History

Sketch Magazine #35

AN ONGOING (rambling) JOURNAL BY BOB ALMOND

In January 2008 Bob Almond began an on-line discussion on the Inkwell Yahoo Group about the overall lack of recognition and problems with respect toward inkers. During these discussions, the idea of an award was mooted to raise awareness of the craft of inking in the public eye. Bob wrote an article on the subject for his ‘Inkblots’ column in Sketch Magazine in 2007, edited by Bill Nichols.

Subsequently Almond sounded out several people and invited participants from the Inkwell Yahoo Group discussions to join in the core committee, which handle the operations and fundraising. The founding members of the Inkwell Awards were artists Tim Townsend, Jim Tournas, Bill Nichols and writer Daniel Best. Following this two ambassadors were selected, artist Adam Hughes and DC Comics editor Mike Marts, to lend support to the organization and mission. Danny and Tim Aslat acted as webhosts and set up the website and artist Dan Panosian designed the Inkwell logo. Jim Tournas ordered the trophies from a vendor local to him for the first three years or so (Bob took over and ordered them from Chadwick’s Awards after that).

For year one, the committee selected several career retrospective categories. The resulting ballot was open and ran for two months from April through May including the Hall of Fame award, the Joe Sinnott, named in honor of the notable and respected veteran ink artist. Voting took place online at the site and was open to the public.

Following the inaugural results, Tim Townsend departed in July and Bill Nichols in August. To replace these vacant spots in the core group, art rep Bob Shaw was selected in November and veteran artist/writer Dave Simons in December. Bob Shaw had acted as the eBay auctioneer contributor for the organization’s fundraising in year one and continued that duty when promoted going into year two.

Developments in the fall/winter of 2008 included promotional expansion online by the committee members on social networks like Facebook (Danny), MySpace (Bob S.), and the formation of the Inkwell Awards forum (Bob S.) on September 16, 2008. A ComicArtFans Gallery account was formed in November of 2008 by Bob Shaw (later maintained by Bob Almond and Damon Owens), Twitter (Danny) and Comicspace (Bob A.) accounts were later added on November 1, 2009.

In late 2008 the committee was motivated to set into motion a new program called the COMPliments Program. Joe Sinnott used to receive HC comps of his collected work from a publisher for years but suddenly he noticed he was missing a few and called up an editor to inquire. He was told “…inkers no longer get comp copies of the books. Only writers and pencilers. The inkers aren’t as important to the book as the writer and penciler”, they said. The Inkwell Awards began supplying Joe with free HC comps from then on, thanks to the generosity of supportive retailers, originally Larry Harrison of Harrison’s Comics & Pop Culture and Ernest Pelletier of Friendly Neighborhood Comics. The committee later decided to extend the program, within reason, to subsequent Hall of Fame recipients, with the organization purchasing the books at the heavily discounted wholesale cost. Larry and Ernie supplied the requested volumes for the first two years, with other retailers brought into the mix later to help spread out the effort and donated items (Nate Machado of New England Comics and Jay and Steve Pillarella of Rubber Chicken Comics).

For the sophomore year changes were made after feedback was reviewed in relation to the 2008 awards. As such a separate and annually rotating Nomination Committee was selected to choose nominees whose work had appeared in the previous year for the partially revised ballot categories. Once the nominations were selected the committee made sure that the artists selected were eligible for awards. The election itself took place for one month in June 2009. During that period, member Dave Simons passed away after a long illness. A special charity, fully supported by Dave’s sister Bette, was subsequently created in Dave’s name, The Dave Simons Inkwell Memorial Scholarship. This would allow students showing financial need and exceptional inking skill to receive more funds toward their tuition from the Joe Kubert School of Cartoon and Graphic Art. Artist Nathan Massengill was brought into the core group after Dave’s passing and after the results of the 2009 awards were announced.  It was also in 2009 that Bob Shaw created the Inkwell Awards Donations sketchbook, the first book that would lead to the organization’s book program to carry out the mission of educating about inking.

In March the organization introduced their new spokesperson character, Ms. Inkwell, conceived by Bob Almond and visually designed by artist Randy Green with assistance from Nathan Massengill. Gina Kirlew would design the character’s logo. The character would debut publicly at the Pittsburgh Comicon on April 23–25 thanks to artist and Inkwell model liaison Louis Small, Jr. and model Chrissy Cutler. Other models were later scheduled for various venues on the annual convention tour.

Danny Best and Ethan Van Sciver in Australia

In 2010 Wizard Entertainment VP Peter Katz offered sponsorship for the Inkwell Awards and a live ceremony at one of their shows and agreed to bring in the award recipients.  While there was some promotional advertising printed in their Wizard magazine and briefly on their website, much of this agreement was never fulfilled resulting with an end to the business relationship. The Inkwell Awards expanded their ambassador line-up for more exposure by adding artist Ethan Van Sciver early in the year, and later followed up by artists Mark Brooks, Mike McKone, Trevor Von Eeden, and Sal Velluto. In early 2011 Vanguard publisher J. David Spurlock was welcomed aboard.

In December of 2010 Bob launched the Joe Sinnott Inking Challenge with Joe’s approval and support. The concept was one borrowed with permission from art rep and supporter Steve Morger who acts as promoter of the Super-Con (now the Big-Wow Comicfest) and who has an annual con inking panel and posts the inks by various artists over donated pencil art in his CAF gallery and auctions off the art for fundraising. Committee discussions about the idea started in 2009 and originally Dave Simons pencil art was considered for the project but they ultimately settled on the pencil art of Joe from his previous variant blank cover pencil donations. The idea was to post the various inked versions of Joe’s blue lined pencil art at the Inkwell’s CAF gallery for educational purposes allowing the public to compare the final inked versions to the pencils in order to see what the ink artist contributes. The pieces would subsequently be auctioned off for Inkwell fundraising. Contributors included Bob McLeod, Keith Williams, Michael Allred, Joe Rubenstein, Klaus Janson, Terry Austin, Pablo Marcos, Bob Wiacek, Dan Parsons, Ernie Chan, Jay Leisten and many more. The revealing of the pieces and the auctions took place late spring of 2011 on both the CAF gallery and CAF auctions.

In order to operate fundraising more-efficiently, both Bob Shaw and Bob Almond, and the committee discussed alternatives to eBay and decided to set up a ComicArtFans auction account, a fledgling auction venue at that time from the gallery site. New contributor Erick Korpi introduced his friend Phil Healy to Bob in late January and Phil was recruited as a new contributor to establish an Inkwell account there and to launch auctions in February, and to alternate with Bob on eBay auctions. The organization later assessed that the CAF auctions, while free, offered much lower bidding returns, evident especially with the lackluster results of the 1st Sinnott Inking Challenge art auctions. The 2nd Sinnott Inking Challenge would subsequently take place on eBay.

Discussion began in late 2010 between promoter Shelton Drum and Bob Almond about Heroes Con hosting and co-sponsoring a live awards ceremony following-up on the disappointment of the Wizard deal not living up to their promises.  Shelton and Bob approved of the relationship for an annual ceremony and the Inkwells also added a live auction to the first event. At the ceremony it was announced that Bob Shaw would be departing the organization and that Michael Kellar and contributor Stacey Aragon would be joining the core committee team. Like all previous departing members, Bob received a silver inkwell trophy as thanks for his three years served. Artist Cully Hamner was announced as an incoming ambassador. Ceremony participants included Bob Almond as Emcee/host, Tim Townsend as Presenter, Dan Panosian as Keynote Speaker, Ethan Van Sciver as auctioneer, Ms. Inkwell spokesmodel Kathy Tayler as Hostess, Erick Korpi as auction assistant, and volunteers Ryan Beaman and Chris Woodard.

