Presenting...THE INKWELL AWARDS
Because this is an award that is open to one aspect of the creation of comic books. And it's one of the most under appreciated and as such overlooked part of the creative process - inking.
Stop laughing. Or I'll get slightly angry. Really I will.
You think of some of the great artists of all time. Jack Kirby. John Byrne. Marshall Rogers. Jim Starlin. Mike McKone. Mike Zeck. Norm Breyfogle. Alan Davis. Frank Robbins. Gene Colan. Carmine Infantino. All great artists. However as good as they were, and are, with a bad inker they could look, well ordinary. With a good inker they could look great. With a great inker they looked stunning and did their best work. Don't believe me? Consider this:
Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott, Mike Royer or Wally Wood
Gene Colan and Tom Palmer
John Buscema and Tom Palmer
John Byrne and Terry Austin
Marshall Rogers and Terry Austin
Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson
Mike Zeck and John Beatty
Mike McKone and Mark McKenna
Norm Breyfogle and Steve Mitchell
Alan Davis and Paul Neary
Bryan Hitch and Paul Neary
Bob Budiansky and Dave Simons
Jim Starlin and Al Milgrom
Frank Robbins and Frank Springer...get the picture? And that's not mentioning any number of other great artistic teams. Ross Andru and Mike Esposito. Jack Kirby and Joe Simon. Curt Swan and Murphy Anderson - who were so seamless they'd sign books 'Swanderson'. And then there's the guys who were so good that just their name could make people buy a book. Bob McLeod, Joe Rubenstein, Frank Giacoia, Dick Girodano, Dan Adkins, Syd Shores, Klaus Janson, John Dell and too many to mention fit into that category. So don't be saying that inkers are tracers. And that means you Kevin Smith. If it were that easy then everyone would be doing it. Hell - I can trace over someone's pencils with a pen but I'll tell you right now, it'll look crap. I know this for a fact because I've done it, just for fun. A few years back I printed out some Erik Larsen Spider-Man pencils and 'inked' them. Apparantly the pencils were 'ink proof', that is they could be merely darkened and considered inked. My results were so bad even the pen stopped working.
Thus my career as an inker was as dead as Rick Astley's singing career, and just as rank.
Just what is this award? Who are these people and creatures photographed here? Glad you asked. The Inkwell Awards is the brainchild of this man - Bob Almond. Now to fully understand what an inker does then look no further than what Bob did with Sal Velluto on the brilliant Black Panther run a few years back. Sure Sal's pencils looked good, but Sals pencils inked by Bob shone like nothing you're likely to see in a hurry. Why? Because Bob knows his craft and he is dedicated to it. He wants people to understand what an inker does and what an inker means to the wider community. He wants to raise awareness, so he came with the idea and planted the seeds of an award into a few heads.
See this fine specimen of a man? That's Tim Townsend. He's an inker and also part of the committee that's been working hard to come up with these awards. Call him a tracer and I hope he gives you a few to take home to your mother. Tim is one of the best you're likely to see. How good is he? The man will never be unemployed, that's for sure. Talk to any artist in this day and age and mention Tim's name and see them all stand up. Tell a penciler that Tim will be the inker on their book and see their faces crack open from the smiles. There are artists who'd happily strangle a puppy to have their pencils enhanced by Tim's inks.
That's respect. One other thing Tim is known for is his passion for the craft of inking. When I first interviewed him we spoke about what an inker brings to the table. Part of what he said follows, "Anyone who honestly thinks that inking is tracing is either not interested in comics to begin with or just wouldn't be intelligent enough to understand the explanation. Honestly, if it was that easy why wouldn't everyone be doing it? Why would some be considered better than others? Why would some be held in such high esteem by so many? It’s really a crime the way inking as an art form is generally dismissed by the public. Do we really need WIZARD to say inking is worthy in order to turn our attention towards it? If the droves of fans really understood that every single line they're looking at in their favourite (Inked) books were placed there by an inker and could see what the pencils looked like before hand, I think the THUD from their collective jaws hitting the floor would be loud enough to.......well.....it would be really loud.
"In a band the bass player is probably the least glamorous gig' one can have. Who gives a crap about bass players (except other bass players)? Well take that bass out of the music and what are you left with? Get my drift? Inking is far more than playing bass. We're responsible for more than just one aspect of the art. I love bass players BTW." Now if you think he's blowing air here imagine Led Zeppelin without John Paul Jones. Queen without John Deacon. The Who without John Entwistle. U2 without Adam Clayton. The Police without Sting. Pearl Jam without Jeff Ament. Sure it might sound alright, but seriously the music would fall down without the glue that holds it together. Inks are the glue that holds a comic together. The inks fill the dead space, they bring the art forward.
