Gene Ha and I seem to be on a roll. I can’t express how much I appreciate the advantage of working with Gene. Let’s put aside for the moment the advantages of working with a friend and highly-talented penciller/inker. To get the level of detail and realism we all know and love him for, lately Gene’s been getting gigs that consist of one or maybe two issues. Perhaps out of a lack of confidence, I tend to approach each new project (be it a single issue or series or graphic novel) as if I’ve never colored a comic before. These two forces combine when I work with Gene, such that I can really just rethink how I do things on nearly every project Gene and I do together, and I’ve been doing this more and more lately. It can be maddening and time-consuming, but liberating as well. Re-inventing my approach requires experimentation, and that takes time, but the results seem to be making people happy and it pays some of the bills and I can usually look at the final, printed product and be happy with much of it, so yay, us!
So, since this issue is nearly all flashbacks to 1838, Gene wanted a moody paper texture worked into the art. We had done something similar on an early, unpublished cover for Project Superman, but this was the first time I had incorporated a paper texture into my coloring on a whole issue. I took advantage of this texture to help make characters and items stand out on the page or in a panel, by lessening the texture in those areas. This has the effect of making the black line art and the colors themselves stand out more than then other areas with more texture over them, and voila: a hopefully subtle 3-D effect.
Gene also said he wanted subdued colors, and referenced our muted palette on TOP 10: THE FORTY-NINERS as an example. If I had a time-machine, I would go back and make my work on TOP 10 about 10 times better, but this was my chance to give that look another whack. The colors here are generally more saturated and more focused on the mood of a scene than most of what I did on THE FORTY-NINERS. My initial instincts as a colorist back then were to go for bright, bold colors, but for most of what I was doing at the start of my career I had to tone that way down. In the last couple-few years I’ve had to train myself to punch things up. Working on Justice league #7 and Action Comics #3 and #9 really helped with that.
I think I could have done more with the shadow-spirits in the climax, maybe by adding some highlights or “reverse shadows” to make them seem more three-dimensional. I’m fascinated by how many different ways there are to give a two-dimensional image a sense of real depth, so I’m always looking for new ways to do that.
James Robinson talks about his work on The Shade and has very nice things to say about the work Gene and I did in an interview over at Comic Book Resources.
Doug Zawisza gave the whole thing a bunch of stars in his review at CBR.