There’s a handsome new hardcover edition of THE KILLING JOKE by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland out, featuring remastered color by Bolland. PopCultureShock has done a side by side on the color, and some people, like Chris Butcher, find the new version less than compelling.
This seems like a “changing tastes” thing. One style is more 80s, one more Aughts. Because we’re lurid, our personal tastes are a bit more with the original. But really, color is the hardest thing to judge objectively. Butcher writes:

I think my problem with it is that while artist Brian Boland brings a high degree of craft to the new colouring, he’s drained all of the emotion and… art… out of the work. Little touches like the cast-shadows on the cuffs of the Joker’s sleeves, for example, added more personality and depth to the art than all of the soft airbrush modelling in the world could hope to accomplish. At work my opinion is in the minority, with the majority of customers loving the hell out of the new look. Enh.

The new look may be more tasteful, but at least the modeling is kept to a minimum. Subjective or not, every time we flip through a stack of “mainstream” comics, our eyes are assaulted by a barrage of ghastly, life-draining “cgi” style coloring that has the major effect of ruining any of the balance of light and shade that the original artists were going for. Late deadlines are probably the main reason, but in general this “cgi-stylee” look takes real skill to carry out, and time.


  1. Looking at the above example, I prefer the newer colouring. The old edition can be found in “DC Universe: The Stories of Alan Moore “. Or as one of numerous reprints. (Look for the cover with the green title.)

    A bigger cause of concern is that of the paper. Some fans have criticized the use of a lighter stock in a deluxe hardcover edition, comparing it to those of Marvel’s hardcovers. (I concur; the Death and Return of Superman hardcover was not worth the $75 I paid, ESPECIALLY when material was excised from the trade editions.)

    I find photographic effects in comics to be distracting. Background characters out of focus, sunbursts on a light source… they are gusts of wind shaking my suspension of disbelief.

  2. Tsk. The new one’s good, but there’s no messing with the original.
    That’s the one that’s blown minds since the 80’s.
    I’m sure we’ll get tired of the new colors by 2010 anyway.

  3. I love the new colors.

    LOVE the new colors. Picking out a page or two to compare is a disservice. You have to see the whole package. The new, subtler tones make the punctuation of stark primaries very chilling.

    The new look, across the board, is incredibly effective, and changes the overall atmosphere/mood of the story. I love them, and think Bolland did an OUTSTANDING job.

  4. I wasn’t going to buy this book,…but, the fact that Bolland has re-colored it makes me want to check it out. I was never a fan of the original coloration. I felt that it made the art less clear,…if such a thing is possible when you’re talking about Brian Bolland.

  5. I’m in the camp that loves the new coloring. Bolland, in his liner notes also says that he re-touched something on the art on almost every page – I haven’t done a side by side comparison yet though.

  6. “Late deadlines are probably the main reason, but in general this “cgi-stylee” look takes real skill to carry out, and time.”

    I agree, but when it is done well you get some of the best coloring comics have ever seen. I still get tears of joy when I flip though my Dark Tower trade. Really, what you’re getting is a digital painter.

  7. Apparently the major change to the artwork is that the yellow oval around Batman’s chest logo has been removed in every panel. Interesting to know that Bolland has made other changes though.

    I don’t know how I feel about this – the new colouring is very well done, but I’m not so keen on the idea of going back and revising past works of art, they should be able to stand as a product of their time. If every artist were to go back and alter their past work to “fix” it, I think we’d all be locked in a continual loop of revision and never produce anything new.

    And what of poor John Higgins? It’s kind of a shame that his work on the book (which I liked) has been erased.

  8. It should be noted that the example page is one of the “it’s a flashback so the colors are subjective” ones so it gets the most reimagining. You can’t beat Brian’s own color. Or colour, either.

  9. I think anyone’s that’s actually an artist will prefer the newer coloring. There’s no comparison. Having every color of the rainbow on every single object might look good on a Grateful Dead poster, but it’s out of place over Bolland’s moody, realistic artwork.

    I’d be willing to bet that if the newer version had been the original and they recolored it to the way the original looks, there would be a shitstorm of complaints.

    It’s only people’s loyalty to the memory of the first time they read the book that’s guiding their preference toward the original, me thinks.

  10. I can tell you that when I was working with Brian, ahem, TWENTY years ago, he often talked to me about how he visualized each page being coloured — the way they look now is exactly as he described. I’m so glad he has had this opportunity now to present his artwork the way he always intended.

  11. I like the limited palette in the new one; I think it helps keep the focus on the action and driving the plot and story forward instead of forcing my eye to linger overlong on every panel. But that’s just IMHO. :)

  12. Hmm. I want to say that it looks more like someone forgot to finish coloring the remastered version than that they actually decided to change the coloring that much. Could this be a printing error instead of the intended coloring scheme?

