Match to Flame 207

Mar 13, 2024

While on the subject of art, holding up my end of the art on the strip was something that was a much bigger concern than the writing. As I mentioned earlier, following my accident, there was no way I could make it up to my studio to ink and letter the penciled strips. Plus, there was a similar concern to the one I had about the writing regarding what would happen if neither Chuck nor I could do the art. So once again, I decided to test the waters by having someone ink those weeks that I wasn’t able to do at the moment. That someone turned out to be Dan Davis. Dan had actually been adding the computer-generated gray tones on Funky for several months at this point, thanks to his skill within the digital domain, and was also doing work as an inker for DC Comics on Batman Brave and Bold and for Bongo Comics on The Simpsons, along with other freelance work. He had that rare ability to be able to match diverse artistic styles and keep the characters on model. So I asked him if he would be interested in sitting in on Funky as an inker until I was fully recovered, and he agreed. From the beginning with Funky, I had never actually inked directly on my pencils but instead on a separate sheet of paper placed on top of them. A lot of comics artists accomplish this by inking their pencils on something called a light box, which allows them to see the pencils through their top sheet of paper. Because I had always worked with markers, inking directly onto the pencils was dicey. Sometimes the marker ink would sit on top of the pencils and smear, and at other times it would soak into the paper too much and bleed. I solved this by using a high-quality vellum tracing paper that took the ink perfectly, leaving me with separate penciled and inked copies (and simultaneously killing the aftermarket for my original art, but I was busy creating work for newspapers, not something to hang on the wall).

Dan would be taking things one step further by digitally inking the pencils on the computer. So I sent him the original pencils for a strip that I had already inked as a tryout to see how this would work. Let me interject here that both Dan and I were inking the pencil work of the excessively gifted artist Chuck Ayers, something I can only describe as a peerless privilege. Long story short, Dan knocked it out of the park. I had my wife Cathy look at both inked strips side by side on the computer, and when she couldn’t identify who had inked what, I knew I had my inker. Just so you can enjoy the same experience, the strips are presented here side by side along with the original pencils. [fig. 7] All of that said, as seamless as the transition from myself to Dan was, my magpie eye can detect a subtle but discreet difference between the computer-inked version and my hand-rendered work (before they began crediting the artists in comic books, spotting a new penciller/inker on a book was sort of a specialty of the twelve-year-old me). I believe that at the time I was inking strips with a Marvy Fabric Marker. I really loved the slightly more lush, soft, and rounded line it produced for me. But we’re really splitting Windsor & Newton fine-red-sable brush hairs here. To the untrained, non-twelve-year-old eye, the digital and analog work was indistinguishable. The proof positive was that the comic strip readers, who are very adamant about preserving the status quo, never made a peep. Not one. I was grateful for the assist and would later get Manga Workshop, the computer program that Dan used for drawing and inking, so that I could create and finish work on the computer as well. I wanted to be ready in case I received a phone call one day from paperville saying that they were no longer going to be making any paper. I learned how to do it on the computer, did several weeks of Funky that were good enough that no one could tell the difference, didn’t enjoy it, and went back to my drawing board to continue to do the work the way my heroes, the ones who created the comic books I read as a kid, did it. Dan ended up inking a surprisingly large chunk of 2009 Funky strips for me while I got my feet quite literally back on the ground.

From The Complete Funky Winkerbean Volume 13

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