Monday, 10 August 2020



VINCE COLLETTA is a name which seems to cause controversy whenever it's mentioned these days.  Some comicbook fans think he was great, others think he was okay, and then there's another group who think he was the worst inker ever to work in the business.

Some JACK KIRBY fans in particular believe he ruined every page of the King's work he ever touched.  Others think he transformed Jack's THOR pages into a tour de force of illustrative brilliance which should grace the Sistine Chapel.  Then there are those poor souls who can't see the difference between one page and another, regardless of whoever pencilled or inked it.

While it's true that Vince's inks may not have suited every artist whose pencils he worked on, there are some whose art was definitely enhanced by the touch of his pen and brush.  (GENE COLANJOHN BUSCEMA, and FRANK ROBBINS, to name but three.)  Jack Kirby was definitely on that list.  Vinnie diluted the idiosyncracies and abstractness of Kirby's art, imbuing it with a rugged, realistic quality that perfectly suited the mythical backdrop of Thor's adventures, particularly when set in ASGARD.

I'm not alone in thinking that part of the reason for Colletta's bad rep these days is based on poor quality reprints of his work in various magazines back in the early '70s, printed from proofs in which his fine detailing was lost and clumsily retouched by less-skilled hands.  (Using a blunt felt marker by the looks of things.)

However, back in the late '60s a U.K. publication called FANTASTIC reprinted Thor's adventures from JOURNEY Into MYSTERY, using clear, sharp proofs for near-perfect black and white reproduction. U.S. spellings, colloquialisms and references were changed, creator credits and corner page numbers were deleted, and open case sound-effects were sometimes blacked-in or cross-hatched for greater impact in the b&w format, but the art still looked great.

It gives me great pleasure to present Vince's inking of Jack's pencils more or less the way they would have looked when they were first completed, as opposed to the far inferior reprints which came later.  Enjoy.   

Click on image, when it appears, click again for optimum size.


Christopher Nevell said...

Well let’s get this settled with the first comment. If Jack didn’t think he was right, Vince wouldn’t have got further than the first pages he saw. Nuff said.

Kid said...

You'd think so, CN, but it's been claimed that Jack seldom (if ever) looked at the published mags, so (if true) wouldn't really have been aware just what the finished pages looked like. It wasn't until he was at DC that, because of Mark Evanier and Steve Sherman telling him that Vince was missing things out, he eventually decided to go with Mike Royer. And even then, that decision was more because Vince was alleged to have been showing Jack's DC pages to Marvel. Not in a sneaky way, but when he was dropping stuff off at the Marvel offices and was asked what else he'd been working on, he'd show them. Personally, I think Vince's inks gave Jack's pencils more in quality than they ever took away in quantity.

(Could you expand on your other unpublished comment, CN? My mind is a bit slow today and I don't quite get it.)

Unknown said...

Sorry Kid, I can't agree with your high regard for Vinnie - there is clear evidence that he continued to take numerous short cuts throughout his time working on the Thor strip, by opting to miss out inking characters, buildings & machinery which had been sketched by Jack to his usual high standards for the 60's. Also, many buildings were simplified into rectangles with horizontal & vertical lines to represent windows, where photostats of Jack's original pencils show wonderfully detailed structures. Vinnie short changed all of us fans - the Thor comics are still great, but they would have been equal to the pinnacle achieved with the Joe Sinnott inked Fantastic Four if a more faithful inker had been employed.

Colin Jones said...

I'm fine with Colletta's inks. Can I just mention the wonderfully absurd headgear that Kirby dreamed up for Odin - we see a couple of examples today :D

Kid said...

He did seem to take 'shortcuts', D, but I'm not convinced that, in every instance (and I think I've seen most if not all of them), he did it just to make things easier. I believe, in at least some of them, he was exercising an artistic sensibility, believing that a panel would look better if it was clearer. When you think about it, it can take just as much work to draw in detail to replace an omitted figure (amongst a crowd, not on the periphery) as it is to leave the figure in.

There's one panel where a group of people are running away from Loki, and Vince has removed a figure at the back of the group. The way Jack had composed it, the group looked as if they were running up a ramp (which wasn't Jack's intention), and they looked too small in relation to Loki. Vince removed the figure at the back, and the 'ramp' effect disappeared, and the space between the group and Loki looked far better.

