Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Vinnie Colletta Redux

This one arrived this morning in the old email from the on-line pen of The Former DC Staffer. I used to chuckle when anyone would even mention Vinnie Colletta's name. That stopped when Don Perlin asked me years ago, "What are you laughing at?" when I chuckled once too often at Don talking about Vinnie. When I simply replied, "Vinnie," he berated me for being rude and proceeded to tell me all about Vinnie's positive qualities. That quite rightly made me feel very small and silly and I spent quite a while learning about the man - sure he was a hack at times, so what? Loads of others were as well, artists and writers, some who are now world renown and considered to be giants in their fields. It's just a shame that many people, like Mark Evanier (who I have a deep respect for by the way), can't get past the corners Colletta cut when he inked Jack Kirby, and I can understand that - there's that (in)famous Fantastic Four panel where you can see entire characters that Colletta merely erased instead of inking. However I'm sure that you can point people towards a bad story by anyone and say, "There! See? He was a hack!" Personal bias is a bitch and we're all guilty of it, same as anyone who writes or draws for money is probably just as guilty of professional hackery at some point in their career. Believe me, if I could go and buy up every copy of the late IT Magazine that featured my work (and let's face it, virtually all of them did) and burn them then I would. Out of nearly 70 articles I wrote for them I can bear to live with a mere handful at best, and a fair few of the remaining articles were hacked out for the money alone. It'd be nice if others could be so honest with their past work.

When anyone says Vinnie Colletta was worst artist to ever ply his wares in an American comic book I always point them towards a Dell book titled 'Dracula: The Super Non-Vampire' produced in the '60s. The art there would make you retch, I kid you not! One day I'll scan some of it just so you can see how bad it was. And trust me on this, in this case the cover was the best thing about the book. Come to think of it a lot of the Dell 'superhero/horror' stuff wasn't much more than total wastes of paper.

Now, over The Former DC Staffer!
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In the late 70s a friend managed to get us an interview at DC Comics. We were young and had our sample pages but I knew we were a long way from being accepted as artists. Still to go to the offices in NYC was cause for excitement. We would be meeting with Vinnie Colletta.

Colletta has been ridiculed for many years in and out of the comics industry for his rushed inks and shortcuts. Since the birth of the Internet, as a mass consumer information tool, fanboys with no qualifications for professional review have used Colletta as a means to generate controversy with harsh commentary all revolving around the word hack. These fanboys all seem to have forgotten Colletta’s run on Thor, Sub-Mariner and the New Gods, to name a few.

In the DC offices that day we waited until we were ushered into Colletta’s office. There were pages everywhere on the two art tables in the small space. Colletta welcomed us and after a little chat we showed him our work. You immediately knew that Colletta was an informed artist and great instructor. He was having the time of his life and he wanted to share that feeling with you. He let us know right away that we weren’t ready but saw no reason why we couldn’t be as good as Jim Starlin. As if on cue Starlin walked into the office. I was stunned. I remember him wearing a black turtleneck sweater and silver medallion looking very cool and too-hip-for-the-room. Starlin is one of my idols and meeting him was an unexpected bonus. Colletta ended the talk by asking us if we had any original comic art to review and learn from. We both said no and out of his portfolio Colletta signs and gives us two pages from Wonder Woman.

I studied that page and did learn from it.

Many years later I was in the Marvel offices and there was Colletta. He looked older but he was happily talking about comics and art with the same enthusiasm I remembered. He was clearly still having the time of his life. It was the last time I saw him. When he passed I was saddened and surprised that not more was said about the positive contributions he made to the art form.

Vinnie Colletta deserves better than what he’s received of late. It may not have always been good but he was there for us month after month and when he was good we enjoyed it and looked forward to more.

And he made sure we got it.

3 comments:

Don Hudson said...

I met Vince Colletta as an intern for Marvel in 1983 and he was working at the drawing table. I was so impressed! He was a working professional and I was a skinny high school kid. As I learned more as an artist, I was disappointed at how much he left out for the sake of speed.

He does deserve more credit for the work he did. He was making a living like all of us. But his talent hit a ceiling. I'm not the only one who would say that.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, but a least you said it with some class.

FDCS

Anonymous said...

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

-Stan