Comic Art Friday: A flashback from the inkwell

Today’s Comic Art Friday is dedicated to the Inkwell Awards, the annual honors issued to inkers, those unsung heroes and heroines of the comic art world who transform (often rough) pencil drawings into clear, completely finished art suitable for publication.

The Inkwell Awards are the brainchild of my friend Bob Almond, an enormously talented inker perhaps best known for his lengthy stint on Marvel’s Black Panther, in collaboration with penciler Sal Velluto and writer Christopher Priest. In addition to his always exceptional artistic efforts, Bob is a tireless advocate for practitioners of his chosen craft, spending a great deal of his time and personal resources educating comics fans about the underappreciated, often misconstrued work of inking artists.

Over the years that I’ve been collecting and commissioning original comic art, I’ve learned a wealth of inking lore from Bob. And, thanks to the numerous commissioned projects he’s done for me (more than 40 at last count), my galleries sparkle with his expertly applied inks.

Given the fact that Bob and the rest of the Inkwell Awards team are currently soliciting votes for this year’s honors — an election in which you, friend reader, are cordially invited to participate — I thought this might be an excellent occasion to leap into the Wayback Machine and revisit the very first commission Bob ever inked for me.

Here’s the original pencil art, as Bob received it. If you stopped by here last week, you’ll recognize the distinctive style of Al Rio.

Superman and Supergirl to the rescue, pencils by comics artist Al Rio

This was a preliminary sketch Al created for a drawing he eventually auctioned off as a benefit for victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami that hit southern Asia on Boxing Day 2004. As the word “preliminary” suggests, and as you can see, this pencil sketch is a nicely drawn but still fairly rough outline of the idea Rio had in mind. (In fact, Al’s finished artwork bears only a passing resemblance to this initial concept. In the final product, Superman was replaced with Batman, and Supergirl gave way to a grieving mother.)

Bob Almond took this sketch and embellished it to a high gloss. He refined the figures, solidified the background elements, and added numerous details that are only hinted at — or in many instances absent altogether — in Al Rio’s pencil rough. When Bob’s work on the piece is complete, it’s no longer just a drawing. It has become a living, breathing example of finished comic art.

Superman and Supergirl, pencils by Al Rio, inks by Bob Almond

Anyone with a discerning eye can see that the inker’s contribution to the completed work extends far beyond merely tracing the penciler’s lines, as many uneducated comics fans suppose. The inker’s additions are indispensable to the art as the reader expects to experience it.

If you follow this link, you can read Mr. Almond’s own commentary about this commission, including Bob’s detailed description of the techniques and tools he employed.

Every day in the world of comic books, talented men and women practice the fine art of inking. Their toils often go unheralded, especially by comparison with those of their penciling colleagues. Still, for every Jack Kirby who has become a household name through the power of his pencil, there is a Joe Sinnott, a Frank Giacoia, or a Mike Royer inking away in the background, making those pencils look fantastic.

And yes, a Bob Almond too. (Bob’s much too young to have inked Kirby. But he certainly would have done The King proud.)

If you’re a comic art aficionado who values the abilities of inkers both historic and contemporary, please take a moment to surf over to the Inkwell Awards website and vote for your favorites. You’ll be glad you did.

And that’s your Comic Art Friday.

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One Comment on “Comic Art Friday: A flashback from the inkwell”

  1. Damon Says:

    You’ve done Bob, the Inkwell Awards, and all inkers proud this day. Excellent work.


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