As for Jack's buildings, he tended to draw every building like something from the '30s or '40s at a time when glass skyscrapers were springing up everywhere in New York. It's possible that Vince was following instructions from Stan to 'modernise' some of Jack's structures, but whether that was the case or not, I don't think Vince's 'glass' buildings detracted too much from the look of the strip. Especially as Jack often invented his own architecture (in an old-fashioned style) which resembled no building in existence.

So, even with the changes Vinnie instituted (and had Stan been unhappy with them, he'd have said so), I still think Vinnie's inks gave far more to Jack's pencils than they ever took away. He made JK's musculature and anatomy look more realistic in the main, and gave the strip a feathered, illustrative look that suited the subject, especially in the Tales Of Asgard strips. The only person who I think might have been better inking the strip is John Severin. Incidentally, when Bill Everett inked the strip, presumably being more faithful to the pencils, it took on a more 'cartoony' look and sales reputedly dipped.

Anyway, you feel free to disagree - I welcome all shades of opinion on this blog, not just ones which echo my own.


Odin needed to wear all those weird helmets, CJ, because he had an ever-changing oddly-shaped head.

Kid said...

CN, forgive me for being a serious thicko, but do you mean titles and characters different to the ones actually used (as in, they can't be included), or what? In fact, why not write it as a guest post and then it will be exactly right? Failing that, send me your email address (which I won't publish) so that I can pick your brains.

Phil S said...

Yes. The answer is no, Vinnie was not a good inker. He did give fur and wood a nice a scritchy scratchy tone, but his constant leaving things out and under use of spot blacks was too annoying. The question is did he enhance Kirby’s work or detract? Obviously the latter.
Now, Vinnie was not a bad artist. I’ve seen his pencils on romance comics and they are just fine.
As to why Jack never complained. Jack knew comics were a job. If he complained Vinnie would be out of work and since Jack grew up in the depose wasn’t going to get a man fired as long as the books were selling . And it’s true, Jack didn’t tend to read to published comics.

Kid said...

I suppose one man's meat is another man's poison, PS, because I don't know how you can look at the pages in this post and say they don't look good. When I look at the pages inked by Bill Everett, they may be more faithful to Jack's pencils, but to my eyes they don't look anywhere near as good as the one's Vinnie inked. Jack was a great visual storyteller, but his abstract anatomy needed toning down. That's why Jack inked by Wood, Sinnott, Colletta and a few others was usually always better than Jack undiluted.

Anonymous said...

When I first saw the Kirby/ Colletta Thor reprints in the mid 70s, I loved them, and later wished that Colletta was inking Kirby's Captain America instead of Giacoia. Now I see a talented individual who paid more attention to the page rate than to the art he was delineating. It could have been so much better. When I enlarged some of the art featured, the inking looked clumsy, rather than skilful. I loved the elaborate buildings Kirby came up with in the FF, and couldn't understand why such awful junior grade buildings appeared in Thor. All the top artists of the time fought tooth and nail NOT to be inked by Colletta (for example Toth and Adams), even writers did the same (Conway on Thor). And yet, and yet.... some lovely comics appeared with Colletta's byline. I loved his inking on John Buscema on the Avengers and Thor, and on Colan in Daredevil. His inks added a very soft, far away romantic feel. Stan used him more or less judiciously, felt his style right for Thor, but wrong for the FF.
By the way I too was jarred by Everett's inks on Thor, but by then Kirby's art had changed (in my humble opinion Kirby was at his peak from '65 to '67). A great example of Everett inking Kirby, very successfully and better than Colletta, would be Thor #143, cover dated August '67. The worst combination for Kirby on Thor was with George Klein, which was such a pity as Klein did brilliant work on Buscema on the Avengers, on Swan over at DC, and of course on Kirby himself, on FF's # 1 & 2.
Spirit of '64

Kid said...

Thor #143 is a bit of a mix of Everett and Colletta, S64. Colletta started it, inking a few panels (or parts of them), but Everett finished most of it. Like you, I liked Colletta on Buscema's Thor, and I thought he did a great job of inking Colan's Sub-Mariner. His style didn't suit every artist of course, and he could have put a bit more effort in on occasion, but I still feel that his inks suited Kirby's art because he made the musculature more realistic. I even liked his turn on the FF, though I admit that he should have used a stronger outline in some instances.