Nathan Massengill filled in for Bob Shaw on eBay auctions prior to the Heroes Con and for part of the summer. Phil Healy was relieved of the auctioneer/contributor position. After a brief hiatus, Michael Kellar resumed the auctions in the fall and Nathan resigned from the committee.  In 2010 Bob approved Jimmy’s request to continue/relaunch the Inkwell Donations and Result book which would become an annual album collecting all of the season’s donations of new art as well as a summary of the advocacy’s highlights and the winners.

A new problem developed: The website, originally set up by Danny and Jimmy, began to crumble from it’s own file-heavy weight and updates were time-consuming. After Danny and Jimmy stopped doing site updates a couple of short-term contributors tried updating it for Bob like Ike Sulat and Rich Lane, but the extensive time involved was too much for them to find the time to continue.  The decision was made to revert the site to the more- efficient WordPress.  An effort was made to do so by a new committee member and, while that was successful, circumstances caused him to fall short from expectations and the site was ultimately left incomplete when the member involved left the team.  For the 2011 fifth season. after months of little site activity, contributor Sarah L. Covert was enlisted in the fall to develop the website and handle the social networks, previously handled by Stacey, and she was soon promoted to a committee member as their ‘Techno-Queen’ for her success in doing so.   One of the highlights of the new website was the  launch of the first exclusive and expansive Inker Database that Danny Best and Bob had been developing for some time.

In the fall of 2011 several projects were carried out.   The second Joe Sinnott Inking Challenge took place with participants including some returning artists and some new ones such as Jose Marzan, Jr., Ken McFarlane, Charles Barnett III, Bob Wiacek, Jim Tournas, Joe Rubenstein, J.E. Lozano, Gerry Acerno, Trevor Von Eeden, Kent Archer, Johnny B. Gerardy, Michael W. Kellar, Mark McKenna, Marc Deering, Keith Williams, Michael L. Peters, Tom Schloendorn, Ken Branch, Travis Miller, Keith Champagne, J. David Spurlock, Rick Hoberg, Noah Barrett, John Floyd, Mike Pascale, Neil Vokes and Terry Austin.  Due to a limited number of available volunteers for the new Nomination Committee, Stacey was made NomCom Liaison and she successfully recruited several new members allowing the NomCom team to commence with research and nominating for the 2013 awards.  Regarding the Inkwell social networks, ComicSpace was dropped and Google+ and YouTube accounts were added.  Four new ambassadors were announced as being brought aboard the team with artists Phil Jimenez and Eric Basuldua having been recruited at the previous Pittsburgh Comicon, and legends Joe Kubert and Jim Shooter agreeing to join up later in the year.  The organization also began production on the first collection of work for the Joe Sinnott Inking Challenge Book 1 with Daniel Best handling text and Bob and Jimmy doing the usual production.  Thanks to the efforts of Ron Marz’ CBR column ‘Shelf Life’ who plugged the book after being impressed by his pal Terry Austin‘s extraordinary intro in it, the book sold record numbers for the Inkwells in early 2012.  Danny, a founder, would end the year dropping down from committee to contributor status and Henry Covert, Sarah’s husband, would be added as another Contributing Chronicler.  And as the original Inkwell Awards forum was consolidated into the new website by Sarah, artist Jay Leisten, a longtime volunteer at the old forum, became a Contributing Moderator at the new venue, along with Mike Kellar.

For early 2012, besides collecting donations on the west coast for the group’s fundraising needs, Stacey acted as Volunteer Network Coordinator and she brought Thomas Deja aboard to collect donations at the New York Comic Book Marketplace and through Bob she coordinated with new volunteer Joe Goulart for the Boston Comic Con for donation collecting. The NomCom ballots were collected and the committee began tallying and validating votes for the ballot.  Mark McKenna and Julian LeBeck dropped out from being contributors and convention assistant Ray Burke was promoted to Multimedia Contributor to prepare for the slideshow and video recording for the upcoming Heroes Con live awards ceremony.  Just prior to the ceremony the intended Ms. Inkwell model in training Ciara Michelle became pregnant and a new model, Haley Greenleaf, was recruited to replace her. Further last minute upsets continued, including Presenter Ethan Van Sciver disappearing at the show when the ceremony was about to take place with artist Marc Deering promptly agreeing to replace him and the technical equipment falling short from working. But the event played out fine with a new Presentation card design created by Gina Kirlew being used, Stacey announced as taking a leave of absence, and a request was stated in the speech asking the Eisner Awards to reinstate the individual Inker category, which became and annual calling. Ceremony participants were Bob as Host, Haley as Hostess, Marc as Presenter, Bob McLeod as Keynote Speaker, and Guest Speakers Bob Shaw and Dan Panosian who introduced the Hall of Fame recipients, and Ray Burke and volunteer Ryan Beaman.  For the Special Recognition Awards Daniel Best and Nathan Massengill were awarded a silver inkwell for their committee service and Joe Sinnott was given a unique trophy and retroactive title of a Special Ambassador.

Over the season-transitional summer period some developments took place such as Stacey Aragon needing to take a Leave of Absence in June for personal reasons (which subsequently became an actual departure for the indefinite future) and included an FAQ page being created by Bob and added to the site by Sarah (followed by completion of new Hall of Fame entries and Ms. Inkwell entry for Haley Greenleaf). The Social Networks being utilized changed a bit as Stacey had created accounts on Google+ and YouTube before her departure and MySpace, seriously overshadowed by the success of Facebook, was eliminated.

The agenda for the fall/winter of 2012 includes production of the second Sinnott Inking Challenge and the Ms. Inkwell Gallery collection books and setting up a new NomCom and initiating the 3rd Sinnott Challenge. To kick off the season and the related lofty goals Michael Kellar was promoted to Assistant Director in August to help take on some of Bob’s work load.  Tragically, soon after this, Inkwell Ambassador and industry legend Joe Kubert passed away after more than a year of support. But with his sons Adam and Andy at the helm to continue his legacy, the Dave Simons Inkwell Memorial Scholarship Fund and the Kubert Art Store sponsorship of board supplies to the Sinnott Inking Challenge both annually proceed to this day.

Sue Soares was recruited in September to assist as a contributor for publicity/social network duties while Sarah was tied up temporarily elsewhere and later that month brought aboard as a full-fledged core committee member to fill in the spot left by Stacey.  Sarah subsequently inherited back her social network obligations and Sue inherited the position of Social Networks Alternate as well as the Inker Database and Inker Resources sections of the site as well as the position of NomCom Liaison to work alongside Bob.  Contributing Chronicler Henry Covert had the duty of Wikipedia X-Referencing added to his plate so that he could add Inkwell Awards info to pages missing them such as artist award recipients, ambassadors, etc.  The organization picked up Bags Unlimited as a vender supporter and sponsor of preservation supplies needed for the auctions and shipping.

After a site database update and PR announcement rewrite October led to the quick resignation of Susan from the core committee upon the realization that she could not properly handle the duties she’d agreed to take on. Sarah inherited the NomCom Liaison position and with Bob initiated that in late October. Ultimately, Bob took over that duty because contacted parties were not responding to Sarah probably because her messages wound up in spam folders. Two new contributors were added to the team when problems arose regarding preparation of the updated brochures for a fall printer order and veteran graphic designer Kina Kirlew was not available. Christopher Ehnot saved the day and was recruited as a Graphic Designer and Mike Pascale was also picked up for the same title, helping to create certificates of authenticity for the organizations signed & numbered merchandise and with intentions to assist Bob with the upcoming Ms. Inkwell Gallery book. And preparation was made for upcoming conventions and new supportive venues Albany Comic-Con and Rhode Island Comic Con. The month’s highlight was the addition of publisher, author and filmmaker Brian Pulido to the advocacy as an incoming ambassador.

