Quite the opposite, actually. You see, I’ve been lucky enough to work on some pretty cool Bane, or more specifically, Dark Knight pages and I’m a bit behind on posting about them. Issue 7 of Dark Knight featured a massive brawl between Bane and Bruce (sorry, spoiler alert). Really incredible pencils by [...]
Quite the opposite, actually. You see, I’ve been lucky enough to work on some pretty cool Bane, or more specifically, Dark Knight pages and I’m a bit behind on posting about them. Issue 7 of Dark Knight featured a massive brawl between Bane and Bruce (sorry, spoiler alert). Really incredible pencils by David Finch and as usual, gorgeous inks by Richard Friend. Funny anecdote about Rich and I. Years ago when Rich was just starting and I had just started at Wildstorm, we got to talking at a local San Diego Mini-con. Rich was trying to break into inking, so he asked me if I had anything he could try out on. I gave him a page to a comic I was self publishing (it’s weird to say self publishing when Dave Jolosky and Daren Bader were right there with me.. cullo, I digress) called Offspring (90 cents.. I’m insulted). So, Rich did some inks over a pinup of monsters I had drawn and showed it to me. Now, you have to understand, I inked all my own stuff at the time, for various reasons including I was picky and didn’t like not inking my own stuff. So I had to tell Rich I wasn’t into it and that kind of thing always feels awkward. Okay, flash forward to present day and Rich is easily one of the best inkers in the comic industry and I’d give my left (insert body part here) to have him ink anything of mine these days. Alright, end of anecdote.
My biggest dilema with this issue was it being night time with two characters in dark colored costumes. You don’t want to push Bane’s blues to saturated or he looks too cartoony and you don’t want Batman’s grey costume to just die on the page and get lost. I tried to use a deep green for the water color so the characters would stand out against it. The white bits of the splashing water really helped define different planes and helped with some depth, in my opinion. Drawing in knock out areas helped create more depth of field as well. Now the more I get into this post, the more I’m realizing, I don’t think I talked about the last issue. Yeah, I just checked and I didn’t post about Issue 6. I posted about the cover, but I didn’t point out some things I wanted to post about in that specific issue.
Getting to color Batman is a real joy. I’m not weirded out to say that. Getting to color iconic scenes like young Bruce losing his mother and father is a big deal, though it’s been rendered so many times. In High School, I wore this Frank Miller Dark Knight shirt (I see the’re still making them). I actually read Neal Adam’s Continuity books before realizing he helped create the look of what Batman is and so many modern artists unknowingly emulate. I re-learned what could be done with super hero comic story telling by reading Frank Miller’s and David Mazzuchelli’s Batman: Year One. I’m just trying to say, I really get in to coloring this stuff, to say the least. So, Issue 6 had a ton of cool things to render in it. Superman and Batman finished fighting in the rain. Getting to add all the gritty details on the dilapidated shack they crashed through was great. All the rain drizzle and lightning. Fun stuff. Again, sorry to keep saying the same thing over and over, but David and Rich’s drawings really sold the mood in this issue. Mood is something I’m so used to having to put into pages, because the penciler hasn’t done it that well (this is partly untrue in that, I get to work with a ton of talented pencilers because I’ve been doing this so long). But I guess my point is that a lot of modern pencilers are drawing less and less dark areas and leaving it up to the colorists to fill in where the light is coming from. Which can be fine, but in the wrong hands, you’re just asking for something bad to happen, storytelling wise. I pick up a number of comics where the penciler is used to working with a really good colorist who sets up a missing mood for the page and on top of that, does a lot of the modeling on the characters. Then these same artists try to draw the same way and they get a less talented colorist who doesn’t know what to do with their thin outline drawings and ick. I understand that some reviewers and editors say no that one buys these books because of who the colorist is, but this doesn’t belie the point that without a good colorist, a book can look like ass. Circling back to the origin of what I was trying to say, Dave and Rich really know what they’re doing, so I don’t have to waste my time worrying about that.
