The iFanboy Letter Column – 02/05/2010

Friday means many things to many people. For some, Friday means freedom as the work week has ended and the weekend can begin. For others, they’re just starting to work because they don’t work on a traditional Monday through Friday schedule. Maybe they work nights and weekends and maybe they’re silently damning you for humming “Working for the Weekend” under your breath on the subway.

At iFanboy, Friday means it’s letter column time.

You write. We answer. Very simple.

As always, if you want to have your e-mail read on the any of our shows or answered here, keep them coming —



Who are some of the best inkers and colorists in comics today? I realize that some inkers also do art, but the most I find out about comics, the more I realize how important the inker is. Do you know some inkers that the top artists swear by?


We tend to always focus on the penciller of a comic book, much in the same way that we focus on the lead singer or guitarist of a band, and tend to gloss over the bass player. Sadly, the roles of inker, colorist, and sometimes letterers, get treated like bass payers.  They get taken for granted as you ooh and aaah over what comic book art you happen to be reading and you think that the artist is god’s gift to men.

Captain BritainI’ll tackle colorists first, as they’re a bit easier to discuss and the class is fairly elite. By far, if you as me the best colorists in the business are Dave Stewart and Laura Martin. We’ve sung Dave Stewart’s praises before over his work on DC: The New Frontier, Hellboy, The Umbrella Academy… the list goes on and on. Stewart is a master of laying down a color palette that instantly sets the mood. I think we owe Laura Martin a bit more credit and adulation then we give her as every comic she touches seems to look absolutely beautiful, especially when she’s coloring someone like John Cassaday or Bryan Hitch. Some other colorists that deserve note though include Val Staples, Paul Mounts, Christina Strain, and Brian Miller. Whenever I see any of their names on a comic, I know it’s in good hands. The thing about colorists is when it’s good coloring, you don’t notice it. It just enhances the art to the point of making it relatable through color theory. You really have to try and look and imagine what that drawing would look like uncolored, without the nuance of tone and value that the colors give it in order to see a great colorist’s work. FCO Plascencia is another name that I would add to that list to, with his work on Invincible being aces.

Inkers on the other hand are a little more challenging. Inkers, like colorists, are best when they go unnoticed. In fact the only time you notice an inker is when he’s not there. Inking is one of the making comics discipline I know the least about, so how I approach the discipline or inking is by looking at artists work and comparing it to their work with different inkers. For example, while I love John Romita, Jr.’s work, I know that it’s best when he’s inked by Klaus Janson (Frank Miller too for that matter). Alan Davis is one of my favorite artists of all time, and yet I cringe when I see that he’s not being inked by Mark Farmer or Paul Neary. Anytime I see Jimmy Palmiotti inking, I know it’s going to be worth checking out. I’m trying to understand why greats like Joe Sinnott and Tom Palmer are better than Vince Colletta (the most hated man in inking), and I’m getting there, but when it comes to seeing good inking, it has to work with the art to enhance it and make it more defined, at least in my opinion. As I said, I’m not quite there yet with fully understanding the nuances of the discipline, probably due to my lack of ability or personal skill with art (trust me, I can’t draw to save my life.) That said, to answer your question for who’s the best inkers around today, I’ve seen and heard good things about Mark Morales, Wade Von Grawbadger, Andy Lanning (also of Abnett and Lanning writing fame), Scott Koblish… I could go on and on. But look at the art you enjoy, look at those credits and see who the inkers are, and take note. We all have our personal favorites and what may work for me, may not work for you.

Ron Richards



What’s the good stuff currently as far as the DC team books go? JLA or JSA? Titans or Teen Titans? Doom Patrol…etc?

Noni J.

Justice League of America and Justice Society of AmericaI’ll be honest with you, Noni. As far as team books in the DCU go right now, there’s not a whole lot that could be called “good.” Here is a quick list off the top of my head of the most notable on-going team books in the DC Universe:

• Doom Patrol
• Gotham City Sirens
• Green Lantern Corps
• JSA: All Stars
• Justice League of America
• Justice Society of America
• The Outsiders
• Secret Six
• Teen Titans
• Titans

It’s possible that I have missed one or two but those are the team books that immediately came to mind. For the purposes of this e-mail I defined team books as being about a group of three or more people. Of the books I listed, I’d say that the best one is Green Lantern Corps, but that’s a team book in only the loosest sense. The same with Gotham City Sirens. I only really have those books on the list for the sake of completeness.

If you look at the rest of the list you don’t see many powerhouses, do you? You don’t see many books that light up the sales charts. And you don’t see many books that people talk about a lot, other than to say “What the hell happened to _____ ?”

