Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Missing Ink!

Welcome to another installment of my new and improved art blog. I'm your host Alonso Nunez. It's Wednesday and that means it's time to 'sketch' a nice bit of inking (hopefully a nice bit of inking anyways) over some pencils (usually by another artist but sometimes over my own).

This week I'm taking on The King. No, not Elvis.

Or Michael.

Jack Kirby.


Jack Kirby is one of those names in comics that is legendary. He's one of those figures, along with perhaps Will Eisner, where the sheer amount of creativity is so vast and so deep that subsequent readers and artists (the later often starting as the former) begin to formulate an psychological image more akin to a natural force or occurrence, rather than man.

Kirby's work is almost always described in these terms. "Power". "Epic". "Electric". His work can seem so impressive, so often that words begin to lose any sort of detail or specificity and we are left with a sense of a baffling consistency to the imagination and creative distance of the work.

But a man he was. An incredible artist. He could march across genres easier than nearly any other creator (save for maybe Alex Toth and Joe Kubert) and his storytelling and panel composition are so consistently excellent that we forget that they're there. I think I've just psyched myself out. Ah well...

Into the storm!


This piece is a sketch that Kirby did. I don't think it's ever been inked in a publication. The work is of a famous character that Kirby co-created, along with Joe Simon... Captain America. This is great classic Kirby piece. Nearly all the Kirby hallmarks are there. Explosions. A near three-dimensionality. Movement. Wonky Anatomy. Angry faces.

I'm just missing some Kirby Krackle to make it complete. (Yep, that's right. Kirby Krackle gets its own Wikipedia entry. We'll pause while you go read it)


But how to approach Kirby in inks? Being a huge fan of Kevin Nowlan, and himself being a big fan of Wally Wood, I naturally figured that'd be my most natural starting point at attempting to not embarrass myself. Wally Wood is one of the greatest pencilers, inkers and letterers in the history of comics; and in addition to that he was one of Jack Kirby's greatest collaborators. His inking brought an incredible life and depth to Kirby's already-spectacular pencils. I decided to try to replicate the process that Wood used in inking Kirby.

Sounds good, at least.

First, I blue-line traced the whole thing. Easy enough. (Note: the lead looks really dark here because I darkened it post-scanning to make it easier to see)


This next step though was something I'd never done before. In reading Sky Masters, a collection of comic strips that Kirby and Wood did together in the late 50's, there's a nice bit where they show Wood's process. He seemed to ink just the contour of Kirby's pencils (not even spotting blacks) and then jumped in and did his wonderful Wally Wood thing. So, I picked up my brush and did a clean ink of the contours. It was tough here to ignore the wonderful linework and not and thick lines and thin lines, but I held back. I just wanted it simple. This was supposed to be the easy part.


Looks funny, I know. Luckily I still had the blue-line underneath to see where any blacks or different line weights still were. Next, following Wood's lead, I decided on a light source, which was easy enough given the big 'splosion in the background. I let myself ink it mentally for a bit, give myself a roadmap, and then I read a stack of Kirby/Wood collabos to see what the piece should look like when done. A couple hours later, here we are...

I'm happy with how it turned out. Something that often happens with lesser Kirby inkers is that they are a bit too slavish to the pencils. Kirby was doing really raw pencils, and the cohesion and power of the compostion seems like it was a distraction. Kirby's best inkers (Wood and Joe Sinott) really added their own point of view to the work. I tried for something similar.

Man, where's my coffee...

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