LOVE VINNIE COLLETTA? NO APOLOGY NECESSARY

Art lovers, comic book aficionados, fanboys…whatever we prefer to call ourselves, are often  judged by the opinions of our peers. Controversies abound on subjects like “Did Stan or Jack create the Marvel universe” or the quality of current comic book art compared to the artistic efforts of days gone by. And as is true in the realms of politics and religion, our opinions often frame who we are in the minds of others. As crazy as it sounds, people are chastised and even shunned because of their likes and dislikes. Some of us set our hair on fire over superheroes or the creators who generated these products. Take the case of one Vincent Colletta – prolific and oft-debated artist of the Golden, Silver and Bronze eras of comic books. If you like his work, should you have to apologize for it?

Seth Smith: Definitely one of the best Colletta covers. Seems like just a few years ago you wouldn’t have been able to post such praise for Vinnie without some deluded fanboy hunting you down.

Ray Cuthbert: I’ve said it before — Colletta brought romance sensibilities to Kirby’s bold and dynamic pencils, which is why Colletta-inked Kirby gals were so pretty while Royer’s and others were not, in MY opinion.

Ray Cuthbert: I’d be in big trouble on the Kirby-L. I prefer Stan & Jack to Jack and Jack, and I prefer Kirby/Colletta to Kirby/Royer!!!!

Doc V: Aarrgghhh!!!!! You’d be doomed, Ray!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Coop: Damn right!

Bill Howard: On my tombstone it shalt read, “And he dared to like Vinnie Colletta.”

Over the years I’ve taken great pleasure from reading debates about my father. It’s nice to discover complimentary comments and I’m sometimes annoyed by unwarranted criticisms. The most absolutely precious gems in my collection of quotes, though, are the many examples of apologetic praise a few of which I’ll share.

Scooter: Damn! My whole world’s falling apart…(actually I quite like Vinnie’s Tales of Asgard work).

Ucleben: I like Mooney!! ‘Course I like a lot of Colletta’s work too. Different tastes, I guess.

Lyle Tucker:    Here’s where we differ – I LOVE Vinnie’s Tales of Asgard work.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: I hope I don’t get stoned for this but I always liked Vince Colletta’s work better than Mike Royer’s.

Plok: You know, personally, I’m kind of a fan of ol’ Rich’s…but then I like Vince Colletta’s inking, too, so I’m not sure you can go by me.

Ivan Rakitic: I know this will probably get me in trouble, but Vince Colletta was always my favorite inker on Kirby.

Al Sjoerdsma: I am among the minority who actually like Colletta’s inking on Kirby’s Thor, bringing it an airiness that fits into the fantasy of that strip.

Punyhuman: I also love his Thor art inked by Vince Colletta, even though I’ll catch hell for it! I loved it way back in the 60’s when I was buying it off the newsstands, it’s nostalgic now.

The Most Beautiful Women on Earth – Vince Colletta, Life and Art contains a thousand assessments from every slant. Many thanks to those who send them to me –  but it is the remarks that come with qualifiers; defensive praise, if you will, that continue to entertain me beyond anything.

Mel Higgins: I don’t know what it is, but the Kirby Thor combination kills me. This is also my first exposure to a silver-age Kirby page (I have a Captain Victory page) and I was floored when I saw the Thor page in person when it arrived today. So much energy there. I can’t stop looking at it. I know that Vince Colletta is not considered the best inker on the Thor pages, but I think he did a tremendous job on this one.

Ray Cuthbert: Congratulations Mel! The first Kirby page I ever bought was also a Kirby/Colletta Thor page (now long gone). Quite frankly, I always thought that the two artists were a perfect match for the subject matter. Kirby’s power and Colletta’s rounded edges and romantic sensibilities made Thor the title it was for me. Kirby + Sinnott on FF, but Kirby + Colletta on Thor (or the DC Fourth World stuff — for me, anyway!)

Lynn Walker: I’m embarrassed to admit I prefer the Colletta inks, but not by much.

Prof H: ANYWAY… after 3 horrible issues, Vince Colletta took over… and was a HUGE improvement!!! (Mark Evanier disagrees, but to hell with his opinion.)

