once to Gene about it directly. The story in the issue in question was about clone duplicates of Shang-Chi. There was one instance in that story, a spread or a full page, in which Gene used a continuous background sliced into many panels with a figure of Shang-Chi in each panel as he made his way along some stairway or some such. Were all those Shang-Chi’s the same one? Or were there clones following Shang-Chi? You guys are wise enough in the ways of comics to figure it out, but what about a new reader or a casual reader? Gene understood. He said he really hadn’t thought about such ramifications. He was only thinking about cool Steranko layouts. I asked him to focus more on making stories clear.
I never fired Gene.
When it became apparent that MOKF was going to be cancelled, Gene was indeed, bereft. He loved that book. I looked around for other work for him. Many editors were eager to offer Gene work. Louise Simonson was the editor of Indiana Jones, I think, and wanted Gene to pencil that. Ask her. Whoever was editing Star Wars (maybe also Louise?) also wanted Gene to pencil it. I called Gene and asked him if he’d be interested. He was thrilled. Both were big favorites of his. Switching from MOKF to those books would have effectively quadrupled Gene’s income, because of the royalties.
Gene died right around then. I was told he had a heart attack. His brother Dan, I think, was the one who called me. Like too many of us comics people, Gene had a sedentary lifestyle — too many hours at the board — his diet wasn’t the healthiest and I believe he smoked. It was a tragic loss.
A benefit that Marvel provided to freelancers was life insurance. Gene’s family received a substantial payment, which I hope was useful for dealing with some of the practical burdens that accompany tragedy.
Gene was a good and gentle man, and an immense talent.