 

The invitation for the 3rd Joe Sinnott Inking Challenge was emailed by Mike Kellar on November 5, 2012.  Ernie Pelletier resigned that month as the first legal counsel and senior contributor. Bob decided to postpone the Ms. Inkwell Gallery indefinitely and in December Jim suggested using Indiegogo as a program to help fund book production expenses in lieu of sponsors and instead of using the Inkwell general budget and talks to form the program began with Mike Kellar. While the 2nd Sinnott Inking Challenge debuted at Albany, it was a printer defect edition, many signed by Joe, with a later corrected edition finally appearing in late February.  Photographer Joe Goulart was promoted from a volunteer and brought aboard in December and officially as new core committee member on January 14, 2013, acting as Administrative Assistant, helping Bob with bagging, labeling and certificating signed book editions in the book inventory, scanning donations for auctions, and contacting artists and collecting donations at local shows like the Boston Comic Con. Following this, artist and contributor Mike Pascale was added to the committee in February as Copy & Graphics Assistant with handling graphic design work like new business cards, assisting Kellar on auction research & info, and press releases. Also that month Mark Sinnott was retroactively made a Senior Contributor (Joe Sinnott Liaison) from 2008 to present.

Also in December and February respectively, attorney Tena Kerns was brought aboard as their non-profit and trademark counsel and Mike Andre was brought on as the organization’s first accountant.  In March contributor Johnny B. Gerardy was brought in to resume updates at the website’s Inking Resources section left vacant by Stacey Aragon departure.  In March, after having tallied and validated all of the 5 top categories on the ballot from the NomCom, Bob initiated the new Sinnott Hall of Fame Awards, after having consulted with J. David Spurlock, Mark and Joe Sinnott and the Committee.  It was decided that that prestigious category would now be fully handled internally amongst the core committee and associates (former committee, ambassadors, contributors, and former award recipients). This would allow more emphasis on the accomplishments of the artists, preferably those still around to truly appreciate the award, and less on being a popularity contest among a public audience not as familiar to their names and career works.  Henry and Sarah Covert handled the database update that month. And the Simons Scholarship Fund goal was reached and sent to The Kubert School, mostly thanks to Bette Simons, Gerry Acerno and two anonymous donators.

In April ink artist Dave Beaty was brought in as a contributor, acting as another graphic designer and Nomination Committee Liaison for later that year. That same month, due to inactivity the Inkwell Awards forum was closed down.  It had existed in one form or another since 2008 from the Inker.org site-based forum to the one that was added to the revised Inkwell Awards main site. This ultimately ended Jay Leisten’s duty as a forum moderator, something he did unofficially at the old forum and had been promoted as a contributor in 2012.  But as Facebook raised in popularity, it replaced the forums for pasting photos and all announcements and all inking images posted by amateur inkers had the opportunity for review by tagging member Jay Leisten for his contributing position of Portfolio Reviews. The month ended on a low-note when the Boston Marathon Bombing took place a few days before the Boston Comic Con scheduled for April 20-21.  While the Inkwells didn’t have plans to attend the venue, Joe Goulart was preparing for weeks by contacting creators on their guest list to collect donations for cover all of our needs for the ends of the season.  The manhunt for the terrorists closed down the city and the show was rescheduled for the summer, leaving the organization without the necessary resources (although kudos to Joe for scrambling about the region all weekend to collect what items he could from creators who relocated at local signings and mini-shows). Bob and MikeK had no choice but to prematurely auction off the inventory of Ms. Inkwell artwork intended for the gallery book which had been in schedule limbo.  But this Boston crisis led to Bob connecting with Enrica Jang to help promote the non-profit charity We Win Con which she promptly organized to help creators recoup their lost travel expenses and other charities to gain some funds they’d planned on collecting.  Inkers were among the artists who lost out.

 

 

Voting on the website ballot ended April 30 and the annual tallying and validating of all nominees for eligibility took place among the core committee.  Mike Pascale’s skills with journalism found himself editing all PR announcements put together by Bob and adding this new label to his obligations. On May 3 the fourth Dave Simons Inkwell Memorial Scholarship Fund was awarded to Ji Wook Moon at the Kubert School.  Jimmy put the finishing touches with Bob for the annual Inkwell Awards Donation and Results book. Sales had been weak at best for the previous four editions and they decided to make this the final issue unless they could raise sales and interest so we decided to go out with a last ditch effort or producing two editions: a regular edition with semi-provocative Ms. Inkwell cover art by Ed Coutts (originally submitted for the Ms. Inkwell Gallery book) and with the cover elements designed by Dave Beaty, and another special edition with a flip cover rendered, colored and designed by Franchesco with inks by Scott Hanna. A signed and numbered run of this edition would include a centerfold poster of the full Ms. Inkwell art.  Regrettably this attempt didn’t work as hoped, the IndieGogo program never materialized, and the series was cancelled and it was decided that some interior text sections would be consolidated into the Sinnott Challenge book, now scheduled for release in June at Heroes Con in place of the Donations book starting in 2014. The third Heroes Con awards ceremony was successfully pulled off with Jimmy Palmiotti acting as Keynote Speaker and special presenters Dexter Vines, Cully Hamner and J. David Spurlock with original Ms. Inkwell model from Pittsburgh Comicon 2010 Chrissy Cutler returning to the role at that venue with portraying Ms. Inkwell and acting as hostess of the ceremony next to Bob Almond the host.

At Heroes, Bob informed the committee and associates that a new assignment he had been offered would limit his time further with operational matters.  The sixth year would be a conservative one, one that might postpone or omit a program or event due to lack of manpower and resources. One such event would be the 4th Sinnott Inking Challenge, tentatively scheduled from the fall to the late winter/spring. Another would be plans to recruit 1-3 new Ambassadors (and adding the first female creator(s) to this prestigious list). And more volunteers would need to be brought in to meet demands.

As a result, July and August was a month of many changes.  Jimmy Tournas, being the final founding committee member after Bob, retired after five years and six seasons, taking on the position of Senior Contributor like Daniel Best had before him in order to continue to set up the annual website ballots and assist where needed.  His long-held position of book producer was handed over to writer/publisher of Red Stylo Media Enrica Jang who would also assist when needed for website updates.  Erick Korpi was promoted from Contributor to core committee, retaining his art advisor and convention assistant duties but taking on one new role and returning to one former one.  In order to better allocate funds to the Dave Simons Fund, something Bob had been brainstorming about for many months, his job would be to raise funds for that program independent of the primary fundraising and budget.  He would also regain his title of Ms. Inkwell Model Liaison: New England with his recruitment of Jessi Durland who would perform at Boston Comic Con at the rescheduled show in August.  One other addition made in July was the recruitment of comic book industry-recognized attorney and original art collector Michael Lovitz. Since efforts for accomplishing trademarking goals had hit too many walls and delays, Michael promptly handled that matter and filed for the applicable properties. As administrative assistant, Joe Goulart would help Bob by keeping abreast of all legal (both attorneys) and accounting matters and file away all document ion for record keeping.

