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Ink On The Brain
by tWISTEd sPINe
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First, congrats on The Dark Ages. Its really become an amazing title, and I know that your contribution to that fact is a large one. I do need to come clean, however, and admit that I am in the dark (terrible pun here, I should be hurt, badly) about inking as a craft. As has been stated before, inkers tend to be left out of the loop when it comes to giving kudos for great artwork in any given title. You stated in your interview with Chris Cook regarding KPC, the role of an inker has changed dramatically over the years, and you are part of the "new school" way of thinking. What I would like to do is really explore inking as a craft and have you shed some light on the process as it pertains to modern day comics for us who may not be fully informed about it.

And of course, we're going to delve into your personal life, rip out all your demons, and play with your insides a bit as long as that's ok with you?? :)

Check out these awesome Pencil to Ink images Kevin
was kind enough to scan for this interview

#22 Pages 2 & 3     #22 Page 1     #17 Pages 18 & 19


- How long have you been at this? Inking in general I mean.

Since February 1993.

- Would you say there was a defining moment in your life when you just KNEW that comic art was something you wanted to be involved with?

As a kid, probably around ten years old, all I did was draw super-heroes. When all my friends were out playing baseball or something, I was inside with the latest issue of Spider-Man or the Hulk, picking out the best pictures to copy.

- What was the first comic book you were ever involved with?

My first professional comic was X-Force #22, for Marvel.

- Have you ever felt that any of your inks did not capture what the penciler was going for? I ask because, as someone who does not do this kind of work, it seems like it could be intimidating to look at another artist's page and try to know exactly what to do with it.

Yeah, there was a couple in my 'greener' years. I don't really get intimidated anymore. I'm confident enough in my abilities now where I can sink my teeth in just about any penciler's work. Don't get me wrong, I 'stumble' on occasion; I don't always hit the mark, but I believe my inks are pretty consistent.

- Along the same lines as above, do you ever feel indecision about how to ink a page? Are there times when you just have to talk to the penciler and ask them what they were going for and what should be emphasized etc.?

Yes to all of the above. If I'm not sure how to handle a page, I'll put it aside and work on another, all the while I'm sorting out what I plan to do with the previous page. It's kind of weird actually; I don't really consciously plan it out, but as I'm working on something else, it sort of just comes to me what to do with the other. On occasion, I will have to call the penciler to ask what the hell it is I'm looking at! (lol)

- In the interview with Chris Cook, you talk about the pencil work you did for the cover of #31 of KPC. (By the way, very sad the title went under. I was not a collector of the series but I feel for those who were and I have looked at enough of the issues to recognize the passion and work that went into it) Is penciling something you would like to do for an entire book? I guess the question is, might we see a title being penciled AND inked by you in the future?

I would like nothing better than to pencil my own book. Inking for me is rewarding, but I would certainly like to 'spread my wings' on my own project. I do have an idea for a book that I have on a back burner. I have a solid synopsis and visuals for it. I just need to finish plotting it out so I can get going on it.

- Also, referencing the other interview, you speak about how the role of an inker has changed over the years. Where once, the inker was there to ink ONLY what was on the page, now you are a more vital part of the whole creative process. Can you explain this a bit further? Are you given freedom to make changes to a page of art without consulting the penciler if you feel it works better? What are the boundaries?

