Pencils have been used to make comic books for over a century, and now a pencil has been made to honor that legacy - and perhaps make a few of your own. As part of their Volumes series, the time-honored pencil brand Blackwing has created a comic-themed pencil called the Blackwing 64.
Why 64? Pencils are normally numbered to tell them apart, and in this case the '64' is a tribute to the 64-color palette classic comic books were printed with.
And while the standard Blackwing has a softer lead not ideal for the detailed work of comic books, the Blackwing 64 has a firmer graphite more suited for the fine lines needed for comics.
"Aside from all of us being a bunch of comic book fans, we've always felt like comic books vibe well with the Blackwing culture," says Blackwing's brand manager Alexander Poirier. "There's something about the weekly ritual of picking up a fresh stack of books and flipping through their pages that feels at home alongside pencils and notebooks and other analog tools."
Blackwings have a long history of being used by storytellers and creators; known users include author John Steinbeck, animator Chuck Jones, comics writer Matt Fraction, and comics artist Skottie Young.
As part of the campaign for the Blackwing 64s, longtime Blackwing users Mike Hawthorne, Charles Soule, and Kickily will be featured in upcoming specials about the new pencil on the manufacturer's website.
Hawthorne tells Newsarama he uses up several pencils a day as part of his job drawing comics and teaching comics.
"Honestly. I'm funny about sharp points, so I tend to sharpen a lot and go through them fairly quickly," says Hawthorne. "Hell, for this cover I went through an entire pencil for just this one image!"
As part of the promotion of the Blackwing 64s, Hawthorne has created a superheroine for Blackwing and drawn her as part of a cover. Here's a video of him drawing it with the Blackwing 64:
"I wanted to combine an old-school aesthetic with a modern approach," Hawthorne sats. "I figured that some Blackwing folks would be new to comics, so I didn't want to totally deviate from what the average person might expect a comic cover to look like. With that said, I tried to keep true to the more detailed approach in modern comics, as well as my background in fine art figure drawing."
Soule plans to write up some notes on the character for jumping-off points for theoretical comic books.
According to Poirier, the idea of a comic-themed pencil has been something the company has been playing around with "for a few years."
The design plays off the halftone printing patterns associated with older comic books, combined with CMYK color breakdowns used by printers.
"If you look closely, you can see a little nod to comic book lettering in the model number imprint on the pencil as well," says Poirier. "We shadowed the logo and model number to give it a classic comic book cover effect. This is the first time we've ever tried to stamp anything this detailed on a pencil, but we're pretty stoked by how it came out."
While Blackwing didn't disclose the exact quantity of the comic-themed Blackwing 64s they will manufacture, Poirier stress this is a limited edition design that is part of their Blackwing Volumes series. They will be selling them standalone while supplies last, but subscribers who sign up before September will be guaranteed to get one for themselves.
A comic-themed pencil might make a great gift for a comic fan. Check out our comic book gift guide for the perfect presents for comic fans.