We move from this scene to downtown Gotham and we get to see Gordon and some cops nabbing this crazy looking dude. I had fun on this page and particularly this panel, to be more specific. Is it weird for me to say, I always like rendering black people different varieties of brown. I grew up with comics that were rather flat (knowing when to leave something flat is actually an artform in itself, but I’ll save that for a different post) and the colorists of the past were limited in what they could do and really just made all the black people one same flat hue. I hated that as a kid. It pulled me out of the story. I like making everyone on a page having disimilar skin tones, because that’s the way it is. I made this police officer sort of a mocha/nutmeg color, or at least that’s what I call it in my head. The villain was this shark guy that I’m really not remembering the name of right now. Come on people, I color a lot of comics, it’s a wonder that my brain hasn’t exploded pixels yet. I also enjoyed lighting up outside the paddy wagon with the police lights and throwing a red rim light on all three characters to really separate them from the background. To tie up this issue, we get to see some Scarecrow and this new character, White Rabbit just before the big fight between Bane and Bats. I like Scarecrow’s eyes in this panel. The burlap texture I created for Scarecrow’s mask worked really well in my opinion. Some people hate when something looks to realistic and some people love it. Some people think I’m a genius (wait, what? really… they obviously didn’t see my Jr. College grades) and others think I’m a terrible artist. I shoot for somewhere in the middle, so as to pull as many people along for the ride.
Okay, back to issue 7. Batman and Bane kick each other’s butts through out the issue. What? It’s a comic book, lighten up. Good guys fighting bad guys. It’s Joseph Cambell escapism. Everyone and their mothers are flocking to super hero movies to get their minds off of, perhaps, not to happy a time in their own lives. Seeing the bad guy get his just due or seeing the hero overcome seemingly insurmountable odds lifts a lot of people up. Theoretically, nothing wrong with that. I love indie comics and art films a ton, but my tastes change throughout the day or week and sometimes you don’t want to have to take things so seriously. Okay, back to the comic… Bane really serves Batman up in this issue. He’s menacing and truly lives up to his moniker. A real killer or slayer in the best villainous sense of the word. The comic obviously goes somewhere that I’m not going to divulge here… so, you just need to go pick it up. Or have it delivered to your tablet of choice.
Ahhh! Where did February, March and April go? To say I’ve been busy lately would insult father time and we all know what a grouch he can be. Well, I’ll just start where I left off. My first couple of Resurrection man issues came out. Starting with issue six, I took over colors from “….” and whenever I take over from another colorist, I try to ape some of their style and blend it with my own. I know this is all going to be collected and read in order, so I do my best not to make the styles jump to significantly. I want a continuity for the overall order of the pages. I wasn’t completely familiar with the series, but I’ve worked with writer Andy Lanning a lot. Namely Otherworld with Phil Jimenez.
Issue six takes place in Arkham Asylum, so I got a chance to color a lot of different villains. Artist Fernando Guerra is really amazing. Sort of a throw back style, but that’s a compliment in my book. Even though his style is more classic, his process involves a lot of computer work as far as I can tell. When there are FX or layered characters, the files I receive are set up so I can pull some parts out and isolate certain elements without having to make selections. If the artist knows how to do this, (Fernando does) this works really well for me.
The editors wanted me to take the colors in a more graphic coloring direction. which I can see what they want in terms of story. Sometimes you’re going for more of a moody tone, like an independent book or a book from Vertigo, but this storyline is best served to dynamically “pop”. The lead character in the book dies nearly every issue and is reborn with new powers. Story/tone wise, death and resurrection isn’t a subtle subject. It’s brash and exciting. I’m trying to match that tone in my colors. Am I over thinking this stuff. I don’t think so, and besides, this is what I do. Why not over think it? Sure this can kill spontaneity, but I’m not referring to that. I’m thinking that these little stylistic choices I hit upon, make a difference. I’ve actually had a number of people write me or tell me at conventions, about things they’ve noticed I’m doing and ask wether they were intentional. So even if it’s a small few things, I’m going to keep putting the thought into it, because I think it makes a difference.
