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“Five Color Comics” Jams Over 50 Comics & Animation Greats

by  in Comic News Comment
“Five Color Comics” Jams Over 50 Comics & Animation Greats
“Five Color Comics” is available at conventions or right here

It’s called “Five Color Comics” for a reason – only five colors are in the comic. But that’s okay, because what it lacks in color variety, “Five Color Comics” more than makes up for it in artistic quality.

From the writing duo of Paul Grimshaw (owner of the House of Secrets comics store, a Burbank, CA institution) and Erik Warfield (a loyal House of Secrets employee), “Five Color Comics” features the work of over 50 different artists, from well known comics talents such as Chuck Austen, Steve Rude, Bruce Timm and Bill Sienkiewicz to successful animators making their first foray into the comic book medium.

Grimshaw and Warfield wanted a jam comic – by which every page and panel would be created by a different contributor — but they wanted to put their own unique twist on it and created some new rules for the book, including the five-colors-only restriction – Prussian blue, jade green, rose pink, the gray paper background, and white.

“Five Color Comics” contributors

“Five Color Comics” also affords its contributors unique liberties that most jam comics do not. For instance, artists were not allowed to see art and panels that occur previous to their own, for fear it would affect their work. Only a description of their panel assignment would be provided. Additionally, artists were asked to draw to their strengths. “Some other guys might give Brian Bolland a panel, and it happens to be a guy sitting on a bench. I don’t want to see Brian Bolland drawing a guy on a park bench,” Paul Grimshaw told CBR News. As such, Bruce Timm was asked to draw a scantily clad woman, while Dan Brereton might create a zombie pirate scene.

The end result of the collective’s efforts is a 52-page eye-popper of sequential art, with more different styles of art than one can find flavors at Baskin-Robbins. Four different stories are depicted in “Five Color Comics,” including a lampooning of the comic book culture by way of a mad scientist trying to save the world; an E.C.-style pirate horror story; and a Tarzan-esque tale of adventure.

“It’s a big, giant bag of creativity,” Erik Warfield said. “Our original idea was to demonstrate the ‘art of fiction’ – to showcase as many styles as we could fit into one book.”

Art from “Five Color Comics”

Situated in the heart of Los Angeles’ animation industry, the House of Secrets duo used their comic book and cartoon celebrity clientele as a resource in creating “Five Color Comics.” Grimshaw and Warfield asked regular customer Scott Morse (“Magic Pickle”) for advice on the color scheme – it was “Scottie,” as they call him, who suggested the limited colors that became the primary pallet for “Five Color Comics.” “Some jam books are garish,” Grimshaw explained. “By having all the artists use these three colors, we have a unifying look.”

Of course, not every artist/friend was eager to work on such a daunting project. “We probably lost 15 to 20 customers along the way,” Warfield laughed. “It’s been fun, and it’s also been irritating at times.”

All art was paid for up-front, and in most cases, all that was required was a single panel of a certain size – some as small as 4-inches by 4-inches. Some of the art was created for free – a favor by the artist for a couple friends in the industry. Other panels were drawn on commission, ranging from $175 to $300. Some artists asked for as much as $600 for the small panel, making them too expensive to hire.

Art from “Five Color Comics”

Grimshaw and Warfield did whatever it took to collect the artwork they needed for “Five Color Comics,” including one gutsy late-night call to Bill Sienkiewicz, who was months late turning in his panel. Grimshaw had Sienkiewicz’s number, but regular phone calls had done him no good thus far. Having heard stories that Sienkiewicz was a notorious night owl, Grimshaw decided to ring him in the early morning hours. “I don’t think the phone made a full ring,” Grimshaw recalled. “He probably thought it was DreamWorks calling. But it worked – we had the art three weeks later.”

“Five Color Comics” has been in the works almost a decade. In that time, Grimshaw and Warfield have collected a lot of art for the project, some that will never see the light of day. “A lot of it ended up in the drawer, collecting dust,” Warfield said. “Sometimes we didn’t give enough direction, or the artist didn’t speak English, and didn’t get what we were asking for. But some of that was for good, some of it for bad.”

Art from “Five Color Comics”

One particular panel that surprised Grimshaw and Warfield was created by Eduardo Risso (“100 Bullets”), who put the two writers into the comic itself. Though it wasn’t what they asked for, they liked it so much that the panel made the comic, and the image is even on their business cards now.

“Five Color Comics” made its debut at WonderCon 2008. Grimshaw and Warfield – working under the brand name Art of Fiction– will also be attending Comic-Con International in San Diego, Wizard World Chicago, the New York Comic-Con and Toronto Comicon. Along with the “Five Color Comics,” the pair will be selling select original art panels from the book to help recoup the costs of production. Grimshaw is asking only what he paid for the panels.

Grimshaw and Warfield have already begun working on two more comics to come from their Art of Fiction studio in 2009, which will include more jungle action, crime stories and a western. Any artists who would like to contribute to the book are asked to contact either of the pair and submit artwork via the Art of Fiction website.

“The next time through, we’ll have a script,” Warfield says. “And hopefully, it won’t take years to get it out.”

Now discuss this story in CBR’s Indie Comics forum.

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