Ray Plasse: Despite Colleta’s shortcuts I really enjoyed the different look he gave Jack and Thor but hey……….I was only a kid then so what did I know?

Chris Murrin: I like Everett, but Colletta was my favorite. I know, I know…but still, he’s my favorite on Thor.

Iron Maiden: I have a confession to make about Jack Kirby’s “Thor”. I liked some of the art better in that title than some of his FF work but I would probably get scorned by Kirby purists… they hate any of his work to be touched by Vince Colletta!

Merlin Haas: Colletta has many, many faults, but I’m going to commit heresy and say that sometimes he removed some unnecessary background clutter and the finished panel read better than the original.

Mike Driscoll: It looks like Colletta inking. I’m one of the few that likes Vince Colletta.

Henry R. Kujawa: This time, inks are from Vince Colletta– and what surprises me is, it LOOKS REAL GOOD!!

Patrick McEvoy: I know I’m nuts, but as good (and accurate) as McLeod’s inks are, I prefer the Colletta version. I know, it’s a personal failing.

Mark Borello: Yeah! Love Colletta. Love Colletta’s inks on Kirby…Go on…throw your rocks….

Allen Smith: I’m gonna ignore you guys.  You’re turning me into a Colletta fan, almost!

Stan Taylor: What in the Hell kind of parallel/alternate/Bizarro Universe is this new list?????? 😉 People saying nice things about Vinnie. It has left me speechless!!!!!!

Doc V: Hey! Do you think our old pal Bruce Lowry would’ve liked this list? Blake might have had to ban him after he responded to this Colletta love-fest!

Plausible Prose Man: This page shows us that Vince wasn’t such a bad draughtsman after all. I might upgrade him from “hack” to “jobber”

Tom Field: When I was a kid in the ’70s, I was nuts for Sal’s CAPTAIN AMERICA – still am — and much of that run was inked by Vinnie Colletta!

Al Gordon: Wow! A Jack Page Inked by Vinnie that I don’t hate! Few and Far Between.

GrapeApe: As much as I hate to say it, I have seen worse. At least Vinnie got a nice thick and thin outline mixed in with his scratching and erasing.

Mister M: I never knew there were pro- and anti-Vince Colletta factions. Go figure.

Doc V.: Whereas I followed the 4th World stuff while Colletta inked it, I soon dropped out after Royer took over (yes, I’m one of THOSE)….

Mikeyriffhard: And say what you will about Vinnie Colletta, but I think his inks on this title were absolutely perfect. But that’s me…

John S: I was gonna say that I thought Vinnie did a pretty good job on this page…but I won’t, ’cause I don’t want Krackles to have a seizure!

Ferran Delgado: Not even Colletta could ruin his powerful storytelling…Although I painfully  agree that he did worse jobs than this one…

Profh0011:  Coming soon: I just read a DD comic where Colletta inked Colan–AND HE DID A DAMN GOOD JOB!!! What’s the world coming to???

Bill Howard: Personally, I like Colletta’s inks on Thor, but I realize I’m in the minority. Why did you buy the piece in the first place, if you didn’t like Vinnie’s inks? It’s not like you didn’t know what you were getting. Different strokes for different folks I suppose. The last thing I would call Colletta’s inking is inept, but I don’t want to resuscitate that old argument…

Ianto: Best inker? The Akina and Garvey team from back when. Or maybe Dan Green. The hair always looked so good in his books. Worst? I actually liked Colletta so I can’t list him.

Roquefort Raider: I think the Classic Board regulars may help limit the number of immature arguments. Hey, we can even argue the merits of Frank Robbins’ art or Vince Colletta’s inks in a civil fashion!

Dan Bailey: *ahem* Sez you!

Guy Dorian, Sr.: I have come to appreciate Vinnie more now that I am older and wiser… but still hate most of it.

T_Guy: As far as the art goes, it must be said that Colan and Colletta is better than I had expected- (On Tomb of Dracula #2) but, on the other hand, I had expected Colletta to completely ruin Colan’s delicate work. His style does actually work over Colan’s, much as admitting this feels like having a tooth extracted.

