It’s Abe Sapien Month at Multiversity! To see all sorts of Abe content, like our “Evolution of Abe Sapien” contest, fantastic original art, interviews and more, click here.
When talking about top shelf colorists in comics, the conversation usually begins, and sometimes ends, with Dave Stewart. A veteran of the Mignola books (but also known for his work outside of the Mignolaverse), his fearless palette and keen eye make every book he colors greater than the sum of its parts. We had the pleasure of chatting with him over email last week.
Recently, I remember someone on Twitter mentioning that they looked at the Eisner Awards for Best Colorist and immediately thought that they should retire you from the competition and just name the award after you. You’re undoubtedly one of the most respected and esteemed colorists in comics. But how did you first get into coloring, and what was it that appealed to you about that aspect of comics?
Dave Stewart: Thanks, guys. I wanted to be a penciler, but I was always curious how comics were colored, and considered it part of the art. In college my photoshop teacher at Portland Community College, Mark Conahan, and I figured out how to color comic pages. Before I knew it I was scanning in back and white art by other artists and coloring it at home on my Mac. One of my design teachers, Sharon Bronzan, had some contacts in Darkhorse Comics and set up a design internship for the summer. That turned into a job as a color separator. So really coloring was just a way into something I loved, comic art. I had an artistic interest in color and painting, but never really separated coloring as a career. As I worked in the color separating department I grew to appreciate the craft of comic book coloring, and couldn’t get enough.
DS: I started out as part of a team separating Mike’s books, translating painted guides into a vector based program called Tint Prep. Then I started exclusively separating Mike’s work and that led coloring. I think we just ended up working together pretty well. I wanted to complete his vision for the comics and work to make sure that happened.
What appeals to you about Mike’s books, as well as working on a long-form story like he’s going for with Hellboy and B.P.R.D.?
DS: The horror subject matter is great. It’s really fun to color monsters and ghosts. And the interweaving stories offer great payoffs. Baltimore too, the setting, creatures, and mood all make it great to color.
Talk us through the collaborative process between you and Mike. You talk about “completing his work,” so how much direction does he give you when you’re coloring one of his books? How is your working relationship with Mike different from other creators?
DS: Mike thinks about color in the design of his pages. So it might not always be a specific hue but maybe value or emotional tone he wants to hit. We talk over his personal books pretty thoroughly. On other books in the BPRD universe that’s a little more up to me and the creative team.
You’ve worked with him a lot, but we’re curious: what appeals to you about Abe Sapien as a character?
DS: Abe’s great. Despite the supernatural nature of the character he’s always very human. I’m really looking forward to the new series to see where that is taken. And he’s a fish man. Hard to beat it.
When working on a book with a “fish man.” as you call him, who has a very distinct color, how does his coloring affect the choices you make on the other parts of the book?
DS: Well, just keeping in mind any character’s color when choosing the environments tones is important. You want the figure to pop, but who knows the character’s color could relate to the environment or contrast the environment creating a sense of belonging or conflict, respectively.
“Abe Sapien: Dark and Terrible” #1 will be released on April 3. Tell your local comic shop to pre-order you a copy today, with the Diamond Code FEB130010!