It was a dream job for me. To the right is a photo of 22 year old Donovan, about to head off to my first night of work in the comics industry. I was still living in my dorm room after finishing up my Fine Arts degree.
Colour Separators, as we were technically called, are all but extinct now. (Feel free to skip this paragraph if comic book colouring history sounds dull to you!). Currently, colourists use programs like Adobe Photoshop to add their hues to the lineart. In the olden days, colourists painted xeroxed lineart and created a work of production art called a colour guide, which was then sent to the Separator who created four separate sheets of film for each of the colours printed (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black). (Neal Adams claims that in the 1960's, DC Comics actually had housewives in Connecticut doing their colour separations!). Our role at Digital Chameleon back in 1998 was a transitional phase - we did the colouring and modelling in Photoshop the way that books are coloured now, but the colour choices were dictated to us by the colour guides, created by colouring veterans, many of whom had not yet learned Photoshop.
My first night on the job was incredible. I got straight to work on the first splash page of Action Comics #746. This was the big leagues. Action Comics made it's debut in 1938 with the first appearance of Superman. While Superman was not my favourite character to read about, he IS an icon. And lo and behold, on the first page I was to work on was a full page drawing by superstar Canadian artist Stuart Immonen of Superman himself. Strong. Powerful. Mopping the deck of a cruise ship. (Okay, so it wasn't the most exciting, action packed page, but that didn't matter!). By the end of my 8 hour shift, my first page was complete. I was soon to learn that taking 8 hours to complete a page was unacceptably slow, but hey, it was my first day on the job! Cut me some slack!
A decade and a half later, I accidentally stumbled across the Facebook profile for the colourist of that issue, Glenn Whitmore. Mr. Whitmore managed the Herculean task of creating painted colour guides for FOUR Superman books each month, every one of them coming to my shift at Digital Chameleon for separation. Having worked on so much of this man's work during the embryonic stages of my colouring career had a big influence on me, and I was happy to have the opportunity to tell him this.
After some chatting, Glenn was kind enough to send me the original colour guide I'd launched my journey on. It's still got my name on the back, printed in my atrocious printing style. You'd never know I was an artist by that chicken scratching! (Phoenix was the name of my computer workstation).
Click here to see a large scan of it.
It's a huge honour to have some of the guides I had worked on in my possession. Looking at them again rekindles some of that wide eyed excitement about the craft of colouring that I had when I started.
What struck me about revisiting Glenn Whitmore's guides is that he actually uses COLOURS. A lot of books nowadays feature really dark, moody, greyed out "colouring". Whitmore isn't afraid to have his pages look bright and, well, colourful. (A colourist who colours! Imagine that!). He understands atmospheric perspective, colour temperature and contrasts, and uses them well. I've always loved how he painted lighting effects - below are two panels from his guides that I think show his skill in this area.
Currently playing: Deadbeat Honeymooners - King of Your Heart
Currently colouring: Adam Zero, The Last Man On Earth: Chapter 2!
Proudly in my seventh Cola free year!