Justice Society of America used to be a perennial top five book for me until Geoff Johns left, they split the team in two and now everyone is acting like they just met and don’t like each other. It’s very much like what happened to The West Wing after Aaron Sorkin was pushed out. I don’t recognize these characters that I used to love.

I could probably write an entire article on what a travesty DC’s handling of the Titans books has been, and in fact that sounds like something I might just do. Let’s just say that about 25 years ago The New Teen Titans was DC’s top selling, most talked about book, and now that family of books completely directionless and barely readable.

I bought Doom Patrol for the Metal Men back-up that just ended this week, but despite not knowing much about the Doom Patrol in general I’ve found myself enjoying the main story enough to give the book one more, Metal Men-less shot.

Despite my love of Peter J. Tomasi’s work I found The Outsiders to be a bit of a slog to get through and as soon as Dan Didio and Philip Tan came on the book I was out the door right behind Tomasi.

I’m one of the few people who has enjoyed James Robinson and Mark Bagley’s work on Justice League of America right now and I’m really looking forward to this new line-up. That being said, I realize that there aren’t many like me and the book that should be DC’s flagship title is far from it and it hasn’t really been in years.

I don’t read Secret Six but those who do seem to really like it, so maybe that’s DC’s best team book. Unless you want to include Green Lantern Corps, then that’s the best team book.

As you can see I think that the state of DC’s team books is pretty dire right now.

Conor Kilpatrick


I’ve recently come across a bit of a situation and was wondering if any of the iFanboys have had a similar experience. I begin my days by reading two different web comics. One of them is Misery Loves Sherman by friend of the show Chris Eliopoulos. I discovered it during your Talksplode episode with him and have since read every strip in the archive and red each new one as it is released. During the podcast, Chris came off as a really cool guy: friendly, appreciative of his audience, a genuinely nice guy. This only adds to the fact that I enjoy his strip so much. It makes me happy that a good guy is doing good work.

The flip side of that: The other strip I read daily (which I am not going to mention) is also one that I enjoy. However, through blogs on the site and updates on Twitter, I have realized that the cartoonist in question comes off as kind of a douchebag. He just seems like an arrogant prick who takes his readers for granted and thinks he did something far more important than just a daily comic strip on the web. As time goes on, and more and more examples pile up of this guy being kind of a dick, I’ve found I enjoy the strip a little less.

Being in the position you guys are in, you interview and meet a lot of comics creators. Do you ever have a hard time separating the artist from the art itself? Does your personal opinion of an artist at all influence your opinions of the product they put out? Or does one have nothing to do with the other?

John V.F. from Connecticut

Misery Loves ShermanIt’s actually something I think about a lot. With Twitter, etc, these guys are more in our faces than ever, and for me, more than once, I’ve had to shut down the open channels from some creators so that I could still enjoy their work. In some cases it works, and in others it doesn’t. It’s the risk of this enormous access we have to the people who create our comics, not to mention a lot of our other entertainment. In doing so, you learn a lot more than you ever did, and you risk that knowledge coloring the work you’re reading, where you might have enjoyed it more without any background being brought into it. Like what if your favorite comic book write has entirely opposite political views than you do. Before, when you didn’t know it, it didn’t bother you, but now that you do, does it affect how you see those stories? Are you looking for meaning you weren’t looking for before? It’s hard to say, but it’s a fine line for web savvy comic readers I think.

As far as people we’ve met, it’s not like I’m gonna sit here and bad mouth someone who was a jerk. But on the other hand, we’ve been really lucky in that respect. We talk to people we want to talk to. If someone’s not cool with us, they don’t get on the show. At the worst though, we’ve talked to people who were a bit awkward, but never anyone who was rude or unappreciative. Comics folks are relatively new to this kind of exposure, and most haven’t developed that jerk skin yet, which is fantastic for us and you. I can say, more often than not, I’ve been surprised by how cool someone is, rather than the opposite. For some reason, before I met him, Greg Rucka scared the hell out of me, and these days, he’s the nicest guy in the world when we see him at shows. That’s the kind of thing that makes this job really cool.

And I think I know the cartoonist you’re talking about, and I’m not saying who either!

Josh Flanagan


  1. to get an interesting look at how a colorist does his work, I’d check out this three part video tutorial The Boys colorist Tony Avina did.  just watched it and it is really interesting to see.

  2. Inkers are really tricky for me, but colourists (I’m Canadian) I can get quite excited about. Some even before even opening a book. I actually went to Dave Stewart and purchased a Hellboy print (1/1) with his unique colouring on it because Hellboy art just doesn’t feel complete to me unless it gets coloured.

    Some others that get me excited: José Villarrubia on pretty much anything. Matt Hollingsworth is a must too. The perfect mood/atmosphere is pretty much all his in the Bendis DD run.

  3. I enjoyed this week’s issue of JLA.  I have high hopes for it.

  4. Awesome! Thanks guys. In addition to Ron’s suggestions one of my favorite colorists is Mathew Wilson. He reminds me of Fco Plancencia.

    @RonaldoofGileadMan – Dave Stewart is so versitile and awesome.

    @ABirdseyeview – that’s a great link!



  5. I try to separate the writer/artist work from his public persona. Similar to actors like Mel Gibson or Tom Cruise. They’re batshit crazy, but I still enjoy their movies and their insanity doesn’t seep into what I’m enjoying on the screen.

  6. @Josh & John Ferringo – That’s an awesome question. I have not met many comic book creators  (hoping to do that this April in Wondercon), but the few that I have, have been amazing! Example: Geoff Johns is one of the nicest people I have ever met.

  7. @Conor – In theory, shouldn’t the JSA, JLA books be the highest selling books at DC? I dropped the JLA after #38, but will pick up the Trade HC when it comes out cause I love James Robinson.

  8. I picked up the newest JLA this week and found it to be more or less enjoyable.  That said, it’s -definitely- not for everyone.

    I love Titans when JT Krul writes it, which sadly isn’t very often. The newest issue actually got my POTW when it came out.  Any issue I’ve picked up without him on board has been pretty much awful.

  9. @Josh

    Thanks for the answer. I was actually fairly certain you would know who i meant. I remember you mentioning him on Twitter a long ass time ago. 

  10. @ABirdsEyeView-Very nice link. Thanks for posting it!

    I always get excited to see Val Staples name attached as the colorist. 

    I’ll say that Secret Six is easily the best team book over at DC, but that’s assuming you enjoy that style of dark comedy. It’s not for everyone, I understand that, but if you dig that then the book will be right up your alley.

  11. I disagree that good coloring is coloring you don’t notice. That can be true a lot of the time, but sometimes it really stands out (like maybe… Peter Hook’s bass playing?) Specifically, Alex Maleev’s work on Spider-woman, Val Staples on Criminal, or the guy whose name escapes me on Blackest Night. I’m really sensitive to bad coloring and unfortunately there’s a lot of it these days.

    I’ve been wanting to ask about inking for a while too. Those fellas at 11O’Clock Comics always fawn over inkers and I just don’t understand how to spot good inking. I know that inking is an art form but to me it’s as unknowable as the secrets of the universe.

    The thing about creators’ personalities is interesting too. I’m following a favorite creator on Twitter and I’m surprised to see that they come off as a smartass at best, a real jerk at worst. Kind of a bummer because it takes some of the magic out of their work.

    From my limited dealings with creators (including just online interaction), and this is of course a crude generalization and by no means scientific, it seems like writers tend to be “nicer” and artists are a little more… out there. I dunno.

  12. Connor, what about REBELS? The 11 o’clock folks rave about this book as a DC version of Guardians of the Galaxy, both in genre and quality, and it’s (I think) a team book. Adam Strange calls it a “team” in WoNK #10.

  13. @Conor

    That is an interesting question. I’ve been wondering about the current Titans comics for a while. I really liked Geoff Johns’ run on TEEN TITANS a number of years ago and I even liked it when he handed it off to Sean McKeever. I don’t follow it very closely anymore, but I will read the occasional trade.

    But TITANS I find to be confusing. I know that, originally, this series was supposed to be the cast of the NEW TEEN TITANS nowadays. What’s currently happening with it, now that half of that team is a part of the Justice League and Dick is Batman?  Has this been mentioned in the book?

    In short, I’d enjoy reading that Titans article, should you ever write it.

  14. 5 bucks says its Scott Kurtz of PvP fame! Though he isn’t a douchebag of the magnitude defined, he does have an air of self importance to him.

  15. Does the mysterious cartoonist in question have the initials KK?

  16. @JeffR:  The current lineup of the Titans is being broken up.  Cyborg, Starfire and Donna Troy are moving over to the JLA.  Beast Boy and Raven moved to the Teen Titans.  I guess the next two issues of Titans are going to be about the breakup of the team.  Starting in May(?) the Titans series will be focused on the team being formed by Deathstroke.

    Best DC Team books: Green Lantern Corps, R.E.B.E.L.S. and Secret Six.  I have a good feeling about JLA after reading the last issue.  Now that the split is over with, Justice Society is starting to get pretty good as well, though I haven’t read Johns’ run yet so I have no basis for assessing the drop off.

  17. @Connor, Thanks man…I kinda realized the dire state, but hoped there may have been a hidden goldmine beneath all the rubble.

  18. Lee Loughridge is the shit, yo.

  19. sadly with modern art there is a LOT of redundancy in jobs.  the pencilers have to think about lighting and thus add shading (or put in an X) and cross-hatching.  the inker adds the blacks and inks over cross-hatching, as well as adds weight to any lines.  then the colorist does the same exact thing and adjusts the colors to reflect the lighting, meanwhile there are big black lines all over everything that are supposed to represent absence of light to various degrees based on how many lines are overlapping each other.  it’s like Monet, get up close and it’s a mess, but from far away, it all looks okay.

  20. @gaffergamgee – Wow. That seems like a lot of change in that title. Crazy. I wonder if Robinson is going to mention the breaking up of TITANS in JLA or if he’s just going to move forward with it. Thanks for the info.

  21. I’d throw in another vote for R.E.B.E.L.S. as best DC team book.  

  22. @Josh-Werd.

  23. The colours on Oz were gorgeous and suited the book perfectly.

  24. Skottie did those himself.  He’s a Triple, no Quadruple threat!

  25. We iFanmen have talked about this privately on a number of occasions: I have definitely had to drop creators from Twitter because their personalities were making me hate books that used to be among my favorites before I "got to know" the people behind them. I have a very hard time separating art from artist. In fact, every time I read Criminal, I hear Ed Brubaker in my head reading the dialogue to me in that interview monotone.

    @JohnVFerrigno, I laughed out loud when I read the second part of your question, because I would bet real money we’re all thinking of the same person. "Yes! Total douchebag!" I shouted to no one. I stopped reading his strip, actually. He’s not good enough to get away with it.

  26. Does Tiny Titans count as a team book?  If so, that might be the best team book DC is putting out.

  27. @Jimski I really hope I’m talking about who everyone thinks i am LOL 

  28. I’d say Kevin Nowlan is probably my favorite inker if I have one. Very distinctive style and able to make anyone look good.

  29. AH! I want to know who the douche bag(s) is/are!!! ooo! it just started snowing outside!

  30. Personally, I’ll take Vince Colletta’s inking over Sinnott and Palmer because he created depth and shadows with his inks that most others can’t achieve. Taking nothing away from those two great inkers but Colletta could have copied their styles, not vica-versa. Look at Thor. There was only one Vinnie.

    Maybe the hard-core Kirby fans were whipped up into a frenzy about Vinnie because he changed Kirby’s pencils but even that was a long time ago. Colletta definitely has a lot of fans, probably why I can’t afford his romance books on eBay anymore.

  31. I read comics for almost 20 years before an inker ever made an impression on me, and it wasn’t a good one. Dan Jurgens is one of my all-time favorite Captain America artists. He had a run as writer-artist in the early 2000s that I really enjoyed. The stories were fun because he wrote Cap as the ultimate action movie star, and i loved the art. Whenever I think of Cap in my head, I picture Jurgens rendition. One day, I got the newest issue, and I opened it up, and HATED the art. Afterwards, I went back to the credits to see who the artist was, and it was Jurgens! i was shocked. I flipped through some previous issues, and noticed the inker had changed. It really opened my eyes to how big of an impact the inker can have on the art.

  32. The first time I noticed what a difference an inker makes was when Yu did Secret Invasion. While I still didn’t like Yu’s art, it looked a HELL of a lot better than it did in New Avengers thanks to the inker.


    As for creators, Warren Ellis’ attitude sometimes makes it difficult for me to enjoy (much less pay for) his work.


  33. Warren Ellis’ attitude enhances his work for me. He’s an uglier version of Spider Jerusalem.


    Anyway, C’mon ferrigno, tell us who he is! 

  34. LOL I’m not saying. iFanboy is a place that attempts to stay positive. My original question was more along the lines of "does your personal opinion of a creator influence what you think about his work?" meaning if you like somebody, do you like their work more, if you don’t like them, do you like it less? it wasn’t meant to start bashing people. 

  35. Trying to place one inkers talents over another’s is like saying watermelon is better than canteloupe. No other inker could have inked FF like Sinnott or Thor like Colletta. Each inker brings his own unique look to the art and it is what makes comic books great.