Google is Your Friend
Earlier this week I was reminded of a big mistake I nearly made back in 2009 by almost trusting the wrong person. Thankfully I wised up in time, but I think it’s a good cautionary tale about the types of people you may come across if you’re trying to make a career out of comics. But just so everyone knows, I am not going to be naming any names. I don’t want to be responsible for El Santo’s site being taken down because of libel.
So some Living with Insanity fans may remember a relatively early strip in which the protagonists finally get their comic accepted by a publisher and then have to deal with an editor. I also did a blog post when it first went up, celebrating how I had finally managed to get my foot in the door at Image Comics, which is where the inspiration for that strip came from.
See, around the time I was looking for various work so I could get some experience and add to my portfolio, mostly as a colourist and letterer, but I also applied for writing jobs. One guy I did a lettering job for said he was happy with my work and would be sending the pages I gave him to some pros that he knew, in the hopes that I would get some paid work. This should have been a warning sign, because my lettering is fine by webcomic and indie standards, but absolute crap next to an actual pro. But back then I had a hard time telling the difference and thought nothing of it.
A few weeks went by and I get an email from a guy who says he works as a freelance inker for many books at IDW, Dark Horse and the like. We get talking on MSN and he links me to his Wikipedia article to show off all the books he’s done, as well as some of his uncoloured pages. And some of them are pretty good titles, with really good line work. So he tells me that Image wants a book from him, but he’s too busy so he’s going to hire an artist. Also, he needs my help paying for the artist. I tell him sure, but I don’t want to hire an artist until I have everything worked out. He was okay with that, but told me we would need to have the first issue ready to the printers before the year ended.
The deal seemed solid and I immediately started bragging about how I was going to at long last be a pro. I spent a month working on the initial arc, it’s actually a story I’m still pretty proud of and hope to get out eventually, and did about three drafts of the first issue. I soon found myself in my local comic shop and decided to pick up some of the titles my meal ticket mentioned he had worked on, wanting to support the guy who helped me out.
It was then that I noticed his name was not listed in any of these books.
I went throughout the store, looking at the credits pages for all the books we had talked about, but nothing. I eventually made it home and he was online, so I asked him what was going on. He then came clean and admitted he was only an inking assistant. Thankfully, by this point I knew enough about industry terminology to ask for what he did on the books specifically.
All he did was spot the blacks.
Now, I should explain something to people unfamiliar with western print comics. Since printers could not print many colours, artists would use black to add shadows to the artwork, a method that still exists to this day on many books. This means whole sections of the characters and backgrounds are blacked out in order to add depth and contrast. However, in order to save time if the artist is late or the inker has to work on multiple books that month, sometimes someone will be brought in to fill in those blacked out sections once the initial ink lines have been done.
This is not considered inking. Many people who do this job think that that is the case, as people like Colleen Doran and Cully Hamner found out to their chagrin. But this guy refused to see the difference, even calling himself a finisher, so I sent him a hi-res pencil file I got off Sean Ellery’s site (Has some pretty good resources for inkers and colourists, go check it out) and told him to ink it as a sample. He did and the final result was actually worse than if I had attempted to do it on my own.
So I said goodbye forever and then emailed the actual inkers and artists to warn them that this guy was taking credit from them. A few said thank you, some mentioning that they had never heard of the guy, the Wikipedia article got taken down and I never heard from the dude again. I later realised if I had just done a quick Google search on the books I could have gotten the info off of Comic Vine or somewhere like that. Also, these days I have an easier time telling the more subtle differences in an inker’s personal style that I would have spotted the deception immediately.
But every time I remember that incident, I thank God I was smart enough to not hand over a single cent.