In August the Boston Con event went without a hitch and, after a several year hiatus, they once again became a convention supporter for the organization. Alyn Bergstrom, longtime convention and model assistant volunteer was promoted to an official Contributor with these same duties, assisting Joe and Bob at the venue with donation collecting and preparing to do so for the upcoming Pittsburgh Comicon which would for the first time since 2008 not be an official Inkwell attendance due to Bob’s scheduling. Jessi Durland performed one day as Ms. Inkwell at Boston Con but decided to not return to the position for future venues so a search for a new model was on and Erick’s model credit was later dropped.  Noel Rosenthal from Sci-Fi Saturday Night Podcast was enlisted as the new website Maintenance Contributor after the departure of Sarah L. Covert, the group’s ‘Techno-Queen’ had held the position for about two years (Noel was also given the title of ‘Women’s Resources’ at first for looking into impartiality and consideration on the ballot but that experiment was mutually later deemed not necessary between Bob, Noel and the committee).  Sarah’s husband and Contributor Henry Covert also moved on after ten months of handling such jobs as chronicling bios, the Inker Database, and Wikipedia cross-referencing.  Senior Contributor Tom Schloendorn agreed to add Sarah’s social networks pages to his list of spots where he circulated announcements.  Joe Goulart began to have several private life crises arise, limiting his viability for some administrative duties with/for Bob.  Auctioneer Mike Kellar agreed to handle ALL auction-related duties, including holding the donations inventory, scanning, packing and shipping items to buyers, all to relieve these matters from the schedule of Bob and Joe who’d been scanning. This full schedule meant MikeK had to drop the position of Indie/Small Press Liaison but he began to seek a replacement contributor for that and database updates.  But weekly post-Heroes Con and post-Boston Con auctions ran like clockwork, raising funds for administrative/legal expenses and in the hopes that a live awards ceremony would still be viable for Heroes 2014 at the end of the season.

In September, in-between work assignments, Bob was finally able to ship out the final comps of the donation book to members as was done traditionally, but it was decided that future comps (of the Challenge book) would be limited to just core committee, Senior Contributors, and contributing artists due to the growing membership and in order to further control costs.  Bob also was able to add this book info to the Store page and assist Noel with all website updates left unfinished from the summer.  He also asked Dave Beaty to submit his list of Nomination Committee (NomCom) nominees so that that annual obligation would take place in the fall.  Chris Ehnot began updating the outdated brochures and made an effort to convert them to a much more user-friendly version from the one initially set up by Gina Kirlew years before.  Publisher Bluewater Productions offered free full-page ad space (and free site banner ad space but that later changed) for it’s comics and Bob submitted the ad that had been generously created by supporter Ian Chase Nichols only a couple of months earlier. And plans were being made for the upcoming Rhode Island Comic Con in November.

In August Joe was also offered Ms. Inkwell Liasion: New England status because he’d found a model that he was preparing/shooting but their the plans fell apart for Boston Con and she scheduled herself for Granite State Con the same weekend she was supposed to travel to Pittsburgh Con with Joe and ultimately he had to cancel plans to Pittsburgh Con to collect donations that weekend.  Thankfully, as an attending of the show with her artist bf Zeke Savory, Alyn Bergstrom came through with no assistants and collected several donations at that location to save the fundraising effort plan.  Shortly after her achievement at this event (and Boston assistance before that) she was promoted to Senior Contributor.  One other development from this Pittsburgh Com was that through Louis Small and Tom Schloendorn Bob was able to talk to cosplayer Laura Beihl of WV on the phone and she showed interest in playing Ms. Inkwell for Heroes Con and the next PCC. They remained in touch to prepare.  On the website Noel was able to update the models section with Chrissy Cutler and Jessy Durland Ms. Inkwell photos as well as the new Hall of Fame pages. Comps for the Donation book were also shipped out at this time. And while the Ms. Inkwell Gallery book was still not scheduled, David Spurlock helped Bob with having Bill Sienkiewicz agree to render and color the cover to the book and he completed it in September, about the same time that Howard Chaykin agreed to produce an interior image in the near future.

In October Joe recruited Anna White to prepare as the organization’s spokeswoman for the November Rhode Island Comic Con and they did a shoot together. Joe also traveled and collected a few print donations at NYCC.  That month inker Jim Sanders III reached out to everyone he knew on Facebook asking for financial help for his living expenses. Bob and author/advocate Clifford Meth worked together to ask for community donations and to promote the Inkwell auctions where they’d be auctioned off to help Jim. By November two auction waves raised almost $500. Chris Ehnot’s newly In-Design-updated brochures were produced and sent to Enrica Jang’s printer Keness Printing. Mike Pascale was asked by Bob to design an Inkwell Awards award recipient stamp series for all winners to be able to use for their own self-promotion, which he finished in March.  In December Bob announced that the Joe Sinnott Inking Challenge would indeed take place in early 2014 and he had MikeP prepare the blue line files with cover logos added.

Bob Almond lost two weeks to illness starting in late October and two more weeks to a serious case of diverticulitis and had to be hospitalized in November.  This took place during the Rhode Island Comic Con weekend causing Bob to go home early on Saturday and cancel Sunday. Thankfully, with the help of Anna White (Saturday), Mike Kellar, Joe Goulart and Erick Korpi on location, donations were collected that weekend to make up for Bob’s incapacitation. Among other things, his health issues delayed him from inviting the new Nomination Committee recruits. But things were much cheerier that month when he welcomed back to the Inkwell family Bob Shaw and Stacey Aragon! Bob replaced the departed Mike Andre as new accountant and Stacey was brought in to work with Johnny B. Gerardy on Inker Resources updated on the website, a position she used to perform. Both Bob and Stacey were made Senior Contributors.  Inker Silas Dixon was brought in the handle the Inker Database and Mike Kellar’s role of Small Press & Indie Liaison. By the end of the year Johnny chose to leave and Silas was let go. Stacey inherited back her full Inker Resources duties and the hunt was on for a new database volunteer. The Small Press & Indie Liaison position begun with Mike Kellar has not been replaced to date.

By December Nomination Committee invitations were mailed out and handled by Bob and Dave Beaty and ultimately seventeen volunteers signed up and turned in ballots in 2014.  In January 2014 Bob also was able to send out invitations for the 4th Joe Sinnott Challenge with the assistance of Erick Korpi.  Enrica Jang assisted Noel and got the models photos updated for the Ms. Inkwell section that month. For the spring there were several developments. Multi-media Director and convention assistant Ray Burke was promoted to Senior Contributor and added wikipedia duties to his credits to commence in the summer, as were Noel and Enrica in their respective roles. Hartford Con was added to the Inkwell tour convention queue for May 31-June 1. All NomCom ballots were turned in and the Nominators added to the website’s applicable section. All award winners stamps were completed and sent out to all Hall of Famers. All Sinnott Challenge art was turned in in March and the related auctions ran in early April for much-needed funds due to additional operational costs like legal matters. Robin Dale of Amdale Media donated a dozen Joe Sinnott DVDs to the organization. Erick Korpi validated all of the NomCom ballot nominees and the internal Hall of Fame Nominations were held and decided upon. Preparations were under way for the approaching end of the season host Heroes Con show and ceremony. A huge development was the addition of the Inkwell’s first affiliate group on DeviantArt ‘The Inkers Challenge’ as run by inker and new Senior Contributor JL Straw (DeviantArt Inkers Challenge Representative or DAIC Rep).  This opened up the advocacy to much more exposure being that it was one of the largest online artist communities and social networks in existence with over twenty-five million members reported as of 2013. Straw would hold various ongoing ‘challenges’ which would not only add more education and interest in regards to promoting inking, it would increase the artist pool of potential inkers for the annual Joe Sinnott Inking Challenge, thus increasing fundraising.

