comic books, just like other books, have bylines, meaning a piece of information about who is responsible for the creation of the book. However, since comic books are by definition visual, there is at least two people to credit in theory, and usually in practice several more. The typical byline on a commercial comic book will usually have these people listed:
- Writer, also known as the scripter or plotter, is the person who writes the comic book. They develop the story, describe what is going on, and write all the text, expository and spoken, in the story. Just like with any work, there are sometimes multiple writers, and sometimes they specialize, with one writer writing the story and the other writing the dialog.
- Penciller, also known as the illustrator, draws the story. They take the script as given by the writer, and transform it into images. The penciller is very often the top-billed creator on a comic book, even above the writer. However, the penciller is not the person who turns in the final art for the book, which is instead:
- The Inker. The inkers job is to draw over the pencil drawings in ink, which are the final illustrations that go to be printed. This may seem like a minor job, but while the inker doesn't get the respect the penciller does, the skill of the inker can really shore up or destroy the penciller's work. The penciller and inker are also sometimes credited as Layout and Finishes, which will be described below.
- The Colorist. The Colorist is a fairly technical job, where colors are applied to the inked images. Since the early 1990s, almost all comic books have been colorized by firms using computers rather than by people.
- The Letterer is another minor, technical and important job. The letterer writes all the text in the comic in clear, comfortable writing. While this might seem minor, having to read a comic book in typed fonts would destroy the experience.
- The Editor and Editorial Staff. Comic books, like other books, have an editor. They also usually have an assistant editor, and an Editor-in-Chief. These names are different in the comic book industry than they are in the worlds of publishing, music or film. The comic book editor is more what would be called a "producer" in film or music. Since comic books are not owned by the writers, and are commercial ventures, the comic book editors job is to make sure that the writer produces stories that are appropriate and marketable. The Editor-in-Chief is more of what other creative companies might call a "creative director"
The credits in comic books are sometimes more complicated than this, mostly because of comics' existence as a visual medium. For example, the penciller and inker are sometimes replaced by "Breakdowns" and "Finishes". In this system, one artist's art defines the narrative flow of the story, while the other artist actually completed that art. This is important because the art communicates the story: for example, if the script calls for two characters to be having an argument, it changes the story greatly whether they are sitting down calmly or are standing up leaning into each other.
This is another reason that pencillers are often the biggest draw on a book. The way that the penciller chooses to draw the characters has a gigantic impact on how the writer's story comes to life. In some comic book companies and in some eras, the writer would deliver a plot to the penciller, who would then set up the page layouts, break it into panels, and decide how the characters would look and act. After finishing this, he would then return it to the writer to finish the dialog. At this point, the writer would often modify their ideas based on how the penciller had interpreted the story.
So in many ways, the by-lines of comic books are hard to interpret. The roles assigned to the creators are not always tightly defined, since the work is usually a collaboration between the writer, the artists, and the editor.