Originally appeared on the Spawn.com website

Kevin Conrad
Inker, KISS: Psycho Circus

Written by Jerry Lawrence

Kevin started his professional career as a commercial artist in 1983 shortly after receiving his Associates Degree in Art. While in college, he was interested in painting, decided to be an illustrator and then worked mainly in the advertising business for ten years prior to his start in comic books.

Kevin was able to realize part of his dream in 1993 when he broke into comics after inking some sample pages over Greg Capullo, an old friend who was penciling X-Force. Greg threw them in with his weekly pages and sent them to his editor. After seeing the sample pages Kevin submitted, Bob Harras gave Kevin his first professional assignment on X-Force #22 in March 1993. After doing various pages from X-Force issues which also included #28, #30 and #36 with Tony Daniel, a new penciler, Kevin was given assignments on Marvel's Cable and other X books. As he continued to improve his inking skills and with penciler Tony Daniel's request for Kevin to ink his work, Kevin was given a regular assignment as an inker for X-Force at issue #38.

After finishing X-Force #43, Gambit & The Xternals #1 and #2, Kevin left Marvel and again hooked up with Greg who was then working for Todd McFarlane on the #1 comic book, Spawn. Kevin spoke to Todd about Tony Daniel's desire to leave Marvel and work for McFarlane. Tony also left Marvel to work for McFarlane. Todd's idea was to keep Kevin and Tony together as a team since they had worked well together on X-Force.

Kevin then worked with Tony on Spawn Blood Feud, a four issue mini-series and also lent a hand inking various Spawn pages from issues #27 to #37. Kevin's next project from Todd was inking the even numbered Spawn issues from #38 to #48.

After the Spawn projects ended, Kevin freelanced for Image affiliated studios such as Top Cow and Wildstorm Productions. Once again, he teamed up with Tony on popular titles such as Witchblade, Tales of the Witchblade, Shattered Image and The Tenth. His inking work would also be featured in Weapon Zero, Cyber Force, WildC.A.T.S., as well as some Marvel and DC comic titles. Kevin's penciling work can be seen on a pin-up in Spawn #31, a cover from Samson Comics called Bloodbath, and a Spawn chrome card. He is presently working on a double page KISS pin-up.

Early influences for Kevin in the comic book business include inkers Joe Sinnott, Klaus Janson and Tom Palmer. More recently, Joe Weems and Danny Miki are Kevin's favorites to study. Although Kevin admires and recognizes those previously mentioned and many other talents as well, he is gaining confidence in settling into his own style of inking. For the moment, Kevin is staying focused to continually improve his craft while inking over many different style pencilers.

Most recently Kevin's inking work can be seen on the new smash hit KISS: Psycho Circus which made its debut in August 1997 under the Image Comics label and Todd McFarlane Productions. Kevin states, "At this point I couldn't have asked for a better gig."

As a child, Kevin began collecting comic books at age ten and started drawing super heroes with his friend Anthony at eleven years old. Oddly enough, Kevin's favorite band growing up was KISS. During his early school years, he would draw the members of KISS just for fun. He became a KISS fan at age 14 when his friend brought over the album "KISS Alive!" Kevin was so into it that he rushed out and bought his own copy, nearly wearing it out from playing it every day. He also wasted no time purchasing three previously released KISS albums. His comic filled walls were now replaced with KISS posters. He also collected assorted KISS related items such as jewelry, KISS dolls and other memorabilia. Kevin attended his first KISS concert, the "Love Gun Tour", at age 17. Around the age of 18, he made a costume and dressed up like Paul Stanley for Halloween. Kevin also attended countless other KISS concerts and won a local radio sponsored KISS contest which led to actually meeting the band.

Currently Kevin enjoys listening to Heavy Metal and Jazz music while working. Although time is limited, he occasionally bangs out a few beats on his drum kit. Other interests include daily walks with his two Shepherd/Labs, Jessie and Jamie, working out with weights, cardiovascular exercise and eating a healthy diet. He does admit to giving in to sweets on occasion. His goal is to eliminate all animal by-products from his lifestyle by the end of 1998. No red meat or poultry has passed his lips in years and he only eats seafood once or twice a week. He is an active supporter of the Humane Society of the U.S., Defenders of Wildlife and PETA. Although he is not in agreement with everything PETA does, he believes their extreme measures are sometimes necessary to wake up society.

Kevin's typical workday starts with breakfast around 6:00 AM and he's at the drawing table between 6:30 or 7:00 AM. His day is demanding and fragmented due to the responsibilities to his five-year-old son Jonathan, from a previous marriage. Although his free time is at a premium, Kevin spends as much time as possible with his son, girlfriend Renee' and her daughter Morgan. He usually calls it a night and gets to sleep between 10:30 and 11:00 PM.