The annual public voting took place April 15-30. The ballot was again prepared by Senior Contributor Jim Tournas. Final preparations took place by Bob and Enrica for the 3rd Sinnott Inking Challenge book and they had acquired a foreword and an intro, respectively, from writer Ron Marz and ambassador J. David Spurlock. Bob sent permission waivers to all artists and models in regards to the upcoming Ms. Inkwell Gallery book and future projects to further implement all verbal agreements. On May 5 the Inkwells were finally able to send an official representative for the Joe Kubert Scholarship Awards ceremony at the school in Dover, NJ.  Bob sent Erick who presented the financial award to the fifth student recipient Ayşegül Sınav.  Stacey voluntarily attended the Motor City Con (May 16-18) for one day in a homemade Ms. Inkwell outfit and collected 23 donation items after contacting the artists pre-show.  Due to personal matters Joe had to cancel his plans to attend Hartford and Heroes Con. Anna White acted as Ms. Inkwell for her second consecutive show and went solo for much of the 2-day weekend due to the circumstances. But she still collected fifty-two items with some help from volunteer Hailey Skaza-Gagne who cosplayed as Wonder Woman and was a hit with the fans for photos. Darnel Staley volunteered at the table and assisted Anna briefly for his second show. While this event went well, two shoes subsequently dropped for other conventions. Boston Con could not commit to the request Bob made with Bob Shaw a year before for two comped tables to be reserved again, so that ‘ongoing relationship’ became a temporary fluke instead and the advocacy decided to not further deal with the venue as a business partner in the future due to flip-flopping.  In addition, longtime convention supporter Renee George of Pittsburgh Comicon decided to not comp the charity table at their next fall show so the organization regrettably decided it was counter-productive to continue attending budget-wise.  But Bob promptly contacted Pat Covey of the Granite State Comic Con to replace the venue for September (the organization had appeared at this venue once before with just Bob in attendance). Finally, another April bit of bad news was the departure of Senior Contributor Louis Small, Jr. from the organization as longtime Ms. Inkwell Model Liasion, due to a disagreement with him and Bob.  Louis had been the only member to have this sole and not regional-restrictive position and he held it for over four years.  In effect, Bob inherited the role which he oversees to this day. (Due to less activity at shows and less emphasis on photoshoots and selling model photo prints, Joe Goulart’s position of MI Model Liasion: New England also came to an end by the summer, much like Erick before him. Having said that, he did bring in the only model to do up to three shows, with Heroes Con, to date.)

Prior to Heroes ConChris Ehnot prepared new invitation/presentation/agenda cards for the Heroes show ceremony event. Stacey tried to update the Inker Database and after her Danny Best but to no avail and this project duty has unfortunately gone unclaimed by any member to date. Sarah L. Covert was finally able to send the edited video file of the 2013 Heroes Con Awards ceremony that was subsequently added to the website. Howard Chaykin turned in his Ms. Inkwell Gallery donation art. For 2015 a new show supporter was added to the calendar, the Connecticut ComiCONN. Thanks to attorney Michael Lovitz filings for the properties Inkwell Awards and Ms. Inkwell were now officially registered with the trademark office. From attending a May DC meeting Erick Korpi was able to gain the attention and support of Co-Publisher Jim Lee and DC Comics for the Inkwell Awards and he received an original Superman cover art file he penciled as a donation to his upcoming expansion of the Inking Challenge Program, the Joe Sinnott Inking Challenge Spotlight.  This would include other notable and committed artists and their permission to use their pencil art for upcoming Challenges.

Heroes Con 2014 (June 20-22) was a huge success! Bob, Mike Kellar and Erick Korpi attended from the committee along with Anna White in her third spokesmodel appearance and Laura Beihl in her debut one, the first time two spokesmodels were used for the same event!  Contributors Ray Burke, J. David Spurlock, Randy Green and Dan Panosian were in attendance, along with the help of volunteer Ryan Beaman (who was too ill this weekend to help to full capacity). For the ceremony artist master Bill Sienkiewicz acted as Guest of Honor and artist Ron Garney and author/editor Steve Saffel acted as guest speakers with Inkwell Awards award recipient inker Dexter Vines acting as Presenter to make up for a glitch the previous year. The 3rd annual Sinnott Challenge book debuted for sale/donation with a Forward by Ron Marz and an intro by J. David Spurlock. And the committee team had their annual dinner meeting to start setting the agenda for the new season. Discussion was also had to consider holding the 2015 ceremony on Friday at the end of the day instead of the traditional early Saturday afternoon. The winners were subsequently added by Noel to the website.  Tom Schloendorn agreed to pick up some donations from the upcoming, canceled Pittsburgh Con although Alyn (with Zeke Savory) had to cancel due to a schedule conflict and couldn’t assist him.

As the eighth season began Anna White was made a Senior Contributor.  As the Primary Ms. Inkwell Model and she would be breaking tradition and handling her show floor duties mostly independently and hold meetings with Bob pre-show. Noel went on a break to prep for conventions and a trip to Japan so website obligations came to a hold until mid-August. The summer has always been considered the ‘down period’ (probably a misnomer as several members never really stop working) and Enrica, too, needed time to handle appearances for her company, Mike Kellar had school classes that limited auction output for the previous three show collections, Joe had to go on a two-month sabbatical for personal leave, and Bob was able to finally finish his year-long work project. Bob did get to update the site’s Store page and History page (which was a year behind). Plans were afoot for the upcoming Granite State Con (with Joe being relieved of duty for due to having enough manpower) and after his sabbatical ended and he met with Bob for planning, Joe would make his annual visit to Boston Con for donation collection as well as new show the Connecticut ComiCONN the following week.

The fall of 2014: Granite State Con went fine with Bob, Anna White and Hailey. Erick tried recruiting his pal Veer Mehta for convention assistance for donation collecting as well as the database maintenance but that didn’t work out as hoped. Nate Machado of New England Comics was brought in for a more active role in our Fundraising Program by selling us Marvel blank covers at wholesale since they as a franchise were able to work with Marvel’s ordering terms whereas it was no longer viable for Rubber Chicken Comics to meet those requirements. (But RCC still ordered blanks from other companies and were still our primary COMPS Program retail supporter.) And the Nomination Committee recruitment and ballot process was initiated by Bob and Dave Beaty.

Winter of 2014: Joe Goulart retroactively returns to the team as a volunteer, which was how he started back in 2012. This position would run from September-March 2015 focusing on fundraising (‘Legendary Team-ups’sketchcover project) and convention/donation collecting. His Neal Adams/Joe Sinnott Batman sketch over collaboration would be rescheduled from early winter until spring in order to avoid competing with the holiday spending. Bob, trying to capitalize on a national business trend, tried a ‘Black (ink) Friday’ 50% off sale for merchandise at the website store but it didn’t succeed. Hall of Fame ballots were sent to the internal HoF nomination committee and the winners chosen by February, including adding the new Special Recognition Award category. Bob FINALLY typed out the majority of text material for Enrica to produce the long-awaited Ms. Inkwell Gallery book and Cavewoman creator and Good Girl artist Budd Root agreed to Bob’s invitation to write the Intro to the book. The project would be put on hold in order to produce the 4th Sinnott Challenge book for early 2015 with plans to wrap up the MIG book by the latter half of 2015. Bob and MikeK convinced Tom Schloendorn to take over the Database duty along with his news circulation obligations. Noah Barrett agreed to act as Bob’s local personal assistant for necessary scanning, print ups, packing up comps, etc. And accountant Bob Shaw came over Bob’s house to set up a huge undertaking for Inkwell accounting matters that would run through 2015.

Winter of 2015:  Months in the works, Jesse Edward Donavan would finally post his weekly series of online interviews covering Bob and incoming ambassadors Cliff Meth and Jim Starlin (Laura Martin had to pass due to deadline and Anna White also passed for a spokesmodel interview article). The annual scholarship funds were mailed to the Kubert School. Joe Sinnott completed the two pencil drawings needed for the new Sinnott Inking Challenge and his program initially drew in 60 participating artists and Erick Korpi assisted Bob this year in tracking the project! Convention plans: CT ComiCONN informed Bob that the charity was now officially scheduled for the summer dates. Wizardworld bought Pittsburgh Comicon leaving that show option altogether null & void for Alyn and Tom to collect from. And the three models were planned for the 2015 Heroes Con since Ray Burke had a wedding to attend that weekend and we’d lost Chris Woodard and the Beaman Brothers as show volunteers. Otherwise, following Bob Shaw’s meeting, it was reported that the organization would have to be more frugal in 2015 with cutbacks, including book comps not being free w/ free s&h to everyone like before. Following this, Bob Shaw suffered a major heart attack and almost died; his recuperation would take months. Alyn also had been suffering from mysterious ailments that kept her regularly sick and limited. Stacey’s health and treatments had gotten sod involved that she was no longer viable for activity except the occasional, important email question.  These unfortunate health issues/sabbaticals were a coincidental sign of manpower problems to come.

