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Alfredo Alcala

Vince Colletta

hat can you say about a universally recognized disaster? Probably not something positive and that is the real problem when discussing Vince Colletta; everyone pretty much agrees that he was the worst inker they ever saw. Colletta was notorious for erasing parts of panels that he didn't have enough time to ink; unimportant parts, like the entire background or a figure or two with no dialog. But my real problem with Colletta was not what he took out (though that was a real problem for sure), but what he did with what he left in. He did very little. If it was possible to suck the life out of a drawing, Vinnie Colletta knew how to do it. From vacant eyes to nondescript muscles, to flat uninspired backgrounds, Vinnie seemed to know every trick of the trade to leave the penciler's efforts gasping for a breath. 

Colletta only darkened Don's pencils once, in World's Finest #259, Colletta's inks on the second half of a 19-page Green Arrow/Hawkman strip, "Stake Out Earth" are as bad as anything I've ever seen done to Don's pencils, just a true crime.

One would think there is not much more to say about poor, pathetic Vince Colletta, but I think there is more. For instance: how the hell can a guy with seemingly absolutely zero talent spend his life inking comics? How did he even get into the business, much less become one of the most prolific inkers of all time? Why was this guy never given the bum's rush? "Here's the exit door. Thank you very much Mr. Colletta. Don't let it hit you in the ass on your way out!" Looking at the man's work, something of this nature seems to be what he deserved. But did he deserve it?

I love going to the San Diego ComicCon every year. I go mainly to sit in a fairly small room and listen to Mark Evanier interview the great artists and writers of the golden and silver ages of comics. Nobody does it better than Mark, but at least once or twice a day, as he is talking to an artist, something akin to the following will be said:

Mark: "So, <fill in the blank with your favorite artist>, how did you feel about the quality of the inkers you had at <fill in DC or Marvel>?"

Artist: "Hey I worked with some great people, really talented guys. But there was this one guy.."

Mark: "Say no more, you can leave him nameless. After all, we all know you're talking about..."

Everyone In the Room: "Vince Colletta!"

Yeah, the notorious Vinnie! But you know what? Colletta didn't start out to be a hack. He never was a great artist, but he certainly could ink a whole lot better than he did on the majority of his work from the mid-60's on. The editors at DC and Marvel turned Colletta into a hack by accepting just about anything he delivered. Hey, if you could spend an hour inking a page or a day inking a page and you got paid the same amount and no matter what you turned in you still got more work? You might just "settle" for the work you could do in an hour too and start planning your retirement. The bastardization of Vinnie Colletta wasn't a one-sided thing. If DC and Marvel had said, "Hey Vinnie, this is unacceptable, shoddy work and we aren't going to pay you for delivering crap," Vinnie would have put more time and effort in the work. When Vinnie tried, he could do some interesting inks, he just stopped trying when he realized he had carte blanche to do as little a possible.

But this begs the question, could Vinnie actually ink? Yeah, he could and he could pencil too. Take a gander to my right. I know it's hard to believe, but his is the work of Vinnie Colletta. Look! Detail in the backgrounds!  Flowing form in the women's hair! Depth in the inks! If you go back an look at work Vinnie did during his "infamous" period, you can see glimpses of this here and there, just not very often. I know that many times I would look at a certain aspects of a cover and think, "nice work" and then look at the faces and figures and realize it was Colletta and the "overall" impression was always really bad. But someone, or someones told Vinnie it was "OK" to turn in crap and pull a paycheck, and those editors ought to be ashamed. 

No, I am not relieving Vince Colletta of his responsibility to turn in decent work; he should have cared about the quality of the work he did. And he apparently did not.

Copyright 1998-2015 The Art of Don Newton
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