I’m tempted to just shut my yap and let Jessica Kholine’s color work speak for itself. It certainly doesn’t need me to sing its praises. The awesome is obvious. But then I suppose this would be more of a gallery than a column.
Over the last two days, we’ve shown off my script, Sami Basri’s layouts and then his finished line work to a set of pages from “Voodoo” #1. Today, Jessica Kholine brings Sami’s lines to life with a lush palette and subtle rendering. Sami doesn’t spot blacks on his pages, meaning he’s dependent upon color to add shape and depth and lighting to the work. It’s an inherently risky choice. Solid art jobs are ruined by lousy color all the time. Though to be fair, plenty of average art jobs are elevated by superior color.
To my mind, coloring has surpassed inking in terms of the impact it has on the reading experience. That’s not a value judgment. That’s not to say that inking isn’t important. It’s simply an acknowledgement of how the medium has grown, in large part due to the impact of technology.
Modern color is far more of a storytelling tool than it was in the days of newsprint. Even when I started in the business, whole books were sent home with assistant editors for them to color — on paper guides — over a weekend. Some of them did great work; others were probably better suited to coloring books than comic books. Now, color can make or break a comic. In the case of “Voodoo,” I’m firmly on the “make” side of the argument — though, let’s be honest, I’m not an unbiased observer.
When I worked in the CrossGen studio, I got a first-hand look at what the colorists brought to the creative team. It was a hell of a roster: Laura Martin, Justin Ponsor, Michael Atiyeh, Morry Hollowell, Jason Keith, Frank D’Armata and plenty more. I’d still stack CrossGen’s colors against anyone’s in the business. One of the real pleasures was seeing how the colorists collaborated with the pencilers, working together, sometimes looking over each other’s shoulders, to achieve something both were proud of. The collaboration between Jessica and Sami, who are both part of Imaginary Friends Studio in Jakarta, Indonesia, has the same feel for me. They’re talking to each other, both working toward a greater whole. There’s an obvious creative give and take creatively. Sami does his part, but he leaves space for Jessica to do hers. He starts it, she completes it, almost like improv. The best creative teams are like jazz combos, each part riffing off the other. It’s a far more successful model than a strict assembly line approach.
Sami and Jessica most recently worked together on “Power Girl” for DC, but you’ll forgive me if I insist “Voodoo” is a leap forward for both of them.
On page 3, Agent Fallon’s blond hair is not a random choice. Fallon will be a recurring antagonist for Voodoo, so we wanted to make her a contrast in appearance. We also preserved Voodoo’s traditional color scheme of purple and yellow from her “WildC.A.T.S.” days, in order to provide a touchstone for fans of that era. Yeah, I know, it’s not exactly a costume, and she loses half of it by the end of the page. For the most part, Voodoo won’t have a regular costume, since that sort of thing would make a spy stand out, rather than blend in. And as you’ll see when issue #1 is released, Voodoo is all about blending in.
Jessica did some really lovely work with the lighting on the pages 3 through 5, especially the stage lighting. Page 1, which I don’t believe has been revealed in color yet, is stunning. Page 5, panel 6 shows the lone editorial change on this set of pages, as editor Brian Cunningham suggested adding a green glint to Voodoo’s eye as a way to hint at her alien heritage.
Page 5 also illustrates how color can be used to separate foreground and background into planes, so they don’t fight against each other and confuse the reader’s eye. Panels 1 and 3 keep the foreground in sharp relief, retaining the black holding lines and adding dark hues, while pushing the background deeper with lighter tones and lines converted to gray.
Jessica’s color looks amazing backlit on a screen. I hope it prints just as well. Though with the advent of same-day digital release, you can take your pick, right?
Tomorrow, my dialogue script, and how it’s translated into balloons for the final, complete pages.
Ron Marz has been writing comics for two decades, and thinks it’s pretty much the best job ever. His current work includes “Artifacts,” “Witchblade” and “Magdalena” for Top Cow, “Voodoo” for DC and his creator-owned title, “Shinku,” for Image. Follow him on Twitter (@ronmarz) and his website, www.ronmarz.com