Friday, March 5, 2010

Who Is The Artist?

I was sorting through my comics and flicked through this one when I came across it: First Kiss 4 (Charlton, July 1958). The content of the cover, by Jon D'Agostino, has no connection with any of the stories in the book. Nothing particularly unusual there! The first couple of stories did make me stop and look at them more closely. They reminded me of work that I've assumed was by Vince Colletta, although the inking seemed light, even for him. So I've scanned them both (only 5 pages each) so that you all can take a look at them and tell me what you think. Are they Colletta pencils, inks, both, neither?

The first story, "Party Girl" - is standard romance comic fare - the girl who loves to party isn't considered a contender for a serious relationship, certainly not marriage. [I'm sure I've seen that last panel on page 4 on a Colletta Atlas romance cover! Something very like it anyway.] When the hard truth hits home, it's time for Barney to come forward and reveal the feelings he's had for Dory all along!

"Made for Romance" is a career girl romance. Pam Foster works in advertising, and is good at her job. Allan Kane, an artist for the company, thinks glamor is the future of advertising, and wonders how plain Pam made it so big in the business. Enter the boss's son, Harry, and of course Pam falls for him although he apparently doesn't notice her, because she's not glamorous! Allan organizes a complete makeover for Pam. It takes a week, but it appears it was worth it. Personally I thought Pam was pretty fine in the first place, but there you go. But all the effort was for nothing - Harry announces he's getting married. The strange thing is, now Pam doesn't care. That week doing the makeover with Allan has done something special for both of them. So all's well that ends well.

For comparison, I'm adding a panel from Gorgo 8 (Charlton, August 1962) that was definitely drawn by Joe Sinnott and inked by Vince Colletta or someone in the Colletta Shop (this information was provided to me by Ramon Schenck, who had access to Joe Sinnott's notebook via his contacts with Joe's family). I see similarity between this Gorgo panel and the second panel on page 3 of the "Made for Romance" story above. Note the angle of the man's head in his approach to the woman to kiss her, his jaw line, the way the ears are drawn, and his lowered eyelids. I've added this to support Apocolyte's suggestion in the comments below, that these stories could be examples of Joe Sinnott pencils with very rushed Colletta or Colletta Shop inking. John Lustig ("Last Kiss") also provided detailed information in the comments below, establishing that the work was fully Colletta Shop, adding that Joe Sinnott did work for the Studio. Here's that panel from the story above as well, for ease of comparison. If this identification is correct, the Gorgo panel gives a hint of what these two First Kiss stories could have looked like.
I love Hal's optimism there in the Gorgo 8 panel.


  1. Certainly looks like Colletta to me but very sloppy in spots. I'm gonna go with Vince but it's possible it was someone else simply swiping (badly) from some better-drawn Colletta romances.

  2. Booksteve: I also got the impression that there were a lot of examples of 'standard Colletta' panels in there - maybe five or six that I recognize, so probably more than that. The inking is so kind of minimalist that it makes me wonder whether this wasn't an inexperienced inker literally just following outlines of some rough Colletta pencils. On the other hand, as you say, it could be somebody putting the visuals for the story together from a selection of Colletta swipes, so these are a couple of the potential analyses.

    I also found the lettering interesting - two different styles for the two stories, and neither lettered by "A. Machine" (maybe too early for the latter).

  3. Here's what I know about FIRST KISS comics by that time, it was just about when Atlas (Marvel) comics 'imploded', and many regular artists found themselves out of work, one of them was Joe Sinnott, who was a fantastic penciller and inker in his own right before eventually becoming known as Kirby's inker on the FF. Colletta had also worked for Atlas, but had been establishing himself with romance comics by that point, and for many of the First Kiss comics (if not all), the art was contracted to Vince Colletta Studios. That meant Colletta was in charge of several artists who ghosted under his name, receiving no credit, just a paycheck. Joe Sinnott was one of those artists, and according to him in his recent book, he drew hundreds of comics in the Colletta style that were credited to Colletta studios. Now, in this particular case, the art looks like a very rushed Colletta, even his normal style was a bit more refined than these stories. While nothing in the art stands out to me as being 'Joe Sinnott', I do know he drew in Colletta's then well-known style, and perhaps these stories fit under that category. Or it is possible that Sinnott, or another of Vinnie's ghost's pencilled the stories, leaving Colletta to ink. Much of the art looks very much like Colletta, so my final guess is that Colletta inked one of his ghosts pencils here (rushed), or someone else, most likely Sinnott, did the stories in a very deliberate attempt to deliver an authentic Colletta studios art style. I find it a bit unlikely that Colletta, being the boss at that point, did the stories entirely by himself, if at all, though the art is very Vinnie-like. I am guessing here, but I think it's Sinnott, or Sinnott-Colletta, or perhaps even another artist working for Vinnie also doing the impersonation under the Colletta name. I would need to see more to compare.

    I have seen other First Kiss Colletta studio art that is much more refined and finished...I could be wrong, but I think Dick Giordano also worked for Colletta at one point.I'm sorry if I'm just making it more confusing!

    On an interesting note, First Kiss comics sold the rights to their work, stacks of pages, and it was bought a few years back by writer/humorist John Lustig, who having all the rights, reprints the original artwork while adding his own humorous word balloons. He publishes these under the name of 'LAST KISS'! and they can be found online for sale. John Lustig owns these original pieces, and could tell us if there is any names attached to a particular story. (if interested, just google LAST KISS)

    My friend is a publisher and a colorist who often colors the LAST KISS comics for Lustig.

    Thanks for posting these, KB! You have a great blog, and bring a lot of thought to every post. Fantastic stuff!

    Sorry for rambling.

  4. Hey, as a follow up, I just found this on wikipedia's Vinnie page:

    "Colletta would also pencil stories in many 1960s issues of Charlton Comics' Teen-Age Love and First Kiss (at least some of which has been credited in reprints as by "Vince Colletta Studio"). He occasionally inked romance stories penciled by Joe Sinnott, and other pencilers on such titles as Charlton's Gunmaster,..."

  5. Sorry! One last wiki quote:

    " As the major comics artist Joe Sinnott told author Ronin Ro, "When I penciled the romance stories, I used to tell myself, Vince wrecked what I did. ... He would eliminate people from the strip and use silhouettes, everything to cut corners and make the work easier for himself."

  6. Apocolyte: Thanks for all that research there. What you're saying does make sense to me. So especially if you take into account that quote from Joe Sinnott, these could well be Sinnott/Colletta, with Vinnie doing a rush job on the inks.

    That is also an important point regarding the Atlas implosion. Circumstances at Charlton at the time were that the artists and writers were getting paid the lowest rates around, and those had been halved to keep the company going after that 1955 flood that caused a temporary stoppage to production, and were only gradually increasing again. So maybe there was something of an attitude of getting the work done quickly because the pay was very low. Steve Ditko wasn't one to renege on standards because of Charlton's low wages, but perhaps Vinnie didn't feel the same commitment. Or he just might have had a ton of work to do and did the best he could in the hours available.

    Whatever the reason, if it was Vince inking Sinnott stories here, it is a shame that he didn't do his best work, because at his best he can really put femininity across through his art, including the body language and facial expressions that communicate moods and emotions.

    I'm going to add a panel from a romantic interlude in Gorgo 8 that I used for a previous writing project. Ramon Schenck helped me identify some of the uncredited art from those Charlton monster books, from notes in Joe Sinnott's diary that he accessed through contacts in the Sinnott clan. The panel is definitely Sinnott pencils with Colletta inks, and if you didn't know it came out of an issue of Gorgo, you'd think it was from a romance comic. For comparison, look at the second panel on page 3 of "Made For Romance" and although the man and the woman are the other way round, you can see the same kind of head angle and jaw line on the man that Sinnott drew in the Gorgo panel. That comparison alone makes me think you are spot on with these stories being Sinnott/Colletta (rushed). I'll add that panel to the post now. Thanks for all the comments!

  7. Excellent! Thanks for the wonderful extra insight, and the additional panel by Sinnott/Colletta! The similarity is hard to deny, as you say, and while I was a bit unsure before, now I feel more confident in the earlier assessment.

    How wonderful to granted the information from the Sinnott family! As big a fan as I am of Joe Sinnott's inks, I am a bigger fan of his own art done for Atlas in the 50's! One of my favorites! I can understand how disheartening it must have been to put great effort into the pencil art, only to see a substandard finished product due to rushed or shoddy inking. When Colletta was at his best, he was right up there, but when he wasn't...

    I have heard similar tales about artists at Charlton who only gave half-hearted effort due to the low pay, though I can't recall names right now.

    One common theme I read about, or hear, from some of these great golden/silver age artists, is how it was just a job to them. Practically none of them ever dreamed we'd be obsessing over and picking apart these comics decades later. If they had known, maybe stories like the ones above would have been handled with a bit more thought of posterity.

    Thanks again, KB!

    aka apocolyte

  8. John Lustig (Last Kiss) sent me e-mails of a couple of comments he tried to make to this post (but couldn't because I've probably got the settings wrong I think). Anyway, I'm copying and pasting them here for you to read. He has the best information available on the art in this comic so here it is:

    Hi. I just saw you blog post about the First Kiss art and tried to comment, but for some reason I can't seem to post. So here's what I wrote:

    Hi. Just saw this discussion and thought I'd chip in. I know this art very well!

