A Taste for Ink- Interview with Comic Book Inker, Le Beau Underwood

Each time I have the chance to confab with an artist or writer in the comic book industry I find their freedom of just believing, that if you love something...GO FOR IT! Whether it is a penciler, inker, story guru, layout director, editor, publisher, or coffee 'boy' they all have this incredible passion for what they love, and it shows in all they create.

Recently, artist and writer Shelby Robertson owner of, American Dischord, and I were chatting and I asked if he would introduce me to some inkers he really respected in the industry. Of course several came to mind, but as he talked about Le Beau Underwood the intrigue over came me to find out more about his work, his talents, and his passion. When I finally had the chance to speak with Le Beau about what he does, his eyes lit up immediately and sparkled, he spoke of past and current projects he was affiliated with. His extensive knowledge is astounding in his field, and with the keenly unusual diverse ability to do pencil or ink... choosing inking... well... I will let you read on.

The comic world certainly has a copious amount of talent to glean from and Le Beau has clearly defined his mark. He has been involved with many DC, Marvel, Devil's Due Productions, Image Comics, Zenescope, Digital Webbing, Dabel Brothers Productions, Angelgate, plus several others. The lists are long and the projects vast. With a bio that holds inking on Stormwatch, Batwing, Nobel Causes, Fantastic Four, Arrow, The Justice League 3000, and so on.

According to Le Beau's biography he entered the DC world in 2011 and landed an assignment of inking over penciler Luke Ross of The Incredible Hulk Annual #1 for Marvel. With that I would say, Le Beau can shout proudly and share that he would love to work on Superman, Batman, Black Panther and more!

Garnering knowledge by working hard, listening carefully, skillfully making application Le Beau credits Don Perlin as a mentor plus many other great professionals in the industry. Humble, yet so exquisitely brilliant in all he accomplishes, Professional Inker- Le Beau Underwood.

A Taste for Ink

03/24/15 Song River

Song: Who were some of your early influences in the comic world?

Le Beau: When I first became interested in the inner workings of the comic book industry, my influences were Neal Adams, Don McGregor, Art Adams, Don Perlin, John Byrne, Jim Lee and Todd McFarlane.

Song: Why did you choose to go into inking, as opposed to illustrating or writing? Or do you actually do all of them? Do you have a preference?  

Le Beau: I can actually pencil: most people don't know this, but I have been formally trained in fine arts. I can draw in pastels, charcoal, ink, pencil, graphite, and oils. I chose inking because that is the final art that people see in comic book work. So for me, that meant that my work had to be on point, to accentuate the penciler's intent. Most inkers can pencil, but the ink art is the culmination of the marriage between both skill sets.

Song: The comic book industry has so many levels and depths. Do you feel it has been a place where you could truly come in and explore your passions?

Le Beau: Somewhat. There are certain titles that I believe that my inks would enhance, but that also depends upon the penciler I am assigned to and editors to whom my style appeals to. As a comics professional and as a fan, there are MANY titles and characters I would love to work on. Alas....that depends on editors, the publishers, and other factors.

Song: Has the industry primarily been a place that only certain social and cultural individuals could enter?

Le Beau: In my experience, the opportunity has always been there. What most fans don't understand is: there is a certain amount of skill, tolerance and business acumen that has to be in place before all of comes into fruition. True: the industry is made up of individuals, with their own way of thinking and mindsets. Yet, I believe that, once you (as a creator) are able to move beyond that, then the opportunity becomes more known. In my career, I've seen and interacted with fans from ALL walks of life, and as a creator, it's not my place to judge: only to be able to relate to an individual as a FAN. To me? THAT means EVERYTHING. Fans are FANS: We ALL have a love for this industry, and we all embrace it in our own way. That within itself requires a certain amount of acceptance, and at the end of the day,       that is ALL that matters.

Song: What opportunities are there in this industry for young people? Do you mentor?

Le Beau: I choose not to mentor, because so many hopefuls think that they know more about the industry than those who get paid to participate. I personally don't have the time nor the patience to deal with some who choose to tell me how to do my job, when that individual doesn't have the slightest inkling (no pun intended) of what is required to work in this industry. I am more than willing to give advice, but I won't (at this point) take someone on who doesn't have the respect for the creators of this industry that is appropriate.

There are MANY opportunities available, but I think that one has to allow themselves to be open to receive knowledge, experience and job acumen to know what is required to not only prosper, but to thrive.

Song: Is there a difference in inking from illustrator to illustrator- how about from comic industry name to comic industry name?

Le Beau: Well, names have the ability to choose who they want to ink them. As an inker, you have to be able to discern the penciler's intent and build upon it.

Song: Do you recommend working freelance in the inking industry? Why or why not?

Le Beau: If you truly love this industry and truly believe in the impact that you could make upon it, then GO FOR IT. I won't lie: it is HARD. VERY, VERY HARD. I personally have endured so MUCH to to get in it. But, it was worth it. To be able to walk into any comic book store, to see my name on a title that I've inked? To know that I was selected out of hundreds, thousands...maybe millions? Yeah. that makes ALL the difference.

Song: Can you recall your very first inking project for a name like Marvel or DC and what it felt like knowing who you were finishing creating into a story?

Le Beau: I recall my first inking assignment with DC Comics: inking over Yildiray Cinar on Legion of Superheroes. I was in awe of his pencils: they were so CLEAN. Yet, I felt confident (at the time) that my inks would elevate his work. Knowing what I know now, perhaps better decisions should have been made, but....it's an experience that I will never forget.

For Marvel? Inking an unpublished story for Marvel Age: The Fantastic Four over penciler Gregory Titus: to know that I would have the chance to ink the characters who STARTED the Marvel Universe? WOOOOOOOOOOOW.....Nuff said. (laughed)

Song: Any favorite characters yourself? Ones that you love to work on, but also ones you just enjoy reading or watching on TV or in the movies?

Le Beau: Personally, I would LOVE to work on Superman, Black Panther, Captain America, Spider-man, Batman, The Flash, Cloak and Dagger, Hardware, and Green Lantern.

Song: Go through the process a little bit of what you do. Step by step overview.

Le Beau: Hmm. Refer to Sketch Magazine #44: I did a step by step tutorial of inking in there. Or...just follow my page on Facebook!

Song: Next project on the horizon?

Le Beau: That depends on where the powers that be at Marvel, DC, Image,Valiant, or any other publisher who figures that I am a great fit!." (smiled broadly)

Song: Are your kids artistically inclined and what do they think of dad's profession?

Le Beau: All of my kids love what I do (4), but my youngest daughters (Lamiyah and Leiyla) LOVE what I do. I regularly spend time with them, developing their own skill sets, as well as teaching them of the history, impact and significance of the comic book industry upon not only America, but the on a world-wide scale. I feel that as an artist, that is not only the responsible thing to do, it is a higher calling.

Interview for L3 Magazine April Edition

Song River is the owner of CowGirlZen Photography. She is also a freelance photojournalist. Currently working with L3 Magazine, Vents Mag, Silverplatter. You can follow her interviews, reviews of great musicians, writers, artists on her blog, http://cowgirlzenphoto.cowgirlzenphotojournalist.com/.  She is also quite active in social media working as a copywriter for several companies, and individuals. Never wrong, always right... and filled with a twisted satirical outlooks on life sometimes... you have to be thinking out of the box most of the time to catch her.  A mess of delight and quandary at times, but known for her love and compassion to help others succeed. A die hard Nikon proficient! 

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Charity Involvements (past and present) : Playing for Change, Be the Change, Human Society Fundraiser, Tsunami Relief Fund, Red Cross, Grieving Parents Photography.