Review: The DC Comics Guide to Inking Comics

Hello, friends.  It’s Max West, creator of this blog, comic, and all-around cool guy.  I have another book review to share today and it’s a very important book.  This one was instrumental in helping me develop my skills and make Sunnyville Stories a reality.  The book in question?  The DC Comics Guide to Inking Comics by Klaus Janson.

The DC Comics Guide to Inking Comics (Watson-Guptill) 2003) is one of five entries in the DC Comics guide series.  I made mention of this in my making comics tutorials.  At the time of this writing, I only own one other book in the series (Coloring/Lettering).

So how exactly did this book help me and what can it do for you?  

Klaus Janson is a penciller and inker with a number of mainstream superhero comics such as Batman and Daredevil.  He’s also been known for being an instructor at the School of Visual Arts.  Like my review last time with Scott McCloud’s book, the guy who wrote this book definitely knows his material.

As for the book itself, it’s divided into two parts: the first concentrates on the basic materials of inking like pens, brushes, papers, types of inks, etc.  The second part delves into techniques and how it ties into storytelling.

Klaus Janson goes into details about what pens and brushes he recommends.  Any beginning inker who wants to move beyond traditional markers will definitely find this information valuable.  He speaks highly of sable brushes as well as nibs.  His coverage of ink though is somewhat dated.  The book was written in 2003 and he recommend Higins Black Magic.  At one time, that ink did give a rich and even black on the page.  Since then however, the formula must have been changed because it’s not as strong as it used to be.  That’s one of the only problems with this book.

Everything else though is worth the price of the book alone.  Janson emphasizes that inking is NOT tracing, a frequent myth within the comic book industry.  He also emphasizes the importance of clarity.  Let me illustrate this with a quote direct from the book, which focuses on why inking is so important and why you must master it if you want to make good comics –

“The most basic obligation of the artist as penciller or inker has to be the ability to be printed.  The second obligation is the ability to communicate the story information in a clear and understandable way.  Anything less than that constitutes a failure in storytelling. – Klaus Janson, page 35

This sets the tone for the book.  He continues to go on talk more about specific challenges in storytelling and what not to do.  He also goes into techniques like depicting light and dark, textures, and feathering.

Yes, the emphasis of this book is primarily on superhero comics.  Anyone who has their own ideas or is part of the alternative scene (like me) may resent the perceived bias towards the mainstream.  But still, these principles are applicable to any sort of comic, be it superhero, underground, manga, gag cartoons, etc.

So what’s the verdict on this book?  It is handy, it is essential, and it is informative.  This book is a must-have and should be required reading material for any cartoonist.  Yes, you can quote me on that.  So what are you waiting for?  An invitation?

Run down to your local store right now and grab a copy of Klaus Janson’s The DC Comics Guide to Inking Comics.

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About Max West

I am a freelance artist and the creator of Sunnyville Stories, an independent slice-of-life comics series.
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