Inking the Web: Talking to Hilary Barta

by Rik Offenberger - Originally published on Newsarama June 25, 2009

We continue our conversations today with the creators who will be working on the Red Circle characters later this year in DC Comics’ revival. We’ve spoken with The Web penciler Roger Robinson earlier, and today, we speak with his acclaimed inker, Hilary Barta. 

Newsarama: To start with Hilary, you’ve inked some of the greatest pencilers in comics, how did you get your first job?

Hilary Barta: I showed my samples to then Marvel editor Al Milgrom and he took pity on me.

NRAMA: Were you at a convention?

HB: The annual comic book convention in Chicago. This would have been back when they held them downtown at the Pick-Congress hotel. Back then it was common practice to show your work to editors who would be set up at a show. It may still be, but I believe that these days they schedule more official portfolio reviews.

NRAMA: How long was it from the time you showed your samples until you got work from Marvel?

HB: My very first work came in rather quickly. Al tried me out on a couple pages by penciler Ron Perlin. But my inks sucked, so it took about a year or so to get regular inking work. 

NRAMA: Jumping the many years in between, what brought you to The Web?

HB: The Web's editor, Joey Cavalieri. I had inked Roger's pencils for Joey on Blue Beetle, and Joey asked me to ink Roger's new book.

NRAMA: Had you been a fan of the Web prior to getting the assignment?

HB: I knew of the character, but I didn't follow it. I can tell you that I like the new design and I'm interested to see where we take the character.

NRAMA: As you said, you’ve worked with Rodger before on other projects; is it easier work with people who’s style you are familiar with?

HB: Very much so. Though occasionally it can work from the start, it usually takes me a few issues to really get comfortable with someone's pencils.

NRAMA: How much do you alter your style to fit each penciler? 

HB: That's a good question, but I'm not sure that I have a good answer. I think I alter my inks to fit each and every artist that I work on. But I've been told that I alter the pencils, and that my inks are always recognizable. I might not be the best judge of my own work, as I notice the differences between various pencilers, not the similarity that I naturally bring to inking them. 

For me it really depends on the penciler, and whether their pencils are tight or loose and whether we have similar styles. The looser they are the more I have to finish them, adding my own style. And the farther apart our styles are, the more I'll alter my style to fit, thus my inks may be less recognizable. Though sometimes differing styles are at odds in such a way that I end up changing the look in order to make it work for me. How's that for a qualified and contradictory answer?

NRAMA: Roger said "Instead of it looking like spandex, I gave his costume a carbon fiber look." What do you have to do differently as an inker to get that carbon fiber look?

HB: I don't know yet--I assume that means that there won't be folds and such in the fabric. In general what I've seen of Roger's work on the book so far is really terrific. Among other talents, he's a great designer.

NRAMA: You both pencil and ink, any chance we will see some of your pencil work on the title at some point?

HB: Nope. That's Roger's gig.

NRAMA: As the inker do they give you copies of Angela Robinson's scripts to reference or do they just give you Roger's art and have you ink it without a script?

HB: Sometimes the inker gets to read the script beforehand, sometimes not. In this case I haven't.

NRAMA: Do you ink with pen and brush or do you digitally ink the pages?

HB: I use both brush and pen, but I prefer the brush most of the time. It all depends on what is appropriate for a particular line or what sort of look I'm going for. Because of all the tech stuff I used a lot of pen on Blue Beetle, but I'm mostly using a brush on The Web.

NRAMA: For those not familiar with the art of inking, what is the difference between the look a brush gives and the look a pen gives? 

HB: There is some cross over between the two tools, and you can't always tell which is which. But the brush has a greater range of flexibility than the pen, allowing for greater variation in line width. I think the brush has a lusher, more organic and sensuous quality. It better serves the classic comic book look of thicker outlines and heavily 'spotted' blacks, or shadowed areas. Sometimes pen can appear a bit more mechanical, but the pen is good for more detailed and purely linear renderings. The wider the line, the more likely it was made by a brush; conversely, the tinier the detail, the more even and the finer the line, the more likely it's pen.

NRAMA: Finally, before we let you go, what else are you working on?

HB: I have a new Munden's Bar story available online for free at Comicmix. You can find the story as well as comment on it here:

And my limericks are always up at Limerwrecks:




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