Simply put, a comic book inker renders another
artist's pencil drawings in India ink.
Typically, in comics, there are two artists who
work on any book. A penciller, who renders the original drawing in
pencil; and the inker who transforms/interprets this drawing into a
camera-ready piece of black-and-white art-work.
|Why doesn't one person
do it all?
Here are a few reasons.
1.) Different kinds of skills are needed for
each aspect of the job. The penciller CAN render drawings tonally (in
other words: using shades of grey). In fact, it's very difficult for a
penciller NOT to work tonally. The inker, however, can only use black or
white. Therefore, a large body of techniques used to represent different
shades of grey [and textures, moods, distance, weight, depth, et cetera]
is very beneficial. In other words: while the penciller must use his (or
her) creativity to imagine and realize the situations put forth by the
writer in the script; the inker must use his (or her) creativity to
dream up a way to represent the subjects drawn in pencil and complete
the artwork in ink.
And, yes, there ARE some artists who can do
both; but then one has to consider time.
2.) Limited time. A majority of the comic books
on the market are published monthly. Some pencillers can pencil more
than one issue of a comic book each month; but some can't. Some inkers
can ink more than one full issue of a monthly book each month; but some
can't. A team is more likely to turn-in work on time. (But, even then,
it's no guarantee.)
3.) A second set of eyes. Sometimes a penciller
has worked on a page so long that he may not perceive a drawing error he
would want to change. Or she runs out of time to really finish drawing a
figure. Ideally, the inker will scrutinize the page as he works and make
sure everything looks right.
|Is it just tracing? Can
you change things as you ink?
My advice to interns (and anyone who asks) is
that an inker should never trace exactly what's already drawn on the
page in pencil. An inker has to consider texture, light source, the
underlying form of an object, distance from the observer, and a few
other things before putting brush (or pen) to paper.
A big part of the job is "educated mind
reading". Asking yourself: "what does the penciller really
want when he makes this mark on the page?" Sometimes she wants a
very specific final effect. Sometimes it's obvious that he doesn't know
what he wants and is -in effect- saying: "go ahead! Do whatever you
like." Communication with the penciller is important. When in
doubt, I ask. Although I need to ask less and less as I work with a
In general, An inker should enhance the quality
(as it relates to publishing/printing, and -if possible- artistic merit)
of the pencilled art-work without changing the feel or style of the
But, what if you've developed an aesthetic
vision that's unique? My attitude is to work with pencillers who
appreciate my ink-style being imposed upon their pencils. Artists who
see my inks as an artistic contribution to the final product. Luckily,
there are a few who feel that I'm seeing (and subsequently inking) just
what they would want (even if they never thought of it). In other words,
it's not a forcible change, but a vision already sympathetic to theirs.
"Can you write a testimonial blurb for the ad about my comic
book (which you've never seen)?"
A: Sure! Why
should I demonstrate any honor or integrity by saying no? In the
event that you want me to recommend your comic book to the world,
despite the fact that I don't know whether it's good or not; I've
written some equivocal testimonials for you to use. Beware of
when you were wondering if there's a future for comics, along
comes a book that removes all doubt."
"Sure to be on everyone's list."
"It will change the way you feel about comics."
"A beacon of hope for all aspiring artists."
"Sets a new precedent in comics quality."
"You'll want to tell your friends!"
"Done as only (fill in your company name here) can do
"I've compared it to some
of the best comics out there."
"People are talking!"
"It exceeded my expectations."
guys will change everything."
In the following blurbs I've already employed the same tactic that
advertisers for bad movies have to use. I've said a complete
sentence about the comic book of dubious quality; but, left it up
to YOU to decide which part of the sentence to use.
"This comic stands out..." as a glaring example of the
overall decline of comics quality.
Reading all the way through this horrible book proved to be
"...a monumental undertaking."
"The best comic book ever made..." was Moonshadow.
|For the overly
curious, this is what an inker/tracer looks like.....
Photo: Jeff Tischer
|O-fficial Tracer Badge
Me with two of my favorite people.
Photo: Christine Kortze