    Well, I’m glad I didn’t pick up a new copy and still have an original. Actually it’s third printing, but I think the art is the same.

  13. I like the b/w look in some spots, but in others I don’t. Where is the purple for the Joker? Also, Batman sported a yellow oval around his bat and taking it away is not recoloring. This is like Paramount changing the special effects on a Star Trek episode. I don’t get what is so wrong with a comic book from the 1980s looking like a comic book from the 1980s.

  14. Please keep in mind that the example pages that are popping up here and elsewhere are from the FLASHBACK pages, and the rest of the book isn’t all in this muted color scheme. This complete package works quite well with the new colors.

  15. Just to reiterate, I do appreciate the level of craft that Mr. Boland has brought to the table, and I appreciate that it’s his creative vision as artist of the work being fulfilled. I would never argue that Mr. Boland isn’t a talented creator and one whom I respect, it’s just that, in this instance, his artistic decisions really aren’t to my tastes. I’m glad he’s happy with the work though, and it certainly appears as though my opinion is in the minority.

    I actually think his strongest artwork in probably the last 10 years was THE ORIGINALS, his black and white (with greyscale) graphic novel. I just don’t appreciate his recent rendering or colouring choices, and I think it started with his work on the covers of Volume 2 of The Invisibles, where the colour rendering and design moved away from the style and execution of his ink work.

    Besides that, I also think there’s something to be said for the appropriateness of the colour in setting mood for the story being told… The Killing Joke is a gruesome, grisly, and over-the-top effort that digs at the dark humour of the relationship between Batman and The Joker, both textually and metatextually, and how it will never change. It’s a joke, black comedy and a character-study… Not, you know. Ingmar Bergman’s THE SEVENTH SEAL.

    Which isn’t to say that comics can’t (or shouldn’t) attempt Ingmar Bergman’s THE SEVENTH SEAL, it’s just that this ain’t it: It’s a story about how crazy Batman and The Joker are.

  16. I could have sworn that Bolland envisioned Killing Joke to be completely by his hand ( on the art hand, obviously) and had to ditch the coloring to Higgins to get the thing done (I think he wrote about it in the Alan Moore collection. I could check for sure but, eh, here we are).

    So I could see why he would want to change it. I would. Plus he’s the one doing the changes not some studio sooooo I can’t fault him and I won’t judge till I see the full volume. Plus I was never really a fan of that 80’s Brit-garish color scheme.

  17. Damn straight, Daniel!! Another DC ripoff and another artist doing a Lucas on the fans again…I was pissed at Neal Adams for going back to his Batman work and redrawing parts and recoloring the stuff.

  18. Works on some pages, doesn’t work on others. I think the scene in the batcave looks a hundred times better than before. But I think the scene where Joker takes the hood off, sees his face, and cracks up laughing insanely is severely muted now.

    So I’m fifty fifty on it; I don’t think it would make a single jot of difference for a new fan who’s never read the book before. If I were to give a friend the book, though, I’d probably pick the old version, if only because I feel that that “Joker snaps” scene I mentioned above is the most important in the book.

  19. I would have liked the new coloring better if Brian Bolland were only allowed to use the tools that were available to him twenty years ago. The obvious computer modeling on the Red Hood looks wrong to me. And I do not like removing the yellow oval at all.

    Christopher Butcher: THE ORIGINALS is Dave Gibbons’ book, not Brian Bolland’s. Wrong Alan Moore collaborator.

  20. I prefer the original. I support an artist’s right to change their creation. I support the right of fandom to have both and keep the works they cherish unchanged.

    I refuse to buy any Star Wars DVD until Lucasfilm does it right. Untouched original, anamorphic presentation, etc.

  21. From the get go it was moore and bolland’s killing joke, higgins was brought in as brian had already spent 2 years on the line art and could have taken as long again to colour it. It was never his decision to let another artist colour it, and the old version was completely against his colour recommendations and vision for the book. Apparently he was depressed as hell over it’s appearance and has done very little strip work since. I prefer the new one though would rather see it in original black and white. I saw the original art twenty years back in forbidden planet london, it’s so tight and precise it doesn’t need colour. Think the garish old stuff was well at odds with a lot of the subtlties brian puts into his work. Think with time people’ll truly come to love the new job, the original artist’s vision, once they get off their high horses worrying that dc are trying to rip them off with a repackaged book that dares to be different from the version they encountered in their youth. And as for the 80s being garish? Dark night, black orchid and year one all managed a slightly more subtle colour scheme than dayglo john higgins. Talking of whom it’d be interesting to hear Higgins’ account of things, did he have any contact with bolland before embarking on the project? Did he actually receive the colour notes? And where is the lens cap on the joker’s camera. . . ?

  22. Looks like it’s all forgetten now. Be interested to know what people think over a year on from the reworking. I still love the new scheme.

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