Marvel's secret weapon: color

So claims former Marvel Talent Coordinator Bon Alimagno in his latest portfolio review at iFanboy. And I believe him.

Alimagno was at Marvel from 2009 to 2011, and during that time he helped to establish a system of colorists pinch hitting on deadline crunches. But perhaps more significantly, he helped foster a house style based not on a specific penciler's style but on a color palette he nicknamed "the perfect sunset” palette.

"From my time at Marvel, the editors valued colorists with warmer palettes rooted in playing off reds and oranges and lighter yellows and blues. Led by Richard Isanove, Laura Martin and Justin Ponsor, this style set the tone for the entire line and gave Marvel’s comics a much more inviting look and feel than most of the DC Comics line."

This kind of consistent color tone could also help other books stand out when they broke the pattern. As he explains, Dean White's work on Uncanny X-Force, which went against this palette by using whites, helped turn a lot of heads to Jerome Opeña's art. The next time you're at the comic shop, take a look at Marvel's new releases and see if you can identify what palette is being used.

Alimagno also describes how colorists can be used to strengthen artists not quite at star status. "Indeed, there’s a strategy that for the most part works where you position your best colorists specifically over a talent that hasn’t become a big name yet, but that you hope develops into a star. Excellent “A” level coloring would enhance a developing penciler’s strengths to the point that a publisher could expect they’d get a larger following. Eventually when that penciler’s name grew big enough a publisher could then shift that colorist to another penciler to help develop."

Writers and pencilers are still by and large considered the headlining talent in comics today. They're the names that appear first, and until relatively recently were the only two creator credits that would appear on covers. But appealing colors are a powerful weapon in grabbing eyeballs and selling comics, and clearly publishers like Marvel recognize this by signing their most valuable colorists to exclusive contracts.

There's more interesting behind-the-scene commentary at the link, and next week Alimagno will take a look at inkers.

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