PAUL KUPPERBERG: My 13 Favorite VINCE COLLETTA Romance Comics Covers

The late comics stalwart was born 99 years ago…


Thirty years after his death, Vince Colletta (October 15, 1923 – June 3, 1991) is still a controversial character in the comic book community. Born in Sicily and brought to the US with his family after World War II, Vinnie attended the New Jersey Academy of Fine Arts and entered the comic book business in 1952. Working primarily on romance comics for Better Publications and others, he began his long tenure at Marvel (then Atlas) Comics, working on a wide variety of genre titles, from Westerns to romance. During a lull at Atlas, Vinnie began freelancing for both DC and Charlton Comics. By 1959, he had mostly abandoned penciling and was focusing on inking.

Vinnie Colletta was wildly prolific throughout his career. According to Mike’s Amazing World of Comics, the tally of his work consisted of 21,029 pages of art over 1,639 stories… but the site’s listing of his published work includes only one of the countless stories Vinnie penciled and/or inked for Charlton Comics. It wouldn’t surprise me if their numbers were off by at least one-third.

And it was his prolificacy that made Vinnie Colletta so controversial. Fans either liked his work or hated it. Nobody ever accused him of being the greatest inker who ever lived but there were, and remain, plenty of people who thought he might possibly have been the worst, which is flat out ridiculous. Vinnie was a pro, from start to finish, and when he was handed a late assignment with an impossible deadline, he would do whatever it took to meet it.

I remember an issue of Warlord that needed to be inked literally overnight, so Vinnie rounded up every willing body from production and editorial, and probably any freelancers passing through as well, and put us to work. Vinnie inked the main figures and faces and everybody else did everything else. I was even pulled in to ink in borders and fill in the blacks. The job may not have been the best-looking issue ever, but it got done in time to ship the book to the separators the next day and avoid the issue’s meager profits being eaten up by the printer’s penalties and late fees.

Vinnie was a character, no doubt. I was hanging around and/or working in the DC offices in the mid- to late-1970s and had a front row seat from my little cubicle in the corridor of 75 Rockefeller Center to the office Vinnie occupied as the company’s art director. I don’t think Vinnie directed much art, though. Mostly he seemed to work on his freelance assignments and meet with his bookie or have closed door conferences with visiting “models.”

There was a lot of speculation how Vinnie got and held on to his job at DC; in my upcoming Direct Conversations: Talks with Fellow Bronze Age DC Comics Creators (currently on Kickstarter), former DC Comics publisher and president Paul Levitz said about Colletta: “Alan Moore just wrote a roman a clef about comics in that period. It’s not very kind to any of us and he does a riff on Vinnie, making the case that the only reason he was hired was because some mob connected boss told the company they had to give him an office. No. Vinnie could just ink faster than everybody else. And when he set his mind to it, ink as well as anybody else. Would that he had set his mind to it a little more often.”

I’m on the side of the people who liked his work. Yes, at his hackiest, the results could be painful, but even at his day-to-day cruising speed, Vinnie could produce fine work. I wasn’t a fan of Thor, but I liked what he was doing over Kirby’s pencils. A 1982 Superman Sunday newspaper strip penciled by Jose Delbo and inked by Vinnie that someone posted recently on Facebook caught my eye, not because I wrote it but because I thought Vinnie had done such a lovely job on it. A couple of responses to the post speculated that the reasons he did good work were either because the strip paid more than regular comics or Vinnie was showing off and “auditioning” for a strip of his own. Except the strip paid page rate and Vinnie had had plenty of time to audition as the original inker over George Tuska when the strip started in 1978.

“Sometimes,” I responded, “he just did nice work. Go figure.”

Here then, My 13 Favorite VINNIE COLLETTA ROMANCE COMICS COVERS (or, 11 covers and two pages):

Secret Story Romances #7 (June 1954, Atlas). An early effort on this Atlas romance cover, beautifully rendered by Colletta and artfully colored by the great Stan Goldberg.

Lovers #64 (November 1954, Atlas). A kiss is just a kiss but it’s really all you need for the cover of a romance comic and Vinnie (once again colored by Goldberg) could sure deliver.

My Own Romance #43 (April 1955, Atlas). Here’s a thing most people agree on: Vinnie knew how to draw beautiful girls! Readers could feel the joy of the “Happy Ending!” radiating from this cover. (Get your mind out of the gutter!) Colors by Goldberg.

