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CSBG Archive

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

Janson 4.jpg

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:

Janson 2.JPG

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.

Janson 3.jpgJanson 6.JPGJanson 5.JPG

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:

Janson 1.jpg

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?


Janson made Miller look more refined on the DARK KNIGHT RETURNS, ELEKTRA SAGA, and loved his BATMAN: GOTHIC.

Dark Knight most def. And I think he was the one reason I liked Who Is the Black Panther.

As for inkers, let’s see Steve Leiahola.

For some reason, I didn’t really like Janson’s stuff when I read comics as a kid, but over the last five years or so I’ve really gotten into his pencils and inks.

Janson over Romita Jr on the first six issue of Punisher war Zone (I think it was Zone)….

Jaw droppingly beautiful…..

The first time I ever really noticed an inker….

His work with Miller was so brilliant, on Dark Knight of course but also Daredevil.
I remember first seeing his inks on (I think) Rich Buckler’s Black Panther, at the start of McGregor’s “Panther’s Rage.” That was when I was totally new to Marvel Comics, and from the get go there was something so distinctive about his style, a different look and feel from all the other books. A year or so later a fellow grade nine comic-book geek waved a War of the Worlds comic at me and raved earnestly that Klaus Janson “made the art artistic.”
He did indeed, and he’s been doing it ever since.

In the 60s, the premier inker, for me, was Murphy Anderson, as the perfect inker for the current style. Carmine Infantino, especially on Adam Strange; Gil Kane, with the emphasis on the end of the decade, with some of his Flash work, and even Batgirl and Robin; and, of course, Swanderson. He brought out all of the details in his pencillers’ work, enhancing, but not drowning. The opposite, to my mind, of Vince Coletta, who regularly left so much out, which might have worked for the minimalist Alex Toth, but nearly ruined the more stylised and, for then, “realistic”, artists above.
When Neal Adams arrived, he found his perfect inker (other than, possibly, himself) in Dick Giordano, a consummate embellisher, who also brought out the sheer beauty in the, ’til then, more workmanlike Mike Sekowsky, in the New Wonder Woman. He went on to be the inker I was most pleased to see on many other artists’ pencils, always respecting and enhancing their style. He also, of course, deserves credit as an editor at that time on some of the most exciting of DC’s properties, including Deadman. Plus the rather more minor roles he played there in later years, as well as his pencilling!

One of the great things about Janson is you can always tell it’s him. Even if the pencillers style stands out a mile (like with JRjr) you can still see ‘The Janson Effect’ on top.

As for other great inkers, Dan Green and Karl Story spring to mind…

Like Rohan Williams, I hated Janson’s inking as a kid, but like it a lot now. Unfortunately, as Batman/Spawn: War Devil shows, his pencilling doesn’t come close.

as much as i appreciate inkdrs it will never cease to annoy me that colourists’ names are seldom featured on the cover when their contributions are self-evident

Let’s not forget how much of Giordano is on Janson.

I’ve always thought that Miller’s Daredevil would never be the enormous success it was without Janson (you only have to look at the issue inked by Rubinstein, #163, or the layouts of Miller before Janson drew the final pages). But I’ve got to admit that, for my tastes, nobody inked Romita’s pencils as Al Williamson in the late 80’s (os Blevin’s or Leonardi’s or Bogdanove’s, etc…). In fact, at that time I think he was the best inker by far.


November 23, 2007 at 7:20 am

I’m going to get shot for this, but seeing Klaus Janson’s name on a project immediately makes me wish a braille version of a comic were available (and that I could read braille).

I don’t see his work as “gritty” or “edgy”, I see it as sloppy, like he’s inking with a crusty brush that has never been washed and the bristles are clogged with dried ink that clump onto the page and stick, indiscriminately, everywhere.

He has done SOME work that I’ve liked in the past, but far more often than not, I just don’t like his style.

Wen teamed with a pencillers whose style is “loose” (like John Romita Jr. after 1989 or latter-day Frank Miller), he seems to have nothing to keep him cohesive and the inks, while raw and energetic (good things for a comic to have), are lacking in “polish”.

However, in earlier days (and/or with a tighter penciller) his work can be absolutely perfect.
(That last Spider-Man page with J.J.Jameson is a good example.
Nice effects, use of zipitone, and overall differentiation of line.
Very high quality.

Sadly, I have no desire to see any more of his PENCILLING.

His layouts are very good, but his human figures are, more often than not, grotesques.

I was going to mention at how I hate the fact that you can ALWAYS tell that it’s a Janson ink job (because his work is so overpowering to the pencils), but then I remembered how much I loved Ian Akin & Brian Garvey (on ROM and other titles) and I realize that THEIR work also overpowered the pencils (transforming Sal Buscema’s work from very good, STANDARD comic art, into a “WOW-FACTOR of 10″ art).
So, I can’t really fault Janson for being so overpowering with his work.

I like an inker who doesn’t disappear in the background, or just “trace” over the artist, but adds a little something to the process.
But I also don’t want to buy the work of the INKER as artist, unless he is also the penciller.

Armando Gil comes to mind as a great inker.
Anyone that can work over Michael Golden’s 1980’s era style and not kill it, but actually bring extra lustre and life to it, deserves attention.

Kevin Nowlan, also, is a fantastic inker.
He gives that “Nowlan” look to things, but supports and strengthens the art, and not overpower it.

I really don’t want to be so negative about Janson.
I HAVE liked some (very, very few bits) of his work.
But, it’s my own opinion on what I think is a good inker, and as such, is not right or wrong.
It’s just how I see it.


