I don’t really like Kevin Smith.
Mainly because of the personal pain he has caused me.
How many times have I been introduced to someone as a comic artist and the first thing out of their mouths is
“Are you a tracer?”
...quoting the line from the K.Smith opus “Chasing Amy.
For those that don’t know this scene..(and if you are reading this..It’s hard to believe you wouldn’t know it)
The quote comes from a scene in which the actor Jason Lee (My Name is Earl TV show) has a battle of words with a fan at a comic convention that describes his job of inking as nothing more than “tracing”.
It’s a funny scene.
I laughed the first time I heard it.
...but a 1000 times later...hearing it from everyone from coworkers to family members...
well it’s just not funny anymore.
Nowadays when someone says that to me I look at them with a blank look on my face...
part serial killer part calm before the storm.
I say “yeah I’ve heard that a thousand times and it’s not really funny anymore.”
I twitch my eye a bit.
..just for effect.
This is almost always followed by an uncomfortable silence and a fumbled half muttered apology.
Works like a charm.
It does not really bother me that much.
...mainly it bothers me that they really don’t know what an inker is.
Ok when you are a comic geek shit like that bothers you!
It's not like I expect them to..I'm not that far gone.
..but it's a part of the comic book artistic process I have a lot of respect for.
So it deserves more than some one off joke that's found it's way into the collective pop culture mind.
Yeah I take comics way to serious... (eyes twitching)
For the non comic freaks...an inker is an artist that uses brushes, dip pens Rapidographs and or markers to “embellish” a pencil artists work on a comic page.
This was done in the past because it created very clean, easy to reproduce artwork.
This in turn created the classic comic book style of artwork.
Bold clean black lines.
..but that was than....
Technology has switched up the game.
Reproduction has improved by leaps and bounds and since everything runs through the computer these days it’s made inking almost unnecessary.
Or has it?
I have experimented with digital Inking or better known as “D-Inking”.
Sure you can scan in clean pencils and tweak them in photoshop and when you add color it can create an awesome look for a piece.
...but is something missing?
Over the years there have been some amazing pairings of pencilers and inkers.
Kirby and Sinnott
Byrne and Austin
Miller and Jansen
Mignola and Russell
Lee and Williams
Campbell and Garner
Hitch and Neary
They are all great artists on their own but when they are put together something magical happens.
I think it comes from having another set of talented eyes watching for mistakes in the artwork.
In this case two sets of eyes are better than one.
I saw first hand how Williams helped Lee’s pencils out.
As the deadline loomed Lee’s pencils would get pretty loose.
Not so much the structure but the rendering would slip or sometimes costume bits would come and go. Or backgrounds might get sketchy.
Having another artist there to watch out for those mistakes and keep the enthusiasm for the page up is a big help.
After a penciler does his part he often has no stomach to work on the page anymore.
He/she is ready to move on...
That’s where an inker who is getting at the page for the first time can bring their passion to it.
The other great benefit is having the chance to take another pass at your artwork.
This is especially helpful for the artist that inks their own work. You get a second chance at greatness.
... simplify something here or add something there..
Get it right.
Although I think the future of comics is D-inking:
for cost reasons and to cut a step out of the production time...
I long for the time when two artist would come together and create something special.
We are in the era where the colorist has taken the place of the inker.
An inker used to have final say as to the look of art...now the colorist sets the mood and controls the final image.
The inker made the pencillers artwork shine. The colorist I think can take away from the beauty and simplicity of the pencils.
Soon the days of ink on your fingers and finding the right Crow Quill nib will be a thing of the past...
..and I think I’ll miss that.
What if Robert Smith, Adam Ant and the Killers had a love child. Get your Electro whiney 80’s on!!!