Joe Sinnott: Bringing Superheroes to Life

On June 3 comic book fans attending Albany’s Comic Con, the premiere comic book and collectibles show in the Capital District, will have the opportunity to meet longtime Marvel inker Joe Sinnott.Best known for his long stint on Marvel Comics‘ “Fantastic Four,” from 1965 to 1981 (and briefly in the late 1980s), Sinnott has inked virtually every major title, with notable runs on “The Avengers,” “The Defenders” and “Thor.” For the past 20 years Sinnott, now at the age of 91, inks for the Sunday “Spider-Man” comic strip that Marvel icon, Stan Lee, writes.

Sinnott has been drawing since the age of three. He recalls drawing on whatever he could from sidewalks to paper bags. To this day he draws every day whether he is working on a Marvel project or not. “I love to draw. I get up each morning and start right in on drawing. That is when I am my happiest.”

Sinnott’s path to Marvel has the makings of a super hero story. He served in the United States Navy during World War II. After he returned home from war he started working in the limestone quarry at his father’s cement-manufacturing plant. “I didn’t like the cold winters working there at all,” Sinnott said. “I knew that it wasn’t for me. I needed to do something else.” Because of his love of drawing Sinnott decided to try art school. He hoped he could make a career out of his art. His intuition was right. One of his instructors at the Cartoonists and Illustrators School (later the School of Visual Arts) in New York City was Tom Gill. Gill, a longtime artist on the “Lone Ranger” comic book series, was also working for Marvel Comics while teaching. “I was ghosting some of Tom’s work and that was getting my foot in the door, so to speak, in working for Stan Lee. That was 68 years ago and I’m still working with Stan,” Sinnott said.

Sinnott worked through the 1950s inking horror, sci-fi, war, westerns, romance, etc., for Timely/Atlas Comics. He found work with other comic companies such as American Comics Group (ACG), Dell, Charlton and Treasure Chest. “Once Stan Lee rebranded Atlas Comics as Marvel Comics with the formation of the “Fantastic Four” in 1961, soon followed by the “Mighty Thor,” “Spider-Man,” “The Hulk” and others. The Marvel super hero age was born,” Sinnott said. Sinnott was suddenly very busy. He was working with other comic companies, penciling and inking his own stories, and now is working with Marvel. “With all this work on my drawing table, I found it easier to mostly just do the inking for Marvel. This started the collaboration of me working with the great Jack Kirby. I was fortunate to ink the very first appearance of Thor in “Journey Into Mystery #83,” as well as the first appearances of Dr. Doom, Galactus, The Silver Surfer and The Black Panther in the “Fantastic Four.” Sinnott inked 50 consecutive issues of artist and writer Jack Kirby’s “Fantastic Four” and his work was published in over 200 issues of the comic. “This was a great period,” he reminisced. “It was fantastic to be an inker for Marvel from the 1960s thru the 1980s mainly because I was fortunate enough to work with the best pencilers in the business.”

Sinnott is proud of his work at Marvel. He has worked with Stan Lee for nearly 68 years. “We often get together from time to time at Comic Cons, or talk on the phone,” Sinnott said. The work Sinnott did on with Jack Kirby on “Fantastic Four” stands out among his many comic projects. The last story Sinnott did with Jack Kirby was the collaboration of the Silver Surfer graphic novel (1978). The novel was written by Stan Lee. “I believe this was the first graphic novel,” Sinnott said. “It was Stan, Jack, me working together again…it was such a pleasure to work on that book.”

Growing up in the 1930s Sinnott read Superman and Batman comics. Today he doesn’t read any particular comics. He credits the fans he speaks to at Comic Cons and other shows for keeping him connected with the industry. He does appreciate the movies coming out of Hollywood that are based on the comics he knows so intimately. “I do wish Hollywood would stick to the original story in some of these pictures,” he said. He enjoys the special effects in the movies. “I’m amazed at the popularity these movies have. No one drawing comic books years ago would have ever thought that they would become this popular,” he said. “It’s too bad Jack Kirby isn’t around to see how huge all the characters that he created have become up there on the big screen. I know he would be proud.”

Comic Cons, especially the Albany Comic Con, have become a family affair for Sinnott. “My son, Mark, is my biggest fan. He is my librarian and takes care of running my table along with his wife, Belinda. My grandsons, Dorian and Trevor, are also huge comic fans and help out. I like to do the shows for them,” Sinnott said. He also does Comic Con for the fans. “All the fans are more like family to me now,” he said. At the age of 91 the shows can be tiring for Sinnott. He frequents shows that are in driving distance to his home in Saugerties. “The Albany Comic Con is hands down my favorite show. It has been for years,” Sinnott said.

Sinnott credits show promoter, John Belskis, for keeping Albany Comic Con a pure comic book show. “Our show tries to remain focused on the actual comic books. Our vendors and the majority of our guests are comic book related,” Belskis said. Growing up as a big Hulk fan, reading comics strengthened his interest in reading.  “The way a comic tells a story with pictures makes it a valuable resource for a child that doesn’t like to read. That can get them on a path of reading more, and finding a way through those difficult learning years,” Belskis said.

For more information about Joe Sinnott visit his website:

For more information about the June 3 Albany Comic Con at the Red Lion Hotel on Wolf Road visit its website:

Photo of Comic Con flyer was created by Artist Joe Staton. The flyer itself was put together by Artist James Whiting. Both artists are attending the Albany Comic Con.

Photo of Joe Sinnott in the 1960s courtesy of Joe Sinnott.

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