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Longtime Marvel Colorist, Andy Yanchus, Passed Away at Age 77

Andrew “Andy” Yanchus, a longtime comic book colorist who worked for Marvel Comics for nearly twenty years, including being the company’s head of coloring for a number of years, passed away last month at the age of 77.

Yanchus was a founding member of a New York-based group of comic book fans in the 1960s called The Illegitimate Sons of Superman (TISOS). A number of these fans made up what we now refer to as the second generation of comic book creators, the ones who actually grew up as fans of comic books as opposed to the first generation of comic book creators (like Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Will Eisner, Jerry Siegel, Joe Simon, Gardner Fox and the like) who had grown up reading pulp novels and newspaper comic strips instead of comic books, because there weren’t comic books until those creators created them.

Among the members of the group were future comic book superstars Len Wein and Marv Wolfman, as well as another future comic book creator, Mark Hanerfeld (Wein and Hanerfeld were the visual basis for DC’s horror comic book hosts, Cain and Abel, respectively). Yanchus’ sister, Pat, was also a part of the group. In a post by one of the group members, Richard Rubenfeld, Professor Emeritus of Art History at Eastern Michigan University, in tribute to Wein upon his passing a few years ago, Rubenfeld and Yanchus shared this photo of TISOS (Len Wein is standing in between Pat and Andy).

Standing from left to right: Pat Yanchus, Len Wein, Andy Yanchus, Ron Fradkin, Eliot Wagner, Marv Wolfman, Richard Rubenfeld. Crouching from left to right: Mark Hanerfeld, Stan Landman. Photo via Richard Rubenfeld and the late Andy Yanchus

Like a number of fans of the era, while Yanchus was a major comic book fan, he was also a big fan of plastic models and when he graduated from college, he went to work at the Aurora Plastics Company in 1965, the most popular plastic model company of the era. He later recalled his nine years at Aurora to Jim Salicrup in Comics Interview #4, “I started off in research and development. I started redrawing model motoring track plans and proof-reading instruction sheets, and it was only a matter of weeks before I was carving plans for model-car bodies. Through the years, I worked myself up and eventually go to the point where I was project manager and was overseeing the entire development of a new new kit from suggesting the idea and working with artists, sculptors, pattern-makers, engineers, tool makers, box people, even instruction sheets and everything up to and including approving the start of production on an item.”

However, the plastic model industry was in trouble at the time and so Yanchus left the company soon before it went under in 1977. He turned to his other early love, comic books, and began to get coloring gigs at Marvel Comics. One of his very first comics that he colored at Marvel was X-Men #104, the reintroduction of Magneto, coloring his fellow model kit enthusiast, Dave Cockrum…

Yanchus soon worked his way up to becoming the head of the coloring department at Marvel (along with George Roussos, who was specifically in charge of the coloring on Marvel’s covers, which were particularly important back in the newsstand days, when a cover could make or break an issue). As the head of the department, he would find and assign jobs to the various colorists for Marvel, check their work for accuracy and issue pay vouchers.

The problem for Yanchus came when the individual book editors became more and more involved in the selection of colorists. Eventually, he was no longer selecting colorists for books and was just checking the books for accuracy and he figured that he’d just as soon go freelance, and so he became a freelance colorist for Marvel, a job he maintained until the early 1990s.

Accuracy in coloring typically means “is this character colored correctly?” and because of his skills in that area, Yanchus was the obvious choice to color Mark Gruenwald’s epic Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe. Yanchus colored the original Handbook, the mid-80s Deluxe Edition, the 1989 update and the early 1990s looseleaf Master Edition.

Among his various coloring assignments, he is perhaps best known as the regular colorist in the early years of the New Warriors, coloring the book from #2-17…

Later in life, Yanchus did consulting work with modeling companies and he co-wrote a book about Aurora in 2014 called Aurora Monster Scenes — The Most Controversial Toys of a Generation. Yanchus remained a popular figure in the world of modeling and the great model website, Scale Model News, reported on his passing last month in a piece by Mat Irvine, who included a few more recent photos of Yanchus…

Photo via Mat Irvine.

Yanchus’ sister, Pat, now a retired nurse, left her home in Florida to take care of her brother in New York (Yanchus maintained an extensive collection of collectibles at his home, which he shared on his Flickr account). During the pandemic, the pair moved to Pat’s home in Florida, where she was better situated to care for him. He passed away in Florida on September 11th.

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