See this dude? He's not an inker. This is Adam Hughes. He's one of the foremost pencilers in the world right now. Tell an editor that Adam Hughes wants to draw a book and watch them drown a budgie with the amount of drool that comes out. Adam Hughes is a penciler almost without peer. He's a rare creature, artists love him and the fans adore him. Tell him inkers are just tracers and he's likely to use that gun on you. He's also part of the committee.
See this cat? He belongs to another committe member, Jim Tournas, or Jimmy T to those in the know. Jim is a damn good guy. I've watched as he's grown into a fine artist over the years and I've been both happy and proud to have done so. One of my favourite pieces of original art is a Batman/Joker illustration that he and Jesus Antonio created. Jimmy also shares a strong passion for the craft of inking to the point where he runs the only mailing list devoted to inkers, the Inkwell. He's another one of those guys who I'd defend until I ran out of breath and then some. Without him I doubt the awards would be happening either. Jimmy has spent countless hours designing and refining the official web-site for the awards and has done a brilliant job. Like all of us Jimmy has given over his time, energies and expertise without payment. You see these awards are self-funded, the site, through advertising, will raise the money required to buy the physical awards and the rest of the cash will be handed over to The Hero Initiative. No-one is in this for the cash, people are donating their time and skills to help celebrate the Art Of Inking.
There's been a host of others involved with this along the way: Dan Panosian, who designed the banner that we're using. Inkers John Beatty, Mark McKenna and Serge LaPointe have all thrown in ideas and suggestions. Ernest Pelletier who's made sure that we've not done anything wrong, legally. The editors, Bill Nichols and Mike Marts who've lend their own special kind of clout. As you can see this isn't an award handed out by a few fans working from their mother's basements - this is a serious award, thought up by serious people with the assistance and weight that those names, and many others, bring to the table. In fact there's been times when I've wondered how the devil I got onto the committee.
Now, down the nitty and also gritty. How will the awards work? For that answer I'd like to quote part of Bob Almond's introductory letter on the site proper. "Please take a moment to look over the categories as well as the creator database links on the nominees page as a reference," says Bob. "Open to both the public and the industry, please feel free to vote for every category or only those you feel informed enough about (some are more 'shop-centric' for the creators). Categories not specifying a 'retro' or 'modern-age' designation is open to any eligible inker.
"Voting will run until May 30,2008. Results will be tabulated and posted here, my own website, as well as my column, if not elsewhere at a later date, and subsequently, award trophies distributed. Committee inker members are exempt from voting for themselves or other members but are otherwise valid nominees. As a general rule of thumb, please choose ink artists that have inked more work in their career than penciled. But nominees will not necessarily be held exclusively to this standard. The committee will ultimately judge eligibility of all nominees."
In short people will vote on who should win the awards. The categories are:
A) Retro (golden, silver & bronze age artists)
B) Modern (1990s to present)
(Known for doing finished inkwork over the layouts or breakdowns of a pencil artist)
(Showing exceptional ink style versatility)
Most Prolific Inker
(Inker deserving of more attention from any age; mainstream or small press/indie)
The call of duty award
(Special consideration for an inker for donating their time and effort to the public and/or the comic community)
(The go-to, troubleshooter Inker that can save/boost almost any job)
And the most exciting of them all, The JOE SINNOTT Award. You read that right. The Inkwell Awards equivalent of a Lifetime Achievement award is named after one of the industries true legends, Joe Sinnott. The idea was floated and run past Joe, via his son Mark, and the answer came back a resounding positive. So you can add his name to the list as well as a person who is working to make this a reality. And a reality it is.
If you're an original art dealer, have a comic shop or the like and want to leap onto this then you have a chance. Go here, chose your plan, pay and get your banner on the site. I assure you of this, this award will get a lot of ink, both on-line and in print. Here's your chance to get in on the ground floor, so to speak, before all the advertising spots are filled. Even without the site being live spots have been booked, paid for and are ready to go. Don't miss the opportunity.
Go and visit the site. Have a poke about and read up on things. You'll like it. And then think about who you want to win and get ready to cast your votes! Otherwise I might just tell Adam Hughes where you live.