Divided into sharply polarized factions over the merits and faults of Vince Colletta, fans have vaulted this seemingly innocuous conversation into publishing lore. The great Aussie comic book artist, Eddie Campbell, had an interesting take on the phenomenon with which I’ll end this article. Love Vinnie Colletta? Don’t apologize. Buy the Book!

Eddie Campbell: A while back I wrote a post here about how Colletta was my favourite comic book inker of the 1960s. For some unfathomable reason beyond all absurdity, it was and continues to be the most visited post I’ve written. I almost said popular there, but that would be the wrong word, for I was vilified in many places for uttering such an opinion. Even people you would think could not possibly give a hoot, I found them stopping me in the street, in San Diego during the convention, the only place everybody knows my name, sadly, and even somebody such as Gary Groth had to get his two cents in and call me an idiot. People generally can’t stand by and allow you to have an opinion they don’t share.

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A TIMELY AWAKENING FOR ROMANCE ART IN COMIC BOOKS

Aside

Vince Colletta Romance Art

TIMELY-ATLAS ROMANCE COVERS BY VINCE COLLETTA

For comic book aficionados, the Vince Colletta story begins in 1952. After art school and a brief career as a portrait painter and muralist, he was introduced to the world of publishing by a family friend who suggested comic books.

Standard Publications was the first door he knocked on. It turned out to be Vinnie’s lucky day. He was given an assignment – just a few pages of a romance story, “then we’ll see how it goes from there” his editor said. My dad was excited. A young husband and father, his foray into oil painting was a critical success and earned him a living but it hardly proved lucrative. Manhattan now beckoned.

Only a few months passed before Colletta was also drawing stories for Timely-Atlas Publishing -the company that one day would become mighty Marvel. What a crazy transition going from portraits to cartoons but, in a way, an organic circular progression for the boy who loved to draw pictures on paper bags in his father’s grocery store.

Stan Lee ran the show at Timely back then and the way Vinnie illustrated females excited him. Thus began an “all work you can handle” career that spanned 40 years. It wasn’t just the provocative poses and sensual embraces but also the illustrative details that, before then, had never been seen in comic books.

By the late 1950s, Vinnie began to focus on production art. The girls were just as beautiful but the art took on a simplicity unlike previous years. As the volume of work mounted, he took on assistants who would do everything from layouts to inking backgrounds. It became known as the Colletta Studio and became a stopping point for famous artists such as Wood, Baker, Sinnott, Steranko, Giordano, Giacoia and Orlando.

Eventually, the implosion of the comic book trade happened which pretty much ground an entire industry to a halt. Those publishing companies that survived severely cut back the number of titles. Never one to wait for opportunities, my father solicited work from small publishers such as Charlton and Dell – a Godsend not only for Vinnie but also the artists who came to depend on him to bring in the work.

The early Timely-Atlas romance art by Vince Colletta is a joy to look at. It has the depth one expects to find in fine art and it’s evocative. You want to plant a kiss on every one of Vinnie’s girls. The most beautiful women on earth. Who knew they could be found in the pages of a comic book?

From an interview with Vinnie’s daughter Roseannette: Q:  Vinnie’s women are considered to be the most beautiful in comics. Why do you think he had such a talent for drawing females?

A: Because he thought women were beautiful. He was born in Sicily which is steeped in hundreds of years of sculpture and painting of the human form. It’s embedded in the culture and maybe in the genes

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMEN ON EARTH, VINCE COLLETTA – LIFE AND ART is an enormous book featuring a compelling memoir of the artist. I want you to be so immersed in this world that you can’t put it down. It’s a view into a different time, place and culture. You’ll also read a thousand comments and conversations, an extraordinary number of them apologetically praising his work. And there’s those incredibly gorgeous women. Very few of Vinnie’s contemporaries ever matched the realism he provided with pencil and pen.

Love comic book history? Want a glimpse into the world of production art? Have an appreciation of beautiful women and super heroes? Buy the book!