Issue seven, I started to feel a bit more comfortable with issue seven which really loosens me up to start trying more of my own tricks and flavors. The issue had a lot of what are sometimes referred to as Knock Outs, or color holds or special effects. Basically, it’s where you’re colors or painting is affecting the line work done by the penciler and inker. There was a lot of fire and Mitch, the lead character, was lit up with his own blue fire and there was this magic/new power signature I had to come up with. These all really make the pages glow and sing, but they often overlap, so you have to plan the colors you choose to use. Choosing the wrong background color can really flatten out a page. If the fire or magic is a similar hue, it all gets lost on the printed page. Fernando does a lot of the special effects on his own layers and I pull them out of his photoshop files and layer them into and colorize them to work with my rendered files. Overall, I really liked the printed version of this comic. I’ve been having some difficulties with how my stuff is printing lately, so that feels good when it’s close to right. It’s just something you have to play with when there are new printers involved. I just need a little bit darker darks, more interesting mid tones and the saturation to bump up, just a smidge. I don’t think I ‘ll ever be happy, but I get close.
The most recent issue to come out, issue eight, printed better than the two prior issues, because I’d tweaked my settings and monitor to really get what I see on screen to match the printed page. Granted, RGB to CMYK is never going to hold up, but I’ve gotten pretty good over the years at knowing which colors will print and how well. Reds are still difficult. I know if I was working in CMYK, I would be picking specific reds that would really pop, but some of my other colors turn out so well, I just do my best with trying to not let my reds go to pink or orange.
This issue was also chock full of special effects, but the better color reproduction worked to my advantage. This issue was my favorite one, yet. Well, that’s it for now. I have a ton of post lined up, so bear with me as I get them all in line.
Wooo…. I received comp copies of some of my comic work this week. First off, the Avengers Academy Volume 2 trade printed amazing. These colors are way closer to what I had intended and what the actual images looked like on my screen. The individual issues didn’t necessarily print bad, but [...]
Wooo…. I received comp copies of some of my comic work this week. First off, the Avengers Academy Volume 2 trade printed amazing. These colors are way closer to what I had intended and what the actual images looked like on my screen. The individual issues didn’t necessarily print bad, but they just lacked or printed a slight too saturated. There were three pencilers on this arc. Mike McKone, whom I’ve always enjoyed working with, Sean Chen who really knocked it out of the park and gave me plenty of room to play with colors and the third is my good friend Tom Raney. I first met Tom years ago at Wildstorm in La Jolla. I immediately liked his style and realized he was the guy that came from Marvel doing some, I think it was Infinity War or some other Adam Warlock story. Tom worked on Team One: Stormwatch at the time and I dug his style. I really grew to love his art a few years later when he, a bunch of other Wildstorm artists and I were doing a signing in Florida. I was sitting next to Tom and the quick sketches he was doing for fans were just great. Flash forward 15 years or so and I’m at a New York comic con party at the Empire State building and Tom comes up to me and says something like “Isn’t it great?” and I say “What?”. He told me we would be working together on Avengers Academy. Such cool news. I immediately knew what I would want to do with Tom’s art and then the story arc that Christos Gage came up with was just pitch perfect for what I felt Tom and my strengths are. Korvac showing up and battling all these Avengers and the Avengers Academy kids. Fun, fun stuff. The colors in this trade really sing. Hats off to Jen Grunwald and everyone in the Marvel collections department. This made me extremely happy. Oh, and the back cover is the cover that was deep fried on Thirty Rock last year.
The other trade I received from Marvel this week was the newest collection of X-Factor. I only colored around two issues in this collection, but they printed just as well as the Avengers Academy trade. This story arc is where I was weened off the book as it were. Somewhat sad because I enjoyed working on Peter David’s stories and I really did want to stay with the book. In this trade, new artist, Emanuela Lupacchino took over. I’d never seen her stuff before but it is really sharp. I would have loved to have colored it but lucky for the book, my friend Matt Milla took over the colors and is doing a pretty insane job. Really rich colors. Matt came into Wildstorm shortly after I left, but we have a ton of similar friends. I think Matt also used to work with Brian Haberlin, and old friend of mine that ended up running Top Cow’s color among a million other things. If you get a chance, check out what Emanuela, Matt and Peter are doing on that book. Really cool story line.
