Joseph Clement Coll began his professional career working for the New York American in the late 1890s. He was soon working for magazines such as Collier's, Everybody's and the American Sunday Magazine. Coll's reputation stands mainly on his pen & ink story illustrations.
In contrast to most illustrators who worked in pen & ink, Coll achieved true tonal gradations in his illustrations by using pen strokes to build up a complete range of values. He was influenced by the Spanish pen & ink artist Daniel Vierge. According to illustration experts,[who?] Coll's other great qualities were his vivid imagination and the unique perspectives that he used in his works.
Coll was also a painter and he often did paintings for the cover or frontispiece of books which were reproduced in color and then pen & inks to illustrate the text. He was considered to be an ideal illustrator for authors such as Arthur Conan Doyle and other adventure writers. His illustrations for books such as Talbot Mundy's King of the Khyber Rifles and Sax Rohmer's The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu were widely reprinted for many years.