Absolute Carnage: Keeping it inky with J.P. Mayer
If you’re a regular here at Comics Now, then you know: I am thoroughly enjoying the current run on Venom. When the entire creative team began working on the greatest pop culture event of all time, Absolute Carnage, I was giddy. This was to be the big, explosive crescendo to the Venom story so far, and it would be brought to us by the folks responsible for making it all so awesome so far.
I confess quite a bit of ignorance when it comes to what exactly a comic book inker does. I know that they don’t merely trace the pencils, and I can spot obvious things like brush textures or ink wipes; but, I still feel far less knowledgeable about inking than some of the other stops in the production chain. I definitely know it’s important—picking up any Doug Mahnke book from the past few years will show you just how different the same penciller’s work can look when finished by a different inker. And so, as I have loved all of the delicious blacks and textures in Venom and Absolute Carnage, and seeing as it was long past time I got professional help, I reached out to Venom/AC inker J.P. Mayer and asked him to educate me. I hope it will be as enlightening for other newbs as it is for me, and that those possessing less ignorance will nevertheless find it an informative look into one specific inker working on one of the biggest stages in comics right now. Enjoy!
Brian Warshaw: Did you read comics as a kid?
J.P. Mayer: Actually, no. When I was a kid, I used to live in a community in the countryside of a small town. So, comics would never reach there, and even if they did, I don’t think I’d have had enough money to buy them. At that time, my family and I used to lead a hard life, where whatever was not food, was just crossed off of the shopping list.
BW: Did you know of any comic book characters? Which were your favorites?
JPM: Spiderman, X-Men and Justice League were the ones that always caught my attention the most, because of the cartoons on TV.
BW: Did you begin exploring art because of comics?
JPM: Yes! At the time I met my wife (Mariah Benes), two of her brothers (Ed Benes and Fred Benes) were actively working in the comics industry. Therefore, I started to get the chance not only to read comics, but also to take my firsts steps into this industry.
BW: Do you have any formal artistic training?
JPM: Nope. Almost everything I learned was through observing a lot, training a lot, and many special tips I got from my wife and brother-in-law. Besides that, Q&A sessions with other professional artists helped me a lot, too.
BW: When did you begin working professionally in comics?
JPM: 10 years ago, around 2009.
BW: How did you break into the business?
JPM: At the time, my wife and my brother-in-law used to have a representation contract with the agency [Art&Comics]. I was already venturing into making some inking samples of my own, and I started sending those samples to [Art&Comics]. It was then that I got my first opportunity: two issues of Justice League, inking the lines of the penciller José Luís. Since that time, except for a sabbatical period of two years, I have been working as a professional inker.
BW: Since most people don’t know—or, like me, don’t know the half of it—what does an inker bring to the table?
JPM: I like to think of an inker as the penciller’s steward. It’s the inker who tidies up the house by doing what the penciller doesn't have enough time to do, like outlining some areas, or making some lines more clear.
If needed, the inker also adds some textures which cannot be made with a pencil. To sum it all up, the inker is, or at least should be, the penciller’s best friend.
BW: Are you inking paper or doing it digitally?
JPM: On paper! I am useless when it comes to technology, although I love it. Only last week, I learned how to use a scanner.
BW: What sort of tools do you use?
JPM: I always say inkers must use the best and most varied materials they can. I, personally, use Calli ink, technical pens, Crow Quill nibs (I use the wonderful Hunt 102 and 104), not to mention the amazing brushes, Raphael 8404 sizes 2 and 3; and Winsor & Newton series 7, sizes 2 and 3. They are great, but expensive; however the quality and the results make up for the price.
BW: Do you have any room for interpretation when working with Ryan?
JPM: Sure. Ryan is a great guy and a professional at the utmost level. He gives me almost total freedom to add details, splatters, etc. He even encourages me to do so. This is the dream of any inker.
BW: Why do you think you, Ryan, and Frank are such a good fit together?
JPM: For two reasons in particular: First, we are good as individuals! We love what we do and give our best to it. The second reason is that each of us strive to do our best without any intention of stealing one another’s spotlight. Rather, our desire is to complement one another’s work. We learned how to work as a team.
BW: Do you have Frank in mind as you’re inking?
JPM: Definitely! I think all the time how my inks will be stunning as Frank colors them—and by doing so, helps to hide my flaws.
BW: What’s your favorite page from Absolute Carnage #1?
JPM: Actually I have two favorite pages: the double-page (49-50), and the last page of the issue (page 60). I just can’t decide which one I love the most!
BW: I love the textures and softer edges in the opening rainy scene in New York. Did you do anything different while inking this scene to help achieve the mood?
JPM: I also love that! Actually, I didn't do anything different in that whole page. I just added some lines and some details in white. Ryan deserves all the credit!
BW: Were there any big challenges in inking Absolute Carnage #1?
JPM: For sure—this issue was quite challenging! Firstly, because of its size: 60 pages! (What???) Then, the endless details. Also the huge responsibility of being in a book for a Marvel event—all of that made me lose sleep.
BW: What other books are you inking right now?
JPM: None. I am exclusively working on Absolute Carnage.
BW: Any exciting projects coming up in the future?
JPM: I hope so! When they do, you guys will be the first to know ;-)