How old are you and where are you from originally?
Forty-five. I grew up around Southern California, moving around a bit. We finally settled in Ojai, California, not too far from Ventura or Santa Barbara.
You now live in Croatia, though. How did you end so far away from home?
I was working in VFX (visual effects) for movies in Los Angeles and wanted to leave. I left film and returned to comics, then visited a friend in Croatia for a month. About 5 months later I moved here. Sort of just for the hell of it. I like it here though, so I will stay. Been here for seven years now.
Did you always want to be an artist?
Pretty much, yeah. I started drawing at a very young age because my mom drew. Since we moved a lot, I think that sort of made me resort to art since making new friends and losing them over and over got real old. So, I turned to art instead.
What inspired you to become a professional artist?
I read comics as a kid and decided at about age 13 that I wanted to work in comics.
Did you go to school for art or are you self-taught?
I went to the Joe Kubert School for cartooning in New Jersey, straight out of high school. I attended for three years and graduated. It's sort of like a tech school for comic book production. I had a really great painting teacher there named Dennis Corrigan who did a good job of getting me interested in painting.
I read mostly Marvel Comics stuff. Frank Miller's run on Daredevil; Claremont, Byrne and Austin's X-Men; Byrne's Fantastic Four; Sienkiewicz on Moon Knight. It was a good period to be reading Marvel Comics. I'm not really sure what appealed to me most about comics. I was into Greek mythology around the same time. Maybe the dynamic stories.
Did you have a hard time convincing art teachers and other such people that comics is a legitimate artform?
No, not really. Never really encountered that. Everybody was pretty good at encouraging me.
You're known for your coloring work these days - how did you get into coloring comics? Have you done any comics as a penciller or inker?
I started coloring for Marvel and DC straight out of the Kubert School. I got work from both of them on the same day, two days after graduating. While still in school I inked and black-and-white painted a story that was penciled by a roommate called Cry for Dawn. Other than that, I have always colored. I learned painting while at school and began coloring while still there. It's always been a good fit for me.
Whenever I see original comic book art, it's always stark black and white pages. I've never seen any original comic book art that was colored. So how exactly does coloring comics work? What kind of material do you use to color comics by hand?
It depends. I don't color by hand anymore but I used to a long time ago. I colored by hand from about 1991 until about 1995. Some books had fully painted colors, but that was rare. In those cases, we usually did what were called "blueline colors." For bluelines, the line art was printed onto illustration board in a non-reproduction blue, a kind of blue that the camera for the scanner would supposedly not pick up. This was not actually true, though. That blue would pick up. But it hardly mattered. On the board we had that, then on an acetate overlay we had the black line art. That would lay over top of the board. We would fully paint the colors on the board, then the overlay would go on top so it would have the line art. I would paint on the board, use a hair dryer to dry it, then lay down that acetate to see what it was shaping up like. Back and forth. I used mostly gouache when I did that stuff, but also a few other things - some dyes, some water colors, razor blades for tearing the board for rain effects, actual blood used to emulate dried blood on a page, etc.
The vast majority of books at that time used color guides, though, which were not fully painted colors. For the bluelines, they scanned in our actual painting and just used that. For color guides, they would give us black and white photocopies of the book. At the time, Marvel used horrible paper for this. Paper that was not nice to paint on. That sucked. DC was much better about that. They used a thin water color paper that held color much, much better and just worked nicer. I would paint on those photocopies, then write the CMYK codes for the colors that I was using on the pages. This was then handed off to a separator who would look at it and use those numbers to punch in the colors and then try to reproduce what I had done. In the old days, before computers, this was done by cutting out the various plates on amber or ruby lith from what I remember. Once computers arrived, the separations were done on the computer. What that all generally amounted to, though, was someone ruining my work. It was rare that they did a good job. Rendering would look wonky and it was usually better to use a bit flatter colors so they couldn't ruin the shading and such.
In the early days of my career, DC had only 64 colors. They had 25, 50 and 100% of cyan, magenta and yellow. No black and no 75%. So, mixes of those three percentages, which all added up to 64 colors. No blends. Marvel had the addition of the 75% of those, which took it up to 256 colors or something like that. And they sometimes had K tones. The K in CMYK stands for black and we called them K tones.
So, Marvel had more colors and sometimes even grads. That was nice, but their paper sucked. At that time in the 90s, Marvel was not very nice to work for, though, so I went more and more to DC. Things change over time, though. I have gone back and forth and worked for both for a long, long time.
You can see more about the color process on my website. On that front page, click "read more" under the Comics section. To see actual color guides, look in the gallery and hand painted colors section.
Computer colored comics started to emerge in the 1990s. In fact, Image Comics were known for pioneering that field. How do you color a comic by computer and what software do you use?
I started in 1995. At the time, computers were more expensive, at least Macs were. From what I remember, a chip factory had burned down and RAM prices were really high. I got a nice Mac and to load it with an additional 128 MEGS of RAM cost me $4500. Wow! Imagine that. I didn't have the money for that system which was about $12,000 total. DC Comics gave me an interest-free loan of $15,000 to buy a system and in exchange I signed exclusive with them, which sadly meant giving up one of my gigs, Hellboy. But it worked out okay. DC treated me very well. I signed for three years and paid them off over that time. I work in Photoshop and have for the last 18 years now. I tried Painter but it is way too slow and I simply don't like it.
To do the work, we receive black and white scans via an FTP server for Marvel or a different server called Accellion at DC. The pages are set up for color, colored, then put back on the server in color.
In the old days, DC would send me SyQuest cartridges of 44 or 88 megs. I would get a large Fedex box filled with these with a few pages on each cartridge. I'd load the colors on those and return them via Fedex. The disks would often get corrupted and die after even a single use. And they cost about $1 per meg, so it was expensive. Eventually DC paid for those, though. Zip disks came after that and CDs and finally FTP, which is obviously far superior.
Sometimes I'll see two different credits for digital coloring. One will say "colors by ___" and another will say "digital separations by ___" (usually a studio rather than a person). What's the difference between colors and separations?
See my previous response above. If that is in the credits then the colorist did the guides and separator did the computer coloring from those guides. You rarely, if ever, see that these days.