Colorist Appreciation Day, an impromptu Twitter-holiday generated to celebrate the oft-forgotten art of comic book coloring, has come and gone. But given the spirit behind said holiday, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t celebrate the colorist alongside the writers and artists that we talk about every day here at Multiversity Comics. We sat down with Jordie Bellaire before the new year to talk about her craft, so be sure to check that out.
We were also lucky enough to sit down with Val Staples, a “staple” in the modern comic coloring world and longtime collaborator with artist Tony Moore, to talk about his recent work on Marvel NOW! “Deadpool” and a little bit about the industry. He’s a super good dude and we enjoyed chatting with him.
Hi Val! Thanks for agreeing to sit down and have a back-and-forth about your work as a colorist. Let’s start off by talking about Deadpool for a bit.
You’ve worked with Tony Moore during his short stint on “Venom”, as well as on “Battle Pope.” How would you describe the working relationship that you have with Tony when compared to doing other work-for-hire?
Val Staples: When you color good art, it’s easy. And Tony is an amazing artist. The colors come natural when you color his art. We’ve both evolved over the years and Tony seems to trust me to handle his art correctly which means a lot.
When you first knew that you and Tony would be doing Deadpool, what were the concepts that started coming to mind for an approach to the character and his world? Were you aware of the specific story points you’d be working with? (Dead presidents and whatnot)
VS: Nope, I’m along for the ride like everyone else! When I get the art and the script, it’s all a surprise for me. But, that’s fun. I get to geek out and have my own fan moments while seeing what happens next in the story.
We can see you bring depth to the visual style of the comic through the grotesqueries of Wade Wilson’s decrepit body, as well as the rotting undead presidents that are running rampant through the series. First of all, terrific work. Second of all, when planning something very specific like coloring “decaying flesh”, do you run through a variety of palettes or do you pretty much know what your product is going to look like?
VS: A lot of the times I go with my first instinct. You’ll notice the zombie presidents are mostly a yellowish green color. Decaying flesh rarely looks like this. But I went that way because humor is an important element to Deadpool and I felt it was comical to use a stereotypical color for the living dead.
What techniques did you use on Deadpool? Physically and conceptually. Did you try anything differently on this project than in projects of the recent past?
VS: So far I haven’t deviated much. For the most part, it’s about fun, eye-popping values. My goal is to make the book as fun with the colors as it is with the script and artwork.
How fresh does your approach become after an arc is over? Do you now have a Deadpool “palette” that you will generally work within? How much room do you leave yourself for experimentation?
VS: The values change more per the scene or the environment so the reader can tie things together with color cues. I’m not doing a lot of experimentation because I don’t feel this book is really the place for it. In my opinion, Deadpool is more about entertainment so I try to make the colors reflect that.
What has been the most satisfying thing about working on one of Marvel’s most currently popular characters?
VS: Reading comments online and knowing a lot of people enjoy it. It’s a great feeling to know in some small way I helped to make this current Deadpool project something readers like.
Where did your interest in comics come from?
VS: I’d say it was from other children in school when I was young. I knew about comics because of Archie which I thought and still think is a great comic. But my parents didn’t buy them and I didn’t ask for them because I was sort of unaware of comics as a whole. But one time in 4th grade, this kid brought in his comic collection for show and tell. I was fascinated, especially with his issue 1 of the Punisher limited series. I sought comics out after that when I was in grocery stores and pharmacies with my mother.Continued below
How did you envision your artistic career happening and were there (or are there still) any other aspects of comic booking that you’d like to explore?
VS: I was never sure I would have a career in comics. For the longest time, it was merely a fantasy. But one day I just decided to get off the pot and do something about it. And that’s when my friend Matt Tyree, who also loves comics, and I got together and started exploring comics as something we could do.
I want to do more writing. Right now I’m still coloring most of the time until I’m in a financial place where I feel comfortable letting go some of my color work to focus again on writing. And if that works, I’d like to get back to art and doing my own digitally painted covers.
What work are you most proud of, and why do you feel that way?
VS: That’s tough to say. I’m proud of a LOT of my work over the years. Projects that really stand out are Battle Pope, Criminal, Incognito and Masters of the Universe. Battle Pope was a fun book and I loved working with Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore. Criminal and Incognito were great for exploration and personal growth and I’m grateful Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips gave me the opportunity to cut loose on those titles. And Masters of the Universe was a fanboy dream come true. As a matter of fact, the very first thing I explored doing when I tried to break into comics was a new He-Man comic. I had no idea that dream would actually come true so that was an amazing experience and opportunity.
Coloring in comic books is an overlooked aspect of the final product. I know I’m guilty of forgetting to mention how the colorist added to the visuals that are on the page. Is it simply that the penciller is the “star” in the eyes of the media and the fans?
VS: Well, the penciller is the heavy lifter on the art. He/She often puts down the foundation of everything you see. If they so choose, they could create their art so it could stand alone as black and white. So, the penciller being the star in terms of the art makes perfect sense.
But when colors are involved, it brings a new level to the book. Any publisher or creator will tell you that colors can make or break a book. So a good colorist can push a comic to new heights if they are successful with how they render the line art.
How do you sell yourself to projects and publishers? How would you describe your “look” or your approach?
I don’t do much selling these days. I’m fortunate enough to be requested by a number of creators. I guess those bribes paid off!
I’m not sure what my look is. I can’t define a “Val Staples style.” Other people tell me they recognize my colors, but I have no idea what those identifying traits are. I merely set out to do the best job I can and hope people enjoy what I do.
Do you find that publishers, writers, and artists work hard enough to choose the right colorist for a book? Fans and bloggers might overlook it, but do other members of the creative team?
VS: Yeah, I think they do. Sometimes deadlines or colorist availability may limit finding the perfect match. But all the editors I’ve worked with seem to find a synergy with the look and feel of a project. Writers and/or artists may also have a particular colorist they seek out because they know they will compliment their art the way they want.
What do you have coming down the pipe after Deadpool? Any personal pet or dream projects that you have in the back of your mind?
VS: At Marvel, I have a Spider-Man project coming with the amazing Marco Rudy. I’m currently writing Divination over at MTV Geek. And Matt Tyree and I are working to get Callous going which a book we’ve wanted to do for a very long long time. I hope folks will check out Divination that’s up now on MTV Geek’s website (it’s free to read) and the other projects when they are released. Thank you so much to everyone who gives their support to those and all the past projects I’ve worked on. It means a lot.