Lastly, I received my copies of Dark Knight 4 and the final issue of DMZ. Dark Knights cover is colored by Alex Sinclair and the cover to DMZ 72 is by John Paul Leon. John’s cover is perfect and I’m happy that the colors actually printed good. I had some problems on some of the final issues running a bit dark because we switched printers, I believe. There are so many variances in colors and printing that it can be a bit unnerving if you let it get to you. So many things are out of your hands, that when you finish, you just sorta half to let go of it. These two issues printed great though, so no complaints. I need to get an iPad or an android tablet so I can start seeing these issues in their digital download versions.
I mentioned that the last issue of DMZ came out last week, but another book I worked on also came out. Issue 4 of Batman: Dark Knight to be specific. I’m really trying to go all out with this book. I’ve limited the amount of work I’m taking (I just had to turn down a book, not ten minutes ago… ugh.. I hate turning down work) and I’m trying to get pages done early so I can get a vibe for entire book early on. On this issue, I zeroed in on the last page. Without giving it away, its’ a nice reveal and I really flexed my photoshop skills to compliment such a cool image that David Finch drew and Richard Friend inked. I don’t want to show you here, you have to go buy it. Sometimes rendering out of order can give you bench marks to reach or live up to. It’s like in screen writing books when they say know your ending. By establishing a really cool ending shot, you have a destination to travel towards as you work on the rest of the book. Also, coloring specific scene changes in a book can give the other artists on the book and the editors a chance to see what you’re thinking and whatever problems that come up can be worked out early, as opposed to closer to the deadline. You can then use these approved pages as color keys for the rest of the book. I tend to be graphic in my storytelling. The comics I read when I was younger were very direct in their color choices. Loud, bright and vibrant. Big color changes can be used to indicate scene changes, or plot twists. Going from a saturated scene to a more subdued palette can help the reader discern things have changed. Another good place to start when just beginning a book is a good hero shot. That’s a page where the main character is dominant on the page.
Making the strongest images in the book look well rendered and solid is beneficial to do early, so that if you’re have to pick up pace as you move closer and closer to the deadline (these things come out ever month) you’re not rushing a really important image that takes up a lot of space and importance in the book. Still, another good place to start is with new characters that aren’t normally in the book. Again, letting everyone else that works on the book know and see what you’re doing puts more eyes on the page. With this particular issue, the Flash and Wonder Woman show up. I render these up so that completely different editors for those respective books can have time to make comments or point out what may be going on in their storylines. An example would be, the DC Universe recently had a huge relaunch and a lot of the characters costumes changed. Flash has this new piping that runs across his costume and sort of powers up when he really gets going. These are all things I had to learn and apply to this book. I read a lot of comic books, but you’re always figuring out new changes and details the more and more that you work on these titles. A few years back, my friend Guy Major and I colored a big company crossover book for DC entitled Infinite Crisis. That was a real crash course for me to learn so many of the different DC characters I’d never even heard of. I could keep going, but that would take time from you gathering up your wallet and rushing to your local comic store to buy this wonderful book. I’m finishing another issue of Batman for next week, so I gotta go.
For six plus years now, I’ve been occupying a spot as colorist on the Vertigo title, DMZ. I’ve worked on hundreds of comic books and this is definitely one of my favorites. This past Wednesday, I made my way to my local comic store and picked up the last issue. Issue 72. That’s a record for me. I colored a ton of Catwoman comics and a number of Promethea comics, but not 72 issues. Well, 71 to be exact. Brian, the writer handled all the art chores on one of the 72. I get free comp copies of all the comics I color, but I’ve been going to comic stores for years now and I still like the feeling of picking the books up and buying them at the actual comic shop. Call me crazy. I didn’t know what I was going to feel seeing the last issue, but I couldn’t help but smile. Lots and lots of smiles. I probably looked strange to the people I passed as I walked to my car, the clerk at the pet store that was ringing up the crickets for my gecko and spider or the waitress as I sat down for breakfast at lunch time. Just lots of smiles. I’m not sure what it was. A sense of accomplishment, a sense of pride, joy in rewinding all of those issues and all of their individual stories in my head. I can’t explain it and then I thought to myself, I don’t want to explain it. I just want to enjoy it like I imagine everyone else has that have liked the book.
