Friday, July 16, 2010

Vince Colletta

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.

While Vince Colletta made his mark in the Silver Age as Marvel Comics most prolific and reliable inker, his work stands as a contentious issue for discussion. In my humble opinion, his Silver Age work on Thor diminished the explosive and dynamic pencils of Jack Kirby. I always felt that Kirby’s art looked best under the more faithful inkings of Joe Sinnott and Chic Stone. Colletta’s inks always seemed to impose its own style rather than embellish the style of the penciller.

“But Colletta was a hack.
 Vinnie erased background figures and simplified backgrounds and turned fully realized drawings into silhouettes. I have quite a few pages of original art from Kirby’s run on “Thor” and Vinnie erased or whited out incidental figures or details frequently -- in one case, Vinnie whited out an entire train.
 Like all artists, Vinnie was paid by the page, and Vinnie was paid poorly. There were no royalties or reprint money -- the original art was not returned, so there was no incentive to do good work. 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.”
 The real tragedy of Colletta was not that he was a hack, but rather that he turned others into hacks. Pencillers who had been putting in long hours at the drawing board and who were appalled to have their work butchered would start cutting corners themselves. Often it resulted in them slacking off because, as they'd say, "Vinnie will just ruin it anyway."

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. I recall dreading seeing his name anywhere in the credits of a comic book.

Amazing Spider-Man #290-291, the famous Peter Parker-Mary Jane proposal issues, featured art by John Romita Jr. with inks by Colletta. It’s hard to tell without Romita Jr’s original pencils, but the finished product is not pleasant to the eyes. You can see Romita Jr’s art trying to escape from under Colletta’s heavy, confining inks. These issues seem like a bit of a rush job though as the backgrounds are rather light.

Similarly for Web of Spider-Man #17 featuring art from up and coming penciller Marc Silvestri. Colletta’s inks make Silvestri’s art style almost impossible to recognize.

Colletta was always a loyal company man and a good friend to Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter. When Shooter made his less than graceful exit from Marvel Comics, Colletta left with him and left this scathing note:

TwoMorrows Publishing has released a tell-all book about Vince Colletta by Robert L. Bryant Jr.  You can download a full chapter preview of the book here:

For more information on Robert Bryant Jr.’s book, check it out here:


  1. 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.

  2. Hey liquidwater, fair enough. Colletta's early work on the Atlas/Marvel Romance books was quite good as well, especially the ladies.

  3. That letter is amazing.

    I associate Jim Shooter with the Golden Age of my comic book collecting (specifically Marvel) from 1980-86. Marvel was cohesive, exciting and the books were NEVER LATE, which seemed only natural back then but seems incredible given the past decade of late issues and entire storylines vanishing.

    So basically, I really want to like him, but different stories on the net keep having me flip-flopping. Most recently there was a post about Shooter on ("Shooter in the foot") that was very interesting, and a while back I read a great essay on Priest's blog,, about his time as editor of the Spidey titles (as Jim Owlsley). It's a candid look at his time on that job, where editors perceived as getting along with Shooter were often looked upon with contempt. Also very interesting.

    My memories of Vince Coletta are mainly his work with George Perez on Avengers (before Pablo Marcos, who was AMAZING) and an old Bullpen Bulletins where Shooter interviews him. If I recall, a lot of it was about his belief in professionalism and meeting deadlines. No mention of erasing pencils, naturally. That's pretty scandalous stuff.

    Thanks for the interesting post. As always, it's been fun visiting this site.

  4. Hey dhole, thanks for the comment. Glad you get a kick out of visit my blog. Thanks for the support.

  5. Who knows how many pencillers I've wrongly assumed "weren't good back then" or "are only good when they have a good inker" because of terrible inks like that.

  6. yeah there are some pretty infamous examples of him erasing stuff on kirby's pencils, presumably to save time. that said, i actually thought the overall artwork on the lee/kirby/colletta thor run was actually pretty good. but when it comes to inking kibry, he sure as hell as was no joe sinnot.



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