Robot 6

Marvel’s secret weapon: color

Justin Ponsor's work with textures

So claims former Marvel Talent Coordinator Bon Alimagno in his latest portfolio review at iFanboy. And I believe him.

Alimagno was at Marvel from 2009 to 2011, and during that time he helped to establish a system of colorists pinch hitting on deadline crunches. But perhaps more significantly, he helped foster a house style based not on a specific penciler’s style but on a color palette he nicknamed “the perfect sunset” palette.

“From my time at Marvel, the editors valued colorists with warmer palettes rooted in playing off reds and oranges and lighter yellows and blues. Led by Richard Isanove, Laura Martin and Justin Ponsor, this style set the tone for the entire line and gave Marvel’s comics a much more inviting look and feel than most of the DC Comics line.”

This kind of consistent color tone could also help other books stand out when they broke the pattern. As he explains, Dean White’s work on Uncanny X-Force, which went against this palette by using whites, helped turn a lot of heads to Jerome Opeña’s art. The next time you’re at the comic shop, take a look at Marvel’s new releases and see if you can identify what palette is being used.

Alimagno also describes how colorists can be used to strengthen artists not quite at star status. “Indeed, there’s a strategy that for the most part works where you position your best colorists specifically over a talent that hasn’t become a big name yet, but that you hope develops into a star. Excellent “A” level coloring would enhance a developing penciler’s strengths to the point that a publisher could expect they’d get a larger following. Eventually when that penciler’s name grew big enough a publisher could then shift that colorist to another penciler to help develop.”

Writers and pencilers are still by and large considered the headlining talent in comics today. They’re the names that appear first, and until relatively recently were the only two creator credits that would appear on covers. But appealing colors are a powerful weapon in grabbing eyeballs and selling comics, and clearly publishers like Marvel recognize this by signing their most valuable colorists to exclusive contracts.

There’s more interesting behind-the-scene commentary at the link, and next week Alimagno will take a look at inkers.



This is so true. The coloring really makes Marvel’s books standout in my opinion. The consistency that Dean White has brought to X-Force is remarkable with the different artists that have been featured. he totally changed the feel of some of the artists with his colors. The one issue where he didn’t color is the one with the weakest art.

Interesting stuff. I haven’t read a ton of Marvel recently aside from Daredevil but that book certainly has nice colors, especially the recent issues done by Chris Samnee.

I think as coloring technology has evolved over the years, it’s allowed colorists to create more elaborate, diverse work and therefore stand out more as individual artists. They’re still not appreciated on the same level as pencilers , but guys like Dave Stewart are legendary. The best colorists create a mood and texture all their own while fitting the style of the linework. Like you don’t want muddy, over rendered colors with a guy like Darwyn Cooke.

Totally agree. Dean White is a huge part of the “feel” of X-Force. Like another commenter said, he makes the book more uniform across artists because of his coloring.

The colouring on Marvel’s books is great. But i do think that the thing that makes Marvel stand out is the writing. It’s the strongest out of the big two, and beats the crap out of the smaller companies quite often too. Now, i’m sure people will bitch and moan about Marvel just rehashing old ideas, but that’s like saying a story is the same every week, the hero turns up, has a fight and saves the day. It’s not the destination, it’s the journey, and Marvel knows that.
Further more, it’s rare to have a book people buy because the artwork is good. Terrible artwork can be saved by great writing, but great artwork rarely saves terrible writing. So yes, colouring is important, and somewhat of an ace up the sleeve: but the thing that’s ALWAYS set Marvel apart is storytelling, and the focus on character just as much as everything else.

I also think the coloring on Conan the Barbarian from DH is excellent.

I’ve said it for years. Their paper is an issue too. DC’s coloring and paper combination are incredibly bad.

I enjoy great coloring, but it’s a lot less important than having a great story and great art (storytelling). Even great lettering — that means clear, unobtrusive lettering (not some godawful font) — is more important to me than colors.

I quite enjoy reading the colorless Marvel Essentials and DC Showcase Presents. And I still enjoy reading Silver Age comics, which were colored pretty horribly, except for the work of the great Jack Adler.

I want to know why Marvel Masterworks and DC Archives are colored so poorly, so garishly. I’ve been reading hardback reprints by Dark Horse, IDW, and Fantagraphics, and they all have better colors and more appropriate paper than the Big Two.

bettie breitweiser is an amazing colorist. over the last few years on almost every book whose art i loved i found her name on credits. i would be reading and stop and go wow this looks great who did this? there would be many different artists and inkers but her name kept showing up. i started thinkibg of those books as her first before the artists.

Oh so that’s why a lot of Marvel covers had such a shitty, muddy colour palette for the longest time…. It’s funny because I was just thinking the other day how much I’m now loving the colours Marvel cover have had in recent months – probably because “the prefect bullshit sunset” philosophy has gone out the window. Good on you, Marvel! About time….

wow revelation … its been what I’ve thought of the longest time (although that thought also included the inkers) … gone so far as to hope and pray certain artists are paired with certain colourists …

(the run down excludes the comic’s settings and themes, just pure pencils, ignoring the inkers, and colour)

(Mike Choi &)
Sonia Oback on X-Men #204 and their X-Force V.2 run,
Frank D’Armata on Astonishing Thor
Both VERY visually appealing, but i think the Oback partnership was better

(Ibraim Roberson &)
Brian Reber on New Mutants during Second Coming crossover
Jim Charalampidis on Generation Hope
My opinion, I’d have opted for more of Charalampidis

(Billy Tan &)
Frank D’Armata on Uncanny X-Men during Messiah Complex
Andres Mossa on X-Men: Regenesis one-shot
Dean White on Uncanny X-Force #08 & #09
I didn’t like the D’Armata version, the Mossa version was better and the White version was the best

(Andy Kubert &)
Richard Isanove on Wolverine: Origin and Marvel 1602
or Brad Anderson on Before Watchmen: Nite Owl?
I’d opt for the Isanove

Then there are the mainstays like Justin Ponsor, who was around almost through the entire Uncanny X-Men 500-545 run (which cycled through mainly Land and the Dobsons), or Dean White’s run on Uncanny X-Force AND Frank D’Armata (although also a mainstay at Marvel) i don’t think he work’s well with everyone (David Finch was a good partner, other than that very few).

I KNOW I’ve seen Laura Martin’s name all over, but for the life of me, i can’t remember where. Can anyone help?

Also, if you have dissenting opinions, it would be great to hear them

Leave a Comment


Browse the Robot 6 Archives