In Memoriam: Tributes to Marvel artist Joe Sinnott

Pencil and ink self portrait by Joe Sinnott
Pencil and ink self portrait by Joe Sinnott

Comic creators both who worked with, and those who admired his work, British creators among them, have been paying heartfelt tribute to American artist Joe Sinnott this week, who has died aged 93.

“It with great sorrow that we must announce the passing of Joltin’ Joe Sinnott on June 25th at 8:40am at the age of 93,” his family announced in a statement on Joe’s Facebook Page earlier this week. “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.”

Joe Sinnott was born 16th October 1926 in Saugerties, New York, to Edward and Catherine McGraw Sinnott. One of seven children, his childhood dream was to be a cowboy. Luckily for the world of comics, that didn’t happen.

Instead, after High School, Joe joined the U.S. Navy Seabees in Okinawa during World War Two. For three years after the global conflict, he worked in a cement factory, before entering the Cartoonists and Illustrators School in 1949 (now the School of Visual Arts) in New York run by Tarzan artist Burne Hogarth. While there, his first comic book work, “Trudi”, a five-page filler story in Mopsy #12 (Sept. 1950) was published for St. John’s Publishing. He also worked for the Lone Ranger artist Tom Gill, one of his instructors at the school.

He began working for Stan Lee at Timely (Marvel) in 1950, pencilling and inking crime, horror, war, westerns, sci-fi and romance books. He also drew for Dell, Charlton, Treasure Chest, ACG, Archie and Classic Illustrated. Joe illustrated the life stories of Babe Ruth, John Kennedy, Gen.MacArthur, Eisenhower, Pope John XXIII, The Beatles, Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa, Mickey Mantle and many other famous people.

  • Fantastic Four - Art by Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott
  • Fantastic Four #107 - Cover Art
  • Fantastic Four #112 - Cover
  • Fantastic Four #112 - Splash Page
  • The Mighty Thor #235 - Splash Page
  • Fantastic Four #167 - Cover Art
  • Fantastic Four #191 - Cover
  • Spider-Woman #1 - Cover
  • Amazing Spider-Man #350 - Interior Art
  • The Mighty Thor #262 - Cover Art
  • A 2012 tribute to Stan Lee by Joe Sinnott
  • The Shadow by Joe Sinnott

In 1965, Joe began working regularly with Jack Kirby on the Fantastic Four, the book Joe is most well known for, and continued to work for the company for the rest of his working life.

Other Marvel credits include work on Thor, Silver Surfer, Captain America, The Avengers, West Coast Avengers, The Incredible Hulk, The Defenders, The Invaders, Rom: Space Knight, The Thing, Ms. Marvel and Nick Fury – to name a few. His official web site notes Joe’s favourite character to draw was The Thing from Fantastic Four.

The final Spider-Man newspaper strip

Although he retired from drawing comic books in 1992, he continued to ink the Sunday Spider-Man comic strip for King Features, until Spidey’s final appearance in March 2019.

Jetta Raye Adventures Variant Cover by Joe Sinnott
Jetta Raye Adventures Variant Cover by Joe Sinnott

Recently, he was persuaded to create a variant cover for a revival of the 1950s Standard Comics character Jetta Raye, as part of a crowdfunding campaign from Jimmy T, writer, inker, editor and publisher at Totally Galactic Comics. The book will be published, but further support is welcomed.

Joe received the 1967 and 1968 Alley Award as comics best inker, an Inkpot Award at the 1995 San Diego Con, and two Inkwell Awards in 2008, among numerous other awards. The Inkwells Hall Of Fame “Joe Sinnott Award” is named in his honour. The non-profit advocacy for comic-book inking and ink artists retired its original “Joe Sinnott Inking Challenge” after eight years in January this year, a program designed to educate fans, the public and other professionals regarding the process, contribution and inherent value of inking, a major part of the Inkwells’ mission.