Lovers #72 (November 1955, Atlas). Two lovers in a clinch. So simple but it tells a story by itself.

Stories of Romance #8 (September 1956, Atlas). Vinnie often used this technique of scribbly lines to suggest texture in clothing, but it’s that simple little element that practically makes the bride pop off the cover.

First Kiss #9 (July 1959, Charlton). Sometimes, Vinnie didn’t actually need Jack Kirby’s pencils on the page to lay down a Kirby riff.

Teen-Age Romance #78 (November 1960, Zenith). Just a year before Fantastic Four #1, betwixt Atlas and Marvel, “Zenith Publishing Corp” hosted two Charlton creators, Dick Giordano and Vinnie, on a cover (and story, by Stan Lee and Larry Lieber) featuring Maynard G. Krebs.

Love Romances #97 (January 1962, Marvel). Kirby and Colletta, together again for the umpteenth time.

Falling in Love #128 (January 1972, DC). Art Saaf and Vinnie, keeping it minimal!

Young Romance #183 (June 1972). A scan of the original art for a one-page feature, one of my late brother Alan Kupperberg’s earliest published stories. Alan, as I recall, had been grateful for Vinnie’s expert inks over his early, still developing pencils.

Young Romance #185 (August 1972). And this one, just because I have it and besides, I don’t think Page Peterson gets nearly the respect and recognition she deserves.

Love Stories #149 (March-April 1973). The penciler may be unknown (I suspect Bob Oksner; check out Holly’s face in the forefront) but Vinnie’s smooth inks are easily recognized.

Young Love #126 (July 1977). Oksner is the confirmed penciler of this one, the last issue of the last romance title DC published. Fittingly, Vinnie, the king of romance comic artists for DC, Marvel and Charlton inked not just the cover but about two-thirds of the stories in the issue, including one by me that was so bad (though nicely inked) I had my name taken off it and to this day believe it was somehow responsible for the death of romance comics.


— PAUL KUPPERBERG: My 13 Favorite BOB BROWN Covers. Click here.

— PAUL KUPPERBERG: My 13 Favorite JIM MOONEY Pages. Click here.

The Kickstarter for Paul’s Direct Conversations: Talks with Fellow Bronze Age DC Comics Creators is almost funded! Click here to pledge. You’ll dig it!

Author: Dan Greenfield

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  1. Some pretty long-running titles there. It has always been weird to me that romance comics used to be a big thing. Colletta’s inks were great on all of those.

    Was your “so bad” story the “C.B. Romance”?

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  2. Those are some great covers. Love the”C.B Romance” one. Fun stuff.

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  3. Excellent article highlighting a true hero of the comic book industry. Gorgeous women, to be sure. Nobody could draw them as beautifully as Colletta did.

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  4. Interesting – the first three covers in this list do not reflect the Colletta style we all know, and the lines are much smoother. But Lovers #72 from November 1955 suddenly shows that style. I wonder if Vinnie got a new brush or pen between April and November of that year that he stuck with for the rest of his career.

    Aside from losing the characteristics of many of the faces he inked, my bigger problem with Colletta is his decisions to just drop portions of the penciller’s art for no good reason. Much has been written about it, but I don’t know if it was just for speed, or whether he thought he was improving the art by leaving more open space.

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  5. Not going to swear to it — memory can only retain so many bits — but I do believe that it’s questionable that any of the pencil credits for Colletta are legit but rather they were ghosted. One of Joe Sinnott’s first gigs was penciling for Colletta romances at Charlton for which the latter got full credit. Not saying Colletta never penciled a job but maybe he never did.
    My first exposure to Colletta was inking Kirby on Thor and I loved it, I loved the scratchy look on the character. As a result of that joy, I was receptive to his work elsewhere for awhile. But, as Levitz notes in the quote (more or less), there was a lot of hacking it up which… wasn’t terribly good. But, you know, when pay is based on the page, there’s an incentive to bang out too many too poorly. (Also guilty of overdoing it: Mike Esposito whose rushed work was, like Colletta’s, f***ing awful.)
    Colletta — again per recollection — was maybe Kirby’s least favorite inker. Kirby would never dis an inker of his but he was on record as being unhappy with Colletta’s corner cutting when it involved leaving stuff unlinked and later erased.
    And as for rejecting the above grounds of my claim of not having the best memory: It’s all on record and you can, as they say, look it up.

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