McSCOTTY said...

I am not a fan of Vince Colletta’s inking at all, but I do agree with you that his work suited Kirby’s pencils on Thor. However, I do not agree that he enhanced Robbins art his inks on Franks pencils were woeful on Captain America. His work with Colan on DD was pretty good though.

Kid said...

I'm not sure he could've won inking Robbins though, McS. After all, Frankie boy's style was controversial in itself, regardless of who was inking him. Some people would've said that it was the worst penciller and the worst inker combined. (Not me though.)

Anonymous said...

Colletta I believe also had a photographic studio, so inking was not his only line of work. Given his output, and speed, he must have used many assistants. Some of the clumsiness I see may be the hand of the assistants he was using....assuming that he did use assistants! In the Atlas days it seems Matt Baker and Joe Sinnott worked for his studio!! In general I liked his 60s and early 70s Marvel work, but little of anything he did at DC. Apparently his page rate inking Kirby's New Gods was very, very low ( at least for a DC comic, although it may have still been comparable to a Marvel page).
Re showing Kirby's New Gods over at Marvel: the New Gods was very hush hush at DC, and many of the DC editors were excluding from being told what Kirby was doing. So its really funny that lots of the pages were photostated and pinned up in the Marvel offices! I don't think that Colletta showing round the pages was quite as innocent as you make it out to be....
One artistic combination that worked (and that I forgot to mention previously) was the Tuska-Colletta combination on Iron Man, and another example of a top pro being very anti-Colletta was Ditko, who I recall reading somewhere lobbied (unsuccessfully) against using Colletta on Thor.
Keep up the great blog.
Spirit of '64

Anonymous said...

I recall being in a group at school deriding Robbins' I like it. Robbins of course was of the Caniff school, as were Kirby and Romita. Today I particularly admire the Robbins-Springer combination on the Invaders. One thing I don't understand is why Marvel only used him as an artist. His early 70s Batman stories were excellent!
Spirit of '64

McSCOTTY said...

Both are obviously talented artists although for me Robbins is the more underrated of the two . Over the years I have really come to appreciate his work

Kid said...

I'd imagine that Colletta was professional enough to know that Jack wouldn't have liked him allowing his pages to be photocopied and pasted around the Marvel offices, and smart enough to know that it would have cost him the inking job, so perhaps he was unaware of it happening. Perhaps while he was grabbing a sandwich down the hall, someone was going into his 'portfolio' case and photocopying the pages that he'd innocently shown them earlier?

Pure speculation on my part of course, but the alternative seems just so thoroughly unprofessional that I don't like to think Vince was capable of such a thing. As to the inking rates at DC, apparently Jack was getting a slightly higher than normal rate so it may be that DC tried to claw back some of the money on the inking side. Vince believed in only putting in as much work as he thought the page rate warranted, and I believe he did use assistants, mainly on backgrounds.

I remember liking Frank Robbins work on Batman, though I wasn't particularly a fan of The Invaders. Nothing to do with the writing or drawing (regardless of whoever was doing it), but the concept didn't particularly grab me for some reason.

Keep on enjoying the blog.


He was a good visual storyteller, McS, and his 'style' was never a problem for me. As I said above, I liked his Batman stories, which were always entertaining. I'll have to grab a few more back issues when I can.

Dave S said...

I'm not a Colletta fan at all, but I find that his work is rarely as bad as some people make it out to be. It's often not great and somewhat rushed looking, but never really awful, in my opinion.

I recall reading a story about an inker renowned for taking shortcuts (I can't remember if it was VC or someone else) who inked a western story with a splash page showing an aerial view of a massive army of men and horses charging toward the reader.

The pencilled was shocked to see the published comic as, rather than ink all the intricate detail on the page, the inker had just drawn a huge hill covering up most of the army!

Kid said...

Great story, DS - I'd love to know who it was. Of course, some pencillers would do the same when they saw detailed descriptions of crowds in the script. And who could blame them (writer aside)?!

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