Late winter/early spring: Nomination Committee ballots were all turned in but only 14.  NomCom Liaison Dave Beaty, now a senior contributor, vowed to add more members for the next season. Votes were validated. By March Noel Rosenthal got all outstanding website updates done and Ray Burke accomplished the same with his wiki updates, making room to soon prep the Heroes Con live ceremony multi-media slideshow presentation (even though the wedding would preempt him from attending). Plans were being made for Bob to attend his first Kubert Scholarship Awards event at the school by traveling with Joe (Erick would return the following year). While consideration was made to have Bob Almond attend Boston Con solely as an IA rep at one comped table, he subsequently picked up an assignment canceling that. Joe was not able to go.  Alyn offered to collect in spite of her physical angst. And Bob and Erick suffered a shocking blow when their friend and fellow inker Norman Lee would perish in a snorkeling accident while on vacation at the Cayman Islands.

Spring: In late March/April the charity hit a major speed bump when Erick Korpi turned in his resignation from the core committee after two years of service due to outside, growing obligations to regional conventions. There was talk about his status remaining as either a senior contributor or volunteer so that he could still half with the Sinnott Challenge, assist at Heroes, remain art consultant, and Bob allowed him to resume his visit to the Kubert Scholarship Awards event at Kubert. Regrettably, none of this materialized and Erick left decisively within weeks.  The Sinnott Inking Challenge Spotlight went into a brief hiatus due to a lack of capable volunteers to handle the job. And ultimately Bob was not able to attend the Kubert School after all but special ambassador Clifford Meth represented the award to the sixth recipient in May.

Bob announced the Sinnott Spring Celebration would take place March-May which would include biweekly offerings like the Adams/Sinnott CBCS-graded Batman art, a Buckler/Sinnott Deathlok illo, Joe’s original cover sketches for the Challenge, the 2-3 week auctions for the Challenge boards inked by participating artists, and the Joe Orsak color art of Joe for the upcoming 4th Challenge collection book cover.

JL Straw was dealing with personal issues around this time and was not able to fulfill her goal to hold an actually Sinnott Challenge Vote on the Inkers Challenge DeviantArt subsidiary page. Noel’s available time for charity work on the website gradually waned as she approached her wedding date (June) and Jim Tournas, while able to prepare the annual online ballot for the website and send me a couple of updates and the final results, had to also deal with personal family issues and would himself be away for many weeks.

In May the voting took place from May 1-May 15. And the Challenge auctions succeeded in breaking all former records. But the tragic highlight next to those events was the unfortunate exodus of members from the team. Besides Jane, Jim, Erick, and Stacey who were all either resigned or distracted/overwhelmed with other matters, Website Mistress Noel was now officially on sabbatical until after her wedding and honeymoon (but would eventually resign in June due to a busier schedule). Graphic Designer and NomCom Liaison Dave Beaty suddenly resigned. Tom Schloendorn went incommunicado for the most part, informing me that he didn’t have internet or phone access for a month or two. Two spokesmodels departed when Laura Beihl picked up a job in her medical field following her high school graduation and Anna White inexplicably vanished (with no signs of life evident to this date).  This left us from three Ms. Inkwells planned for Heroes Con to just Hailey (now Holly Black) as her inaugural show (along with just myself and Joe). And the worst development was the announced resignation of Mike Kellar (of the two ‘Mighty Mikes’), shortly after he has stopped doing auctions. Mike was the first and only Assistant Director on the team and had been active from 2011 until 2015 on the core committee after a short start as a contributor/senior contributor. This was a monumental loss, leaving only Bob and Mike Pascale, who would handle the final auctions of season 8 and be the alternate auctioneer thereafter, on the core crew.

June/ceremony/end of season 8: when it rains it pours. Things resorted to a shaky status with the Inkwells and Heroes Con just prior to the show. But matters were resolved and the show went on. Enrica Jang replaced Mike Kellar’s spot next to me as Inkwell table bookends. Ray Burke’s slideshow was not only awesome but the wedding had been suddenly cancelled and he showed up Saturday and Sunday to assist. Sarah Covert stepped up for the second time in a row and offered to come in and help us and I was overjoyed. And Holly’s Ms. Inkwell debut was outstanding!  Between her, Joe, Enrica, Sarah and later Ray, things operated better than expected. Joe handled our first door prize raffle following the ceremony, offering long unsold donations to all attendees. He also recruited the charitable pro photographer Grace Adams Moss to take photos for us. Hall of Famer Klaus Janson acted as Guest of Honor. The team of special ambassador Mike McKone and Hall of Famer Mark McKenna acted as duel presenters. And Craig Yoe, Scott Hampton and Orion Zangara agreed to be guest speakers. Joe and Bob presented Joe, Erick and MikeK with silver inkwells. Other than a technical guffaw causing the annual ceremony video recording to not take place, this ceremony was, no hype, the most-smooth, emotionally moving, entertaining and best attended one since the Inkwells started them at their host show in 2011.  The Friday late afternoon time slot and door prizes seem to be good moves!

The show overall was the most productive and profitable to date. There was a few errors in the Challenge books delivered Friday at the show but some copies of the book were sold. Bob took an idea from the Hero Initiative to ask creators affiliated with the advocacy to place donation boxes on their artist alley table and three did: Mark McKenna, ambassador Laura Martin (who attended the ceremony with her husband Randy), and contributor Dan Panosian. 45 donation items were collected between Bob, Joe and Holly. And Joe took on the responsibility just prior to the show to carry on the Sinnott Inking Challenge Spotlight program and he bought the Jim Lee-signed blueness and distributed them to various key ink artists at the venue. He agreed to take the bull by the horns and further develop what Erick had accomplished. He also agreed to be the main auctioneer starting with the new season, alternating with MikeP.

The summer/in-between seasons: A Help Wanted announcement was posted at the website, social networks and FirstComicsNews.  It listed all of the positions sought to fill and the priority of those spots. Three volunteers heed the call:  Rhys Evans to cover the duty of website maintenance (left vacant by Noel). John Dixon, inker and disabled vet, offered to handle finding advertisers for the website and book program, seek out new Nomination Committee recruits (ala Dave Beaty), and update the Inker Resources section of the site, including the Inker Database (left in limbo since Stacey got sick and Johnny B. Gerardy briefly held it… and since Tom handled one Inker Database update). The third recruit was familiar to us: Mark Sinnott’s son Dorian (giving us three generations of Sinnotts on the team)!  He offered to handle being our Press Coordinator, to find and expand our press contacts list (which was down to like two online sites at that point). He also took on the spot of alternate social network resources…basically to circulate articles to places that Tom didn’t (John Dixon, too). Rhys flew out the gate and updated all outstanding site duties from Holly’s Ms. Inkwell section, to the Results section and other smaller details.

Auctions: In trying to give MikeP a rest and let Joe get used to scanning donations and prepping for doing auctions Bob overlooked the passage of time and by the time he realized it we they behind schedule and owed funds. So Bob asked Joe to scramble and set up 2 weeks of consecutive auctions from Heroes Con starting with original art and sketch covers. Joe accomplished this and raised the coveted funds but the schedule frequency was not consistent and reliable as planned.  These kinks were worked out by late August as they set things up for MikeP and Joe to alternate setting up the actual auction listings every other week.  Joe would do all scanning, Bob assists with description info & proofreading, packing, labeling, tracking, packing, questions and invoicing.