    Shortly after I started doing Last Kiss (which primarily uses art from First Kiss), I contacted Dick Giordano. Dick very kindly went through all 40 issues of First Kiss and did his best to identify the artists for each story.

    I believe Dick's identification of the artists was partially from being at Charlton at the time and perhaps seeing the art then. But primarily (I think) it was based on just his knowledge of each artist's style.

    As such, this is hardly foolproof. There were stories that Dick couldn't identify and some that he could only guess at.

    Dick's identification for both the stories you've posted is: "The Vince Colletta Studio."

    I've never asked Dick to tell me everyone who was in the studio, but I believe it basically consisted of whomever Vince could get to help out at the time.

    I know that Joe Sinnott did quite a bit of studio work for Colletta. So did Hy Eisman.

    As for who worked on First Kiss? A lot of people. Colletta had a hand in many of the stories, but I've never heard that he was in charge of all of them. Certainly there are plenty of stories that (according to Giordano), were done by other artists.

    I'll dig out some of the credits and post them in a separate comment. This one's getting pretty long!

    Best Wishes,
    John Lustig
    "Life with Lip!"
    Here's what I've got (thanks to Dick Giordano) for the first four issues of First Kiss:

    Cover --Nicholas & Alascia
    1.1 Valentine opening page. (1) Dick Giordano
    1.2 Campus Crush (5) Art Cappello & Dick Giordano
    1.3 One Stolen Kiss (6) --Nicholas and Sal Trapani
    TEXT: Boom Goes the Bachelor (2)
    1.4 No Kiss Tonight (2) Art Cappello & Dick Giordano
    1.5 Love’s Crucible (6) Art Cappello & Dick Giordano
    1.6 Good Ole Joe (5) --Charles Nicholas and Sal Trapani

    Cover --Charles Nicholas & Vince Alascia
    2.1 Love Him... Love: What He Does (8) Charles Nicholas & Vince Alascia
    2.2 Detour to Love (5) Pencils by Art Cappello, Inks by?
    TEXT: “WE Pauline and Peter” (2)
    2.3 A Rich Man’s Love (5) Frank Frollo?
    2.4 Solid Gold Heart (5) Pencils by Art Cappello? Inks by Sal Trapani
    2.5 Lee Dalton’s Guidebook ‘Movie Date’ (1) Charles Nicholas & Vince Alascia

    Cover --Charles Nicholas & Vince Alascia
    3.1 To Stella with Love (4) John Tartaglione
    3.2 The Girl Next Door (6) Vince Colletta Studio
    3.3 He Loves Me Not! (5) Vince Colletta Studio
    TEXT: The Maharajah Marriage Maker (2)
    3.4 Who Hooked Who? (4) Pencils?, Inks by Dick Giordano
    3.5 Plain Jane (6) Vince Colletta Studio

    Cover --Jon D’Agostino
    4.1 “Party Girl!” (5) Vince Colletta Studio
    4.2 Made for Romance (5) Vince Colletta Studio
    4.3 Gay Farwell! (5) Art Cappello & Vince Alascia
    TEXT: Maiden Must Meet Man (2)
    4.4 Elopement (5) John Tartaglione
    4.5 Infatuation (5) ??

    SBest Wishes,
    John Lustig
    "Life with Lip!"

  9. Thanks for posting for me. I'm not sure why it makes a difference, but it looks like switching to Safari is allowing me post.

    Best Wishes,
    John Lustig
    "Life with Lip!"

  10. Now that I've figured out how to post, here are the First Kiss credits (based on what Dick Giordano told me) for issues # 5-10.

    Cover --the Vince Colletta Studio
    5.1 The Magic Perfume (4) Vince Colletta Studio
    5.2 Infatuation (5) Charles Nicholas & Vince Alascia
    5.3 My Confidence Man (6) John Tartaglione
    TEXT: Rose’s Romance (2)
    5.4 He’s Not Good Enough (5) --Nicholas and Trapani
    5.5 “The Sea Green Eyes!” (5) John Tartaglione

    Cover --the Vince Colletta Studio
    6.1 Letter from Long Ago (7) Either Giordano & Colletta or Giordano by himself.
    6.2 Janice has a date ‘FUN with POP’ (1) ??
    6.3 Plain Jane (5) Pencils by Charles Nicholas Inks by either Giordano, Alascia or D’Agostino
    TEXT: Castle for Corrine (2)
    6.4 The Boy from the City (5) --Charles Nicholas and Sal Trapani
    6.5 Forced Meeting! (7) Vince Colletta Studio

    Cover --the Vince Colletta Studio
    7.1 Make Believe (5) Vince Colletta Studio
    7.2 Fooling With Love (5) --Art by Dick Giordano
    7.3 Kiss Me Tonight (5) Charles Nicholas & Vince Alascia
    TEXT: Darling Doll (2)
    7.4 Sweethearts (5) Charles Nicholas & Dick Giordano
    7.5 Bachelor’s Farewell (5) ????

