SUPER-Stars (Part 10): Alex Sinclair talks "Superman" & more!

When CBR News last spoke to colorist Alex Sinclair, Brian Azzarello and Jim Lee's "Superman" seemed like a far away dream to fans. Now with the creative team debuting on the series in a matter of days, CBR News decided to continue its Superman Celebration with the man responsible for coloring "Superman."

"It's easier than 'Batman,' I think," says Sinclair when asked about working on "Superman" for DC Comics. "Having done a 12 issue run with Jim and Scott helped me get in tune with the art and what works best with their style--the learning curve won't be there. I won't be coloring it exactly the same as 'Batman,' but the base approach will be similar. I am also a little more used to the attention the project gets so no more stage fright [laughs]."

In trying to convey the essence of Superman through color, Sinclair says that the change in writers [Jeph Loeb wrote "Batman"] has altered his approach. "We're all doing some things artistically different than on 'Batman' since both characters are almost opposites. At first I thought it was going to be really hard to create mood with a character that is supposed to be the ideal hero. Brian's script is great because he's showing a side of Superman that hasn't been written before. When you consider Superman, you think of a hero in the purest form. I am trying some stuff with his colors to help convey that."

But Sinclair isn't feeling any pressure and laughs, "I think Brian and Jim have the most pressure on them. I am along for the ride and loving every minute of it! ['Superman'] doesn't need to be number one, but it would be nice if it was. Then again, that's something you strive for with everything you work on. We want to have at least the same level of quality on the story and art, making sure that it doesn't feel just like the 'Batman' stuff."

Having worked on "Batman" for some time now, Sinclair has a clear vision of how to interpret the character through color, but with Superman, it is still fresh. "I'm still early on in the series so I haven't changed it too much. It is definitely a very different approach than with Batman. Superman flies around wearing Blue, Red and Yellow--not the easiest colors to disguise with ambient lighting. Rather than do that Jim felt that it was best to have the suit really jump out. At first I thought he was drinking too much Italian coffee, but once I tried it out I realized how good it looked. Jim's stuff continues to amaze me!"

But Sinclair is able to put aside that amazement and do his job- though his inner fanboy wants to scream "look at those pencils!"- and he breaks down the process of coloring Jim's cover work, specifically the cover to "Superman #205," for CBR readers.

"Image A: This is what I get from Scott Williams after he's done inking over Jim's Pencils. I scan at art board size (11" x 17") and 1200 DPI and color for a 600 DPI output. It's a huge file, but most of Jim's art is used later on as a poster or for consumer products so it saves time in the long run to do everything at a high resolution

"Image B: I first go through the image and select each element and fill it with a flat color. It's at this stage that I start to figure out the color scheme I will use for the page/cover. I also establish the value scale. Most of the colors you see here are my starting colors as well. I mostly color dark to light; although there are book that I color traditionally--light to dark.

"Image C: This is the file entirely rendered, but not yet completed. I kept the backgrounds all warm with light values and used cool colors and darker values for the bullets and missiles. With Batman, I colored him to blend in to his surroundings since he's not the type of character that likes standing out. Jim, Scott and I talked about keeping Superman's costume colors as unaffected as possible to make him really jump out.

"Image D: Most of the time, this is the last step for me--the special effects. I blurred the bullets in the extreme foreground; added slight reflective glows to some of the bullets; color held the smoke cloud in the background; and added some smoke in the mid-ground to separate the different levels and add some atmospheric perspective. Oh, and I added a slight red glow to Superman's eyes for that really ticked-off look!

"Image E: After looking at what I thought was a finished piece, I felt like it was missing something. I started adding "trails" to all the bullets. I got halfway through and realized that it looked waaaay too busy with all the trailers. I got rid of all save six or seven of them to help sell that the bullets are flying towards him at an incredible speed."

If just tackling one character wasn't challenging enough, "Indiana" Sinclair has embarked on an even bigger project- the seven-issue "Identity Crisis" mini-series that promises to change the DCU (DC Universe). "Reference, reference, reference!" says Sinclair of the challenges the series presents. "That money I invested in a complete run of 'Who's Who in the DC Universe' is finally going to pay off. Brad has everybody in this series and I need to make sure they are all colored correctly. Mike Carlin, who's editing, and I are going to have to earn our pay with this one. I don't know that there is a difference between my approaches to projects based on what company I am doing them for. I approach each book and artists differently, trying to compliment his or her style. I feed off the script as well so each book has different elements I consider before I break out the crayons."

But Sinclair isn't going to talk about those scripts. As "Identity Crisis" artist Rags Morales and inker Mike Bair have told CBR News previously, details of the series are very guarded. "All I know is that a guy showed up at my door with the script, had me read it, and give it right back so he could take it back to Carlin. 'Hush' got my feet wet with the whole secrecy thing. I actually like not knowing so I don't ask for clues or scripts way in advance. Helps me stay excited about a project. Keeps me from accidentally spilling the beans too!