Through the completion of nine issues, Kevin is still euphoric and in a bit of shock. For Kevin, it's a dream come true to be involved in the production of arguably the most successful KISS comic book to date.

ENDCAP, By Kevin Conrad

Being an inker, I really don't get many chances to express my views, so I'm going to take advantage of this opportunity to say my piece.

I'd like to start with what I believe an inker's job is. In it's simplest form, an inker's job is to translate the pencils into a 'camera ready' page by finishing the pencils in black ink. When I try to explain this to people who know nothing of the process, their first response is, "Oh, you color it." No, that would be the colorist's job. I continue to try to explain the process by showing a work in progress and their second response is, "Oh, you trace it." Now... as infuriating as this response may be to the untrained eye, this is what they see. To further explain what I do, I then show them the finished page next to a copy of the original pencils and their response is usually, "Wow!"

To elaborate, I feel an inker has to approach a page almost with the mindset of a penciler. Sure, the penciler has already worked out the story telling and composition, but you as an inker need to make sure the page is well balanced with a full range of values and textures; you need to make that page scream. Take a couple of minutes and look at the page in front of you and ask yourself what's missing. I usually do this and sum up my battle plan in a short period of time.

There are a lot of inkers who just blindly ink what's there and to be fair, I think the majority of the pencilers would rather an inker follow this path than completely obliterate any and all signs of who penciled the page. This brings up my next point; a good inker can bring a lot to the table and live harmoniously with the penciler. You can let the pencils shine through and still be able to do your own thing without stepping on too many toes. The page needs to be able to stand on it's own before color is even considered. If it needs more black, add it. Look at what's on the page and decide what textures you may use. You wouldn't use the same technique on glass that you would use on a rock. There's a whole palate of textures and techniques available to you on each and every page, and as an inker you need to use these to take the pencils to the next level.

There's more great talent in the industry now than ever before and I've always been able to find something I like in just about everyone's work, be it a penciler, inker or colorist. As far as inkers go, I think there are a huge amount of technical wizards out there, but too many of them are just 'cookie cutters'; they have no identity. Who am I to make such a claim? Nobody, I'm just another guy out there with an opinion. Are these guys better than me? Maybe, but I think I may have some sort of an edge because my work doesn't look too much like anybody else. Is there any originality in my stuff? Maybe, maybe not. All I can say is that I did borrow from many different inkers that I revere and try my best to make it my own. I still watch what other inkers do. The day you stop looking at what's going on around you is the day you stop growing as an artist. Anybody that tells you that their stuff is the most original thin out there (be it a penciler or inker), is under a grand illusion with the possible exception of Danny Miki.

This sagging and highly competitive market demands you to be different; to stand out in the crowd. It may not guarantee you success, but it will guarantee you notice. Don't just be a part of the production, be a part of the art team.

Looking back at my career in comics from an outsider's perspective would show quite a successful jaunt. But it didn't come without its bumps and head-on collisions along the way, both professionally and personally. I've been hired, fired, and rehired on a couple of the biggest gigs of my career. Looking back at these lost gigs, I now can see why I did lose them; I wasn't ready yet. But I also busted my ass to get them back. After Tony Daniel and I parted ways and before I landed Psycho Circus, I had a dry spell that lasted nearly three months. These experiences certainly have a way of keeping you humble. It really makes you appreciate what you have. What's that old saying, what doesn't kill you only makes you stronger?

On a personal level, all within a two year period, my marriage of ten years broke up, my mother nearly died when she blew a thoracic aneurysm and I lost a best friend to a very ugly disease. On the flip side though, I never missed a beat on the books I was working on throughout all that. I also found my beautiful girlfriend, Renee', my Mom is now doing fine and I have my five year old son, Jonathan, that means more to me than my own life. People who don't have kids will never understand this and should keep their parenting advice to them to themselves. Jonathan, in the words of Paul Stanley from Carnival of Souls, "I will be there, only blood will run so deep, seal the promise I will keep.' Everybody should own this album. It rocks. And all you know-it-all's out there, listen to the song "I Will Be There" and maybe something about what its like to have a child will sink into the fat between your ears.

I would like to close by thanking some people who have helped me along the way. First and foremost, I owe my entire career and quite possibly my stay on the Psycho Circus to Greg Capullo. Were it not for his help and guidance for the first four years of my career, I most certainly would not have entered and succeeded in the field of comics. Thank you Bob Harras for firing me, Tony Daniel for his insistence, Bob Harras for rehiring me, Art Thibert for his support and guidance, Todd McFarlane for 'firing' me, Tony again for 'The Tenth', and lastly Todd again for giving me the opportunity to be involved on the book of my dreams. All life's events make you who you are and bring you to where you are today; I would not change a single thing in my life in light of this.