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SILHOUETTES IN COMIC BOOK ART

SOME QUOTES FROM THE BOOK AND A FEW SILHOUETTES

Storytime Comics: Glad to see that this thread has begun to actually discuss Colletta’s art. Anyway, all this thinking about Colletta made me actually want to, you know, look at some of his work again. (Imagine that!) So last night I cracked open my Thor Masterworks volume 2 to the Tales of Asgard stories from Journey into Mystery 109 and 110. Lo and behold, I had the same reaction I have every time I encounter his work on Thor: I’m totally prepared to hate it, or have it not be as good as I remember, but, no, it’s just perfect for the series, and very well done in its own right. Despite the really (really) lousy repro and printing in my original-27 Masterworks volume, Colletta’s work just stands out as unlike any other inker’s approach to Kirby, and totally suited to the material. In the words of GammaJosh, “I loves me some ’60s Thor!”

The Nostalgia League: Now, in his defense, I must say that Colletta did some fine work during his career. The early romance work he did in the 50s stands on a par with some of the work of Alex Toth. Some, although not all, of the inking he did on George Tuska’s Iron Man was good, if not downright beautiful, at times. There is also a strange melding of styles when Colletta inked Kirby on Thor …that seems to capture the raw power of gods in battle.

It seems that for many years, Colletta had been the inker who Marvel or DC would go to if they had a very short deadline. The pages I, and others, had so reviled over the years were the result of deadline crunches. Colletta was known to turn out completed books virtually overnight, so the deadlines on the comics could be met. The lack of detail, in many instances, was simply a way to get the finished product to the printer on time. DC understood this and, by appointing him art director, made sure that he would be available to handle all the deadline crunches they could throw at him. As proof of this, my source related that it was a regular thing at the DC offices to arrive at work in the morning to find Colletta asleep on the couch in his office and a stack of finished pages sitting on his drawing board; another all-nighter behind him.

Among the criticisms often leveled at Vince Colletta’s art points to his practice of silhouetting characters and backgrounds. Although these panels were far less common than his fully fleshed-out pencils and inks, they curiously remain a source of annoyance to some art critics.

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMEN ON EARTH

Art is imagination realized. The artist visualizes the scene and then puts it on paper. The reader’s imagination does the rest. The best representative silhouettes are done by skilled artists who can draw portraits, usually have fine art degrees, and can see shadow and form.

VINCE COLLETTA – LIFE AND ART

In order to convey emotion in a panel in which the main figures are drawn in silhouette, an artist must have a great facility for illustrating body language. Scholars believe Etienne de Silhouette’s name became connected with these black and white portraits because of the finance minister’s extreme cost-cutting. de Silhouette doubtless had many detractors.

Selective shadowing provides a bold palette for splashes of color to be added for effect. Silhouettes can be used to emphasize and alter a woman’s shape to create a flattering illusion. Understanding different silhouettes can help the artist create the most complimentary one for his subject.

Even in staid panels, silhouetting lends itself to creating  more interesting scenes. Late afternoon on a sunlit beach provides wonderful opportunities for artists to use silhouettes and extreme shading.

Leading silhouette artists of the second half of the 18th century and the early 19th century, the golden age of the art, included Francis Torond, A. Charles, John Miers, C. Rosenburg, Mrs. Brown, Auguste Edouart, T. Hamlet, and Mrs. Beetham (née Isabella Robinson). Leading contemporary silhouette artists include Vince Colletta and many others of which little is written regarding this particular technique.

Before photography, silhouettes were the way to have a profile made without having to have an expensive portrait commissioned, and cost about a penny a piece. They were referred to as the “poor man’s portrait.”

Al Bigley: Never a Vinnie fan, but gotta stick up for him. He saved SO many deadlines (when that mattered, far more than creating “art”), sometimes rescuing the oh-so-precocious “fan favorites” who took way too much time on their pages, back when this was a periodical business that got slapped with huge fees for missing press deadlines. He was a real MAN doing a job.

This wonderful art-filled biography of Vincent Colletta comes replete with hundreds of comments, criticisms and glimmers of faint praise that all cast a very bright light on an exciting and controversial life.

