365 Reasons to Love Comics #326

For the Americans among us, it's Thanksgiving. Today seems a perfect time to give thanks to an underappreciated section of the comics community-- the inkers! Let's start with my favorite inker in the biz. (Archive.)


326. Klaus Janson

Inkers never get enough credit for their art. Most people still think of them as tracers, and that really isn't true. A poor inker can ruin a good penciller's pages, and a great inker can turn a lousy penciller's work into astonishing art. When a great penciller and a great inker come together, the reader is rewarded with a beautiful peanut butter and jelly kind of art sandwich. What I'm getting at here is that Klaus Janson is a great inker.

I always feel bad about my lack of art background in these types of situations. I know Janson's great-- heck, he literally wrote the book on inking (and the book on pencilling, too) -- but do I have the chops to explain it? Not really, but that's never stopped me from trying. I'd say that Klaus Janson understands how to work a page. He varies his line for maximum effect-- smooth lines or thicker, bolder lines when appropriate.

Check out this example from his inking book, detailing the differences between a pen and a brush. They're clearly different, but both are totally Klaus Janson:

Mr. Janson's also been fortunate enough to work with some of the best pencillers in the business on a variety of great comics. He's worked with guys like Gene Colan, Carmine Infantino, Frank Miller, and John Romita Jr. on books like Howard the Duck, Daredevil, the Dark Knight Returns, and Thor. Hell, he's probably worked with every major pencil artist in the biz at one time or another, and I'd say he really brings the pencils to a new level with his ink.

Look at the following images from DKR with Miller and Thor with Romita Jr. and Lee Weeks. He really brings the raw power of their pencils out onto the page with his inks. Honestly, I never want to see any other inker work with John Romita Jr, because Janson's just too good. I adored their work together on Thor; it was big and brash and explosive. Klaus didn't seem afraid to loosen his inks up and let the art be a little sketchy and open to bring across that godly demeanor. Great stuff.

Man, look at that ink spatter. Janson's a master of grit when he wants to be. It's a cool mood-enhancing effect.

Klaus Janson's inking is so good, it caused Dave Campbell to coin the term The Janson Zone in reference to the artist's magnificent ability to elevate the pencils of whoever he's inking to a new and exciting level. Dave cites this page as an example:

And yeah, it's pretty masterful. Gaze at those shadows.

Mr. Janson is also a penciller and even colorist, having drawn Grant Morrison's Batman: Gothic and Greg Rucka's Batman: Death and the Maiden, among other things, and colored Daredevil. The man can take charge of a page and make it his own, for he's truly perfected his craft.

For an excellent conversation with Klaus Janson about his art and career, read this terrific two part interview by Tim Leong at Comic Foundry.

What's your favorite Janson work? And what other inkers would you like to see featured?

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