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Art Embellisher

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This article is part of a series of spotlight articles on the winners of the Broken Frontier Awards 2005.

It almost seems insulting to honor a comic book renaissance man for just one of his many talents. For instance, when someone like Jimmy Palmiotti has a list of credits like he does (a list that includes creating characters for DC, Wildstorm, and Black Bull, joining forces with writing partner Justin Gray to pen the stories of Jonah Hex and Hawkman, and overseeing the movie creation of one of his and Joe Quesada’s creations, Painkiller Jane, not to mention being one of the most prolific inkers in comic history), it becomes increasingly hard to figure out which is his most important contribution. After all, Palmiotti seems like someone who should be getting an “Auteur of the Year” award instead of just being Broken Frontier’s 2005 Inker of the Year. But I guess we needed to save some awards for other people as well.

For most people who are not totally familiar with the work of an inker, the first thing they think of is the now infamous “tracer” scene from Kevin Smith’s Chasing Amy. And while most inkers would tell you they find that scene to be very humorous, I’m sure most are tired of their profession being something of a joke. Especially with the time and care most put into their work. Because an inker doesn’t just go over someone else’s lines. 

To be a real inker of note, the artist (yes, an inker is an artist) must not simply trace someone’s pencils. They are an embellisher. They enhance the artwork with their lines, accentuating every detail and emotion on the page. A proper inker adds a sense of depth to the pencils. And an award winning inker is someone who can work with anyone.

Jimmy Palmiotti is the shining example of a great inker. Even with his other comic book and artistic endeavors taking more and more of his time, Palmiotti never ceases to put his own personal touch to many books released on the market.  Perhaps the best (and most varied) examples of his work this year include work on DC’ Countdown to Infinite Crisis and Manhunter, and Marvel’s Hercules mini series.

For his work on the DC books, Palmiotti has had to match the ongoing sense of dread and unknowing that has run rampant through the DC Universe. In Countdown, which some have said contains the most important comic book scenes in the past year; Palmiotti had to work on a particular segment of the book. He had to ensure that the artwork match up with what was going on in the other sections. It was necessary for him to maintain a superhero feel to the book, while constantly amping up the tension like the crescendo of Pier Gynt’s Hall of the Mountain King. 

On Manhunter, he must continue with some of the same themes that started in Countdown. The DC Universe is getting darker and darker and he’s the one with the black pen and ink brush in his hand. Manhunter has highlighted the darkness of the universe, lawyer by day; vigilante by night, this new DC hero is shrouded in mystery.  They are the embodiment of the new DC hero, dark, mysterious, and uncompromising. It would take someone like Palmiotti to handle someone like that.

And it would take someone like Jimmy Palmiotti to handle an almost polar opposite to DC’s Manhunter, Marvel’s Hercules. For where Manhunter had to highlight the darkness, Hercules was a straight comedy. Here, the naiveté of the main character (a drunken Greek God) to what is going on around him must be shown. And it must be shown to highlight the humor instead of demanding sympathies, something that can prove very difficult. Palmiotti handled this marvelously. He paid proper tribute to the past talents who have defined the character and to the Greek mythologies he is taken from, all the while, perfectly bringing out the humor in the book. For this was one where the reader was meant to laugh at the main character.

All in all, it was just another year in the life for Jimmy Palmiotti.  Inker, writer, creator, and all around comic book auteur, we’re all lucky that he loves the industry so much.

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