    Cover Vince Colletta
    8.1 The Gay Deception (10) Vince Colletta Studio
    8.2 Daring Young Man (9) ???Same as Bachelor’s Farewell in Issue #7??
    8.3 Coffee and... a Kiss, Darling! (5) Charles Nicholas & Vince Alascia

    Cover Vince Colletta
    9.1 A Childish Dream (5) Vince Colletta Studio
    9.2 The Reason? (1) Charles Nicholas & Vince Alascia
    9.3 Irresistible (7) --Charles Nicholas and Sal Trapani
    TEXT: And So They Were Married (2)
    9.4 Lucky Liz! (8) --Vince Colletta
    9.5 The Arms of the Law (2) Charles Nicholas & Vince Alascia

    FIRST KISS #10
    Cover --Charles Nicholas & Vince Alascia
    10.1 You Can Never Tell (5) Charles Nicholas & Vince Alascia
    10.2 The Masked Lover (8) Charles Nicholas & Sal Trapani
    TEXT: The Glass Ring (1)
    10.3 He Came Back (5) --Vince Colletta
    10.4 Castle on the Hill (5) Charles Nicholas & Vince Alascia

  11. John: Thank you so much for the additional info. I had taken a look at issue #5, as I have that one also in my collection, and had noted quite a difference in the overall feel of the book compared to issue 4. I'm going to examine #4 & #5 more closely in the light of the information you've provided. It's interesting that there's an Art Capello story in #4 - I think I'll post that one for comparison with his later stuff - I seem to remember Jacque Nodell admires his art so she might like to see an earlier version, if she doesn't have this ish herself. Actually she just featured a Capello story in her latest blog post:

    Thanks for finding me over here, John! And may the last kiss always be the next one!

    Michael (MW/Apocolyte): Looks like a slight revision is in order. Joe Sinnott pencils are still on the cards, as according to the information provided by John, Joe did studio work for Vince Colletta. The comparison with the Gorgo panel still stands. The inking will have to be revised to Colletta Studio, which, now I mention it, is what Ramon Schenck told me was a possibility for that Gorgo panel. He told me it was absolutely Sinnott pencils, but added that it was either Colletta or Colletta Studio inking, since Joe Sinnott's notebook wasn't fully specific on that point (the notes were what Joe kept primarily about the work that he did himself). So I was a bit inaccurate earlier in just stating that it was Colletta. That was a bit of a leap on my part. So I think in the final analysis we might be able to pin it down to Sinnott pencils (based on the Gorgo comparison and John's knowledge that Joe did work for the Studio) with some quick Colletta Shop inking. I'm going to adjust the post based on the information provided by John.

  12. Fantastic information!
    Thank you, John Lustig!
    ...and everyone else, too.
    I knew my information was not complete, so where applicable, I stand corrected.

    Thanks, KB!

    aka apocolyte

  13. Actually, it was me. I drew that cover. Vince Colletta inked it, because I was a little busy that week, pitching the idea for Captain Atomic. They laughed me out of the office. Then I saw that Joe Gill kid looking through my wastebasket...

  14. THE APOCOLYTE wrote:

    "That meant Colletta was in charge of several artists who ghosted under his name, receiving no credit, just a paycheck. Joe Sinnott was one of those artists, and according to him in his recent book, he drew hundreds of comics in the Colletta style that were credited to Colletta studios."

    Right you are, APOCOLYTE but, FYI, Colletta wasn't the one giving himself credit for any of these books. It wasn't until comic book "historians" such as yourselves started compiling lists.

    Rule of thumb on Colletta art, if Vinnie signed it, then he penciled and inked most of it. If not-which applies to most everything after 1957 (?),you'll notice none of it is signed by him-then his artistic contributions were to the main characters and touch-ups on backgrounds, etc. Don't forget Maurice Whitman, Wally Wood, Matt Baker, Frank Giacoia and Joe Orlando who were all working there from time to time in addition to Sinnott, Eisman and Giordano. Vinnie's name didn't start appearing in published credits again until Stan Lee started splashing everyone's names on page #1 of the superhero stories.

  15. Thanks for enlightening me, Dan. My knowledge is, admittedly, limited, and my 'facts' aren't always (or more accurately, rarely) 100% correct! I am fascinated by comic art/history, and I am always learning more, and I am grateful to everyone who bring comments and information that brings out more pieces to the puzzle.

    aka apocolyte

  16. Whoever it was that illustrated these sure know how to draw HOT women!