Jul 9, 2010

Colletta Inks Part I

Thor # 154 (Jul 1968) page 12, panels 1 - 2

TwoMorrows is publishing a new book on Kirby inker Vince Colletta called The Thin Black Line. Vince Colletta: Comics’ Most Controversial Inker, by Robert L. Bryant Jr. You can check out a preview on the TwoMorrows website.

Colletta is famous for omitting many of the details from Jack's artwork and simplifying cityscapes and outer space skyscapes. The first two images above are featured on page 42 of the new book, and were originally published in Thor # 154 (1968). The first image is a xerox of Jack's original pencils, the second appears to be a stat or a scan from one of the Essentials books, and I also included a scan from the published comic book so you can see how that looks.

If you notice, the black and white stat has more details than the color scan. For example, note how the lines of the clothing in the fleeing pedestrians are gone in the published version. My biggest question about Colletta has always been: why didn't Vinnie ever look at a published comic book and notice his very thin linework was completely lost in production? I also think that black and white scan is a little splotchy, and I wish TwoMorrows had published a scan of the published book for comparison because I think that would have been a more accurate depiction of the original Kirby pencils versus what was published (but I understand the publication is in black and white). Below is a side-by-side comparison of the pencils vs. published version of two legendary panels with the missing pedestrians.

Side-by-side comparisons I:

As you can see in the red circle the male onlooker behind Loki has been eliminated from the composition. Also notice instead of drawing lines on the suit of the pedestrian on the left, Colletta made the suit all black, plus Vince simplified the brickwork behind him. In many respects, these alterations could be considered minor, but they do change the dynamics of the image -- it no longer looks like Loki in the middle of a crowd, now he appears to be emerging from a dark alley.

Side-by-side comparisons II:

Colletta has eliminated a figure who fell on the ground (red circle). Also note how he has simplified the skyline (green circle). Notice the speed lines under Loki's arms are gone, and details such as the long squiggle on the left arm and the end of the pony tail have been eliminated. Again, this takes away from Jack's original composition which was designed to give you the sense that you are in a bustling, electric, crowded NYC boulevard where people and buildings are all packed on top of one another, and the crowd has to climb ontop of one another to flee. Colletta's interpretation creates a huge blank space in front of Loki and above the crowd.

It could be argued that these changes were based on a conscious decision by Vince Colletta to improve Jack's artwork. Vince may have felt that a smaller crowd and simplified buildings would be a much better way to depict Kirby's NYC. But I don't think this is the case -- I think these omissions were based on Colletta rushing to complete this assignment as fast as possible, and simplifying details and erasing figures helped to save tremendous time.

Hopefully the new Colletta book will give us some historical background and we will learn why Vince made these kinds of changes to Jack Kirby's artwork. I'll discuss one more example from the upcoming book tomorrow.