I had a visit last week from an old friend who now lives in Virginia. Paul Green is a fellow artist, now turned author.
Like me, Paul was brought up on the 'Silver age' of DC Comics. But unlike me, he did go on to draw Superman!
One of the things that we were discussing, apart from the sad deaths of so many of the 'Silver age' artists, was how inking has changed over the years, and how modern inking has become so clean and crisp, it's almost machine like! It's hard to imagine modern graphic novels getting better!
Inking at D C Thomsons
I started my training as a cartoonist back in 1976. Inking in first with a dip pen, but soon progressing to a brush. You don't get the same problems with a brush, like:
spattering,(when the nib catches on the surface of the paper),
beading, (putting too much ink down, which can take ages to dry!).
clogging, (when paper fibres get torn up by the metal nib).
Both 'spattering' and 'clogging' were problems associated with inking onto watercolor paper. Now that digital coloring is here it's no longer a problem, as you can ink onto a smooth surface that can be scanned.
Inking with a brush can take a little longer to master, but it is safer. (I've still got two permanent tattoo's from stabbing myself with a dip pen!)
D C Thomsons was an excellent training ground, for the cartoonist or illustrator, and the biggest studio of it's type in Europe at that time.
It was while training at Thomsons that I was introduced to, what was then called, the 'Continental style' of cartooning. This style of inking appeared in the continental comics such as 'Spirou'.
The undisputed king of 'Continental style' inking, in my opinion, has to be Albert Underzo! So much movement in his line work.
I loved 'Asterix' when I was a child, and even in 2007, few artists come close to his amazing line work!
I've recently been impressed with the inking of Paolo Eleuteri-Serpieri. His work on 'The Great Bible Discovery' series #19, is excellent. At first glance you could be forgiven for thinking that his pictures are overworked, but on closer inspection, every line seems to have a purpose! Serpieri has to be the master of cross-hatching!
No one does it better!
Digital line work is great when you need a perfect brush line, or when you need to color the line work. (See sample here).
You are pretty much in complete control of a digital line.
Is 'digital inking' cheating? It depends on how you look at it. If you've spent 30 years honing your skills with a brush or a dip pen, you might think so. Or, you could argue that it just makes life easier for everyone. Digital coloring certainly has. Who knows, in years to come, maybe all inking will be digital!
I can't help thinking though. I'm kind of glad that Albert Underzo never had a graphics tablet!