Caleb Orecchio here with a few strips by Alex Toth and Cory Adams
Cory Adams is one of the great American comic book colorists. She is right up there with Lynn Varley and Klaus Janson as far as I am concerned. She may even top them all. She was a maverick of coloring. The most famous book she colored was probably “Superman vs Muhammad Ali” working closely with her then-husband Neal Adams. She would continue to work with Neal and other great artists on various comic books including title’s Neal’s Continuity Comics. The other day I came across issues of Echo of Futurepast no. 6 and 7 from 1985 (a Continuity Comics anthology) where she colored two excellent Alex Toth stories.
Torpedo is comic written by Spanish writer Enrique Sánchez Abulí and originally drawn by Alex Toth until he dropped out and was replaced by Jordi Bernet that was first serialized in 1981 in a Spanish horror comics magazine Creepy (I know ). Torpedo, like most great noir, is a black and white comic. According to the introduction of Torpedo’s debut in Echo of Futurepast, Continuity wanted to run Torpedo starting with its two initial Toth stories in Echo in color despite the author insisting the strip should be black and white. Then Continuity brought out their slugger, Cory Adams. She colored a sample page, someone from Continuity submitted the colored page in person, in Spain, and got the rights to print Torpedo in their magazine.
The Abulí, Toth and Adams combo was a dream team I didn’t know I had. Abulí’s first Torpedo story, which I had never read before, was violent, sexy and grimly humorous. Toth’s art requires no description I trust but I must say that I am smitten with his use of the six-panel grid. Ever the minimalist, each panel is worth its own weight in gold, and the pages are pleasurable to look at an arm’s length away I think due to the pattern of square panels that make up each spread. You can hold it away from your face, squint and still enjoy the marks he’s made. Yet, it is Cory Adam’s colors that breathe a helluva lotta life into this comic. If you don’t pay that much attention her color won’t call attention itself, in a good way. It’s not intrusive. She makes it harmonize with Toth’s art in a way that feels natural, but obviously innovative to the keen reader’s eye.
Adam’s colors add a layer of realism and drama that elevates the comic to a place slightly above the simple noir pastiche I think. Like I said before, and I’ll say it again, her colors give life and vibrance to dark and demented stories of murder-for-hire and jealousy and infidelity. Bright oranges and deep purples invigorate the images. Airbrushed gradients add depth and texture. Look at the page below’s bottom right panel. Ignore the brash language of a jealous mobster, but look how Adam’s makes use of the lamp to intensify Luke Torpedo’s anguish and isolation. Waiters and patrons look on in icy cool blue while our “hero” only has the lamp to keep him warm. And observe Adam’s subtle shading of the hands and face, it’s nothing short of masterful. Compare it to the black and white version I found floating around the internet, below the below image. Obviously, the black and white art is a masterpiece unto itself, but Cory Adams’ coloring transcends the black and white and I almost can’t consider the original art complete without the color now.