The art of inking is the process of making a million little decisions and it appears to be a completely maddening task.

I thought this as I read “Batman: Hush Unwrapped,” the hardcover reprinting of the Jeph Loeb/Jim Lee “Batman” story from almost a decade ago. The twist is, this is reprinted straight from Lee’s original pencils, adding only the lettering on for readability’s sake. But the real star of the book is the person whose work is unseen, inker Scott Williams. Sure, he provides an introduction, but seeing what he has to work with in comparison to what the final product was, you have to appreciate his artistry and his patience.

Yes, Jim Lee draws a lot of lines — textures, speedlines, feathered lines, shaded lines, gentle curves, harsh edges, wispy lines, etc. They show up on every page. It’s Scott Williams’ job to make sense of them all. Somehow, he manages to not just redraw every line in India ink, but also add a few in, spot some solid black areas and clean everything up.

I opened the book up to my favorite chapter of the story, the one set in the opera house, starring Harley Quinn. The backgrounds are ornate. Lee spared not an inch of white space to show the decorations along the crowded opera house’s interior. And when the action moves outside, there’s plenty of rain and graffiti and debris to keep things interesting. But let’s look at the kinds of choices Williams had to make along the way

A group of men in black suits are holding the crowd at gunpoint. Half of the suits are shaded in with the pencil, while the rest is an open white area with an “X” drawn inside, to indicate solid back. What’s the difference between a solid black area and a solid black suit with no detail lines penciled inside? That’s up to Williams to decide.

Harley Quinn is seen jumping through a panel multiple times. Even in pencil, Lee knows to give her thin lines where she’s been and draw her completely in her final position. But it’s up to Williams to decide whether to add extra weight to those thin inks to indicate any weight at all to Quinn’s body, or just leave them as ghostly figures, as if projected into thin air. Lack of detail is one thing, but line weight is another completely.


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