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.

 

 

FASTER THAN A SPEEDING BULLET

You were expecting Superman? Nope – even faster.

While writing this article I scanned a few images from Starfire #6, Art by Mike Vosburg and Vince Colletta. I hope you enjoy them.

There are things that some men can do that others can’t.

Part of the Vince Colletta legend is the fact that he was unquestionably the fastest inker in the business. As a result, editors, whose writers, pencilers, inkers or more likely through their own bumbling, caused major delays, were constantly asking him if he could ink entire books over the weekend.

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Accepting these assignments cost him dearly in terms of his reputation but he never declined to take the work. He needed the money and the opportunity was there to help the company so this scenario became an almost automatic weekly occurrence for the twenty years to follow.

Rarely a weekend went by when Colletta didn’t have an eighteen or twenty pager to fire off before Monday morning. And come hell or high water, if he hadn’t inked them in his NYC studio or in Marvel’s or DC’s offices, he’d be on his way into the city at 5:00 AM with a stack of finished pages he’d inked at home.

Often, he must have labored over his drawing board with what had to be only the energy of desperation. It’s hard to believe that Vinnie was the only inker who could combine speed and professionalism with a willingness to work insane hours. But editors called on Mr. Colletta almost exclusively in emergencies. I think that he considered himself a faithful servant of the institutions for whom he plied his trade.

Regarding some of the pencils he was saddled with, correcting out-of-proportion figures and doing finishes over mere breakdowns were the exception but when they occurred they devoured his time. It compares to asking a sprinter to throw a shot put in the middle of a race. There were comic book pencilers who knew they were serious artists and those who only thought they were. You can guess from which ones the editors heard the loudest cries when some of their (tardy) pencils were erased.

Jerry Novick: The Colletta issue – I agree with the sentiment that some inkers look good on some pencillers and not so good on others. Colletta has a huge body of work, some fantastic, some controversial, some journeyman-level, some above and beyond his peers. But his contribution to helping get the books out on time can never be under-sold.