"So far it's about the same [as the secrecy in 'Hush']. I didn't know who Hush was until I saw the art for the last issue, a month or so before the book hit the stores. I've only read the first issue of 'Identity Crisis.' Brad is a very talented writer and if that issue is any indication, the rest of the series will be awesome."

Along with writer Jeph Loeb and artist Jim Lee, Sinclair will be returning to "Batman" to continue where the team left off, but he'll also be sliding down the Bat-Poles a little earlier. "I am returning to 'Batman' with issue #626. It is being written by Judd Winick and Drawn by Dustin Nguyen and Richard Friend. I am glad to be working on a Judd Winick project because I am a fan of his work. Dustin, Richard and I go back a few years since we've all worked (Richard and I still do) at Wildstorm. This is the first time I am coloring their art on a monthly and I must say that I love what they are doing. Always a good thing to return to Batman."

As an editor at Wildstorm, Sinclair has dipped his feet in a variety of projects, but one of them is Superman related, namely the "Vigilante" series that showcases a new version of the cult-favorite DC hero. "It's a new take on an old character. Micah ("Stormwatch: Team Achilles") Wright is writing and Carlos ("Thundercats: Hammerhand's Revenge") D'Anda is doing the art. I am so excited to be editing a DC book. A little nervous too, but mostly excited. We get to play in Metropolis and Superman does make an appearance so it's not like we're showcasing a DC character and the stories don't fall into continuity. I get to interact with the guys at DC and hope to soak up some editing knowledge along the way."

Sinclair is also editing Wildstorm's versions of "Robotech" and "Thundercats," two popular 80's properties that have proven successful but also been criticized for being "nostalgia" comics and not succeeding on their own merits. Some fans have argued that DC's "Teen Titans" and "Outsiders" comic series, new interpretations of series that helped to popularize DC in the 80's, are just as "nostalgic." "I think people may see the nostalgia titles as a trend that will eventually end. I disagree. Both 'Thundercats' and 'Robotech' have great characters and many untold stories that the fans of both properties would love to see published. We're trying to get these stories out to them. There is a new 'Thundercats' mini-series that will be in stores in June. It is written by John Layman with awesome art by the gang at Udon studios."

A frequently asked question by fans is the release date of "Wetworks," the re-launch of the popular 90's series by some high profile creators. "Launch date is still being discussed, but Mike Carey, Whilce Portacio, and Trevor Scott are already hard at work," admits Sinclair and adds the series is exciting to edit because, "Mike Carey, Whilce Portacio, and Trevor Scott--Each of these creators is so talented that the end product is awesome! I have always been a big fan of 'Wetworks' and good friends with Whilce. Now we get to work together on a project that we both want to see succeed. Mike's scripts are intense and Trevor is making Whilce's art really shine."

For another year, Sinclair has been nominated by "Wizard" (the most popular comic book related magazine) for it's annual Fan Award for coloring. "It is very flattering. It's nice to know that the fans appreciate the work I did over the last year. No fans equals no work and to have them take the time to vote for me makes every extra sleepless hour worth it," he admits. "Of course [Sinclair could stand to lose]--I am a fan of everyone else nominated! I would vote for them, but the guys at Wizard said they can find out if you vote more than once. Kinda scary if you ask me..."

While he hasn't been nominated for an award for his role as an editor, Sinclair admits, "I'm still green. I always strive to do the best I can with every job I do. Do I hope to get nominated in the future? Of course. Nothing would please me more than knowing that the fans enjoy that facet of my career as well."

On a different note, 2003 was a big year for the Sinclair family and the colorist is happy to share his joy with readers. "It was a good year all around for the Sinclair clan. My wife, Rebecca is about to get her college degree. She had to take some time off from school to have our four daughters and I am very proud of her for wanting to finish her studies and graduate. Let's just say that there's gong to be a huge party come graduation day! My daughters continue to grow and show me what the important things in life really are. Nothing compares to a smile or a hug from one of them. Some highlights: Grace (10) reads faster than I do-no joke; Blythe (7) made the All-Star soccer team; Meredith (4) rides and does tricks on her bike with no training wheels; and Harley (2), well, let's just say that I don't have to worry about changing diapers again until I am a grandpa [laughs]."

In closing, Sinclair feels that colorists are slowly gaining the respect they deserve and he hopes that trend continues. "Now that many colorists have learned to use the computer as a medium rather than a toy or a tool, our contributions have become a very important part of comics. Many writers and artists ask for specific colorists because they realize that the right colorist can improve a book. I belong to a colorist message board. In general, we feel that colorists add more and more to the overall package. Most professionals out there appreciate all our efforts and hard work, but there are people out there who still see us as an unimportant link in the chain. Someday..."

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