Color in Comicsology

Spread for Hawaiian Dick, written by B. Clay Moore.

Color in comics is probematic. A lot of great cartoonists avoid color entirely, and their work is stronger for it. Some of the greats feel that color doesn't have a place in comics at all, that it pollutes the experience. I don't know that I'd go that far, but most of what I've got on my shelf is black and white. This isn't because I think that color in comics is a bad idea, or that it pollutes the experience.

It's just absurdly difficult to make color work in the medium.

A single color illustration is a difficult thing to manage. The color needs to express and suggest the illustration's message, manipulate the viewer's emotions, and please the viewer enough that they want to look at it.

In comics, the problem is compounded by the number of illustrations on a page. Because each panel is a unique illustration with it's own mood, purpose, and context, the color in each panel needs to serve a function specific to itself. Unlike a single illustration, however, the individual panels must also work together on the page to maintain a larger color harmony between panels and even pages so that the the spread remains pleasing to the viewer as a whole. Expanding color harmony even further helps to tie the story together visually, and give mood to the work as a whole, rather than just a panel or even just one spread. But then the range of color available to express emotion in any given panel is further limited, and storytelling becomes more difficult.

In this spread, I tried to solve the problem by subjugating my other panels to the splash page on the left. I did my best to articulate the emotional and narrative content of each individual panel within the chromatic range I established in the splash. Storytelling within the limits of color harmony.

Hopefully, I'll find newer, more creative solutions to the problem. Some of my friends do really grand stuff with very limited color, which is a really elegant way to conquer the beast. I like a broad range of color in my work, but that puts me at odds with myself. The more ground you give it, the more complicated your palette, the closer color comes to swallowing you whole and ruining your work.

Freakin' comics.