Inking Snart

Inking is one of those things that to master takes thousands of hours of training. Wow. Thousands? Really? Isn't there like a hack I could Google to find out some kind of shortcut to transform me from a novice to a Master Inker? No, stupid. No. Couldn't I flick my wand around on a tablet, apply a few software filters, some AI algos and magically transform my errant scribbles into Comics' next great inker? No, stupid. No. Why is it that if something is hard, instead of doing the hard work, we seek out ways to bypass, cut corners, take the easy route to mastery? Laziness? Ignorance? Both. Not that I consider myself a great inker, but pretty good for my style of cartooning.

I started inking with a brush around age 12 or 13. Just messing around with it because I had read somewhere about comic artists that most inked with brushes and not pens. I noticed immediately that it was hard as hell. You needed just the right brush. The ink required the right consistency. The board had to have the right texture. Little nuances that if you didn't understand or weren't aware of, were great discouragements. I researched like crazy, but none of this "secret knowledge" was disclosed (this was before the Internet when everyone blabs about everything). All of this I had to discover for myself. Brush. Ink. Board. I eventually figured out the right combo that worked for me, and that took years of experimenting and practice.

When I did the first issue of Ralph Snart, I wasn't sure I was going to ink with a brush or a pen. At that point, I still didn't have that much time using a brush. The confidence wasn't there. I knew I could do it with a pen, but a brush presented the better, more professional look. At that point, I also had nothing to lose. First comic, go for broke, use a brush, stupid. That was late 1985. It wouldn't be until ten years later when I was doing the Weird Melvin mini-series that I considered myself an accomplished inker (for my style).

Now, there's two things that influenced my inking, that has nothing to do with what other artists are doing. The first is looking at my style of art as being organic (maybe why everything I draw is lumpy, imperfect and grotesque). Organic is not having a precise, machined-like quality. Things stretch, flex and bend. Things look alive. Characters aren't stiff, contrived mannequins. Objects have textures and imperfections.

The second is understanding style vs. technique. Style is how the art looks. Technique is how I put that look down on board. Inking on board with a brush is my technique, but there are other factors; the size of the artwork, what kind of board, size of brush, how I use the brush. Also, how the brush uses me, and by that, I mean each brush has it's own character, imperfections and can influence how you use it. Every brush is slightly different. Technique also affects style; is the inking super tight and mechanical or is it loose and suggestive? How are the pencils interpreted?

It helps that I ink my own pencils. I don't have to be a slave to the pencils, or think that I have to respect them verbatim. For me, inking is simply another stage of the drawing. With this, I end up fixing and editting a lot of what was put down in the pencils as I ink. In the comics professional world, this wouldn't be tolerated because the inker has to respect what the penciller has drawn. So, in a way, I guess I don't respect myself.
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Marc Hansen
Marc Hansen

Cartoonist and creator of Ralph Snart Adventures, Weird Melvin and Doctor Gorpon. Hansen has done most of his work for NOW Comics, but has also done work for Marvel, Disney and Kitchen Sink Press.

Ralph Snart Adventures was published from 1986-1993 by now defunct NOW Comics, and was the longest running comic in the entire NOW catalog, selling an average of 50,000 copies a month during that nine year period. Over two million comics were published, and it was the first indy comic to receive the Comics Code.

Today, Marc Hansen publishes Ralph Snart Adventures as an ebook on a sporadic basis. Current issues are available on his website. Keep up with Ralph Snart on Twitter and Facebook.

Ralph Snart is a registered trademark. Copyright 2024 by Marc Hansen.