Veteran of Ink
by Will Allred (11/24/1999)
Let's face it, inkers don't seem to get much respect. They really are more than just tracers. If the penciller and inker are truly working as a team, the inker actually adds to the penciller's lines, creating something better than either could achieve individually. Keith Williams is an inker who helped craft the look of some of my favorite comics over the last several years, and, in my opinion, it's about time this inker got a little credit.
Having been steadily working in comics for well over a decade, Keith made the decision to work in comics at a young age. "I always liked to draw, and I have been a comic book fan since I was a kid," said Williams. "It wasn't until my second year in high school that I knew I wanted to work in comics, though. I went through the major art classes at South Shore High in Canarsie, and from there I went to the School of Visual Arts where I studied comic book art with Will Eisner, creator of The Spirit.
Unfortunately, getting a job in the comic industry proved a little more difficult. "I graduated and worked odd jobs for a while, none of them art related, but I kept trying. I would go up to Marvel every few weeks with my portfolio and show my work to the editors there. But, it was Don Perlin that got me started in the comics field. He lived near me at the time, and I was always able to get advice from him. Eventually, Don found out that an editor up at Marvel was looking for someone to do background work on an issue of Peter Parker: The Spectacular Spider-Man and asked if I was interested. Of course, I said yes. That was around 1982. It was drawn by Jim Mooney and inked by Al Milgrom. The first book that I did a full ink job on, however, was an issue of Marvel Age, and it was penciled by Jim Frye.
In looking over some of his inking credits, a couple of names stand out, namely John Byrne, which seems to pop up pretty frequently, and Greg Capullo. "John was great!" said Williams.
"I did background work on a lot of his books. I believe that Alpha Flight #27 might have been the first book that we worked on together. He always seemed to know when I needed work to pay a bill or some other thing. He was like a guardian angel. He was very good to me. I finally got to ink over his figure work in Sensational She-Hulk."
As a nice contrast to working with industry veteran Byrne, Keith also provided inks for a young up-and-coming artist by the name of Greg Capullo. "Working on Quasar with Greg Capullo was a great experience for me. He was just at the start of his career, and I watched him evolve during our time together. He had a love for detail, and the energy he put on a page came off in waves and made me do some of what I think is my best stuff. I knew he would make it big," said Williams.
"I feel that Mark Gruenwald was for a while there the heart of Marvel Comics. When you read his books, you knew he was a fanboy in every good sense of the word. When he would talk to us, or if we had problems, he would always treat us like people not just employees. He was the one who always had fresh made popcorn in his office and the one who always organized parties and games in the office. I really miss him. I honestly don't think that Marvel knew what they had in Quasar. Mark was starting to define the cosmic characters, the way they operate in the Marvel Universe. But unfortunately, no advertising was done for what was happening in our book. The higher ups were only concerned with X-Men sales, so Quasar just slipped away."
When asked about some of his other credits, Williams responded with a rather impressive list. "After Quasar, I went on to work on some Spider-Man annuals, and I was on Sensational She-Hulk. While I was working with John, I also worked on background art with Joe Sinnott."
"I've learned a lot from those guys. I also spent quite a bit of time inking Alex Saviuk on Web of Spider-Man. Working with Alex was great. We worked together for almost four years. The deadlines were tough, and I was doing other books at the time, like inking Ron Lim off-and-on on the Silver Surfer when the other inker needed time to catch up, but we had a fun time doing the book. Eventually, a new editor came on the book, and wanted an "X-Men feel" to it so they decided to change inkers. I felt it was a bad deal. I thought that Alex and I had done a great job together, but you can't cry over spilt milk. Eventually, I moved to Dark Horse where I did five issues of The Mask Strikes Back and Star Wars: Droids. For DC, I inked the Lobo vs. Mask miniseries. I am now working on The Phantom comic strip for King Features and have been doing so for the past four years."