Oof, that example makes my eyes hurt a bit. It's not drawn bad, but the inking, while neat, doesn't make ANYTHING clear. Maybe the artist is expecting the colorist will make it all turn out ok in the end. In my opinion though, strong ink work makes everything easier to see, not super cluttered. Look at Mike Mignola, his inks (and art of course) are so friggen great because it's big bold blacks and shadows making everything so clear. It makes every panel have this easy to read, iconic look.
The point of the larger black shapes in comic book art is to emphasize the most important elements of the graphic design... so that the storytelling is clearer.
The picture link you posted, on the other hand, while "ulta-cool" is indiscriminately placing dark areas... and the randomness of the spotting of the blacks is making the storytelling confusing... so the clarification of what is actually going on is being totally left up to the colorist.... (who usually is just someone who knows a few rules about the science of light and is not a visual storyteller himself.)
Look a lot at Alex Toth... the page below, while seemingly simple, is actually the work of a consummate master. Every black area helps the story and defines the graphic character of each moment.
Look at the gun holster in the first panel, how the handle points to the man's head. How the man is "caged" by the two black bars on the bed... how the right-most bar (in the second panel, which is like a camera pan from the first) is thicker and "walls-off" the man from the nude girl. Toth is telling us stuff with the objects in the picture... metaphorically.
Third panel, black bulletholes... white silhouette of figure on black background... a clear intro to the character's costume... which makes the black silhouette on white background in the next panel easily identifiable as the same character. The reversing of the black and white silheoutte also makes the second panel "pop" out at us... waking us up as we enter the story.... A nice piece of visual theatre there. Notice how much is hidden in that black silhouette... beautiful mystery... yet the hand and the phone mouthpiece and the phone wire tell us everything we need to know about the action.
Fifth panel, the black doorway perfectly frames the man and because it is centered, it shows his dominance... he's the boss. Notice that the henchman on the right is wearing a white suit... and how that blends him into the background. Yet the man on the left has a black spot of shadow on his coat... drawing your eye to him... which is good because his interaction with the boss is the point of the scene.
Last panel... the black in the photo frames the girl. Notice how the photo is at a similar angle to the girl in panel 2... so we understand the visual association.
The word illustration, by the way, means "making clear." Toth was the Michelangelo of clarity.
Last edited by kev ferrara; August 30th, 2008 at 11:09 AM.
It's not random. The inker looks like he's honestly trying to covey form. Maybe he even just inked over the the penciler's hatching. The visual effect of randomness and confusion was probably caused by a combination of the penciler and inker's styles with the subject matter. Frankly, there's just too much going on.
If you've ever seen Geof Darrow's work, inked but precolored, they're virtual games of "Where's Waldo?" On the first page, he'll hide candy bars and fetuses in machines and you won't notice for thirty minutes because it's just that friggin' detailed.
Zaxser, he may be "honestly trying to convey form"... but form is not the point of art. When the shading of form becomes the dominant idea, you have an exercise in rendering. Which is to say, even though the artist has an objective, our objective as consumers of his communication take precedence. And in terms of making some dramatic point that interests the viewer, those black areas are indeed "random".
Conveying form and storytelling can be done at the same time, but in a comic it's the storytelling that needs to take precedence. That guy's not doing much of either, it looks like an exercise in style to me. To much air guitar, not enough standing back to see if it's working overall (but with a title like Age of Apocalypse it sounds like air guitar is what they're shooting for anyway ). Conveying form doesn't mean "use hatching on everything!" it means really thinking about the 3d shape in space and how the light is affecting it, paying careful attention to the terminator edge where light no longer hits the object and the form is turning away, and he's not thinking about light at all.
Your feeling that it's random is true in the case of this example but I'd agree that you're just looking at the wrong kind of comic inking and several great alternatives have been named. When you're looking at other artists' work for inspiration and instruction, you almost never want to look at someone who's stylish an popular - dig a little and find the guys who really understood what they were doing and did it extremely well, and study that.