Comic book artist Ray McCarthy inks out a living

Ray McCarthy is a comic book inker known for his work on DC Comics’ "Adventures of Superman," "Batman: Shadow of the Bat" and Marvel Comics’ "X-Force" and "What If?" books. After a hiatus from the comic book industry to go back to school, McCarthy has begun inking regularly again on issue number six of the DC comic book "Red Robin."

Q: When did you decide that you wanted to work in comic books?

A: I didn’t start reading comic books till I was probably around eight years old, but I did fall in love with the medium right away. As I progressed from there, I started drawing my own little cartoons and comics for my family. You might say I had a "captive" audience.

Q: What was your big break into the world of comic books?

A: I think working in the production department was my big break. Starting from a bottom department and getting to see the inner workings of DC really helped guide me and make connections I would need later on. Eventually I convinced Mike Carlin (DC Comics Editor) to give me a shot over Curt Swan ("Superman") and that helped pave the way to finally go freelance. When I was eventually given some covers to do over Travis Charest ("Wild C.A.T’s") that pretty much booted me into the comic artist arena. All of a sudden I became a well known inker that was pretty detailed.

Q: How would you describe the job of an inker?

A: Inkers are like the punctuation on a sentence. The sentence can stand alone, but the punctuation defines it and gives it clarity. Our job is to make sure that the penciller is shown in the best light possible, while at the same time helping out the story as much as possible. You want to really make sure that the pencils are clear and crisp (depending on the style) and also that perspective and lighting is given the right amount of detail.

Q: What is a day in the life of an inker like?

A: I wake up around 6:30 a.m. to get my kids fed and put on the school bus. Then I’ll drink a cup of coffee, have breakfast and catch up on the news. I start work around 8:30, and then I usually work till around 11p.m. at night and sometimes later. I’ll take an hour break here and there just to get away from the desk, but you’re talking long hours when it comes to freelance. You have to be disciplined and stick to your deadlines.

Q: After a hiatus from comic books you’ve decided to take up inking duties on "Red Robin." How did this come about?

A: I scratched up some new samples and then traveled to New York City to visit the DC offices in person. I have more than a couple of friends that still work there, so I was able to get shown around. Previously I had called up some editors so that I was able to schedule my appointments all for one day. While I was there I ran into Mike Marts (DC Comic Editor) who was familiar with my work from years ago. He gave me a story in the upcoming Batman: and then I got a break on the first cover by Marcus To ("Aspen Seasons"). They really liked what I did, so it was a matter of seeing if I could do this on a regular basis. Things worked out and I got offered the gig.

Q: Who is your favorite comic book character?

A: This is really the first time I’ve actually sat and thought about it. I really liked the old Manhunter character and I think he wasn’t really handled very well. I also like the Rom: spacenight series by Marvel though that really dates me. Hellblazer by Vertigo has been a fun series, as well as Sandman. That’s really a tough call! There are so many interesting characters, and some haven’t had their full potential utilized yet.

Q: What advice would you give to aspiring comic book artists?

A: Be persistent. You need to have a thick skin and learn how to take criticism. (Not all of it is constructive!) Learn how to work quickly and efficiently as you’ll have some nasty deadlines! Don’t always take the direct route, sometimes it’s great to get some other printing experience under your belt before approaching one of the big comic book companies. It shows you are professional and you can get published.