The wit and wisdom of Vinnie Colletta

200704301015 The wit and wisdom of Vinnie CollettaVinnie Colletta is a legendary name in comic book circles — legendary because he could be one of the worst inkers in the biz, but kept getting work becuase he was fast and reliable and had some powerful friends — including one time Marvel E-I-C- Jm Shooter. When Shooter left Marvel, Colletta found his employment opportunities considerably lessened, which leads to the letter reproduced at 20th Century Danny Boy:

You are the droppings of the creative world. You were destined to float the cesspool till urine logged and finally sink to the bottom with the rest of the shit but along came Jim Shooter who rolled up his sleeves and rescued you.

He gave you a title, respectability, power and even a credit card that you used and abused. He made you the highest payed Editors in the history of the business. He protected you against all that would tamper with your rights, your power and your pocketbook.

He backed you against all Prima Donna free lancers no matter how big. his pockets were always open to you. No cry of help was too small for him to turn his back on.

As heard in the “Brass: section of the company. “He never asked for anything for himself.always for his men.”

The roof over your head, the clothes on your back, the car you drive and the trinkets you buy for your blind wives and girlfriends you owe to the Pittsburgh kid.


The link contains much more on Colletta and the-then politics of Marvel in the early 80s, including a transcript of a conversation that was probably private, but what the heck after 25 years the Freedom of Information act applies.

The blog link in question also links to Christopher Priest’s thoughts on his more or less contemporaneous time at Marvel editing the Spider-man line, a time which was not a happy one for him. Priest doesn’t like pullquotes, but it’s worth reading as well.

We’d all like to be heroes of our own stories, and it’s hard to tell the story of when you were a chimp.

Comments

  1. Peter Sanderson says:

    The online publication of the Colletta letter should serve as a warning. Between news blogs and the increasing media and academic interest in comics, all the behind the scenes stories about the comics business will eventually become public. Bad behavior will sooner or later come to light.

  2. I am one of the legion who disliked Coletta’s art style with a passion, but I have always recognized that he was the go-to inker for a book that needed to be done on time for printing. If the book needed to be done in time for the printer, Colletta could usually be counted on to get the job done. On the other hand, I get emotionally upset whenever I read the early Thor tales he worked on with Jack Kirby.

  3. @Sleestak

    True, erasing the pencils of a revered figure like Kirby is sacrilege, but at the time comics were considered a lowly artform that was as disposable as yesterday’s newspapers.

    It’s worth following the link and reading the transcript of Colleta’s phone conversation. It’s rare to find the office politics of a popular institution laid bare in such a fashion.

  4. Kyle worked as Vinnie Colleta’s assistant back in those days. Kyle is on deadline right now, but I will say Vinnie Colleta made quite the impression on my husband as a young man. But it was Colleta that trained Kyle to work quickly and efficiently, using a timer and a set amount of time for each panel. This ultimately proved to be an extremely valuable skill. Kyle also told me a lot of juicy Vinnie Colleta stories; maybe he’ll blog about it at some point.

  5. I’m going to go out on a limb here and proclaim that I’m one of only eight known people in the western hemisphere who actually *like* Colleta’s work on Kirby. That is to say, I think Thor had a great look, despite the horrific, apocolyptic insanity of VC actually erasing some of Kirby’s hallowed pancils. I think that Colleta’s hatching effects added an otherworldly softness and illustrative quality that really fit the Thor world well.

    So shoot me. :P

  6. Hmm… What’s a “pancil”? I’ll bet I meant “pencil”…

  7. Dave Gibbons says:

    I’ve got a lot of respect for Coletta’s work ethic and I can remember when his inking on early “Tales Of Asgard” was hailed as an artistic breakthrough.

    However, talking of interviews and transcripts, I was once moved to channel his *perceived* persona over at

    http://www.comicon.com/moore/7_interview_dashing.htm

  8. R. Maheras says:

    I guess the best way to sum up (for me) Colletta’s inks on Kirby’s work is that it was transparent to me when I was a young Marvel Zombie and didn’t know any better. However, once I became more savvy, and learned how the comics industry sausage was made, Colletta’s inks became much more problematic for me.

    That being said, he, and other slop-ink speedsters like George Roussos, probably saved Stan Lee’s butt on deadline many, many times.

    Of all of Kirby’s inkers, I can’t truthfully say Colletta was “the worst.” I can, however, quickly name about a dozen inkers who did a more attractive, effective job inking Kirby, in my opinion.

  9. Billy Taylor says:

    One comment that I would like to make regarding inkers who erase some of the pencillers work: Many illustrators are prima donnas and cry when anyone dares to make changes to their work. If the average comic book fan could see some of the excesses originally pencilled in by the Kirbys, etc. of the art world they would be thankful, indeed, that an inker stepped in and got rid of some of the clutter. Why do you think that most pencillers were not allowed to ink their own panels? Be thoughtful. Think.

  10. Fred Hemmingway says:

    Vince Colletta’s go-for-broke honesty is remarkable in a world where most people are afraid to say “boo” for fear of being criticized or, worse, fired. Colletta is a great example of a bygone era where men were men and stood up for their beliefs.