DMZ is not really a book to smile about. Dystopian future New York is not necessarily party material. Unless you’re into that kind of party, I guess. But you know what, good comics are something to smile about. Take me out of the equation, and this is a damn fine comic book. The book totally works with out color. Great lettering, great artwork, good personal stories, nice character development, politically engaging, put together well, cohesive. This book rocks.
Okay, put me back in. (Egosaurus) I was lucky enough to get the chance to color this book. Thanks Will. At some point, if you really get into coloring, you realize you’re like the DP of a movie, only for comics. You get to light the scene and apply a mood that best fits the story. DMZ was ripe with opportunities to paint different moods. Riccardo’s art, and some people hate when I say this, is completely strong enough to work without colors. Quite frankly, that’s how I get the pages. Black and white with no lettering. And the story is there. All of the artists that have worked on DMZ have this strong sense of black and white contrast and great storytelling. So my job has really been not getting in the way. That is, unless the storyline called for it. Sometimes you just leave everything flat to let the art breathe or allow the pace of the storytelling to move along. Other times you just wow the crap out of the reader by rendering the heck out of a scene or a bowl of noodles or a gun. I learned a lot working on this book. I really got to play with colors. I’ve been told that I handle primary colors well without looking childish. I take this to heart, because I grew up loving comic books and primary colors really speak to that visceral first impression. Then again, sometimes primary colors can really work against a mature mood. That’s probably one of my least favorite parts of my contribution to the book, but I really don’t regret it. When you’re working on a monthly schedule to get a book done and out on time, nuance really is a treat that you don’t always get to taste. You’re really going with your gut reaction as fast as possible to get 22 or 20 pages done and look as good as possible. One thing you’ll find if you’re working at this pace is happy accidents are your friends. Now, did that accidental drop of red on the page really come from some inner artistic genius, or did you look at it and think “…that looks good, how will that effect the rest of the page or the entire story?” 72 issues allows such experimentation. Most people that are interested, usually ask which of the issues was my favorite. I most likely will say the snow issue, and while true, I’ve grown to like individual issues less and less as years have gone on and like the entire series as a whole. The entire breadth of the work as it were. Probably sounds cheesy, but that’s the way it feels. There’s usually striking moments in the story lines that stand out, but that’s usually set up by good writing issues before. That explosion tears at your emotions because your cared about the character being ripped apart. Or that neighborhood being bombed is an actual borough in New York, so you can imagine this scene that much more. I actually felt guilty for a time working on the book, because I hadn’t actually made it to New York and all of my depictions were from my own imagination. Sure Brian’s reference, Riccardo’s renderings and Google Maps helped, but I hadn’t felt the actual vibe. Well, I did get a chance to see New York for myself and I think my imagination was pretty good. Upon visiting a couple of years ago, I kept thinking to myself, “Wow, for as much as New York has been depicted in film and television, they really haven’t got it right. I think the closest people have got is part Midnight Cowboy, part Woody Allen and part David Letterman exteriors, but not really. Naive, I know, but I think my point is, that the city is too massive to really capture. The sheer amount of people and their individual diversity is ridiculous. Again, it makes me smile. It makes me want to go back. All the things I did wrong and all of the things I want to do again. I didn’t mean to go off on a New York tourism pitch here, but I think that’s at the heart of this story. It’s a story about New York and if you find your chance to pick up the trades and read our take on it, you’re gonna get a different view of the city. Sure, we’re destroying it, but that makes you reflect on how much you appreciate the place and it’s people. Or the freedoms we take for granted or the trust we surrender. Okay, I’m getting to far off into the weeds here and I’m all out of tinfoil. This was a fun book to work on. I hope I get a chance to work on a book like this again, but then again, I don’t think most people get a chance to spend days in such worlds, let alone six years. I guess you do as a reader, but imagine that plus you’re turning on the lights or changing the colors of the vehicles, or shading a impending disaster. Cool stuff. My brain overfloweth. Let’s wind this up. Hit up your local comic store this week and pick up the last issue if you’ve been reading along or pick up that first trade and dive in. Heck, I think DC even made the first issue available for free. No excuse, loser. (smile) It may not be your cup of tea, but you may also find yourself thinking “I didn’t know they made comics like this.” Well, we did and it’s over and ready for you to read.
