Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Stan Goldberg – Prince of the Palette

Stan G., as he became popularly known at Marvel in the 1960s, was both proficient and highly skilled, coloring covers and interiors, and inventing the color schemes for the Marvel Super-Heroes, including Fantastic Four, Spider-Man, the Hulk, Thor, X-Men, Daredevil, Iron-Man and Dr. Strange. Goldberg was not only a stunning colorist, but also a solid artist in the teen-humor/romance line, including a long run on Millie the Model. Goldberg used his limited palette to produce a distinctive look for the Pre-Hero Marvel and Marvel Age line-up. His use of solid colors, gradations and "knock-outs" (a term used to describe the use of a single solid color in a panel) was exceptional, and Editor Lee had a trusted and professional staffer to rely on.

The "Knock-Out" from "The Clock Maker" Strange Tales # 96, May 1962, Ditko Art

Kid Colt Outlaw # 97, March 1961 - Kirby-Ayers Art. Goldbergs's coloring of the prisoners in the foreground in solid gray, along with white space, adds emphasis to the hero, Kid Colt.
Goldberg began working for Timely as a teenager, drawing stories and coloring. He soon took over the coloring department and remained with Marvel until 1968, when he moved over to drawing for Archie and DC. At Marvel, Goldberg added a quality of mood that suited the line. Very different from DC’s primary colors, Goldberg used grays, purples and dark greens to great effect, especially in the monster and fantasy stories of the late 1950's and early 1960's. His monsters all followed similar color schemes; oranges, grays, browns - making them stand out (as can be seen in my post Monster's at my Window) . 

This sense of mood continued with the Marvel heroes, fashioning a distinctive company look. Goldberg's work followed a pattern: the villains were adorned in greens and purples (Dr. Doom, The Mandarin, Loki, Mysterio, the Frightful Four); the heroes in blues, reds and yellows. Lee's Marvel line-up developed a consistent look, down to the lettering and coloring. Goldberg, like Artie Simek and Sam Rosen (see my previous post for more on both men), were professionals who created a body of work than can be admired and appreciated, especially since it was done on a deadline.
Amazing Spider-Man # 23, Apr 1965, Ditko art. Notice how Goldberg did not color Spider-Man's costume in solid red or blue, instead using shading to provide depth, as he did on many of the Marvel characters .
Avengers # 23, Dec 1965, Kirby-Romita Art. Goldberg's coloring of Kang adds dimension to the cover and contrasts with the colorful Avengers.

FF # 47, Feb 1966. Kirby-Sinnott Art. Beautiful use of grays to emphasise the heroes, with the red of the Torch standing out. 
X-Men # 16, Jan 1966, Kirby-Ayers cover. Kirby's 3-D art is enhanced by Goldberg's reds and yellows. The purple logo stands out. 
Tales of Suspense # 80, Aug 1966. Kirby-Heck cover. Another beautiful combination of colors, especially the yellows and greens.

Sgt. Fury # 16, March 1965, Kirby-Stone art. Goldberg's use of yellow in various gradations makes the reader literally feel the heat and exhaustion that Kirby vividly depicts on the Howlers.

Stan Goldberg is one of a kind. Versatile, inventive and charming in person, he is part of a special era in comics, when a few very intelligent and talented people got together and made comic books that are worth revisiting. While comic book production has changed and improved over time, and coloring is now done on computer, with endless choices, the old school of Goldberg and his peers were able to do more with less, and often accomplish much despite the drawbacks. They tower above the rest as examples of some of the best in the field.          

Amazing Spider-Man # 39, Aug '66, Romita cover. One of my earliest memories of a comic book I  took notice of on the comics rack, the brilliant gradations of light blue to purple immediately caught my attention and remains a favorite. 


Al said...

Looking at those covers makes me wish that there were some Stan Goldberg imitators around nowadays.

Nick Caputo said...

I couldn't agree with you more!

Lefisc said...

Nick, isn't it amazing that he did so well with such a limited palette? You examples terrifically show what a great job he did.

Mad Thinker said...

The Silver Age clouring is concise and clear, Goldberg used it as a way to tell part of the stories. Nowadays we often see more "realistic" colouring which can lose the iconic nature of the image. Great post in regard to one of the many unsung greats of the medium.

Nigel Kitching said...

Not an area I know a great deal about but I'd always noticed that there was an attempt at modelling on those old Marvel covers. I suppose more time was allowed to colour a cover and the coated stock gave an extra vibrancy to the colours. Was there ever an attempt to do the modelling thing on any interior art?

Nick Caputo said...


I'm stil amazed at how brilliant Goldberg's coloring looks. He had the job of not picking out colors that would not clash and making sure the logo stood out. Invariably, he did it with a great sense of what worked.

Nick Caputo said...

Mad Thinker,

I've found coloring on many mainstream comics to be dull and dreary, with a sameness of look. there needs to be a variety of styles and personalities, but that appears to be all too rare these days.

Nick Caputo said...


I think Goldberg was able to do more on the covers, which is why his modeling worked so well there. It was harder to distinguish or pull off the same style in the interiors.

Kid said...

Great post. Those early covers certainly stood out from some of the other publishers' titles, that's for sure. Strange to say, even 'though the Masterwork editions now replicate the original colours, they're not always as effective as the original issues were. I think that's because the original covers had a sort of 'flat' (matt) finish to them, while the re-presentations are glossy-finished.