Friday, June 26, 2020

Joe Sinnott 1926 - 2020

Comic book inker Joe Sinnott, best known for his iconic work with Jack Kirby on Marvel's flagship title The Fantastic Four from 1965 to 1981 (as well as a brief run in the late '80s), passed away yesterday morning at the age of 93.

"He went peacefully with the knowledge that his family, friends, and fans adored him. He enjoyed life and was drawing up until the end. He always loved hearing from all of you and having your comments read to him. Each and every one of you were special to him," his family wrote on his Facebook page. 

During his 60-year career, first as a freelancer, then as a salaried artist, Joe Sinnott inked most Marvel titles, defining "Marvel’s visual aesthetic for decades to come" according to The Hollywood Reporter. The titles included The Avengers, The Defenders and Thor.

"[P]encilers used to hurl all sorts of dire threats at me if I didn't make certain that Joe, and only Joe, inked their pages. I knew I couldn't satisfy everyone and I had to save the very most important strips for [him]. To most pencilers, having Joe Sinnott ink their artwork was tantamount to grabbing the brass ring." -- Stan Lee from Brush Strokes with Greatness: The Life & Art of Joe Sinnott by Tim Lasiuta (2007)
He served in the Seabees in Okinawa during World War II. Returning home, he worked three year in his father's cement works until he was accepted into the Artists and Illustrators School (now know as the School of Visual Arts) in the GI Bill.

Via Wikipedia:

"Cartoonists and Illustrators School instructor Tom Gill asked Sinnott to be his assistant on Gill's freelance comics work. With classmate Norman Steinberg, Sinnott spent nine months drawing backgrounds and incidentals on, initially, Gill's Western-movie tie-in comics for Dell Comics. Sinnott recalled in 1992 'taking the LIRR every weekend and working all day Saturday and Sunday.' He said in 2003, 'Tom was paying us very well. I was still attending school and worked for Tom at nights and [on] weekends,' with night work added after he tired of commuting to Long Island and 'began working [in] my room on 75th Street for $7 a week.'

"Sinnott in 1992 recalled his earliest work for Gill being the Western comic Red Warrior and later including Kent Blake of the Secret Service, both for Atlas Comics, a predecessor of Marvel Comics. 'Tom would do all of the heads. We'd do everything else. We'd do the backgrounds and the figures, but since they were Tom's accounts, he'd do the heads so it looked like his work. I did this for about nine months. It was great learning,' he said, adding, 'I can never have enough good to say about Tom Gill. He gave me my start.'"

He began freelancing in the 1950s, most drawing horror, monster, romance and western comics for Stan Lee at Atlas Comics. in 1957, due to a backlog of stories, freelancers were not needed at Atlas. He branched out to other projects so that by the early 60s, he was drawing for Treasure Chest, Classics Illustrated, a series of dictionaries for kids and others. Then one day, Stan Lee contacted him.

From Brush Strokes with Greatness: The Life & Art of Joe Sinnott by Tim Lasiuta (2007):

"Before Stan called me to ink Jack on Fantastic Four #5, I never knew the Fantastic Four existed. I lived up here in ... the Catskill Mountains, and I never went down to the city at that time. ... Everything was done by mail and I didn't know what books were coming out, even. ... Stan called me up and said, 'Joe, I've got a book here by Jack Kirby and I'd like you to ink it, if you could. I can't find anybody to ink it. ... [When the pencil art arrived,] I was dumbfounded by the great art and the characters. ... I had a ball inking it. I remember when I mailed it back, Stan called me. He said, 'Joe, we liked it so much, I'm going to send you #6.' So he [did], but I had committed myself [to] another account at [publisher George A. Pflaum's Catholic comic book] Treasure Chest ... and this was a 65-page story I was going to have to do on one of the Popes ["The Story Of Pope John XXIII, Who Won Our Hearts", in vol. 18, #1–9 (Sept. 13, 1962 – Jan. 3, 1963)]. I had committed myself to it, so when I had started #6, I think I just did a panel or two. I had to send it back to Stan."

Sinnott continued to ink for Charlton Comics at this time, but finally moved on to doing Marvel's Fantastic Four beginning in 1965. He would ink the title for sixteen years, defining a Marvel style that a generation grew up with. He also inked some Captain America Kirby stories, as well as The Inhumans and The Silver Surfer. He would go on to work on other major Marvel titles.

Retiring from comic books in 1992, Sinnott inked The Amazing Spider-Man comic strip until just last year. In addition, he was a regular comic convention guest and did many commissions for fans.

I did not know until reading up on Joe's life that he credits Tom Gill (now best known for his very long run on The Lone Ranger comic book) with giving him his start. Tom was a particular friend and knew many, many cartoonists. We were co-chairs of the Berndt Toast Gang. Many times we ate and drank wine together -- or chatted on the phone. Seeing that Tom was there at the beginning really hit home. Great to see his name -- and it was a reminder of just how small -- and how friendly -- cartoonworld really is.

No comments: