iFanboy Video Podcast

iFanboy #153 – Letterers, Colorists, & Inkers

Show Notes


When one thinks of comic books, they often immediately think of word balloons. Letterers are the the people who transfer the comic book script to the comic book page and handle the layout of those word balloons. Notable letterers include: Chris Eliopoulos, Todd Klein, Richard Starkings and Nate Piekos.


Comic book art is drawn in black and white, and then the colorist steps in to provide color based on the artists feedback and direction. Radically altered in how coloring is completed with the advent of computers, it’s clear to see how this field has grown in recent years, as evidenced by our example by Ben Templesmith from the pages of Choker. Notable colorists include Dave Stewart, Laura Martin, Lee Loughridge and many others.


Often teased as tracers, Inkers provide line definition and other refinement of the artists pencils. By looking at the difference in art between an inker like Joe Sinnott compared with Vince Colletta on Jack Kirby pencils, you can see what a difference an inker can make.


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  1. ooo, maybe I’ll finally get to find out what a russ whooten is…….

  2. @ifanboy:  I notice in some comics, like Astro City and Starman very frequent use of bold and underlined text.  Is this also at the discretion of the letterer?  It’s difficult for me to understand why some words are and some aren’t, most of the comics I read today have neither and I really don’t understand what is really gained from their use.

    This was one of the best episodes I’ve seen, thanks.

    Miller and Varley’s Elektra Lives Again was the first time I noticed how beautiful the coloring was, my personal choice for one of the most remarkable collaberation.

  3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smLA5a6r5rI

    I’ve posted this link before but it really is the colorist equivalent of the Chris Eliopoulos episode.  it’s a tutorial from Boys colorist Tony Avina.  really gives a good example of how the work is done.

    what often bothers me is, and I have brought this up elsewhere, is how inkers and colorists are at times doing the same thing.  this is especially true when it comes to lighting.  shading and cross-hatching are great on B&W art to show varying degrees of light, but when a colorist is adding flat color and then darkening or lightening it to reflect the lighting of the scene, those blacks look like just that.  the end result is a bunch of black lines that just fill up space for no reason.  just something that really stands out to me the more I look at art.

  4. also, I don’t think you guys mentioned that inking came about as a necessity.  pencils didn’t show up on copiers for many years.  the art form came about from what once was merely a technical step, and that to me is one of the really fascinating things about it.


  6. @UncleBob – I haven’t watched this episode, but I believe that the writers usually call this out in their scripts. At least it’s been called out in the scripts I’ve seen. The reason for it, I believe, is that traditionally comic lettering is ALL CAPS, right? Thus, to emphasize a word, you need something else. The bold usually serves to emphasize a word in an attempt to emulate the rhythms of speech (eg, "YOU DID IT!" vs. "YOU DID IT!").

  7. I hope Vince Colletta is DEAD.

  8. I’m not a fan of Lee Loughridge. Cause I’ve seen his work on Punisher MAX, The Losers, and a few other titles and….Just does not due justice to the actual pencils of an artist. Laurence Campbell can be a pretty good good with his pencils….but you wouldn’t tell cause of the extremely dark coloring Loughridge does to his work.

    The Losers might’ve been a passable book for me with the pencils if the coloring by him didn’t seem to be like a 4 year old did it. Sorry to sound so harsh with that one but, that’s how I feel about it.

  9. Great episode, but I’m disappointed that my favorite letterer, Tom Orzechowski wasn’t mentioned.  His lettering was very important in Claremont’s classic X-Men run and he did amazing stuff in the early issues of Spawn. 

    Also, before digital coloring was replacing inkers, they were being pushed out by the super star pencilers of the late 80’s and early 90’s (the Image guys) who penciled a lot tighter and demanded their work to show through as unaltered as possible, which they could do with the sky rocketing popularity and million dollar paychecks. 

  10. Mike Allred is A fanstic inker. And hos wife, Laura is probably my favorite colorist

  11. @iFanboy  Hey guys. This is my first comment, so I just wanna say that I love the show and that thanks to you I discovered lots of comic books that now are mine absolute favorites)))) 

  12. @dannydanger: Thanks!

  13. Fantastic opening guys!

  14. Nice of you to acknowledge the "little people" of comics. I do often think of those poor guys and how they don’t get as much credit as they’re due.

    I totally agree that you only notice lettering when it’s bad. One of my major annoyances is when a word balloon is clearly placed in the wrong position.

  15. Great Episode guys, I gotta say Inking is freaking HARD. I know whenever I’m at a con I find myself chatting to Inkers (not many people come by their tables, sad I know) about their processes, what types of tools they use; Man, the guys who do good inks need more respect; Same with all 3 of these arts, it definitely ain’t all about the pencils.

  16. I’m very interested and involved with the process of inking.  It’s really fascinating.  

    A good inker is always in service to the art, but, not a slave to it.  His job is to interpret what needs to have the focus to lead the viewer’s eye across the page.  He creates depth, and weight, and volume, especially if you have a very proficient brush inker.  

    Klaus Janson, whom you mentioned has written a great book in the "DC Comics Way…" line of books.  His lastes about inking is a terrific read for anyone who wants to learn more about this very amazing art.



  17. One superstar penciler/inker team I cant belive you guys forgot – Byrne and Austin. Those guys have a shared body of work that touched alot of comic book history.

  18. “Your Mother’s a tracer!”

  19. I would say a great inker example would be John Buscema and Ernie Chan on Marvels Conan books. If you look at some of Buscema’s pencils they were barely sketches. On the other hand Ernie Chan used some much ink he overshadowed whoever he pencilled. One of my favorite artists is Gary Kwapsis on 80’s Savage Sword of Conan. If you look when he inks his own work it’s awesome. When Chan inked Kwapsis the detail was drowned out in a sea of black ink.

  20. @conor: I’m glad you made note of how everything looked flat back then. I was always wondering why images of the final product bothered me but not the pencils. Has any professional inkers and colorists finished any of his untouched pencils? It’d be interesting to see the product on that.

  21. Great show guys. Where would I find Kirby pencils? Is there an artbook or something?

  22. Check out Kirby King of Comics by Mark Evanier.

  23. @daccampo: thanks for the response.  It’s just that sometimes underlines or bolds are used sooo much.  several times in the same balloon/box.  It’s like Shatner Captain Kirk is always speaking/narrating, emphasizing every other word.

  24. @Josh: Thanks for the tip. Just ordered it now.

  25. There are some artists who would be helped by inkers, like Tan Eng Huat and Pascual Ferry whose line work is to slight to shoot straight from the pencils. If Huat had had an inker on either his Punisher or Ghost Rider run they would have looked infintly better than the mess they were.

  26. @davidtobin100:  Also look for issues of The Jack Kirby Collector.  They featured quite a few pencilled pages.  I think  there are a couple of collections of them as well.

     Not to excuse it, but I have heard that Vinnie was the Marvel go-to guy when a book needed to be rushed.  They didn’t ship late books back then, they just rushed the hell out of them.

    For my money, Joe Sinnott was great… but Mike Royer was my favorite Kirby inker.

  27. Oh… one more place for Kirby pencils.


    …or, you could sit on my couch and turn your head to the right 😉

  28. Hey Guys

    one of my favourite letters is Ken Bruzenak of American Flagg fame etc. I thought that American Flagg’s lettering was groundbreaking IMHO 

  29. Of all the video eps you’ve done thus far, this may be my favourite. It just seemed to express the minor (or major) nuances that make our books all the better. 

    Huge KUDOS guys. Thx 

  30. hey guys, i’ve never heard it explained why comics don’t follow the lettering rule that lower- & Mixed-Case, serif fonts have greater readability. is it because the font-design elements that make that so (the swoops & turns & connectors that help your eye flow from one word to the next) actually compete with the art and other visual information on a comics page, making ALL CAPS the preferred or better choice? (if so, i can understand that, but sometimes i still find it hard reading, in the wordier comics, and wish for some lowercase!) thanks, and great show as always! -john

  31. Thanks for singing the praises of the other 3/5 of the comics creation team.

    re: Klaus Janson – If you want to see an early example of just how great Janson was destined to be, and how much he could change the look of a certain artist’s pencils, see Defenders v. 1 no. 19. The cover looks like Gil Kane over Sal Buscema, but the interior is Klaus Janson over Sal Buscema. As a guy who bought a lot of Sal Buscema, I can personally attest that Sal never looked so good. This guy made the Wrecking Crew look great.

    re: Vinnie Colletta – Unfortunately, you are comparing him to Joe Sinnott. Vinnie’s work on that FF you guys showed looks like the 1964-1966 Marvel house style. It is pretty comparable to the stuff done by Dick Ayers and Don Heck. Joe Sinnott uses much larger areas of black, filled darkly with brushes, with bold strokes and round blobs that match Kirby’s quirky energy. Vinnie Colletta does much finer lines and doesn’t vary the weight (thickness) in the manner of Joe Sinnott or Wally Wood. They let him do Kirby again, on Thor, and yet again, on Mr. Miracle (when Kirby went to DC). Not only was he a respected inker at the time, DC even made him art director for a few years, in the late 70s. I almost forgot how many of these guys were born in the late 20s (Jack Kirby was born in 1917).


    some links:

    Defenders 19 (cover only – sorry):


    Vince Colletta inking George Tuska


  32. Woah, where is that awesome Norm Breyfogle Sinestro drawing from?

    Also, as an artist I want to hopefully work in comics one day but I’ve always been weary about inkers so this was a great episode to know what kind of inkers to look out for

  33. I just rewatched this episode, this time with my wife. She’s not a huge comics fan but has a few titles under her belt – FABLES, Y: THE LAST MAN, and BLANKETS among them – and was very interested in the conversation you three were having. She brought up a good point about how the three of you were able to be so knowledgeable about these subjects without having any easy reference around you for discussion. There was no laptop or piece of paper with reminders in sight. I hadn’t even noticed that before she said anything. I suppose that I take you guys for granted. Well done!

    And you got my wife to watch a half hour video about comics. This surprised me greatly.

    Great episode, fellas.

  34. THOR was beautifully inked by Vinnie Colletta, not so much so by Sinnott, Everett, Stone, Jansen and others. There is classic comic book art in those old THOR and Tales of Asgard stories. Colletta also did great work on Daredevil, Batman, The Avengers, Warlord, Wonder Woman, etc. etc.

  35. What was the Kevin Smith joke?

  36. i wish i can ink.

  37. When Todd McFaralne switched from the pencils to the inks on spawn, it kept the feel of the book despite him not doing the pencils anymore, that was a great decision as i guess something had to give with his other responsibilities at the time

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