Conventions:  Like the previous year, MikeP collected a few items from artists at San Diego Comic-Con.  Alyn collected donations from Boston Con.  The first show at the CT ComiCONN at the Mohegan Sun went swimmingly and the non-profit seriously made more money at the table of merchandise than ever before. Holly preformed her job as company rep/spokesmodel solo with minimal help from Joe.

Season 9 was on. The edited 4th Challenge book was printed by Enrica’s printer Keness and received in early September for comps, for Joe Sinnott to sign and for Hartford Con. Bob began dispersing the comps to participants. Joe and Alyn had to pre-empt plans to collect at the Granite State Con September 9-10 due to personal reasons. This was followed by an official tour appearance by Bob, Holly and Alyn at their second Hartford Con on the 19th-20th, and Joe and Holly volunteered to visit Baltimore Con the following weekend but Joe’s hip injury cancelled that. Training was in the works but with some positions/duties from the team’s classified ad still left unfulfilled, developments were slow and uncertain.  Internal matters would delay auction scheduling so Bob called a hiatus on that area for the immediate future until a qualified, reliable full time auctioneer (or 2 part timers with the same traits) could be found. John Dixon began adding new links to Inker Resources and the Database (after he cosmetically modified the page). Mike Pascale completed the Joe Kubert Hall of Fame article for the website which Rhys added along with other updates. Due to a file issue only 100 brochures were printed up for Hartford Con and the upcoming RICC. Even though the Ms. Inkwell Gallery book was on hold production-wise, Bob spoke to three artists at Hartford about contributing. Ray Burke caught up on all Wikipedia updating obligations.

Following an unofficial stop at Albany Con to collect donations, creative differences between Bob and Joe led to Joe leaving the team.  This led to a need for further reorganization and a greater emphasis on recruiting an auctioneer. Rhys, upon request, accepted a temp role as auctioneer with MikeP filling in where needed until a fill-time volunteer could be recruited. Bob would continue the Challenge Spotlight Program. As Bob discussed with Mark and Joe Sinnott about final details for upcoming the 6th Inking Challenge event (delayed due to Joe’s health and work schedule), Bob, in lieu of Danny assisting him, had John Dixon assist him with inviting season 9 Nomination Committee members. Over 20 accepted and next began the waiting for ballots to turn up in January.  On November 6-8 Rhode Island Comic Con turned out fine with Bob and Holly Black with an assist from volunteers Darnel Staley, Anali and Bryan Goulart with ambassadors Ethan Van Sciver and Mike McKone in attendance as well as members Bob Shaw, Alyn Bergstrom, Jay Pillarella and Chris Ehnot. Spotlight Challenge (Jim Lee) submissions began to trickle in.  Ms. Inkwell Gallery art was completed by Mark Texeira, Elias Chatzoudis, and Joe Orsak and Bob and Enrica finally connected in late November to begin final plans for the Ms. Inkwell Gallery book, set to launch early 2016.

Rich Buckler accepted an ambassadorship role at RICC and would be officially announced at the website in January.  Other membership developments included Mike Pascale being promoted to assistant director and John Dixon and Rhys Evans being added to the core committee. Spokesmodel Holly Black was made a senior contributor and founding member Daniel Best, after a several month absence, returned to the organization as writer and web host. Danny Best and Mike Pascale finally completed the lengthy Hall of Fame article on Steve Ditko. For the Jim Lee Challenge Bill Sienkiewicz finished his page and was asked by DC’s Mark Chiarello if they could publish the image, adding value to it’s upcoming auction potential. But this was later squashed once Mark realized this cover art (originally inked by Scott Williams) had already been published. Jim Lee via Eddy Choi also agreed to sign more blueline inks of the Challenge boards.

The Nomination Committee was formed and went into deliberation. Launching into 2016 The Hall of fame/SRA internal NomCom did the same and winners were promptly tallied from 16 returned ballots. Bob formed the Credit Council of volunteer historians/art collectors/artists, etc. after an assistant editor at Marvel’s reprint department asked for some assistance for identifying artists to images. Pages started to trickle in for the Sinnott Challenge Spotlight on Jim Lee and Joe Sinnott completed his two cover sketches (a tight Spider-Gwen and a loose Deadpool) for the original Sinnott Challenge, now in it’s 6th event. Blueline boards were subsequently circulated. The final Ms. Inkwell book contributions were completed by Chris Campana & Mark McKenna, Joe Orsak and Tim Estiloz, leaving only Mike Lilly.  In February Rhys had auctioned off the final donations from the 2015 show collections. He also performed a plethora of site updates including upgrading the website Store to the 21st century so that it had shopping carts and could calculate s&h, totals and payments. Bob added the 2016 official Inkwell convention tour schedule to the site. Rich Buckler allowed an exclusive article on Inking (“Inking as Drawing”) to be used for the website (and later intended to use in the upcoming 5th Sinnott Challenge book).  A record 60 artists signed up for the Sinnott Challenge event! Next would be a matter of seeing how many would be able to come through. Both these blueline boards and the Jim Lee ones would be due in early to mid-March in order to get them signed by Joe and Jim and schedule them for auctions throughout the spring.

In February the final ballots were returned (15 out of 24 accepted), tallied by Bob and the validation process for the results began. Bob began scanning the Jim Lee Supermans. And a $1000 check was mailed to The Kubert School for the 7th annual Dave Simons Inkwell Memorial Scholarship Fund to be rewarded to a student at the May 7 ceremony that Bob and Holly Black as Ms. Inkwell would be attending. In March John Dixon went on leave and Stacey Aragon’s availability started to open up, offering to assist John upon his return for recruiting advertisers and Dorian with building our press list. Chris Ehnot helped me update new brochures and Enrica’s printer Kenness made up 1000, enough to last through 2017. In April Patrick Plaine independently created a Jim Lee Challenge gif on FB, bringing attention to thousands for the auction waves. The Inkwells ultimately raised almost $6000 from them, while Mark Sinnott collected all Sinnott pages from Challenge participants, got Joe to sign them, and shipped them all to me. Inspired by Blaine, Mike Pascale made a gif for that assortment of images. Jim Tournas produced the new online voting ballot and Rhys Evans helped me set up the online ballot ballot box announcement. Richard Boom was brought aboard the team as Press Coordinator to help with press matters since that’s what he does and while he’s helped us for a while it was time to credit him as a member.

The Sinnott Spring Sale Spectacular took place again in May with weekly Challenge auctions and having received Richard Clark’s Sinnott Challenge book cover that was auctioned at the end of it all. Voting ended, all vote results were tallied and Bob contacted the winners discreetly to make plans for travel to Heroes Con and place the trophy order with that vendor. Holly (Ms. Inkwell) & Bob attended their first Kubert School scholarship ceremony on May 6 (photo album 1, 2, and 3) and met special ambassador Clifford Meth. But Dorian and I came to a mutual conclusion that his work schedule conflicted too much to be a viable volunteer for the organization so Richard Boom took over that slot. John Dixon returned to a contributor status from core committee until his health improved and he can perform his duties. Trophies received and packed away for the show. Unfortunately, Eddy Choi, after months of discussing the book, says that DC wouldn’t award permission for us to collect the Jim Lee Challenge art into a charity book. (After trying another lead over the summer that failed the project would up dead.) Communications broke down with the promoter of Granite State Con (scheduled for Sept) and the promoter of Rhode Island Con (for Nov), removing them from the 2016 tour. Alyn (and Zeke) wouldn’t make it to Boston Con so Albany was next in June. Ray was done with his ceremony presentation for the Heroes ceremony but he could not attend, leaving Enrica back to running the slideshow. The Inkwells were short on volunteers this year and it would wind up only being Bob, Enrica, Her Red Stylo Media editor and assistant James McGee, Holly, and her friend Alexia. Bob ran out to buy a camcorder and tripod to take care of recording the ceremony and not miss out like the previous year, especially with Jim Steranko as the Guest of Honor. James recorded. Joe Goulart’s friend Grace Adams-Moss agreed to appear and take pictures again so we added her to the credits as a volunteer photography contributor. Bob needed to wing the speech since we didn’t know when Steranko would appear and for how long. It was tough but we pulled off a miracle! Material that didn’t make the event was presented on the Inkwell website (in transcript and including the video).

