- BY Bob Almond
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Due to funding delays, we at the Inkwell Awards were not able to include the trophies for the internal/community-based Above & Beyond winners when we released the results for the lifetime achievement winners for the Joe Sinnott Hall of fame and the Stacey Aragon Special Recognition Award (SASRA). The A&B Award is not an annual category but only awarded when the need arises, whenever an internal member of the organization goes above & beyond and when someone in the community promotes the artform of inking and its artists (none were offered in 2020). Begun in 2018 at the final Heroes Con-hosted ceremony, the A&B Award’s first recipients were Mark Sinnott and Hailey Skaza-Gagne to recognize the extraordinary dedication they have provided for the organization, and Robert Haines for being the first Nomination Committee (NomCom) candidate to reach 10 years of service. Since then several NomCom members have reached a decade of service and Heroes Con promoter Shelton Drum was rewarded one for acting as our host show for eight years.
This year Rik Offenberger, journalist and owner of First Comics News, and creator Tony Parker reached their much-deserved 10-year NomCom incentive award. Upon receipt of the trophy Rik said, “I would like to thank the Inkwell Awards for the Award” and Tony said “THANK YOU Bob Almond AND THE INKWELL AWARDS! Happy to help! (I’m horrible at receiving recognition, so thank y’all for understanding.)”Next is Ink artist and former Marvel editor, Keith Williams. First, some background: Since 2011, the non-profit Inkwells has held the annual Joe Sinnott Inking Challenge, where Joe would draw two fully-rendered images of characters for participating pro & amateur artists, to ink over a blueline of Joe’s pencils (shortly after that began, one of the images was drawn tightly and the other loosely for those who wanted to do art finishes). That lasted eight years, six of which were published in book form, helping to bring attention to the contributions of ink artists with before and after images.Keith inked 17 out of the 18 drawings before Joe retired and later passed away. After that a “Tribute Challenge” began with one of Joe’s top art partners, Ron Frenz, drawing Thor and then (the name changed to “Legacy Challenge”) another common collaborator, Alex Saviuk, was recently featured with a Spider-man & Mary Jane image, both of which were graced with Keith’s inks.
An exclusive spin-off of the event, the Sinnott Inking Challenge Spotlight, featured art by other iconic legends and contemporary fan-favorites, has had six years to date of single characters that Keith also joined up to ink but he missed the event launch with Jim Lee’s Superman. At 22 inked donations out of a possible 24, more than anyone else who participated, the prolific Keith has selflessly contributed to help raise awareness about what ink artists bring to the table and donate to the essential Inkwell fundraising. His award was presented personally at the 2023 Little Giant Comics Old School Comic Show in Concord, NH on April 14.
A longtime veteran since the early 1980s, Keith said:
“Thank you so much for this amazing award! The Above and Beyond Award will have a special place on my fireplace! I would like to thank Bob, Hailey, and, of course, The Inkwell Awards. I love inking. And enjoy doing the challenges every year. I hope that the part that I play in this helps promote the art of inking as a true art form and inspire new comic book artists to take up the challenge.”Lastly, recipient Ray Burke has been an Inkwell contributor since 2011 and his skill set and work ethic led to him being added to the core committee in late 2020. Since then he’s been the “Go-To Guy” due to committee creators like Bob, Mike Pascale and Joe Prado being often beset by work schedule obstacles so Ray has adapted to fit in and reliably assisted in almost every project, picking up the slack with tech matters, graphic design, book production, proofing, communications and more than we want to admit. Adds founder Bob Almond, “In fact, he’s been my right hand guy for some time now. Sadly, as a low-tier non-profit advocacy we cannot pay for these voluntary but exceptional achievements, so offering Ray an MVP version of the Above & Beyond award will show him how much he means to us.”Ray’s statement after receiving the trophy was: “When I first met Bob Almond over a decade ago, I had a basic knowledge of comic book inking. I knew inkers took pencilled work and applied ink. Like most fans that was about all I really understood. Bob asked me to assist in the live ceremonies to have a slide show presentation for people to follow. I agreed, becoming a multimedia contributor. Since that time, thanks to the Inkwell Awards, I’ve met some of the biggest names in the comic book business. Not only that, I’ve learned that ink artists do more than just lay down ink. They can take finished pencils and enhance and embellish them. I have gained insight about their importance in the comic book world, and how inking can take artwork and add depth. The Inkwell Awards’ mission is to to educate the public and celebrate inking. I’m glad to have been on this journey so far because I’ve already learned so much. Looking back I’m surprised I’ve been a part of so many events and projects with the Inkwell Awards. Looking forward I can’t wait to see what’s in store. It is with great honor that I accept this 2023 Above & Beyond Award, and I’m excited to see what’s next!”Congratulations to all of our current winners!The Inkwell Awards is the only official 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to promote and educate regarding the art form of comic-book inking, as well as annually recognize the best ink artists and their work. Established in 2008, the Inkwells are overseen by a volunteer committee of industry professionals and assisted by various professional ambassadors and contributors. They sponsor the Dave Simons Inkwell Memorial Scholarship Fund for the Kubert School and host the Joe Sinnott Hall of Fame Award. This year they celebrate their 15th anniversary.