For the past two years, I’ve taken a week in January to talk about colorists. Really, I try to talk about colorists as much as I can because they are an integral part of a comic’s success. Coloring greatly affects central storytelling tools like tone and mood, with certain combinations of colors being used to evoke specific emotional responses from readers. Matt Hollingsworth’s mixed media splatter effects throw you off guard in the horrifying “Wytches.” Jordie Bellaire infused the retro-stylish “Flash Gordon” with smooth pop-pulp energy. Marte Gracia punctuates his realistic lighting with eye-catching splashes of superhero-bold colors in “All-New Captain America.” Bettie Breitweiser reinvented her luscious style, creating period appropriate palettes in “The Fade Out” with meticulously placed color swatches. Matt Wilson succeeded at making a usually over-the-top — and sometimes avoided — color like purple downright menacing in “Daredevil’s” Purple Man arc. Colorists were very important this year, as they have been every year, and those aforementioned hall-of-famers all knocked it out of the park again this year.
That’s why I’m not calling this list the best colorists of 2014 anymore. As of last year, I’m now runnin’ this operation hall-of-fame-style. There are so many great colorists out there; we’re experiencing a golden age of comic book art unlike any before, so I want to talk about five new — to me, at least — colorists. Let’s get inductin’.
In Your Face Jam’s Colorists of the Year: 2014 Inductees
I have to start off by saying that all five of these colorists worked on a lot of comics last year. I’m only going to shout out the titles I read, though, to give everyone reading this list an idea of where my brain is at with these absolutely spot-on selections. Now let’s get to inductin’.
Ian Herring (“Ms. Marvel”)
No-brainer. “Ms. Marvel” was named CBR’s #1 comic book of 2014 because it features creators bringing their A-game in every role, coming together to form a totally unique whole. I had previously only seen artist Adrian Alphona’s work colored by the brilliant Christina Strain; I had no idea what to expect from his work when someone else placed his lines under their digital brush. Ian Herring’s colors work so well with Alphona’s art and cause his linework to work on a whole different level than his previous “Runaways” work. Herring’s texturized touch makes the book feel nostalgic, like forgotten images from your favorite storybook. The book’s slightly muted colors look like how memories appear in your head; they make me think of yesterday, when I was Kamala’s age, and help me get into her mindset. This book is warm and inviting, and reading “Ms. Marvel” feels like a welcome experience every month thanks to Herring’s colors.
Jason Latour (“Southern Bastards”)
Latour gets props for the other hats he wears — writing and illustrating. It’s time we all talked specifically about how evocative the minimalist coloring style he rocks on “Southern Bastards” is. Everything in the book feels like it’s been cloaked in southern restriction, from the way the sky is perpetually an unremarkable beigish yellow to the fact that no color — not the blue of Earl’s shirt or the gold on any football trophy — is allowed to fully shine. Everything is held down and held back — except for red. The colors let you know that the only thing of value in Coach Boss’ town has to be bathed in blood red: his coach’s uniform, every motivating memory, every purposeful lightning strike and, of course, blood itself.
Jordan Boyd (“Star Wars: Legacy,” “Savage Hulk”)
I would have to imagine that coloring any “Star Wars” book is a hard gig. You’re working in a universe that has a palette that’s been clearly established in a couple of movies that a few people have seen. It’s daunting. On top of that, “Star Wars: Legacy” was one of the best-looking “Star Wars” comics around thanks to Gabriel Hardman’s art and Rachelle Rosenberg’s collaboration. Jordan Boyd had Gamorrean-sized shoes to fill when he took over the series, and he did not disappoint. His work with Hardman in 2014 continued to thrill, especially as Boyd showed off different sides of his work. His “Legacy” had the classic trilogy feel down, alternating between the griminess of lived in cockpits and the pristine buildings on Coruscant, but also adventured into new territory. Boyd had to figure out how to color a glass storm and created a scene that stuck with me all year.
Rico Renzi (“She-Hulk,” “Edge of Spider-Verse”)
You gotta make room on the list for the guy that colored quite possibly the most fashionable superhero of the year. Rico Renzi’s done-in-one take on Gwen Stacy’s Spider-Woman changed the game when it came to how superhero comics should look. This was a forward-thinking coloring job for a forward-thinking character. An electric green spidey-sense, neon blue shoe soles — heck, Renzi even colored Gwen’s mask’s faded eye shadow masala before it was named Pantone’s color of 2015. To me, Renzi’s the most punk rock colorist in comics. He takes a lot of risks and readers reap the rewards.
Rachelle Rosenberg (“Cable and X-Force,” “Superior Foes of Spider-Man,” “Amazing X-Men,” “Nightcrawler,” “Captain America and the Mighty Avengers”)
Just look at those credits. Rachelle Rosenberg was all over my pull-list in 2014. The thing is, Rosenberg is probably the best straight up superhero colorist working today. Rosenberg’s work with Marvel Comics in 2014 feels instantly classic, like you can draw a line connecting her back to the great Glynis Wein. She does not shy away from color — Nightcrawler is blue, Shocker is yellow — yet somehow manages to make every single classic costume work in harmony with the other ones. Her work never clashes, which is a hard feat when you have a cast as colorful as the one in “Superior Foes of Spider- Man.” And when stories go dark, Rosenberg can crank up the emotional intensity — like Shocker’s explosive revenge at the end of “Superior Foes” #14 — and still keep the superhero tone. When I think of superheroes, they’re sporting Rosenberg’s colors.
Brett White is a comedian living in New York City. He makes videos for the Upright Citizens Brigade as a member of UCB1 and writes for the sketch comedy podcast Left Handed Radio. His opinions can be consumed in bite-sized morsels on Twitter (@brettwhite).
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