One the comics industry’s mainstays talks inking, influences … and music.
Not long ago, I wrote that Batman and Robin is the best Batbook DC is producing right now. Well, it made its way around it turns out, and the next thing I know, I’m backing and forthing with Mick Gray, the book’s inker. See, now, I’m always interested in the inker’s role on a book. So I asked Mick about his career, his work philosophy and his influences. He answered. Cool guy. Read on in this MIGHTY Q&A:
What’s your Secret Origin?
I was working as a technical illustrator in Silicon Valley, when my best friend mentioned my name to Dan Vado of Slave Labor Graphics. I had just started working for Dan when he sold The Griffin to DC Comics and that’s what got the snowball rolling. I worked as a background inker for 6 years or so with Mark McKenna, Chuck Austen, Frank Cirocco, and others. During that time I built relationships with editors, which led to me getting my own gigs doing full inks.
So whatcha got cooking these days? I know all about your awesome DARK, MAGIC TONES OF INKY WONDERMENT on Batman and Robin for DC. But what else?
That’s it right now. Being an inker on a monthly book, I don’t really want to take on anything extra that would get in the way of deadlines. But I wouldn’t be opposed to an unscheduled project.
Now, the inker. Ponder the inker. I do. I’ve been reading comics pretty much since I could read and I’ve always been intrigued by the role of the inker. How did you get to be an inker? Is it something you always wanted to do?
I completely fell into it by accident. While enjoying comics, I realized there was more than one person working on the artwork and I knew that I had some abilities with ink, but I didn’t consider myself much of a penciller. So I thought my best bet of breaking in would be to assist inkers.
As an inker, how do you assert yourself while still sublimating yourself in service to someone else’s art? You need to be the ultimate collaborator, otherwise you end up with a reputation like Vince Colletta. So tell us about that.
My whole strategy as an inker is to capture the penciller’s style. I am not a finisher and I do not try to put my own style over other people. Most pencillers put so much time and effort into their work, I want that to show through. When I get a phone call from a penciller saying how happy they are with the way I captured their style, that inspires me.
Who were some of your biggest influences, artistically speaking?
I love all sorts of art in general. I am inspired by anything that’s new, exciting and different. When I see a style become an “in” thing and everyone starts doing it, that turns me off. This is one of the reasons I love working with Patrick Gleason so much. I feel he has a unique look in the comic book industry. But other heroes and influences include: Jack Kirby, Steve Rude, Bernie Wrightson, Dr. Seuss, Edward Gorey, J.H. Williams III, Ryan Sook and Gary Gianni, just to name a few.
Al B. Mouse. Tell us about that.
Al B. Mouse is a character that is like me “mouse-sonified.” Mix Mickey Mouse and me together and you have Al B. I drew him in people’s sketchbooks for years and years. People kept asking me, “Can I buy a book with this character in it?” I had nothing. I had no time. But in 2009 everything came together and I produced a 200-copy limited edition hardcover of Al B. Mouse’s Abecedarium, which is of course and A-B-C book. It went nowhere, but it is my labor of love that my wife, my daughter and I all collaborated on. So I’m very happy I did it. I don’t know if there will ever be another, but at least I was able to accomplish this for my own pure joy.
You’re into music. Everyone’s into music. But it’s a thing with you. Tell us some of your all-time faves and some of your current faves.
This week? Ha ha! You just asked probably what could become the most long-winded answer in history, but I will try to hold back: Music is my life! If I didn’t work in comics and love it as much as I do, I would have to be the guy that works the counter and irritates you at your local record store. Do you have a local record store? I sure hope so!
On the subject of favorite artists of all time… Number one is Chris Spedding! Look him up! He is the Zelig of music. Other favorites include Buddy Holly, The Beatles, David Bowie, Sparks, Blue Oyster Cult and The Mekons. New stuff I love includes: Dawes, Boots Riley and The Coup, White Horse, Steve Poltz… and my new find this week is The Screaming Females, a band from DC who have a very hard-rocking female lead singer/guitarist. The list is endless, but like I said I am keeping it short.
(The Turning Point is just across the river from me. — DG)
Back to comics, name a character you’ve always wanted to work on but haven’t for whatever reason.
Over my almost 26 years of working in this business I have worked on most every character I love! Maybe one, off the top of my head, is the Atom.
Now name another.
I really don’t care about any other characters. I work on BATMAN!!! I have loved him since I was 10 years old!
What was your very first comic? Still have it?
I don’t have ANY of my old comics. They all got cut up and made into art collages. That’s what I liked to do when I was a kid. My earliest memory of comics is the giant reprint edition of Batman #203, featuring the double-page SECRETS OF THE BATCAVE spread. That is probably my favorite piece of art ever produced in comics. One of these days I will probably have to buy that lithograph by Dick Sprang.