As the mission statement on the banner masthead above says “To Promote and Educate About the Art of Comic Book Inking”. It’s basically what we do and have done now for going on nine years.
We at the Inkwell Awards never shine a poor, public light on any publishers regarding a lack of inker credits and recognition, preferring to keep it all positive and speak in generalities. I and some organization members also work for Marvel & DC and one has to be sure to not go over the line when it comes to a professional, freelance relationship and promoting one’s non-profit mission on the promotion of inking. But having said all that, I also believe that a publisher should be given kudos when doing a job well-done, from our perspective at least. This article will be somewhat of a high wire act;-)
Between 2000 and 2007 I had some areas of concern about changes regarding inking/inkers from publishers that had to do with inker credits being removed from solicitations, removed from trade or HC collection covers, and not being included under swatches of sample art in handbooks, magazines, special projects, etc. (There are other areas like the Eisner Awards suddenly removing their voting category for Best Inker after several years of activity, editors skipping the production step of inking in comic books by using Photoshop manipulation of the pencils with cleaning & darkening, and other stuff, all not really applicable to this article.)
From everything I’d been aware of DC Comics had/has kept all traditional credits for inkers in place. Thanks to former committee member Erick Korpi, who had been attending the monthly DC meetings in Manhattan as a guest: he opened up a dialogue with us and the likes of executives Jim Lee, Dan Didio and Mark Chiarello and prompted us to send them Inkwell gift bags (brochure, Joe Sinnott Challenge book, t-shirt) for the next gathering. From there it lead to Jim (and his able assistant Eddy Choi) authorizing and approving our efforts in organizing the spinoff event from the Joe Sinnott Inking Challenge with the JSIC Spotlight on Jim Lee, our first artist for this program. Besides the program being a huge hit in the realm of education about what inkers do, by selling the various original art blueline pages in our auctions, all signed by Jim and the ink artist, they helped us raise just shy of $6000. No small feat of support! I hold nothing but praise for the team at DC.
I have done most of my career work at Marvel Comics going on 25 years (and have been a fan/reader since 1976) so I had been very much on top of what the House of Ideas was producing. I’d like to salute the team in the collections/special projects department for making a bold effort to bring inker credits back to where they had been before the millennium. I had reached out and tried opening up a dialogue with Marvel and I found what I felt was the right time in the summer 2015. I even offered the department senior editor Jeff Youngquist our services in any way. It took Jeff a while to reply but considering that many emails sent to editors sink into a black hole or limbo, never to be responded to, he replied three months later with an apology and an honest “no promises” statement. He’d keep it “in mind” and “look into it”. It was noncommittal but realistic; I’d cross my fingers but not hold my breath.
Later, while working with the collections office for two columns of the Black Panther by Christopher Priest: The Complete Collection (sharing art/design extras, reformatting an afterword, etc.) I again offered our services to Mark Beazley and Jeph York and Jeph and I had some subsequent back-n-forths regarding identifying who inked what. I even organized an Inkwell “Credits Council” of comic book original art experts for those questions I couldn’t answer and/or to validate my answers.
Recently I finally picked up an item my retailer at Rubber Chicken Comics had been holding for me, The Captain America 75th Anniversary Magazine. Now I don’t pick up every Marvel magazine or handbook or special project (but I do get a lot of Marvel Masterworks editions and several trade collections) so I’m not quite omniscient about all their output. But this magazine impressed me. Ten or more years ago, a project like this would have been very different and not in a way the Inkwells would appreciate. This had inker credits almost everywhere! If that product was representative of what these departments have been producing then we commend them for giving recognition credit where it was due and, at the same time, showing honor and respect towards the art form of inking and it’s artists. Jeff, Mark and Jeph have shown nothing but professionalism and integrity in their words and actions and we’re completely thrilled at La Casa Inkwell. I will be certain to promote them at my annual live awards ceremony at the end of the season in June that I mc at Heroes Con, much like I did about DC at the last ceremony.
I see promise with both companies and their respective teams. May they continue to carry the torch high!
Now if only the Eisners will take us up on our repeated offers to help THEM!
(Thanks to Mike Pascale for his assistance)