JERRY ORDWAY

Tell us about your latest work.

Well, I recently penciled and inked 15 pages in a DC Comics crossover comic, Infinite Crisis #5. It mainly involved Superman and was a lot of fun.

How long have you been inking?

I started my professional inking work in the summer of 1980, landing assorted short stories for DC's anthology comics. I inked Carmine Infantino, Trevor VonEeden, as well as Joe Staton, and Dave Cockrum.

How did you break into the biz?

I was working at a commercial art studio in Milwaukee Wisconsin, doing various projects, including comic related licensed drawing for Western publishing (Golden Books) Hearing DC Comics was having a talent search at the 1980 Chicago Comicon, I took my DC related artwork from the Golden Books, to the con, and walked away with a promise of work. I was still working full time at the art studio for another 6 months, doing comic inking at night, before freelancing full time in February 1981.

Do you have formal training or are you just naturally talented?

The only art training I had in school was through a commercial art course I took for 3 years in High School. The best training I got was to work my way up in the art field, first as a typographer, and then from the ground floor up at the art studio. The older artists there gave me pretty tough critiques on all the work I did. I learned so much. Artists are always good and generous teachers, I've found.

Do you work strictly in comics or do you also work in commercial art related fields?

I did continue doing occasional jobs for Western Publishing for about 5 years after I was freelancing in comics, but never liked the amount of revisions imposed on the commercial work. It was really no fun, compared the looseness of comics.

Who has helped you along the way?

My mom and Aunt, and brothers all encouraged my drawing. In the early days I was encouraged by the guys who published my work in fanzines, and a few even paid me money for my work, which was a boost. As for practical help, Mike Machlan, a fellow struggling artist was a big help, as he was a few years older, and better at certain things than I was at the time. I inked a lot of his drawing, and he inked a lot of mine. That can be a tremendous help to an artist-- because we are so solitary in our work. It opens you up to another person's influences, and way of drawing. Beyond that, I've learned from every single person I've ever worked with, from the commercial art guys to my favorite editor, Mike Carlin.

Do you use assistants?

No. I've always wanted to do it all myself, to be able to say the work was mine, you know? Inking is a weird job, because as much as you put into it, the page still belongs to the penciler.

Back in the mid 1980's I shared a studio with other artists, including Machlan, Pat Broderick, and Al Vey, who at the time was still trying to get comics work. Al Vey helped me out on backgrounds and erasing pages and filling in black areas in 1984 and '85 to help pay his share of the rent, when I was really swamped with work. He was very good, and soon had inking work on his own. Still if I had been working out of my house then, I would have toughed it out on my own, like I have since.

I recently tried out my 13 year old daughter on erasing pages and filling in blacks, as she is very talented, but I really can't do that on jobs that I pencil myself, as I work piecemeal, a finished panel at a time. If I do any more inking only jobs, though, she will earn more money!

What job are you most proud of?

After 25 plus years, I have many favorite pieces. I inked a Secret Origins of Superman in the mid 1980's over penciler Wayne Boring…that was pretty nice. I also did well on the later issues of John Byrne on Fantastic Four then too. I usually like my inks when I surprise myself, and it happens once and a while. I just did a page in Infinite Crisis, which paid tribute to the first cover of Action Comics, and that is a new favorite, despite the mistakes I see in it.

Is there a title or artist you have always really wanted to work on?

As a childhood wish, I always wanted to draw Daredevil, Spider-Man, and Avengers. I got to do a few Avengers, but so far not the others.

As for artists, I have been really lucky. I got to ink a few pages of Kirby, Gil Kane, John Buscema, Curt Swan, Steve Ditko and many other heroes of my youth. The only guy I missed out on was Gene Colan. I had an opportunity in the 1980's, on a Batman story, but was too busy to do it, thinking the offer would happen again. It never did, sadly. I did light-box ink a commission by Gene, which was fun.

What other artists inspire you to do your best or to learn something new?

I am always inspired by new artists, as well as long dead ones whose work lives on. Besides artists mentioned earlier, I enjoy studying Wally Wood, Alex Raymond, Hal Foster, Roy Crane, and also the Kirby pencil work on display in the Jack Kirby Collector magazine. Of current artists, I really like Lee Weeks, John Romita JR, Ron Garney, Mike Weiringo, Alan Davis, and so many more. Specifically in inking, I owe a great debt to Joe Sinnott, Dick Giordano, Tom Palmer, and Klaus Janson. They inspired the hell out of me.

How long does it take you to ink a page?

Geez it really varies. I used to ink 2 pages a day…very long days. In the last 10 years, I'm at one per day. My dream day though, happened on a magical Saturday in 1984 (I think) when I came in because I had so much to do. On that day, I inked 3 pages of George Perez, plus 2 of my own, for an All Star Squadron Annual. Never topped that. I don't even know how I did it, except that I was fueled by energy like a pitcher in baseball pitching a no-hitter-- you don't set out to do it, but once it starts to happen, you focus harder with a goal in mind. Most guys who get a lot done work without being distracted, and that's what I did that day.

Nib or brush? Or what combination of the two...

I ink mainly with a #102 Hunt crowquill pen, aided by a brush after erasing the pencil lines. On a rare occasion I will ink something large like a big figure or head that has lots of shadow with a brush, a #3 Raphael sable brush.

What tools aside from the brush and or nib do you use as part of your daily arsenal?

I have started using Pitt brand brush pens for filling in blacks, beefing up lines, and use magirub erasers. When I pencil, I use mechanical pencils with leads varying from 2h to 3b depending on humidity. The blue kneaded eraser I like was discontinued, but I slowly use up the stockpile I have, to gently light layout lines before finish penciling.

What is your favorite ink? If it’s not a specific brand, what mix do you create that works well for you?

I have sworn by Pelikan for my whole comic career. It is not as good as it used to be, but then neither is the paper, pen tips or brushes. As the art of drawing on paper shrinks, the materials disappear or get crappy.

What is your favorite white out?

I used to use something called "SNOPAKE" until it disappeared. Pro White, a water based paint is good for rendering with brush over black, for stars, or speed lines. For corrections, I use a Pentel correction pen, which is basically white-out in a pen barrel. Not perfect, so I stopped making mistakes! I wish. I will cut out and redraw a really horrible panel rather than use a lot of correction fluid.

Which aspect of inking should all aspiring inkers work to improve but seldom do?

Well, I think inkers should improve their drawing. Clearly many are good technically, but nothing is better for an inker than learning to draw better. Additionally, I find many inkers don't take a last pass at a page after erasing and beefing up lines or black areas to make a page more dynamic. Pencil lines, even tightly drawn, are still grey. When inked, they are often not bold enough, and benefit from a heavier line, or spotted black.

Have you gone high tech to work with FTP and/or blueline pencils? If so, do you prefer this method to traditional pencils/shipping methods? Give us some specs about your printer and scanner as well.

I am capable of it, but so far I haven't been asked. I like to think my editors like looking at the art in person.

Do you have anything additional to add?

Just to never be satisfied with your work. Be willing to accept that everything has been done before you, and better. That keeps me striving to match or surpass the comic gods of my childhood.

Let us check out your website:

www.jerryordway.com