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Is it round or is it flat? What bugs me about comics coloring

Jones, one of the Jones Boys, was complaining about the recoloring of Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer the other day, and looking at the original and recolored art side by side made me realize what I find so off-putting about a lot of comics art these days: The use of gradients alongside heavy black lines.

Back when I was studying art, I was taught never to do that. The reason: Lines are flat, while shading implies three-dimensionality, and the two compete with one another. That’s an oversimplification, of course — you can create a three-dimensional space with purely linear art, but that’s very different from the smoother, modeled effect you get by using light and shade.

The clash isn’t too bad in the cover that Jones picked out, but the re-colored splash page he reproduces (a bit too sexy to lead this post) is tough for me to look at; the colorist has added a lot of shadows and modeling, and it’s way too busy. The fact is that comics in that era were designed for flat colors, and the gradients that are possible with new technology are doing them no favors. And conversely, if you’re going to paint a comic, don’t run black lines around all the shapes. I think this is one of the reasons I find some modern superhero comics hard to “read” visually. (There are other reasons as well, but you don’t have all day.)

Take a look at Jones’ post and see if you don’t agree.


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