Love comic book history? Want a glimpse into the world of production art? Have an appreciation of beautiful women? Buy the book!

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COMIC BOOK ART – SOME INKING TECHNIQUES

WARLORD 25 ART BY MIKE GRELL AND VINCE COLLETTA

The immense body of art work illustrated by Vince Colletta presents me with a marvelous window into the creativity of the man. From the 50s, during which time he penciled and exquisitely inked the stories, to the birth and successful  emergence of superheroes that continues today. Here are a few examples from the book “THE MOST BEAUTIFUL WOMEN ON EARTH, VINCE COLLETTA – LIFE AND ART” which, by the way, is a must read not only for those who love comic book art and publishing lore, but also to examine the incredible tale of a life that, in ways that will surprise you, has become even more fascinating since he died in 1991. Vinnie’s women usually had sumptuous lips and that famously substantial mascara. Reader’s comments over the years have been interesting.

Andrew Wahl: Personally, I don’t put much of Vince Colletta’s inking in the “beauty” category. But I am trying to keep an open mind as I revisit my old comics for these reviews, and judge each book with a fresh set of eyes. That’s why I’ve been surprised to find Colletta’s work on Warlord better than I remember. This issue is a good example: I typically like Bruce Patterson’s inks, but didn’t find them to be an improvement over Colletta’s work on the title.

Ben Herman: For something that was inked by Vince Colletta (Warlord,) this actually looks pretty good. Maybe it was the fact that Shakira, a sexy lady clad in a fur bikini, was in pretty much every single panel of the story motivated Colletta to put in a little bit more effort that usual? Whenever there happened to be a beautiful woman in whatever he happened to be inking, suddenly Colletta always seemed inspired to do just a little bit more work than he usually would.

ROMANCE ART BY VINCE COLLETTA

Graduating diamond shapes created by cross-hatching at different angles, embellished with shadows and light contrast a glow radiating from the man’s cheeks. It is he who dominates the panel. The woman, of course, is beautiful with subtle accent lines in her lips.

Mike Browning: Hmmm … while we’re on the topic of artists who don’t make the hot list each month … Win Mortimer’s Spidey Super Stories art is classic and Vince Colletta’s romance stuff was beautiful.

Ken Allan: without starting any sort of a flame war, can anyone send me any articles, personal experiences, etc. with regards to Vince Colletta? I seriously want to just learn a bit more about him and have had little success. Even if some of you could point me towards any interviews he may have done,….ANYTHING,…it would be deeply appreciated.

David Edge: Vince Colletta would have best served Kirby in the 1950s, when he seemed to take greater care in his artwork. As I’ve said before, his romance art from this time was truly stunning.

Mark Yanko: Vinnie is a bit like Don Heck in that respect. If you look at early romance art by Heck and compare it to his ’70s superhero work, the difference is startling.

Mike Pascal: Right on, Mark. Thanks to John Lustig’s wonderful LAST KISS strips, Vinnie’s lovely romance work is on display almost weekly and will be preserved for a whole new audience.

Colleen: Vinnie Colletta used to freak me out because all the women he inked had the same gloppy mascara.

OKSNER AND COLLETTA

The central character in the panel is obviously the girl but she is rendered darkly with complex facial shading accompanying the simple shadowing of her neck and breast. The inversion of color in the girl’s left eye is interesting, almost seeming as if her eye is closed. I love how the inker featured luminescent highlights in the girl’s hair. Bob Oksner was an excellent plotter of all types of stories.

Droid714:  As I’ve stated before, since I was a Marvel Zombie from the very early 60’s through the mid 70’s, I completely missed Vinnie’s work at DC in the 70’s. Now that I’m going back and collecting Wonder Woman and Supergirl from that era, I’m seeing much of his DC work for the first time. And the more I see of it, the more I like it. In my opinion, he was a much better technical artist than Kirby. His women actually looked like women, not men with long hair. And quite frankly, I’ve never been a big fan of Colan or Buscema.

