Walden Wong on Inking, Mentorship and His Shortboxed Top 5

Courtesy of Walden Wong
Walden Wong inking, with daughter. Courtesy of Walden Wong

Today we sit down with Walden Wong, a prolific and award-winning comic Inker, who has worked on a HUGE number of titles including: Batwoman, Justice League of America, Wolverine & the X-Men, and Superman/Wonder Woman.

Shortboxed: What is an Inker, and what is one thing you think people wouldn’t know about the process of inking?

Batgirl (Stephanie Brown) from Batgirl #11 art by Lee Garbett / Pere Pérez / Walden Wong (C) DC 2010

WW: An Inker takes another artist’s pencil work and inks them… getting it print ready before the colorist takes control of it. However, in today’s  modern world of technology, publishers have adapted, having the penciler send scanned files of their pencil work to the Inker. An Inker then prints the pencils out on non-photo blue line, and inks over that. This allows me to be able to get the work immediately after the Penciler finishes, as opposed to waiting a day or more on FedEx shipping time.

A lot of time when I tell people I’m an Inker, especially those who don’t know comics, they think I only fill in the blacks. Ink is black in color, so they think I just paint in the black area. They are surprised that I would go over all of the line work a Penciler has drawn. This concept confuses people more. Then I explain in detail that it’s like tracing the pencil lines, because scanners don’t pick up pencil lines as well. This is something that is easy to understand. But there’s also a lot of skill and technique that goes into inking. It’s not just tracing. Inkers need to work on textures, line weights, and concentrate on foreground, middle, and background. Making things pop and being able to push images back by creating depth in the line work. Other times, we’ll get projects where we do finishes over a pencil layout.

Dr. Strange by David Finch (art) and Walden Wong (inks)
Dr. Strange by David Finch (art) and Walden Wong (inks)

Shortboxed: How did you get started inking?

WW: I’ve met some artists along the way. Arthur Adams was one of those artists whom gave me countless critiques in person. He used to work at this comic book store that I went to weekly. He used to give me photocopies of his pencils to ink over. I would ink those pieces and show him the results. He’d critique me and later give me more copies of his work to practice on.

Later on down the line, I met Paul Smith, the artist that created “Leave it to Chance.” He liked my work and started to show me how he used a brush. At the time, I was only inking with technical pens and crow quills. We talked on the phone and showed each other our work while I was learning from him. I’m happy to say they were both there to help me along the way.

Not only that, years later, I got to ink over both Arthur Adams on a Marvel book, and I got to ink over Paul Smith on a DC book. Best of both worlds!

Shortboxed: If someone is new to reading comics, how would you suggest they find what they like?

WW: It depends on what they like. What kind of movies or TV show they are into? There are different comic books for different tastes. My best recommendations are books like Batman Dark Knight, Watchmen, Superman: Red Son, Walking Dead, Saga, Hellboy, Maus, From Hell, and the list goes on and on. It’s recommending the right book that’s closest to what they’re interested in, which will make them want to continue to explore comics.

Shortboxed: If you could only bring 5 comics (trade paperback, story arc, graphic novels) with you on an island, which 5 would you bring and why?

Walden Wong’s Shortbox:

Watchmen: I’ve started reading that book over and over again. Key bit, “I’ve started reading…” Never finished the story. Mainly because I get sidetracked and when I get back, I start reading it from the beginning again. I usually like to read a graphic novel from the beginning to end before I move on to the next. Watchmen is one book and I haven’t finished, but want to.

Walking Dead: It’s just a lot of fun. When the TV show started, I was reading the graphic novels at the same time. I’d stop when an episode ended, and started when the next episode aired. The fun part for me was comparing the TV show and the comic.

Batman: The Killing Joke: I’ve read it many times. The story and art are just amazing. You can read it in one sitting and each time you read it, there’s something extra in it that you missed the first time around.

Habibi: I’ve read that book once and it was something else. While reading through it, I got taken by the story. So much so, I didn’t take time to look at the art as much. I just wanted to read faster so I could see what would happen next. I would re-read it again just so I can slow down and appreciate all the art.

Superman: Red Son: Not only because I worked on it. Because I haven’t read it after it’s been published. I’ve read the script while I was working on it and I’ve read bits and pieces of the published work, but I have yet to read the whole published book in one sitting.

Walden Wong
Walden Wong

Find Walden on Twitter

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