Atlas Comics presents


ABOVE: A rare look at two interpretations of the same pencils, by Al Williamson and Bernard Krigstein.
Notwithstanding that Gil Kane was a beneficiary of some of the finest inking of any artist in the history of comics, his sentiment is largely accurate. Inking is a contrivance created solely to save time, and consequently, money.

An invention of the Golden Age, inking for the longest time was the hind end of the industry, only marginally above lettering in the pecking order. In the early days publishers generally contracted "packagers" who produced contents of entire books for them to print. The publisher didn't care who prepared the book (aside from having Simon and Kirby or Bob Kane's name on the masthead), and the studios quickly realized that top men like Jack Kirby could create the look and pace of a book before handing it off to a less talented member of the bullpen to finish for a couple dollars a page. Although many artists resisted the compartmentalization of their job, most saw the value of time saved and the added income the process afforded. Only the highest paid or most devoted of craftsmen could afford to ink their own work like the strip artists they admired. Yet even they were sometimes forced to acquiesce. Spectacular artists like Lou Fine, Reed Crandall, Will Eisner and Alex Toth, all known for inking their own work, often had to accept other hands tampering with the finished product. Unfortunately, due to the lack of credits, many inkers of the Golden Age are largely forgotten. Those that are remembered have an output that is difficult, if not impossible to pin down. Men like Marvin Stein, Chic Stone and George Papp probably inked thousands of pages during those years, most of which are unidentified except by difficult research, hazy guesswork and tricky memories.

It wasn't until the advent of the Marvel era in the early 60's that the inker gained stardom in his own right. In time it became obvious that the inker was the second most important visual element in producing a comic book. As the last man in the production chain, he was the one who had the final word on the look of the page, and who could help control the mood, pace and readability of a story. Like an editor in film, a good inker could salvage shaky pencils, and a bad one could obliterate great draftsmanship or obscure good storytelling.

Finding a good inker and pairing him with the appropriate artist became a primary function of editors. When the team clicked, there was nothing like it: Jack Kirby and Joe Sinnott, Carmine Infantino and Murphy Anderson and John Buscema and Tom Palmer created beautiful music together. With all due respect to Gil Kane, the synthesis of these talents elevated the parts far beyond what they had achieved individually. Comics truly became a collaborative art.