ART LYON: design, editing, writing, illustration, digital coloring, and other arcane secrets.

Posts tagged ‘colorist’

VILLAINS MONTH! Superman 23.2 and Action Comics #23.2!


This week – today, even! – you can find these two lovely items at your local comic book store. I colored them, from Gene Ha’s mighty pencils and inks. Published by DC Comics.

All of DC’s “New 52” comics this month are part of their “Villains Month” event, wherein all the comics in September feature stories focusing on villains common to each respective title – and ALL of them have 3-D covers! ALL OF THEM! This is a massive undertaking, and I commend DC on their bravery and glorious insanity!

3-D covers are quite complicated to produce, as you might imagine – both from an illustration and a production/printing viewpoint. Gene produced 3 illustrations for each cover with different dimensions and proportions than for a regular cover. I needed to assemble and color each illustration and provide DC’s production department with three separate, finished files for each cover. In a normal 2-D illustration you would not see things that are behind something closer to the viewer, but in 3-D you can sort of see behind objects, so that normally-hidden stuff has to be there as finished art.

Below you will see the three layers of line art Gene so magnificently produced. For Superman 23.2 I provided DC’s production department with two options: one with a colored background and one with a mostly white background. There was some confusion about how to execute these covers, I guess, and at one point near my completion of the Superman cover I was informed that the backgrounds needed to be white. So, I gave them both and let them work it out.

I finished the Action cover after I was informed of this white background thing, and luckily I had planned on making the background very light and minimal anyway, so I just went even further in that direction with it. I wasn’t happy with the background, but I thought it was what they wanted.

I guess there was some communication break-down or change of plans, because a different background was added. generally I’d say it looks better this way, although the color choices are too similar to the foreground and middle-ground colors, which kind of mitigates the “pop” of those colors. Of course, in 3-D getting the colors to “pop” is maybe not so big a deal.

I should stress that I don’t fault anyone at DC for any of the confusion involved. It’s a minor miracle that any comic gets into your hands without errors or mis-steps, there are so many things that can go wrong. This is why I bow before the good people in the industry’s production departments.

Go check out the covers this month – they are super-snazzy!

ART! History Lesson #2: GLOBAL FREQUENCY #12

GLOBAL FREQUENCY #12, by Warren Ellis, Gene Ha, Art Lyon, and Michael Heisler, published in August, 2004 by Wildstorm Publications.

Gene Ha and I started on this final issue of Warren Ellis‘ techno-thriller  when we were about half way through our work on Top Ten: The Forty-Niners. It was a great change of pace, and I learned a lot that I then carried over to my work on The 49ers. The 49ers had a generally muted, realistic, subdued, post-WWII look, and on GF I got to cut loose and do all kinds of crazy digital stuff and (relatively speaking) cranked up the colors. I actually put about a jillion times more effort into the computer imagery than I did into actually coloring Gene’s art.

Global Frequency #12 was nominated for that year’s Best Single Issue Eisner award.

GLOBAL FREQUENCY volume 2, “DETONATION RADIO”, reprints Global Frequency #7-12. Well worth the money. Pick up volume 1 while you’re at it.

For a long time, this was my favorite coloring job I had ever done. I found all the work I put into the “gutters” (the spaces between panels) and backgrounds very satisfying. I’m noodly that way.

Here’s page 2, uncropped and without text or word ballons – essentially the final file I turned in.

For the collected edition, Gene did a portrait of me as a rough-and-ready member of the Global Frequency. I added the computer read-out stuff  and the background. Hopefully I’m doing good in some war-torn Middle-Eastern country.

ART! History lesson #1: TOP TEN: THE FORTY-NINERS!


A 96-page graphic novel by Alan Moore, Gene Ha, Art Lyon, Ellen Starr Lyon, and Todd Klein, published in 2005 by Wildstorm Publications as part their “America’s Best Comics” line. Go buy it now!

THE FORTY-NINERS is wanted for murder! It killed two of my monitors. One of them died as I was uploading the last pages to Wildstorm – I had to call my editor Scott Dunbier to make sure the files got there, because I couldn’t see anything on my computer to check it myself!

Gene introduced me to comic book colorist exemplar Alex Sinclair at the 2001 San Diego Comicon. We got a tour of Wildstorm’s offices. Unbeknownst to me at the time (mostly because I’m dense), Gene already had it in his head to make me into a colorist. Silly Gene!

Around the end of 2002, I started coloring THE FORTY-NINERS. I had taken a Photoshop class in 1993, and by 2002 I was using it for cover design at a print-on-demand publisher. I was tragically bored at that dreary, dreary office job, and I quit in 2003, foolishly assuming that coloring was some sort of real job. On Monday, August 4th of that year, I started my life as a “full-time” professional comic book colorist. I sat down at the computer after breakfast, and stopped for lunch on the back deck with my wife Ellen and one year-old son. I picked blueberries in the back yard for our dessert. Life is good.

To the right is the first bit of conceptual art I got from Gene, and possibly the first thing I had colored–albeit very simply–since 1994 (for a comic called Exile Earth, but more on that later).

Below is the image I put together for the stamp seen on the box containing Leni’s Besensteil on page 20. It’s the old Comics Code Authority seal of approval – in German! We comic artists love our visual jokes and homages.

Unfairly uncredited in the book is my wife Ellen Starr Lyon. Ellen is a very talented oil painter, and she wrestled with watercolors for the sake of moving the pages along at a quicker pace, laying down some background and character ink-washes.  I discussed her being credited with me as a colorist very early on in the process, and I guess I assumed that was all settled, and forgot about it. When the hardcover edition was published and I saw her name was not there, I pointed it out but clearly didn’t put a fine enough point on it, because her name is also not in the trade paperback edition. Grrr. I’m going to see what I can do about future editions.

So, clearly I had almost no idea what I was doing on this book, both as a colorist and as a professional. I mean, colored a third of it on a 13″ monitor with a mouse! Yeesh.

Even my amateur sensibilities and lack of know-how couldn’t ruin another Moore/Ha masterpiece, though: it won the Eisner award for 2005’s Best Graphic Album (New). I went to the 2006 San Diego Comicon despite the expense, and wound up viewing the awards ceremony with the audience rather than sitting at the guest/nominees tables because I wasn’t on the stupid guest list–though technically I wasn’t nominated. That’s what I get for not being more assertive: I missed out on the guests-only dinner tables and had to settle for the audience’s finger-food buffet of weak-sauced meatballs and bread!

Did I mention this thing took about 2 years to finish? Because it did.

I think I got the hang of it about half way through–just in time for the vampire brothel sequence!

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