For the future: more votes here for Leialoha, Anderson and Giordano, plus two almost embarrassingly obvious candidates, Tom Palmer and Terry Austin. Or – while they’re hugely talented pencillers too – John Severin and Nick Cardy as examples of inkers who are immediately recognisable but who enhance the penciller (as, for what it’s worth, I think Janson always does).

Yea, P-Tor, I think this is the first time I’d disagree with you. I like Janson BECAUSE he looks a little sloppy. He just doesn’t look like everyone else out there.

As for future candidates, Tom Palmer is a must. His run on The Avengers should be legendary, but nobody ever talks about it. I wouldn’t disagree with Terry Austin or Dick G.

I’d also point out Janson’s story for Batman: Black and White, which he penciled, inked at lettered.

I don’t think Bill mentioned this but Janson also teaches at the School Of Visual Arts in Manhattan. He’s an amazing teacher; I had the opportunity to take a class with him and it’s the most I’ve ever learned in a year.

Amazing artist.

“As for future candidates, Tom Palmer is a must. His run on The Avengers should be legendary, but nobody ever talks about it.”

Maybe because the writer, Roger Stern, and layout artist, John Buscema were also great on that run?

The whole Stern-Buscema-Palmer run on Avengers is right at the top of my list of Marvel runs that I wish were consecutively collected. Unfortunately, they have been collected in scattered collection as opposed to one solid run. For me, this is my favorite run of The Avengers.

Recently I’ve become very partial to Joe Sinnott’s inking. I’ve been reading the FF Omnibuses, and it strikes me as extremely significant that the book really takes off at the exact moment that Sinnott starts inking Kirby . . .

I’d also point out Janson’s story for Batman: Black and White, which he penciled, inked at lettered.

and that story is another example of why Janson shouldn’t be a penciller.

That said his pencilling on Batman: Gothic wasn’t too bad.

Great article, Janson’s work on Thor over JRJR is still jaw-droppingly gorgeous.

As far as other inkers to be featured goes, Tom Palmer is an absolute must : IMO the best inker ever to wield a brush.

“Recently I’ve become very partial to Joe Sinnott’s inking. I’ve been reading the FF Omnibuses, and it strikes me as extremely significant that the book really takes off at the exact moment that Sinnott starts inking Kirby . . .”

Sinnott is probably my favorite all-time inker as well for super-hero comics. He is such a consumate craftsperson, he can even make a character’s hair look interesting. Check out the following splash page for instance:


next showcase should be Mark Farmer.

I love Janson when he’s working with Gene Colan on Howard the Duck and Jemm; with Sal Buscema on The Defenders; and with Gil Kane on several titles, but primarily What If? #3.

Allow me to concur with mw81420 that Mark Farmer is worthy of a showcase. His inking is flawless. To take Steve Rude as an example, no one has done a better job embellishing a masterful penciller. His collaborations with Alan Davis are also stunning.

And please shine the spotlight on Leialoha! He’s probably my favorite inker. Seeing his name on a book is a guarantee that I’ll buy it. Look at his collaboration with Mike Vosburg on Marvel Team Up 81 and tell me the devil’s daughter ever looked more gorgeous elsewhere (OK there was that Romita short in Marvel Feature).

Speaking of Romita Sr, his embellishments of Gil Kane on Spidey should not be overlooked.

And let’s not forget the incomparable Joe Sinnott on Kirby and John Buscema!!!

John Totleben would be my next pick for an inker. So much of the art during the Moore era was down to his work. Bissette went away for an issue, you never noticed… Totleben went, you *noticed*. Big time. Plus, like Janson, he’s a brilliant penciller in his own right (though I prefer him inking Bissette more than anything).

A couple less-heralded Janson ink jobs: over Steve Epting on Team X/ Team 7 (a Marvel/ Wildstorm crossover from the late-’90s) and Keith Giffen on Defenders (Kirby pastiche becomes gorgeous).

I was never a big fan of his–sometimes it looked good, sometimes it just looked like he was scribbling on the paper.

That may sound like blasphemy to some of you, but that’s how I I saw his work.

I forget which book it was, but I once saw one where they used the same pencils and Janson and another inker inked them on their own, and they presented both. Janson’s was not the better—I’ll have to look that up–I believe it was in the 90’s.

So yes, some of his work was good, most of it was acceptable, and some was awful.

John Totleben would be my next pick for an inker. So much of the art during the Moore era was down to his work. Bissette went away for an issue, you never noticed… Totleben went, you *noticed*. Big time. Plus, like Janson, he’s a brilliant penciller in his own right (though I prefer him inking Bissette more than anything).

Damn straight (except for the “like Janson” part)

[…] Oh, and the coloring here is by the great Klaus Janson, if you can believe it. […]

Georgie Roussell

February 5, 2008 at 2:55 pm

For me, Vince Colletta was the creme’ dela creme’ of inkers in the comic book world. I can spot a Colletta panel from down the street. Sinnott, Giacoia, Ayers, Shores and many other great inkers were, well, great, but their styles were not all that distinctive from one another. Vinnie Colletta captured the feeling of what was supposed to be happening in the story and did it beautifully.

“I can spot a Colletta panel from down the street.”

Well, of course you can. He ignored most of the pencils and redrew the pages all the way he wanted.

Which is not an inker’s job.

Alan Richardson

June 3, 2008 at 5:41 pm

For me, the three top dogs are Vince Colletta, Frank Giacoia and Tom Palmer.

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