Atlas Comics presents


Please remember that like our companion piece, The 100 Greatest American Comic Book Artists, this list follows only American artists from the aboveground publishers. We have limited inclusion to those who made their primary living as an inker of other people's pencils, or those who made a significant impact inking in addition to their pencilling. Men like Lou Fine and Frank Frazetta did some wonderful rendering over others drawings, but are not primarily known for inking fellow artists. You will see that a number of our entries have distinguished themselves as outstanding pencillers in their own right. It is worth noting that this is no accident. The best inkers are more than craftsmen or production facilitators - they are artists and have an artist's instinct.

Here are the 4 criteria by which we judged our nominees:

The job of the inker, primarily, is to enhance and clarify communication of the story. It requires both an instinctive ability and an encyclopediac visual vocabulary. A good inker must simplify clutter, fix poor drawing, create mood, define textures, manufacture depth and lead the viewers eye, all in service of READABILITY. Nothing should be left to interpretation or doubt by the reader. Regardless of the style, communication is paramount. No fancy rendering or trick shadows need apply if they confuse or obscure. Look for a page that imparts STORY at a glance, and chances are you've got an inker who knows his stuff.

The best inkers will usually conform well to many styles and many types of artists. Inkers who are equally at home in the gritty textures of the desert, or the cool back alleys of a noir thriller have learned their trade. They are able to draw on the experience of what they've seen and translate it into a two-dimensional line drawing. They are chameleons of the brush.

Some are precise and line perfect. Others scratch their pens in a seemingly endless garble of lines. The bottom line is that whatever style they choose, they control the final outcome in such a way that the rendering resolves itself into an understandable and eye-pleasing product. The enjoyment is watching the personal expressiveness of the artist as he chooses solutions to each new problem, and applies it as his technique best dictates.

Obviously, the inkers who have best been able to adapt to changing styles, industry shifts and fickle editors deserve special treatment. They are the linchpins that have helped keep continuity not only on our favorite titles, but throughout the industry. They have mostly had a less glamorous job, and have survived by dint of craft, talent and professionalism.