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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JACK KIRBY, VINCE COLLETTA AND THOR – ASGARD REALIZED

An inspiration came to Jack Kirby one day. This wasn’t unusual since Jack’s mind was in a constantly creative mode. The moment he and Stan Lee made the decision to move forward with the Asgardian adventures of Thor the Thunder God, all of comicdom stood up and took notice. From the start, as it became the new feature saga in the Journey into Mystery series, the concept was a hit.

Thor art by Jack Kirby and Vince Colletta

Beginning with issue #83, Journey into Mystery  became Thor’s book. Jack penciled most of the covers and stories, of course, while the finished art was supplied by various inkers such as Joe Sinnott, Dick Ayers, Steve Ditko, Al Hartley, Sol Brodsky, George Ruossos, Chic Stone, Paul Reinman and Don Heck. Using bold, graphic-style inks, the stories were good but the art resembled most of  Marvel’s other books. That is until issue # 106 when Thor was transformed from contemporary to primal. The mythological land of Asgard was born.

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

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

Dane Bjorklund: Several of the early THOR and Tales of Asgard issues were inked by a gentleman named Vince Colletta. I think that his name has become linked with his THOR work and the THOR comics that Mr. Colletta inked were among the best. THOR #126 is my favorite comic book cover of all time, drawn by Jack Kirby and Vince Colletta.

Thor art by Jack Kirby and Vince Colletta

Vince Colletta had always admired the great artist and storyteller Hal Foster.  The delicately rendered Prince Valiant stories gave my father the idea of speaking to Stan and Jack about presenting Thor in a different light. By creating a rough-hewn world more reminiscent of Norse legends, Journey into Mystery’s backup story, Tales of Asgard, gave readers a glimpse into Thor’s world. And right from the first story the controversies began. While Tales of Asgard was hailed as a creative breakthrough by most – I remember the pride that Vinnie felt reading and hearing the accolades – some comic book fans voiced displeasure with the artistic departure.

Rick Young: It amazed me the first time I saw criticism of Vince Colletta’s work. I get that he simplified some of Jack’s backgrounds and I like those intricate details. This panel (This Battleground Earth) has such a rich/finished look that is typical of Kirby & Colletta.

Erik Larsen: In the back issues I recently bought there were rave letters when Vinnie started inking Tales of Asgard.

Erik Larsen: But please–don’t confuse popularity with quality. McDonald’s has served billions of hamburgers, after all.

Pierre Comtois: Overnight it seemed, with Vince Colletta replacing Stone, the regular Thor strip acquired the same timeless, antique feel as Colletta’s work over Kirby in the Tales of Asgard feature.  The inking style changed the whole feel of the book, making even down-to-earth stories such as those featuring the return of the Absorbing Man seem grander than they would’ve been with Stone.  Whether it was the inspiration of Colletta’s inking, a continuation of the kind of stories that they’d been telling in Tales of Asgard or simply the trend that Marvel had been drifting towards through its first two phases, Lee, Kirby and Colletta now launched the Thor strip into an unprecedented series of inter-connected stories whose structure was unlike anything done in comics before.

The fine line work, delicate cross-hatching and detailed delineation of anatomical features were a source of annoyance to readers used to seeing “comic book art.” But by issue #116, Journey into Mystery, Thor and Asgard were all Jack and Vinnie and they became what many fans and professionals alike still feel is the greatest comic-book series ever – Thor.

David Philpott: I enjoyed the Kirby/Colletta Thors as a kid (bought as back issues). And I still enjoy them 25 years later. They are quality entertainment. The Tales of Asgard back ups rocked.

Allen Montgomery: I got the Tales of Asgard hardcover not too long ago. They were definitely playing to the newsprint back in the day. And not just Colletta. All the inkers turned in some pretty rough work. Colletta was the only one that attempted texture of any kind. The rest seemed to favor the “blotch” technique.

George: I don’t think Thor as a book worked until Colletta came on board. As good an inker as Stone was on Kirby he was too nice for the Asgardian world. The only other inker who came close was George Roussos in some of the early “Tales of Asgard”.

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.

Klar Ken T5477:  I like VC’s inking on Thor too. Why not denigrate Chic Stone or Syd Shores as well? Vinnie met his deadlines and his work on the Kirby DC’s was far superior to Royer and D. Bruce Berry.

Mark Engblom: You’re right….Colletta did a pretty good job on the Kirby Thor comics. Just as with Sinnott’s inks, Colletta was able to “soften” the blunt and (occasionally) grotesque extremes of Kirby’s pencils.

Thor art by Jack Kirby and Vince Colletta

A common criticism of Vince Colletta’s superhero inks has to do with the numerous “scritchy-scratchy” pen lines he used to define musculature. Rather than the quick brush swipes and symmetrical shadow lines used by others, Vinnie preferred the illustrative approach he learned in art school working with oils. He has been unfairly pigeonholed as one-dimensional, however, as the image above clearly proves, Colletta could ink in a bold, graphic style with the best of them.

PunyHuman: Beautiful, positively Beautiful (Tales of Asgard)!! What a spectacular collection !!

Tom Lammers: I know a lot of folks don’t like Colletta as an inker, especially over Kirby pencils, but I say as a penciler for this kind of story, he is excellent. He had a real flair for capturing emotion, as the heroine vacillates between sheer joy and dejection, interspersed with uncertainty, pensiveness, and regret.

Jay Kinney: There are some people, me included, who think that the “Tales of Asgard” artwork is the best of any by good old Jack. Vince’s inkings are great and seem to catch the ancient flavor.

Andrew W. Farago: Not to damn these books with faint praise, but Thor’s got to be the best superhero inking of Vince Colletta’s career (Colletta’s romance art has its moments). In black and white, especially in the Tales of Asgard stories, there’s a bit of a Prince Valiant vibe to the artwork which I don’t think would have been there with someone like Joe Sinnott inking the series, which probably would have taken the book in entirely different directions.

Alan Kupperberg (Former Marvel Artist): And then, my last issue 328. Vinnie Colletta finally inks my Thor. I went out with nice inks.

Lyle Tucker: I love those Colletta THOR’s (and especially the TALES OF ASGARDS) and I stopped buying NEW GODS after Royer came aboard, because by that time Kirby needed Vince’s artistic eye to “fix” his increasingly sloppy work – for whatever that’s worth, I thought I’d set the record straight as far as where I stand on the merits of Vince’s inking (and, yes, he DID indeed draw some damn fine romances in the ’50s).”

Norris Burroughs: The amount of inking on this page alone (THOR 142) would overwhelm a less than confident inker, so we must praise Colletta for his sheer tenacity and remember that he was often called on to finish Kirby’s detailed pencils in order to meet a deadline.  Yes, he can be criticized for his faults, but we can also praise him for his strengths and accomplishments.

David J. Bromley: Many thanks for the even approach to a misunderstood & talented inker. Colletta had a ‘fine art’ approach that many cannot understand.

Aaron Noble: It’s in the “anatomy and fine detail” that you appreciate Colletta’s contributions.

jon m: Thor was a good book for Colletta, as opposed to FF which was a horrible match. I actually preferred his inks on the Fourth World books over Royer. Maybe it just eased the transition to DC.

Ian Miller: It’s sad that Colletta gets such a bad rap, because he was capable of some amazing work. If you ever get the chance to see any of the Kirby Thor pages he inked in person you’ll definitely see that he had some great chops. His feathering and fine linework took Kirby’s art in a more refined direction that you never really saw other inkers take advantage of.

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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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.

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