Stacey sent us a bunch of donations, including like ten signed prints from artist Ken Lashley alone! We had up to 60 donations for the new season but the auctions wouldn’t resume until August/September. By the end of June all unclaimed trophies were shipped out. In July, almost everyone had received their Challenge book comps. Bob asked auctioneer Rhys to run an ’emergency’ week in July due to low funds in order to help support Bob & Hailey for August show expenses. It consisted of all original art and some items had to be relisted again but it all worked out. Mike Pascale attended SDCC and again returned home with several donations. Rusty Gilligan was asked by Bob to act as a voluntary back-up auctioneer contributor and he agreed. He would launch new auctions by the end of August and Bob shipped him many donations, brochures, catalogs and supplies. MikeP would follow his couple of auction waves, giving him time to scan his recently acquired SDCC donations. From earlier auctions the Inkwell Awards also raised $200 for Sal Velluto, the organization’s ambassador, for his GoFundMe charity due to cancer treatments causing him to lose some income. They circulated inker Keith Champagne’s GoFundMe link on Facebook. Bob received a good news call from Spencer Beck (of the Terrificon) that the promoter of the Indiana Con and Tampa bay Con would like to fly out and put up him and Hailey for his 2017 shows in February and July respectively. John Dixon, who had not been able to improve health wise agreed with Bob that it was best for him to drop for the team until he would be better done the road. Godspeed, John! (This left the following areas in limbo: Advertising, NomCom Recruitment and Inker Resources.) By the end of the month MikeP and Danny Best wrapped up the Frank Giacoia Sinnott Hall of Fame tribute page and Jose Marzan Jr. wrapped up his page for mentor and recent addition to the Hall of Fame, Josef Rubinstein. Rhys Evans uploaded the website’s 2016 Winners page and from there Ray Burke updated all Wikipedia info. MikeP completed the 2016 Inkwell Winners stamps which were circulated to the award recipients.

August wrapped up the Inkwell show tour with Twin Tiers in Elmira, NY and Terrificon in Uncasville, CT. TTCC not only covered travel expenses but generously raised $150 in their Drink & Draw event. Terrificon pretty much matched last year’s success and promoter Mitch Hillock said that they’d welcome us back every year. Former member Joe Goulart pleasantly surprised Bob at this show when he revealed that the Inking Challenge Spotlight that he was working on with Neal Adams when he resigned last year was still in play and he’d follow through with that job for the non-profit! Hailey and Bob updated all summer updates for the donations tracking chart list. Some books remain unprinted by Kenness until he get’s caught up with summer show job backlog; once done he’ll ship everything to Joe Sinnott to autograph. September start off with some wraps ups like updating this History journal, recounting all merchandise inventory for Rhys to adjust at the site, Rhys adding the last of Hailey’s Ms. Inkwell show photos to the site, Bob subsequently releasing the first Ms. Inkwell interview on Hailey online and at the website in order to promote the upcoming Ms. Inkwell Gallery book. Bob and Enrica reopened communications for the final book wrap up. On Bob’s request Ray Burke added all Guest of Honor/Keynote Speakers for the Wikipedia pages. Rhys updated the Store page such as adding the info from Bob to the 5th Sinnott Challenge book. Rusty, Mike and Rhys’ auctions all went fine from September through November. The debut of Inkwell auction theme weeks began with Joe Jusko in October due to his prolific donations from the Twin Tiers show. The annual supply order was made with BagsUnlimited. Bob and Enrica made plans to finalize the Ms. Inkwell book before the holidays and get the last batch of 2016 edited Sinnott Challenge books printed and sent to Joe to sign. Bob did another update to this journal in mid-November. He also started proceedings to launch invitations for the next NomCom candidates. Hailey would attend Rhode Island Comic Con for Saturday the 12th to request donations solo with help from Alyn Bergstrom. For the next Sinnott Challenge, only one of two  character options had been decided for by Mark, Joe and Bob.

November was a productive month. After Bob picked up the CAPTAIN AMERICA 75TH ANNIVERSARY MAGAZINE by Marvel he discovered that the special projects/collections department have been busy.  Inkers were thoroughly credited throughout the book.  Following up from the letter that Bob had emailed over a year earlier to Jeff Youngquist to offer assistance in the area of inker credits, Bob was so impressed that he emailed Jeff as well as Mark Beazley and Jeph York (whom Bob had been helping to identify inker credits in the meantime on reprinted material and the inspiration for the Credits Council being formed) to thank them for their efforts.  Jeff replied (w/ approval to use his statement) “Thanks so much for your email, and your efforts to recognize our work, Bob! We’ve been doing our best to credit inkers across the board, and will continue to do so, and it’s always great to receive positive feedback.” Bob posted an Inkblots blog article on this and DC’s earlier financial support (Inkwells Working with the “Big Two”). After nine years this was a small victory.

Also in November Bob pulled the trigger on inviting folks to the Nomination Committee. Over 30 request emails were sent. Bob handled this alone this year due to a shortage of help. Also, the second artist spotlight auction week took place celebrating the donation-prolific Bill Sienkiewicz which was also a resounding success. The Inkwells also ran the second annual Black (ink) Friday from November 25-27 with all website Store merchandise being available for 50% of the listed donation prices.  However the ink ran dry for this event. Bob started to collect confirmations from promoters/contacts for the 2017 convention tour which would be much busier than before. And this journal was again updated, including all outstanding links. By December Bob had 24 candidates agreeing to participate in the nomination committee. The invitation also was emailed internally for the Sinnott Hall of Fame/SRA ballot but the ballots trickled in super slowly as of this typing.  For upcoming auctions Bob received three sketch cover donations from Sal Velluto that he would ink of Bloodshot and Black Panther (2). He also nudged, as requested, 9 sketch covers that Guy Dorian Sr. had completed and simply need to ship.  Inkwell monthly reports that for years were sent to all committee and senior contributors was changed to only those that wanted to receive them. The auctions ended in mid-December with the third donor spotlight being on artist Kevin Eastman and a TMNT theme, which again proved a hit. Before the 2016 year came to an end Bob & Enrica finished up the Ms. Inkwell Gallery books!  25 arrived before Christmas with another 75 due post-holidays. They would all be signed by Bob and Hailey/Ms. Inkwell. Regrettably, Enrica would depart the organization as their book editor upon completion of this book, a huge accomplishment after five years!  But incoming Charles Edward Sellner, who acted as a nomcom volunteer,  would agree to join the core committee, finally adding a member to replace the triple 2016 losses of Mike Keller, Erick Korpi and Joe Goulart. Charles, incidentally, had been associated with the Inkwells back around 2009-2010 as he assisted with the annual and now extinct round table interviews.

Joe & Mark Sinnott chose Dr. Strange and Wonder Woman for the next Sinnott Challenge and hoped to draw them by the first week of January. Submissions for the Neal Adams Spotlight Challenge also started to trickle in.

To be INKtinued…!

****click on thumbnails to see the larger images