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

Posts tagged ‘top ten’


THE SHADE #12, by James Robinson, Gene Ha, me!, and Todd Klein. Edited by Wil Moss. Published by DC Comics, release date September 12th, 2012.

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 We had done something similar on an early, unpublished cover for Project Superman, but this was the first time I had incorporated a paper texture into my coloring on a whole issue.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.

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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