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.

 

DREAM GIRLS COURTESY OF VINCE COLLETTA

Jack Adler (Former DC Editor and Colorist): Vinnie….Vinnie was a peach!

Elliott S! Maggin (Former DC Writer): Hey Frank, it’s great to trip over you.  I liked Vinnie quite a lot.  He was a great character and had a good deal of character to boot.

Stan: My man, Vinnie Colletta, beautiful women, intricate well thought-out inks, always on time-every time. Rest in Peace, Vince.

Jason Shayer: Let me preface this post by saying that I haven’t read much about Vince Colletta the man (and from the brief mentions of him that I have, he was a rather nice guy) and that this is a criticism of his work and not him personally…… Colletta’s inks always seemed to impose its own style rather than embellish the style of the penciller…. Vinnie erased background figures and simplified backgrounds and turned fully realized drawings into silhouettes….. As long as editors gave him work, he’d take the money and spit back the work as quickly as possible. Doing that meant taking shortcuts and Vinnie took shortcuts aplenty.”…… There’s no doubt over his career that Vince Colletta rescued hundreds of Marvel comics that were on the brink of missing deadlines. However, his work, in my opinion, left a lot to be desired……

Liquidwater: Web of Spider-Man illustrated by Silvestri and Colletta provides us with breathtakingly beautiful women – one of Vinnie’s trademarks. I also loved his Thor inks, the hell with what he erased, the finished products are masterpieces.

Jason Shayer: Hey Liquidwater, fair enough. Colletta’s early work on the Atlas/Marvel Romance books was quite good as well, especially the ladies.

Gormuu: It’s commonly accepted that Colletta drew the most beautiful women in the history of illustration.

ElectricPeterTork: Well, of course! He erased all those unsightly lines and wrinkles!

John Morrow (Publisher): Has this book changed my opinion of Vinnie and his work? In a lot of ways, it has, and I think that, love him or hate him, you’ll walk away from this book with a new appreciation and understanding of this colorful and controversial comic professional. I know I did.

Allen Smith: I can’t make any judgments about whose life was more exciting (Kirby or Colletta), but I’d buy a book about Vinnie.

CaptainJersey: As I was growing up I think two of the first artists that stood out for me were Dick Giordano and Vince Colletta… both for the beautiful women they drew. To this day, I’ll always think of Vince Colletta as a man who drew beautiful women. I have learned more about his inking habits over the years, but whenever someone shows me one of his panels, I always marvel at the lovely ladies, rather than what is not present.

Michael Netzer (Former Marvel and DC penciler): When looking at Vinnie’s work from outside of the context of being a comics penciler, it’s usually very proficient and has a special quality to it. The way he was judged was similar to how Michelangelo’s students would react to Van Gogh or Picasso. That’s probably why some people simply love his Thor run on Kirby while others despise it because they judge it based on Kirby’s pencils.

Vinnie was a very helpful art director at DC. He always took time to engage artists about their work and help them approach it more professionally. For all that’s said about him, he was very suitable for that position and elevated the art craftsmanship at DC during his tenure. He was also a very nice guy who helped artists move ahead in their career. It was Vinnie who once suggested to me that I come up with a new female character because DC was looking for one – and that’s how the idea for Ms. Mystic was born.

On the one hand, it’s unfortunate that an unflattering reputation stuck to him. On the other, this has spawned a new look at his work since his passing away, and has raised a strong voice of admiration and support for him in fandom. That’s certainly better than if no one cared about it one way or the other.