I just finished the colors for Batman: Dark Knight 07 cover, but I can’t post that just yet. I’m really happy with it, so I’ll just have to post it for viewing later. In the meantime, here’s the colors I did for issue six, which comes out in February. The best part about working on Dark Knight is the fact that it’s a single character book and I get to spend all the time on the single character as opposed to working on a team book, where you’e having to color any number of characters. There’s a real balance of wanting to do some really interesting dark colors and not wanting the cover to turn out, what colorists tend to call “muddy”. My first version of this cover was much more mono-chromatic and dark, but upon viewing and working with David, Rich and my editors, we brought in more colors. This helped define the shapes that make up the figures and helped with the overall composition. Obviously, a book like the Dark Knight is a great place to use some really nice dark colors, but readability is a must. This cover inspired me to push myself even more with the issue 7 cover.. but more on that later.
New comics day. If you’re not familiar with comics, than you may not know that new comic books come out on Wednesdays. Today, I had two new comics that I colored come out. The first is an issue of Batman: Dark Knight, number 3 to be specific. If you [...]
New comics day. If you’re not familiar with comics, than you may not know that new comic books come out on Wednesdays. Today, I had two new comics that I colored come out. The first is an issue of Batman: Dark Knight, number 3 to be specific. If you click that link, it takes you to the DC site and shows you some of the cool covers. The colors on those covers are by my friend Alex Sinclair who colors some of DC’s top books including Geoff Johns and Jim Lee’s JLA. I did this Batman issue as a fill in but was happy to be asked to continue on as the regular colorist. The penciler on Dark Knight is David Finch and he’s turning in some incredible pages that really challenge me in a good way as an artist. The inking on the book is handled by my good friend… Richard Friend. We go way back as some of the earlier Image / Homage / Wildstorm artists, so it’s great to be working with Rich again, to say the least. If you haven’t seen some of Rich’s original non-comic art, you should check it out. Gorgeous stuff. Paul Jenkins is writing this dark tale and just today I received some cool art for issue 5 that you’re just going to love if you’re in any way a fan of the bat books or comic art. These books are also available as digital versions as well, so fire up your iPad.
The other comic that I colored that came out today is the second to last issue of DMZ. I think I’ve been working on this book for nearly six years now. That’s really strange to type. This is issue 71, so you have a lot of worthwhile catching up to do if you haven’t been reading this great comic all along. I’m working on the last issue right now and I can’t convey how strange it is to be putting a cap on it all. I’ve been really afforded a great deal of experimentation on this series and my art is that much better because of that. I’ve mainly been coloring Riccardo Burchielli, the
regular penciler and co-creator of DMZ, art for the book, but I’ve also got a chance to work with some the comic industries best artists that came in as fill in artists. Artists that range from Danijel Žeželj to Nathan Fox or from Kristian Donaldson to Ryan Kelly. Lots of fun for a colorist. Jared Fletcher has been a great letterer and have you seen the incredible covers by John Paul Leon… stunning. I was going to say some really mean stuff about my editors Will, Mark and Casey, just to mess with them but you really have to be at the top of your game to make a book like DMZ run so smoothly. 72 issues with multiple artists? Yeah, you try making that come out every month on time as successfully as they did. And I guess finally, Brian really is a breath of fresh air for comics and getting to work on his book has been a great joy. If you want to hear me go on and on even more about how much I’ve appreciated working on this comic, check out this interview I did a couple of months ago over at the DMZ comic site. Can you tell I don’t want it to end?