Again, the more I see of Vinnie’s work, the more I start to wonder if a lot of the negativity that some of his peers allegedly felt for him wasn’t motivated a little bit by jealousy. He was good, he was fast and he occasionally erased a few lines of their precious pencils. Yet without Vinnie making sure the work got out the door on time, how many of them would have been whining about missing their paychecks?

HOUSE OF MYSTERY 270 ART BY ORLANDO AND COLLETTA

HOUSE OF MYSTERY 270 ART BY ORLANDO AND COLLETTA

The colorist Tatjana Wood helped to bring out the darkness of both the scene and the girl’s horrific situation with her vivid coloring of the damsel in distress. Joe Orlando was a teriffic penciler for laying out macabre stories. Vinnie’s inks on the captive woman are incredible showing her virtually bursting out of her dress in an effort to escape.The druid in the foreground is ominously inked with a bold brush and pen; the others rendered more delicately as are the shocked children who look on from the background. Vinnie and Joe were very close friends throughout their forty-year professional careers.

Fat Boy: When I first saw these Joe Orlando and Vinnie Colletta Daredevils it seemed like art art instead of just comic art. Hopefully you’ll post some scans of the interior pages. Sure wish I had saved these.

Comicsdad: Joe Orlando’s art is quite nice, and I can’t remember when I’ve seen Colletta’s inks reproduced so well

Joseph Graves: I thought it was strange Vinnie put as much into that over Orlando whose art is cartoonish. I liked it.

Nick Caputo: I agree for the most part, although those early DD’s by Orlando had a certain charm to them. I even liked the Colletta inks, go figure!

LOVERS 64 – NOVEMBER 1954

Despite the poor print quality of comic books in the 1950s, some artists, Colletta among them, strove to impart an illustrative, portrait-like quality to their art. This splash page represents the finest efforts of Vince Colletta to translate his love of oil painting onto a completely different, difficult medium. An artist can create lifelike people in a realistic world using oils. Museums are full of such masterpieces. The same techniques and the resultant works are literally impossible to duplicate with pencils and ink. I believe this example is as close as you will find in a comic book.

Mr. Peabody: Not much to say about the inking on the cover but the interior page you showed looks pretty good to me. It is just romance, after all, and I doubt if either of the men who created this artwork were trying for a museum piece. Anyway, there’s no way Colletta could have turned one of these rounded faced Kirby women into a something either realistic or beautiful. See the cover of Lovers #64 or most any other Vinnie girl from the 50s to illustrate my point.

Walt: I enjoy fine line work as done by the likes of Reed Crandall, Al Williamson, Vince Colletta etc and sorely miss this highly detail efforts of illustration as the today’s stock or printing processes do not allow this type of illustration.

alexarcadian: It’s apparent if you go back and look at Colletta’s romance work from the 50s he was aiming for an illustrative look something along the lines of Leonard Starr.

Russ M: The thing about Vince Colletta is what this book (The Thin Black Line) missed altogether and that’s his art. When given time, Colletta outshone every other inker on superheroes. Prior to that he drew hot romance stories that looked a lot more realistic than what other artists were doing. Just look at the cover of THOR #126 – could that finished product been equalled by anyone else. Even to this day, inkers use thick black lines that look almost measured as if by rulers and protractors. Colletta took pen in hand and illustrated, drawing shadows, depth and realism into his subjects.

Ger Apelde: But some artists, such as Colletta and Al Williamson (and most of his group of peers) liked to experiment. You see them try out new techniques in every panel. They use dry brush, full brush, pen, stencils, anything. Colletta’s early work is very similar to that, but he adds a twist of his own. He frequently uses patterns to distinguish one material from another. At times it’s almost as if he is a fashion illustrator. That, combined with his way with pretty women, made him very suitable for romance comics. He also developed a great way of drawing women’s hair, which is not something every artist masters.

Bring Back Zot: Nice article and an even nicer drawing of Vince Colletta, Michael. Love him or hate him, those 50’s covers prove Colletta had genuine artistic talent.

Michael Netzer (Former Marvel and DC Penciler): How true, BBZ. Vinnie’s romance work is not only indicative of talent, but stands along side some of the best in commercial illustration, like Stan Drake and other giants of his time.

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