Jul 9, 2010

Colletta Inks Part II

Here are a few more examples of before & after scans of Kirby/Colletta artwork from TwoMorrows new book on Kirby inker Vince Colletta called The Thin Black Line. Vince Colletta: Comics’ Most Controversial Inker, by Robert L. Bryant Jr. The first two scans appear on page 52 of the book, and the third is one of my scans from the published comic book. The art is from Mighty Thor # 152 (May 1968), pg. 4. panels 3 - 4.

The first thing I want to point out is that I don't think that black and white scan is a fair example of the finished artwork. In the published version you can see details such as the lines underneath Thor's eye, so in many respects this comparison is a little unfair to Colletta. I understand the TwoMorrows book is in B/W so printing the published color version is not an option, but I think using the higher-quality color artwork is much more accurate.

Comparisons I:
As you can see, Colletta does a good job on Thor's face. It's solid and professional inking.
But, when we look at the background details we have to ask ourselves: Why did Colletta make those changes to Jack's buildings? Was it because Vince felt Jack's architecture was too complex, and too busy? Did Colletta feel Jack's unique version of NYC wasn't modern enough or aesthetically dynamic? I suspect Colletta made these fairly arbitrary decisions because he was in a hurry -- drawing a very simple checkerboard grid would take much less time than delineating the tiny, intricate details of Jack's cityscape.

Comparisons II:
A classic example of a cosmic Kirby outer space scene. Vince captures the basic composition of the image, but you can see he has obscured much of Jack's original pencils with black. Again we have to ask ourselves: Why? Did Colletta feel that Jack's version of the cosmos was too bright and explosive, and what was called for was more darkness to give the image contrast? Did Colletta feel Jack's depiction of the universe was unrealistic and needed to be changed? I suspect Vinnie made the changes for the same reason he changed the architecture -- he was in a hurry to finish this piece as quickly as possible.

Comparisons III:

Here is a perfect example of how Colletta was able to save time. First of all, notice there are at least 15 white circles that I can count just from this excerpt of the entire image. In order to do a professional job inking those circles, Vinnie would have had to use a circle template, and that takes time. It also takes precision to ink a perfect circle, especially if it is white where there is no room for error. Instead, Vinnie decided to obscure all of the white circles in black.

Also note the rainbow bridge. In order to connect the lines of the bridge, Colletta would have needed to use a curve template and make sure the lines connected perfectly. This is also something that takes, skill, patience, and precision. Instead, Colletta does not connect the lines as Jack had done in his original pencils. In fact, Colletta's curves are so imprecise, he would not have been able to connect the lines if he had tried. No offense to Vinnie or his editor Stan Lee, but this is something that would not get a passing grade in a Freshman level drafting class, so I find myself baffled when I see a professional of his calibre turning in this kind of sloppy work.

Comparisons IV:

Here's a final close-up. You be the judge as to whether you think Colletta eliminated all of those details because he felt Kirby's original pencils were flawed, and his random elimination of details improved Jack's artwork; or do you think aesthetics had nothing to do with Colletta's decision-making and obscuring all of those cosmic circles was done in order to finish inking this page as quickly as possible.