Original Art Inked Over Pencils vs Blue Lines. I Don’t See a Difference

I’ve been buying and collecting original comic book art for almost 20 years now. While the process used to create that art has changed considerably during that time, apparently the mindset of many collectors in this hobby haven’t changed with the times. It’s a mindset built on semantics and narrow definitions that is steadily becoming more irrelevant since the advent of computers and the digital age. The following is an example of why I think we are headed for major sea change in what people are calling “original art” and how we are going to value it. I am going to leave the real names out of this, but the following really happened.

I recently purchased the original art for a variant cover to a mini series published by Marvel from the inker who inked the cover art. He did so over what many are calling a “blue lined” print out of the penciler’s pencil drawing of the cover. I thought it might be “blue lined” when I bought it, but I wasn’t sure because some pencilers have been known to draw with non-repro blue pencils. The art was already signed by the penciler, so I got the inker to sign it as well. After getting such a great deal on it, I recently decided to sell it on eBay to recoup some cash to spend on more comic art at an upcoming comic convention. I listed it as:

COMIC TITLE #1  1:25 Variant Cover Penciler’s Name Original Art

This the wording I used in the Item Description section of my listing:

This is the original art page for the 1:25 variant cover to COMIC TITLE #1 drawn by Penciler(Credits) and inked by Inker. It features a future team of Heroes led by a female Super Hero charging into battle. The art has been signed by both Penciler and Inker in the margin at the bottom.

Admittedly I forgot the mention that it might be inked over “blue Lines,” but what I said was factually correct. This item was among 20+ auctions I was uploading and starting on eBay that evening, and I regret that now. 29 Minutes after the auction went live, eBayBuyer (2219) decided to end the auction by agreeing to pay the Buy It Now price listed. I was happy as I was going to make a nice profit on the deal and it gave me hope that the rest of the items might sell quickly too.

The buyer didn’t pay right away and I thought this odd, but decided to wait until the next day to send him an invoice through eBay. Still nothing. I put in my auctions that I expect payment within 3 days of the auction ending. I gave him 4 because I didn’t send an invoice until the day after the auction ended. I decided to send him a message through eBay and sent the following:

I was wondering if you were planning on following through on the Buy it now purchase and submit payment?

Later that night the buyer sent what he owed on the auction. I packed up the art, burned my hi-res scans to disc and threw in a copy of the comic with the variant cover for free. He got the art 2 days later and I got the following message in my eBay inbox:

Hi, I jut want to be sure. This really is Penciler’s Name art right? Like this isn’t a blue line printed photocopy that Someone inked over, these are Pencilers original pencils under the inks and there is no other original pencils out there for this specific cover?

I responded with what I knew, but deep down I knew he was going to ask to return the Art.

I bought the page directly from Inker’s Name, who is the inker on the cover. I didn’t ask him if it was inked over the original pencils or a blue line of the pencils, when I bought it. This is the art page that was used in printing and coloring the cover.

I could tell by his question he’s one of, I don’t know how many, art collector’s out there that claim that unless the penciler drew on the same art board that the inker inked, you can’t claim it’s original art by the penciler. And I was right:

Well that’s a big deal. If it’s just printed blue lines then it’s not actually drawn by Penciler’s Name. This piece was sold a being drawn by Penciler. I just spoke to the inker and he confirmed this isn’t actually drawn by Penciler but is a print out in blue line be inked.

Since this isn’t actually drawn by Penciler but a photocopy someone inked then it’s not a Penciler’s Name cover and I would like to return it.”

I knew it. I gave myself one chance to persuade him to change his mind, but I knew it probably wouldn’t work:

Blue-lined or not what is on that board is what Penciler drew, his inker embellished and was printed by Marvel. Many art teams work this way, especially under tight deadlines. I disagree with you assertion that it’s not Penciler’s Name art. Inker inked over something. The drawing didn’t magically appear on the page. Penciler drew the cover. Inker didn’t draw it. He inked it.

It may not be to your preferred method of working, but this is how art is being done these days. There are many artists that are doing their “pencils” digitally and then are sending that file to the inker who who does exactly what Inker did here. Scott Williams inked over blue lines of Neal Adams on Batman Odyssey are you going to tell anyone who buys those inked pages that they aren’t really buying Neal Adams art?

If it’s not Penciler’s art then why did he sign the page?

If you want to return it then I won’t fight it, but I think it’s beholden upon the buyer to ask questions before jumping in and buying something so quickly. You took it out of sale for 4 days (less than 30 minutes after it was listed) before you paid for it and never once asked anything about it before you did.

I was wrong about Scott inking over blue lines with Neal Adams. I misremembered something in a 4-year-old interview (DRAW! #22) with Scott Williams about inking in general and his experience with Neal Adams on Batman Odyssey. They covered the topic of inking over blue Lines and I somehow years later made an incorrect statement.

I woke up the next morning with a notice in my email box from eBay that the buyer has requested to return the item. I opened the link in my email and eBay is asking me to pay for the return postage after I had already paid to ship it to him in the first place. His reason for return was that the item didn’t match the description. Here’s what he wrote to justify it:

item is not the original art drawn by named artist but inked print. Verified with person who inked. SPoke to seller and they agreed to return.

Inked print?!

I talked to eBay and after explaining it to a customer service rep, I am not going to be out any more money in this deal. He has to pay the return shipping and then if it’s not damaged when I get it back, he will get a refund.

When I buy original comic art, I want to buy it in the most finished form out available (which is usually inked).  There are some pieces out there that have never been inked traditionally. I have a double-page spread by Drew Johnson, that was digitally inked, by darkening up the pencil drawing.  I also have a set of pencils and the inks over blue line for the same comic page of WINTER SOLDIER. I own 2 beautiful Flash(2014 and 2015) pinups by Brett Booth and Norm Rapmund that were inked over what Norm calls a “pencil print” (rather than print out the pencils as blue, he does a light grey). There are some inkers who ink digitally and sell one off prints of their work, but they don’t charge much for them, as it’s a rather new market, and collectors haven’t figured out how to place a value on them.

The notion that unless the artist drew on the page that you can’t call it drawn by him/her is absurd. If I scan in a drawing and email it to you, That’s a copy of the drawing, but it’s still drawn by whomever originally drew it. Marvel credited the cover as drawn by the Penciler and their source for printing the cover was the art that was inked over the blue lines.

I have heard some collectors say that unless it’s inks over pencils they don’t accept it as the penciler’s work. It’s as if they view inkers as nothing more than a person who traces  the penciler’s work and nothing more.

There maybe are some inkers out there who do just that, but most inkers embellish the penciler’s work adding depth and shading that many times isn’t the in the raw pencils. In my opinion, the best inkers are good artists themselves.

To understand what inkers bring to the art, you should check out the pieces produced as part of the Joe Sinnott Inker challenge that the Inkwell Awards sponsors and have posted to their ComicArtFans Gallery. It started in 2011 and has been done every year since. Two images drawn by Sinnott are emailed out  each year  to the participants who enter the challenge. They all print out and ink over the same base drawing. What becomes evident when looking through the entries posted, is how much or little an inker can bring to the artistic process.

I think I’ve said my piece and given my point of view. Whether you agree with me or not, you have to admit that the comic art hobby is going through an evolution and unless we change with it, we as collector’s may miss out on some great gems due to such rigid definitions and regret them later.