This happens so much to me that I don’t even bother to explain it: everyone has seen Chasing Amy right? The Kevin Smith movie about the comic artists dealing with their sexuality and relationship hang-ups? There’s a scene in the beginning of the movie which takes place at a comic convention. Some ignorant asshead is standing in our heroes’ line and proceeds to proclaim how inkers are really tracers.
So, I’ll be at a party or some social gathering and someone will bring up that I do comics. Without fail, someone will say “You’re a tracer!”
Since I can’t punch every douche bag, I just smile and nod. I try not to even go into it, because for some reason, every goddamn person who has seen that movie thinks that the actor portraying the Asshole in Comic Con Line is right; that inkers are really tracers.
Now let’s get this straight – I suck at inks, so already you are claiming that I suck at something I already suck at. I’m not bad on my own pencils, but I am not anywhere near on the level of most of the people in my studio.
Regardless, I want to try and dispel this tracing myth, so let’s go through the whole process. In modern comic production, most comics are produced as a team effort. First, the writer writes the script, second the script is approved and sent to the penciler, and thirdly the penciler pencils all the pages. Now, I’ve seen some really rough pencils, and I’ve seen some really tight pencils – depending on the artist. That doesn’t matter so much right now (that could be a whole other post) because the next step is to send those pages to the inker to make them sing.
Basically they go over what the penciler has done in ink, but it is how they do it which makes an inker a necessary part of the team.
While I was reading through my copy of Essential Werewolf by Night last week, I came across a full page by Gil Kane that ended the issue, then in the very next issue, we have a splash page that picks up right where the previous full page left off, except that it had a different inker.
Here is a page from Werewolf By Night Issue #11 (pencils by Gil Kane , inks by Tom Sutton):
Now check out the splash page from Werewolf By Night Issue #12 (pencils again by Gil Kane, inks by Don Perlin):
See the difference? These pages are essentially the same; the same scene depicted by the same penciler. However, each inker has decided to treat Kane’s pencils differently. The most immediate differences are how Perlin forsakes the studious hatching and detailed linework of Sutton. Sutton’s lines really bring a great deal of depth and texture to the first page. No, Perlin instead goes for heavy blacks and brush work to do his lifting. Perlin even has a bit of a handicap. While Sutton probably spent a great deal of time on the last page of that issue so your eyes got a feast, Perlin has the first page of the book, and the first page’s job is to get you to turn the page. Notice how all the blacks weigh your eyes down to the right hand corner of the page? This is done intentionally to subtly suggest that you keep reading, that you need to turn the page! Kane helps Perlin out also with his composition; the Werewolf’s leg has moved to point into the corner also, reinforcing your desire to turn the page.
Anyway, I saw this late one night and thought these two pages one right next to the other with no colors on them made for an interesting point of comparison. For those of you out there who were wondering if inkers really were tracers, I hope that you can see that they bring a great deal more to the table than what was previously thought. And if you don’t see the difference, you run the risk of me mocking you publicly. That means me ripping on your visual comprehension skills and comparing them to a pre-schooler. That’s bad. Plus I’m into comics so that is like salt on the wound. It’s like being talked down to by a toad, and the toad is dead on.
Best part about this post? I have yet again pulled Werewolf By Night into the Parlor! One more excuse to show off some werewolf art and that will be like a geek hat trick.
You can also browse through the Parlor archives.
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