Gray is a professional inker who has worked in comics
with some of the best. He has been working almost
exclusively with his art partner, JH Williams since
1995. While the inker is often the unsung hero, as we
have learned, JH Williams III has turned down jobs to
get the point across that Mick Gray is the man he wants
to ink over his pencils and that they are a package
contributions to comics extend beyond their
relationship, however. From Slave Labor Graphics to DC
comics, Mick Gray has made the rounds.
my luck by asking Mick to do an interview with me, he
graciously took time away from inking Promethea
this month, but just enough time since I want to see
issue #10 come out on time, too.
What is the primary goal of the inker? Why or how does
this differ from a finishing artist?
The inker is the guy who finishes off the artwork,
taking it from pencil stage and making it so it's
printable. In doing so, he adds textures, line weights,
and maybe a little extra finesse to add "snap"
to the art. A finishing artist or
"embellisher" takes existing pencils and puts
his own style over them. In most cases, he is working
with pencils that are not complete.
Most of your recent work has been for DC, and now with Promethea, ABC.
Do you have an affinity for the characters or does the company
just treat you and JH very well?
DC characters have always been some of my favorites (Batman,
Superman). But working with J.H., I go wherever he
goes! The people at DC have always treated us better
3) A lot of the panel borders in Chase and Promethea
are inked in. Do you find that this sets the tone
of the book?
The panel border designs by J.H. Williams have become
one of his signature elements. The borders definitely
set mood and tone throughout all books that we've worked
on. On the contrary, most of the panel borders are xerox
paste-ups. I ink them once and copy and paste them up to
4) Prior to working with JH Williams III, you did
some work with Mark McKenna and still do work with
Frank Cirocco. How different is it to work with
different artists? Does it affect your style in any
way or do you tend to bring "Mick Gray" into
the original pencils regardless?
It's always different working with each artist. While
working with Mark, we inked over approximately 30
different pencillers. This gave me a really good feeling
early on of a lot of various styles. My rule has always
been, "If the pencils are there, capture what the
penciller is trying to get across."
do not put "Mick Gray" onto pencils unless
it's called for. In the case of J.H. Williams or Frank
Cirocco, what they put down is exactly what should be
Excluding your current art partner, who is the one
penciller you'd most like to work with in an ideal
world? What artist really impresses you and you
think could benefit from your inking?
5) What are the tools of the inker? What is in your
quiver, so to speak?
I'm sorry; I can't talk about my quiver... that's
personal! But on my drawing board, I use brushes (Rapael
series 8408 #3), quill (Hunt 104 & 102), technical
pens (Repidograph), sponges, fingerprints, toothbrushes,
and whatever else I can find under the kitchen sink that
will give me a good texture or effect.
6) Did you go to art school or did you learn your
trade without formal schooling?
I went to junior college and got an A.S. degree in
Technical Illustration and then fell face first into the
comics world. I learned just about everything I know
about comic book inking from my mentor, Mark McKenna.
7) Little elves tell me you've done some work with
Slave Labor. Anything particular you'd like to
cite? Is it easier working with an independent
company such as SLG than with a large corporation such
I started my comic book career at Slave Labor. Dan Vado
gave me my first inking jobs, doing background inks on Hero
Sandwich, Bloodlust, One Fisted Tales,
and The Griffin. When The Griffin got sold
to DC Comics, that's when I met Mark McKenna. He asked
me to assist him on the book and I stayed his assistant
for the next 5 years. I don't know if it's easier
working for an independent company. Maybe less demanding
and you get less money for it.
8) How does it feel to have been nominated for an
Eisner with your art partner?
This was the biggest honor in my career so far!
9) How much interaction do you have with the writer
of a book? Do you mainly work through the pencils
or does the writer discuss a vision with you as
well or is it all in the script?
I always work directly with the penciller on his vision.
I have never talked to or met Alan Moore, but hope to
one day soon.
10) Ok, spill some of the beans… before Chase
was cancelled, it was rumored that the next 4 issue
story arc dealt with the JLA. What was it supposed
to be about, and do you wish you could do those 4
issues now as a graphic novel? Would it even be
Being the inker, I just know of these issues, not about
them. But I am inking a page from issue #10 just
specially for D. Curtis Johnson to hang in his home. Who
knows, these issues may surface some day. The art was
started for issue #10, but never finished.
Well, I love Brian Bolland, even though he inks his own
work. I also like Alex Meleev and Steve Rude. These are
the kind of guys I'd like to work with.
12) What do you like most about the comic book
industry? How do you think it can reach out to
It's closest thing to working in the movies! Well, with
this new X-Men movie being such a success, this kind of
thing always helps bringing in new audiences. And a
phenomenon like Harry Potter could bring fantasy fans in
a roundabout way to comics, too.
13) Can an inker help out with the speed an issue can
be completed in?
Yes! Everybody involved can help out. When something
slows down any of the steps (writing, pencilling,
inking, lettering) this slows down the whole process.
14) Has the Internet helped raise awareness for your
art team? You guys have a website, correct?
The Internet has been a great tool in bringing us a
little extra exposure. We have a website: http://members.aol.com/JHnMick/comics.html
And J.H. is just starting up another one, which will be
linked with mine.
15) Excluding Promethea, do you have a dream
project that you can't wait to get approval on?
Right now, the most exciting thing I can think of would
be me and J.H. being involved in a Batman Black and
White story. I think J.H.'s style lends so well to
black and white art and we've only done one little
project like that. It was in The Big Book Of
The Unexplained (Paradox Press).
16) Online comics: future or fad? Where do you think
inkers fit in?
There may be a future for it, but there will always be
people who want to hold a paper product in their hands.
Comics are a collectible medium. You can't collect a
computer file. I think there's even room for inkers in
online comics, but a little less of a need.
17) In Promethea #7, José
some interesting photorealistic computerized art to
the book. What do you think about the future of
Computer-based art is awesome! José
showed us that. I've seen some really good, but I've
seen some really BAD, too. The computer is just a tool,
like a brush. If you don't know anything about art, then
the computer won't help you.
18) Are you a Coke, Pepsi or other drinker? (saying
"Slushies" may earn brownie points, but
you have to specify a flavor)
Vodka slushies... just kidding! Don't drink, kids! I
like JOLT!!! Caffeine ZOMBIE!!!
19) Have you read any good books lately? Anything
that you'd like to see adapted to comics or film?
Good books I've recently read include: Rave On (a
biography on Buddy Holly by Phillip Norman), The
Bhagavad Gita (the Hindu scriptures), The
Essential Rumi (my favorite poet). A movie
adaptation of Promethea would be great!!!
20) Do you have any advice for any budding new
Don't give up. It took me 8 years to really get my
confidence level up to where I am now. This is needed to
be able to get what they call the "snap" to
your line. Get all the criticism you can, good or bad,
and weigh it accordingly. Assist an established inker in
the business. I can't stress this enough! This gave me
so many chances to learn what I needed. Do it every
day... and inking, too.
you Mick for letting us turn your brain to Slush.