Sunday, November 04, 2007

Coloring in Comic Books

Coloring is one of the least discussed but most influential elements in how a comic book looks. I believe the reason it is not discussed by fans as often as we probably should is we don't realize the full impact of coloring. At times I'm not even sure if the problem is the colorist or the printing process that was used.

I bring this up for two separate reasons. First, I was looking for a book to see if I had it and was digging thru a big a** plastic bin. I found my framed college diploma and I found a heavily cardboard folder that contained my certificate for passing my CPA exam (both documents are older then my mind thinks they should be). Normally I never pull it out of the cardboard, hanging those documents has never been important to me as I know that I passed and that is all that really matters. Anyway (and I know by now you are trying to figure how this all relates) I decided to pull it out and make a point to my wife who is taking a Radiology Technician program and is miffed at times that she is not getting "A" s in everything. I keep trying to say that we never ask our doctor what was his QPA was and I told her no one asked me what I got on the CPA exam. So I decided to pull it out and prove the point to her which I did. The certificate does not say I passed with flying colors or just barely passed it says that I am a CPA. The cool thing was that I found an original color guide that I thought that I had lost. It was by Bill Wray and I was fascinated when I saw that he painted the colors and the Bernie Wrightson art could then be layered over it to make a complete picture. The work was from the book Batman The Cult which was a really great book that deserves a hard cover quality reprint.

The three photos I have posted are a little washed out by the flash from the camera. but shows the actual artwork by Wrightson copied onto a clear plastic sheet, the actual painted colors by the colorist and then the two layered on top of each other. It really was a beautiful book and well written by Jim Starlin, but I never appreciated how much work could go into the coloring process until I actually saw it.

It is a testimony to the colorist that I remembered that it was Bill Wray who was the colorist all of these years later.

The second reason is more straight forward and involves a discussion that Rusty and I were having. Rusty is the store owner where I shop and a fellow donor to Maryland via us playing Keno. We started to talk about the Messiah Complex from Marvel and I noted that Marc Silvestri is usually a much better artist, but his work looked really poor in this issue. Usually at this point I was ready for Rusty to tell me how I'm wrong as he is a bigger Marvel fan then I am and sometimes that can color (pun intended) one's opinion. Instead he said the art was atrocious and he was blaming the colorist. He went on to say that David Finch's work in Moon Knight was ruined by the colorist.

Which gets to the point of how important coloring is to a comic and how that is the one element in producing a comic book that has changed the most since comics were all in color for a dime. A script for a comic is still a script for a comic, whether it was pounded out on a typewriter or in a word processor a script from 20 years ago is still the same as it has ever been. The pencils and inks are still pencil and inks. I know we have had the advent of digital inking and that certainly is big change, but coloring is so vastly different as to not even be in the same league. From only four colors that can be used to a palette of thousands of colors and the higher quality the printing the more colors that can be used.

I first realize how much coloring can change artwork when I copied a page out of a old Green Lantern comic and ended up with a back and white version of I believe Neal Adam's artwork. The strength of the art almost leaped off the page. The old coloring process has severely muted the impact of the quality of his artwork and his work was fantastic to begin with.

Marvel's printing and coloring process has produced many books that have an almost pseudo photo quality to them and it has taken me awhile to get used to that look (Captain America is an example). The X-Men Messiah Complex was a more traditional art and the heavy use of dark hues and orange and browns just overwhelmed the book and possible led to my opinion that the art was poor or atrocious as others have said.

One day I would really like to see how more of this is done, because not only is the palette larger then before how the artwork is produced is as varied as the artist, photoshop, computer coloring of scanned pages, different mediums for what an artist actually draws on, magic markers to the smallest brush to define linework, the choices are so much greater then before. As a collaborative medium it is easy to have one persons work ruined by someone else down the line and rightly or wrongly if the art looks bad the penciller catches the heat. I think that is why many artist do all of the work down to the lettering.

So the next time you are reading a comic try to consider who did what and then determine what you did or did not like. My goal is to try and understand how a book is produced in addition to just enjoying the comic for the entertainment it brings.

1 comment:

  1. Coloring definitely makes a huge impact. Ever since Corey's been teaching me how to color on Photoshop I've come to realize that many colorists work just as hard as the artists.