Atlas Comics presents

In comics from 1941, Frank Giacoia's smooth, thick line has been recognizable over a surfeit of outstanding pencillers. Gil Kane (who called him "an extraordinarily powerful inker"), Carmine Infantino, Gene Colan and Jack Kirby all benefited from his heavy, robust linework which always helped tell the story in a simple, direct way. His collaboration with Kirby on the short-lived newspaper strip Johnny Reb and Billy Yank (which Giacoia created) was superb, as was generally the case when he teamed with the King. Frank worked for many publishers during his 40-odd years in comics: Lev Gleason, Hillman, Timely, DC and of course Marvel (where he sometimes moonlighted under the alias Frankie Ray while still working for DC).

SEE: Fantastic Four #39 (as Frank Ray) has always been a favorite--the Daredevil figures are inked by Wally Wood; DC collaborations with Camine Infantino (early issues of Mystery in Space); and Amazing Spider-Man (with Gil Kane) circa #95 - 105.

Here's how an inker helps tell the story: nice, solid blacks; clear, easily readable panels; smooth transitions and flow.


Murphy Anderson helped define the look of the Silver Age at DC the way Joe Sinnott did at Marvel. He gave Gil Kane, Carmine Infantino and Curt Swan their most impressive visual counterpoint and exemplified the professional, solid and occasionally stagey style which dominated those years. Always controlled, sometimes even mannered, Anderson softened the angular pencils of Infantino with delicate feathering and supple linework. For Swan he warmed the usually cold and detached drawings with delicate shadows and rendering. With Kane he simply created impact. He is DC's top gun, bar none.

SEE: DC's logo on the cover, the 1960's in the indicia and Murphy Anderson's name in the credits.

From JLA #29, this is Murphy Anderson in his prime. Note the texture and shine of Doc Fate's helmet and the form and highlights in Black Canary's hair. Pencils by Mike Sekowsky.

It doesn't seem so long ago that Tom Palmer was the young turk of the Marvel bullpen. It has, however, been THIRTY (!) years since the long-haired kid slipped through the doors of Marvel to hobnob with men who built the industry. Tom Palmer seems to have been the first in the line of "modern" inkers. His style broke sharply from the accepted style of the time exemplified by Dick Ayers, Joe Sinnott and George Klein. He showed a lusher, more illustrative approach and used his brush in an almost painterly fashion. All this played directly into other shifts in the industry, notably the commercial ideas sown by Neal Adams which blossomed to every corner of the business. It's no small wonder that these two men hooked up for some of the finest collaborations in comics history. Their work on Avengers and X-Men are justifiably lauded and have been pointed to by Adams himself as among his favorites. Their vision helped embolden the nascent steps from the more conventional 60's into the unpredictable and experimental 70's. Tom has been a Marvel mainstay ever since, giving the most mundane of stories a polish and direction which show he truly contributes a great load to the process. In addition, his popularity and skill influenced the next generation of inkers: Joe Rubenstein, Bob McLeod, Klaus Janson and many others each owe a stylistic debt to him.

SEE: X-Men (first series) issues in the 50's and 60's with Neal Adams, as well as Avengers (first series) #74-84 with John Buscema and #93-97 Neal Adams (including the Kree / Skrull War); and don't forget him making John Byrne look almost professional again on X-Men: The Hidden Years!

Tom Palmer always adds more than he finds in the drawings. His use of zip-a-tone screens to enhance lighting effects is non-pareil. Pencils? Neal Adams. From Avengers #93
After Alex Toth and Will Eisner, Wally Wood may have the greatest and boldest command of shadows ever thrown by an inker. Reflected light, multiple sources, four- and five-stage contrasts, vibrant silhouettes; all of these things flowed from the brush of Wally Wood. He was master of textures: a cold Minnesota forest was populated by individual elements--the coarse fur of a black bear, the reflective surface of running water, the harsh contrast of deep snow against knotted fir trees. Each had its distinct feel. His greatest gift, however, seemed to be his instinct for chiarscuro. Wally was perpetually using negative space folded into deep blacks, juxtaposing values, or letting shine and shimmer bleed into other areas of light, rather than containing them within a line. He visually captured optical tricks we've all seen a million times. The resulting verisimitude sold us on a world of three dimensions where there were actually only two.

SEE: Wally's work over various Marvel and DC artists of the 60's, such as Gil Kane, Steve Ditko and others. His inks over Kirby on Sky Masters and Eisner on The Spirit are all time great teamings. Additionally, his inks (over his own pencils) during the EC era are spectacular.

Kirby called Woody his best inker, and you can see why. Great stuff from the unpublished newspaper strip, Surf Hunter, 1956.
If you laid a Joe Sinnott inking job from 1965 and 1995 side by side, most people would be hard pressed to discern a difference. His style is mature, solid, assured, precise and smooth. He has been so good for so long that he tends to be overlooked except by those that appreciate the craft and professionalism of truly fine inking. Joe's greatest impact came as Jack Kirby's indisputably finest finisher. Their collaboration on Fantastic Four may have resulted in the slickest and most dynamic superhero comics ever produced. But he did more than that; from the time Kirby left Marvel for almost 15 years afterward, Joe was the look of Marvel. He kept the continuity of the Kirby years through the Buscema and Byrne years, with Marvel hewing a close editorial image to his style. Changing policy eventually turned them in a different direction, but Joe continued to do top flight work until his recent retirement. He still contributes outstanding pieces for The Jack Kirby Collector as well as the Bing Crosby Newsletter, and his beloved baseball illustrations. After 50 years in the business, he deserves recognition as one of the greats.

SEE: Fantastic Four #44-62 feature what is probably Joe's finest work. In particular, issues #60-62 show perhaps the greatest single representation of the silver age style that Sinnott helped popularize.

Kirby and Sinnott are entering their prime period here. Rejected cover From FF #52 shows the care Joe lavished on every object. The strength of his line is unparalleled.

A final word left unsaid for those of you who have read this far.

God bless Gil Kane. He was a gigantic talent.

Although I basically agree with the comments which preceded this article, I've got a bone to pick with him.

Let's face it: Gil was not that great of an inker. In fact, if there is any artist who should THANK HEAVEN for the inking support he received over the years, it is the inimitable Mr. Kane. Just look at the list above us! Many of those men had fruitful and sometimes long associations with him. Not only did they help him look good, but in most cases far BETTER than he would have looked on his own. Klaus Janson, Joe Sinnott, Murphy Anderson, Kevin Nowlan, Wally Wood, Tom Palmer, Rudy Nebres; how many other artists can claim such an auspicious group of professionals to help define their careers?

I miss Gil Kane since he's gone, but in the best and most respectful example of what great inking accomplishes, I am sure glad those men were with him while he was here.