MICK GRAY

 

Mick 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 deal.

Grey’s contributions to comics extend beyond their relationship, however. From Slave Labor Graphics to DC comics, Mick Gray has made the rounds. 

Pressing 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.

Wacky hi-jinks ensue.

Interview Conducted By
Ed Mathews

 


 

1) 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.

2) 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 than most.  
 
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 save time. 
 
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."  

I 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 seen. 
 
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 as DC? 
 
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 possible? 
 
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.

11) 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? 
 
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 newer audiences? 
 
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 bri
nging 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 Villarubia added some interesting photorealistic computerized art to the book. What do you think about the future of computer-based art?  
 
Computer-based art is awesome! José just 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 inkers? 
 
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.

Thank you Mick for letting us turn your brain to Slush.


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