Thanks for bringing this up, I feel like I need to better explain my thoughts on this, and I should add that this has been my experience with inking. I do know some other inkers who I believe are more creative than most, and they probably feel the same way that I do about the craft, but on the flip side, there are also quite a few good inkers out there who don't add a single extra line to a page and continue to get work. There are pencilers out there who expect an inker to run with the page and there are pencilers who don't want you to change a single line. I've worked with both kinds, and believe me, I'd rather work with the 'former' than the 'latter'. Working as in inker for Todd McFarlane Productions gives me all the freedom I need to change the artwork without consulting the penciler first, BUT, and that's a big BUT, I almost always talk to the penciler first if it is going to be a drastic change. I sometimes dive right into a page that I know I can make dramatic improvements to without talking to the penciler first, and before I know it, the page is finished and looking very different than before I started it. I then have the nasty job of calling the penciler and breaking the news to him, and luckily, they are usually pretty gracious about it and actually like the changes. On a smaller scale of changes, I don't normally check with them; anyone who knows me knows my reputation and abilities as an inker. As far as boundaries, it all depends on how open to change the penciler is. If you are a pro (penciler or inker), you learn to adapt to each other's limits.

- Have you ever gone to a penciler and told them an entire page was not working for you or suggested they redo it?

An entire page? No, there is usually something redeeming on a page that can be saved, but I have suggested that a page may need some major work. If they choose not to change it, then, to the best of my ability, I'll make it work.

- If the inker's role TODAY were the same as it was 20 years ago, would you still do it? Would you be willing to just ink what is on the page without being able to input your own creative talents/ideas?

If you include in that equation today's piss-poor market, then the answer is yes; good inking jobs in this industry are scarce and you almost need to take what you can get. Would I be happy just inking what's on the page? Definitely not, but if there are no other options, I absolutely would do it to keep food on the table.

- Do you get one page at a time from Nat as he completes them, or do you get an entire stack? How doest the process work?

In a good month, I usually get roughly half of the book at a time. As I finish them, I'll scan them and send the file to Todd B. for colors. When I'm finished with the entire issue, I send the original art off to my Editor for his perusal.

- Can you summarize how a typical inking day for StDA goes down? What I mean is, what is your ritual? Do you have a special place and mood setting in the room? Do you listen to music and if so, who? Basically, if you could just describe to us the process you go through to get ready and then actually ink the page, that would be awesome.

Lately, I get up around 7am, eat breakfast, read the paper, get the kids off to school then check my e-mail. I start my page with Howard Stern on the radio and then drop in a few CD's when he's through. Before I start a page, I'll decide what I'm going to do with it and just dig in. As far at the music is concerned, it depends on my mood on any particular day. I'm a metal head at heart, but I also love Jazz, swing and R&B. The short list of what I'm listening to currently is Kiss (always), Godsmack, Pantera, Testament, Creed, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Kenny Wayne Sheppard, Voodoo Land, Miles Davis, any Big Band jazz, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and Brian Setzer Orchestra…whew! Pretty scary, huh?

- How do you feel about the current creative team for Dark Ages? Is everyone working well together and supporting one another?

Absolutely, I think everyone on this book appreciates each other. Nat is young and growing with each issue and is very open to my insanity. He has an understanding equal to most veteran pencilers of the creative process from pencils to inks. What can I say about Steve? Just read the books, his work speaks for itself. And all I can say about Todd is thank God he took over the colors.

- How do you feel about the heavy violence/gore of StDA? Do you enjoy inking this type of material and is it something you would incorporate if you had complete creative control?

This one is a bit sticky. Personally, it doesn't bother me, but I find myself keeping certain pages from my 8 and 10 year old. I certainly think it is representative of the era that the book takes place, so it's not gratuitous, but it certainly is graphic and requires policing when children are involved. What works for StDA will not work for Captain America.

- Something I am planning on asking everyone on the team, what are your thoughts about the comic industry today? Do you feel its just a down time and things will pick back up, or does the industry need to make some big changes to get things back on track as far as sales go?

I think it's in the shitter and I really don't have much hope of a resurgence. Kids and young adults have so much on their plates these days, they have little time to enjoy a simple comic book and there are so many other things today to distract them. We are living in a high tech world and the paper comic book is very low tech. It needs to catch up with technology some way or some how. I really don't know the answer, but something is going to need to change.

- Do you feel confident that The Dark Ages will make it to issue 100? And beyond?

That would be great; let's all hope so!

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