The sentiment that “inking makes all of the difference” is really not as true as it used to be. Since the advent of digital coloring a good colorist is often what makes or breaks the art in comics (that is to say the final printed version of the art). As far as the original black and white goes, inking does make all of the difference. And since at the end of the day that is what I am holding in my hands and often selling in the collector’s market, that’s what still matters the most to me.
In my many years of working in comics I have had the blessing of working with some really gifted inkers as well as some that were not a great match stylistically for me. Rather than cast stones, I’m going to focus on a couple of examples of inkers that did a really terrific job over me. I should also note, I am going to focus on work from my career that I actually did a good job on as well. I had some good inkers working over me early on in my career where my work was not very good. Since this is my blog, I am not going to purposely make myself look bad:)
One of the best qualities an inker can have is a good aesthetic. That means he or she can tell what looks good and what doesn’t. An over bearing or rigidly slick inker can ink the life out of the pencils and make everything look like porcelain. At the opposite end of the spectrum, a really loose or sloppy inker can take a well drawn page and turn it into a cave drawing. What an inker should most strive for is enough control to accurately ink the penciler but a good enough eye to recognize what looks good or is aesthetically pleasing.
Let’s first take a look at Matt Ryan’s work. Matt is the inker most associated with me and has inked the majority of most prominent work including my runs on Mystic (CrossGen), Ms. Marvel (Marvel), Wonder Woman (DC) and JLI (DC). Matt has fantastic control and an uncanny ability to accurately ink a drawing without loosing the vitality of the pencil work.
Here is an example of Matt’s inks next to my pencils for the same page of Justice League International.
Matt inks the exact same way I would ink myself if I had the same control he does. I’m close but not quite. We are both primarily brush inkers but necessity is starting to push me more toward the pen to get a more “modern” feel to my work.
Next let’s look at Danny Miki. Danny is one of my favorite inkers because he brings an extra level of energy to the pencils through his inking technique. His line is at the same times rough and accurate. In other words he inks accurately what is drawn but at the same time adds a quality to the line that gives it the fresh energy of a pencil sketch. Check out this great piece from the now classic, Planet Hulk series.
I worked with Norm Rapmund a couple of times in my career and always got good results. He is very much like Danny Miki but perhaps a little bit slicker. I worked on series with him called Sentinel Squad and together we produced a really iconic image of the Hulk that I have seen Marvel use for promotion more than once. Norm is a guy that I would definitely work with again any time I had the opportunity.
Notice the angular broken line approach as well as the added white splatter on the Hulk’s back leg that really gives the inked drawing an extra sense of energy.
Finally let’s take a look at Tim Townsend. Tim and I collaborated on several covers for my run on the Excalibur series for Marvel. When Tim agreed to ink the covers I told him to do whatever he wanted as long as it looked good when he was done. Needless to say he hit several home runs. The Dark Beast cover was the first of our run and it is still my favorite. I tried to cater my pencils to what I thought Tim would do but he still surprised me with his cleverness and sense of style, Tim uses a combination of pen and brush and is extremely accurate to the pencils but at the same time brings a great sense of style to his line work. Look, learn and appreciate!
These are just a few examples of some really quality inking by some really quality inkers. Obviously I didn’t include everyone I have ever worked with mainly because It took me forever just to scan this art and post it! But these four are certainly among the best in the business and made me look pretty darn good!