  11. “If the average comic book fan could see some of the excesses originally pencilled in by the Kirbys, etc. of the art world they would be thankful, indeed, that an inker stepped in and got rid of some of the clutter…” Nice try, but no, Coletta did not magically know to erase only the “right” background images – he just erased everything in a mad dash for the deadline.

    That’s mainly why this unabashed hack was used, and even then only as a last resort when something had gone horribly wrong. He was the “hitman” that sometimes had to called in at the last moment to take care of the dirty work, even though you didn’t really want to.

    Sure, he was steadily employed by the bosses in the organization because he got the job done, but it wasn’t a pretty sight, my friend. Better you should maybe go out and look at some nice flowers outside in the park or somethin’ – capice?

  12. mike rockwitz says:

    I worked with Vinnie on the classic New Universe series, Justice and a few other stinkers. During this time of growth in Marvel’s history, when Jim Shooter would lurk in your doorway and say, “Give the book to Vinnie” you didn’t have much choice. Most of the good artists fled Marvel for DC during the end of Shooter’s regime. Vinnie was quite a character, sure he erased backgrounds but in the grand scheme of things did it matter? Maybe he inspired the background-less hacks like Liefeld and his ilk in the 90s. A lot of shit has been said about Vinnie once he left this mortal coil. Everyone gets pretty brave sitting behind a computer. No one would ever say any of this shit to his face-he was about 5 foot 7 on a good day and built like a bull in his 60s!!! In this day and age of whiny bitch ass artists, we could use a few more pros like Vinnie. It is a BUSINESS to sell books not hang this shit in a museum. I remember the day that letter came into the Marvel offices. It was Vinnie being Vinnie-you bunch of yellow, prickless…

  13. Gordon 'Kid' Robson says:

    Wow…some of these exchanges get a little personal, eh? Jack Kirby deserves everything good ever said about him, but this ‘deification’ of every pencil stroke he ever rendered takes things a little too far. In my humble opinion, magnificent as Kirby’s pencils were, Kirby art as inked by Wood, Sinnott, Ayers and, yes, even Colletta, was nicer to look at than Kirby inked by himself or printed directly from the pencils. It’s interesting to note that, in the couple of instances I’ve seen where Kirby inked himself, to me, the end result does not seem too disimilar to that of Colletta. Speaking as someone who re-inked and restored a few pages of Kirby’s art for a couple of the Marvel Masterwork volumes, when some of the ‘abstractness’ of Jack’s work was diluted or subdued by another hand (and I’m NOT talking about the pages I worked on), the end result was the better for it. Colletta made Jack’s musculature on THOR actually believable, so, on balance, he gave it far more than he took away from it. Certainly, when I read the THOR tales in high quality black and white reproduction in the pages of FANTASTIC (a British publication) back in the 60s, I did not feel I was viewing ‘second-rate’ art. Feel free to disagree, but please…no vitriol.

  14. Put me in the “I Love Vinnie” camp. Both his art work and his integrity.

  15. Robert Basile says:

    People like sleestak and gauthier are hateful people who pollute these sites with nasty comments and stupid opinions.

    Regarding the Vince Colletta letter, haven’t seen anything like it since and it’s been how many years? I’m sure plenty of artists have been screwed by editors. How do they handle things these days?

  16. James Van Hise says:

    Someone talked about how Vince Colletta would take advantage of his friendship with Jim Shooter by turning in unfinished work and telling them to have staffers finish it. He did this once on a job penciled by Bret Blevins but claimed his own poor inking was the penciler’s fault! Shooter accepted this and had someone else finish it and Marvel deducted a thousand dollars from Bret Blevin’s payment for the job (he didn’t find this out until he got the check as no one ever called him to claim what he’d turned in was incomplete or unprofessional). Bret goes to Comicon every year. Ask him what he thought of Vince Colletta and how Colletta took advantage of his position at Marvel while Bret was just starting out in comics in the 1980s.

  17. fatboyskinny says:

    I have read this James Van Hise “fantasy story” about Blevins at least twenty times. Get a freaking life, James.

    It has been pointed out to you that Blevins turned in layouts, not complete pencils.

    You ask us to ask Bret about this but I have never heard the story told by Bret, just by you. Did I already say “Get a freaking life, James?”

  18. fatboyskinny says:

    I have seen the “art” of Ed Gauthier. I would provide you with a good belly-laugh if I could publish a scan here. The nerve that some talentless people have criticizing professional artists is almost criminal. I urge you to find some Ed Gauthier drawings and hold them up next to Colletta’s. Like comparing a kindergarden crayon scribble with, well, a professionally done piece of art.

  19. fatboyskinny: “Like comparing a kindergarden crayon scribble with, well, a professionally done piece of art.”

    Yes, and COLLETTA’S would be the crayon scribble!

Trackbacks

  1. […] I’ll be damned if I know what to make of this transcription of a phone conversation with late comic-book inker Vince Colletta, recorded shortly after editor-in-chief Jim Shooter was fired from Marvel and Colletta found himself out of favor with replacement EiC Tom DeFalco, let alone the fuming-from-the-ears letter reproduced at the link (excerpted above), but they’re entertaining as all hell. (Link via Heidi MacDonald.) […]

  2. Reck says:

    effective book reading skill…

    Thanks for the information, love it….

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