One of Joe Sinnott’s tributes to Bing Crosby
One of Joe Sinnott’s tributes to Bing Crosby

In addition to his comic book work, Joe provided illustrations for encyclopaedias, drew crossword puzzle book covers and several Bing Crosby magazine and record album covers. (He was a Bing Crosby fan, and co-hosted many Bing radio shows).

Joe was deservedly elected into the Will Eisner Comic Hall of Fame in 2013.

He was clearly fiercely to friends and family. As writer Darrell Epp noted on Twitter, Joe supported the Kirbys when Marvel/Disney sued them. He was on the Kirby family’s list of witnesses and stated categorically that Kirby created all the characters that were subject to copyright claims, and agreed to testify if the case went to trial.

A fan of the San Francico Giants, Joe also enjoyed drawing sports cartoons. Three were displayed in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. He was elected into the Saugerties Sports Hall of Fame in 1989 and honoured as the Grand Marshal in the 2011 Saugerties 4th of July Parade. General Custer and the Civil War were also among Joe’s many interests.

Joe married Betty Kirlauski in 1950, who passed away in 2006 after 56 years of marriage. They had four children: Joe Jr., Linda (deceased), Kathy and Mark; Four grandchildren, Chris, Malissa, Dorian, Trevor and seven great-grandchildren: Vinnie, Joey, Tyler, Jack, Elizabeth, Mariah and Madison.

Fantastic Four #81 Splash Page

Creator Tributes

There have been many hundreds of tributes to Joe over the past few days. Here is a small sampling of some, from comic creators.

“One of the greats has passed,” noted New York-based 2000AD and Doctor Who artist Simon Fraser. “His name was synonymous with one of the most creative and dynamic periods of American comics. I bought him lunch once and he showed me around his hometown. A very precious memory for me as a kid who grew up on the other side of the world and the name ‘Joltin’ Joe Sinnot was akin to a god.”

“So very sorry to hear this sad news,” commented British artist and independent publisher Tim Perkins at the announcement of Joe’s passing. “Joe was a superb artist. His art will make him immortal.”

“The greatest inker of them all,” 2000AD artist Richard Elson said. “A legend.”

“Joe Sinnott’s strokes were pinsharp immaculate, his work finishing seminal stories that lit up my childhood and still do,” noted Will Potter, Editorial Manager at Hero Collector. “Farewell, maestro.”

“He inked entire universes of magic,” extolled artist, cartoonist and film maker Robert Negoesco.

“RIP Joe Sinnott,” said artist Russ Leach, “the other half of my favorite art team, a superb artist in his own right and amazing all round great guy!”

“We lost a giant in our industry,” said Marvel, DC and Dark Horse artist Mark McKenna. “He was a giant of a man to me, even though small in stature.. I looked up to him in so many ways… His talent was amazing to me.. but when you met him or greeted him and he met you with a knowing smile.”

“Everyone knows that Joe Sinnott was a terrific artist who enhanced and improved every piece of art he ever graced,” noted former Marvel Editor-in-Chief Tom de Falco. “He was also a good man – a total gentleman with a ready laugh and a mischievous gleam in his eye. His default expression was a joyous smile. He was a humble man who often praised his co-creators and never saved any credit for himself. He will be missed by his countless fans, his loving family and countless friends.”

• Joe Sinnott, 16th October, 1926 – 25th June, 2020

The Sinnott family requests their privacy and understanding during this difficult time. Please send condolences to The Sinnott Family, 27 Spaulding Lane, Saugerties, NY 12477 USA. You can also pay tributes here, or arrange to have a tree planted in Joe’s name

The Sinnott family requests donations made to the Hero Initiative in Joe’s name. Joe was very passionate about this cause, helping out comic creators in need.

“Thank you again for being such loyal and dedicated fans and friends to Joe,” the family stated. “He considered all fans friends, and seeing you at cons and reading your messages was what kept him young at heart.”

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