Farming out the inking chores, pt. 1

It’s all Vince Colletta’s fault.

Vince Colletta, if the name doesn’t ring a bell, was a prolific inker for Marvel and DC Comics from the 1950s through to his death in 1991. He was known for inking heavyweights like Jack Kirby (Fantastic Four, Thor, New Gods), inking ridiculously thick mascara on the ladies and inking a comic in a ridiculously short amount of time. Most industry professionals agree that Colletta wasn’t necessarily great… but he was fast. And in an industry where keeping deadlines were more important than quality work, Colletta was an MVP. Love him or hate him, everyone would agree he left an indelible mark on comics’ Silver Age.

Darlene and I are on opposite sides of the Vinnie Colletta coin: for as much as I don’t care for his work, Darlene loves it. She loves the pen work and the trademark mascara. And for Christmas she got me his biography, “The Thin Black Line.” On Christmas Day, we took to reading full chapters out loud to each other. Story time!

On to today’s Cool Jerk. I’d been suggesting to Darlene that she could ink one of my strips sometime, and the one I had planned for today was a stand-alone based on Darlene’s idea of “Die-Fi™,” the next generation of wireless communication. I learned that Colletta primarily used pens instead of brushes, so I penciled up the strip, gave Darlene a handful of Micron pens and told her to “have at it.” My only stipulation was that she couldn’t erase parts she didn’t want to ink (a controversial habit practiced by Colletta, much to the chagrin of the artists whose work went to Colletta).

As you can see from my pencils, (above), I added some notes to the margins a la Jack Kirby. I normally don’t do that, because I’m always my own inker. And in stark contrast to Vince Colletta, Darlene added elements (birds, cupcake logos on MacBook, butterfly onto Betty’s sweater, Jolly Roger logo on the iPad, feet to the chair legs). In fact, in a test panel, she had Archie listening to The Smiths (a no-no, since the first panel was supposed to represent 1950s).

Darlene declined to give me a proper interview about her inking process, but here are a couple of Tweets from yesterday:

Inking for @cooljerk today should be interesting. I’ll be the Vince Colletta to his Jack Kirby.

Problem #1 for inking for Sgt. Paul: he will *not* let me use my favorite purple Sharpie pen to ink his pencils. Can you say wet towel?

My downfall while inking seems to be hands. And arms. And faces. But I do really good mountains.

In addition, I’m having a problem with this panel with the exploding head. Thinking of drawing butterflies instead.

I’m actually pretty happy with the end result — not bad at all for a never-inked-before inker. I only slightly touched up spots here and there where Darlene’s lines “jumped” the panel or she misread my pencils (like the shorthand “X” in spots that tells the inker “solid black here, please”).

Let’s give her a nice round of applause, and we’ll see how she does with a Sunday-sized strip!

  1. justJENN says:

    Wherever there is Puppy, there is birds. Stay away from me Puppy.

  2. Snooki says:

    Nobody drew sexy girls like Vinnie Colletta either before or since. So what did you think of The Thin Black Line? I feel that it really humanized him and illustrated how important a figure he was in the comic book industry. A more in-depth bio would be wonderful, especially if it included Colletta’s best artwork.

  3. The Other Kim says:

    Yay, Darlene! Better than what I could do!

  4. Our Man Horn says:

    @justJENN: Ha! I deliberately left out birds just because of your sensitivity… but D decided to add them! =:^P

    @Snooki: His women were certainly distinctive. I agree that he was important to the industry and he did have his “good days.” A line in the book sums up the anti-Colletta arguments — if he only inked middle-of-the-road pencilers, I don’t think there’d be an uproar. The book works as a critical argument; it’s no fawning puffpiece, certainly.

    @The Other Kim: Now I gotta school her on brushwork!

  5. Mike says:

    Vinnie Colletta was one of my favorite comic book artists although I have never been a defender of his. Fans who hate him won’t see the beauty of his pen work or accept that his role was to get other people’s late jobs done on time so why bother? The dude was great, IMO.


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