Incal.02 (5)-1

Moebius Plancha (18)-1

Reader Pepo points us to this site, with examples of recolored Moebius. On the top, Yves Chaland; below, Valerie Beltran.

This is not as bad as the stuff we posted yesterday, but it’s still…problematic.

Any colorists out there to comment on what we’re seeing?


  1. I’m no expert, but I think the original colors compliment each other and lead your eye around the page. The reworked one flattens the entire page and hurts the flow of the story telling.

  2. Looks like the work of a guy who is used to coloring illustrations and doesn’t understand at all how a comic book works. I predict he’ll get beaten up by Frank Santoro anytime soon. :)

  3. Blame the editor.

    If I had to guess, a sad attempt at “modernizing” the coloring.
    It’s one lens flair away from triggering an “Anti-Eisner” award.
    (Is there a Razzies for comics?)

    “Just because you can make it shiny, doesn’t mean you should.”

  4. The new coloring…. it’s killing the storytelling.

    Take the large panel. In the original the eye is drawn squarely to the figure lying on the lit disc. In the new version, your eye pinballs up and down the panel, from the bright spots on top, above the bird, down to the yellow star – you almost don’t even see the figure in the purple cape as the bright yellow grabs your eye.

    The last panel, that new background is far too distracting, and pulls away from both the central figure in the purple cape, and the second figure in the disc. The original focuses on the main figure, with secondary attention to the figure in the disc, and pushes the background out of the picture, figuratively speaking.

    The re-coloring may be new, but it sure as hell isn’t improved.

    I can’t entirely blame the colorist – this may be what the editor wanted, unfortunately.

    There may be a number of reasons to re-color a book, including lost or damaged original plates and negatives. But if a book needs to be re-colored for this reason, I feel it should match the original as closely as possible, like restoring an old master painting. It should not be treated as a raw canvas to be painted over.

  5. Recoloring older work is pointless. The color and context of the work is fine just as it is and speaks to the time period it was produced. Glitzing it up with computer colors just distracts from the art more than anything. Why not take some old movies and through a bunch of computer effects in the for the heck of it. Oh wait, George Lucas did that.

    If the strength of the work is there to begin with, why mess with it?

  6. Speaking as an editor, I would have to say, in all honesty, that coloring was for me personally the hardest thing to edit. It is all subjective and vague unless you REALLY know what you are doing.

    For instance, re Mark Sweeney’s comments, would an editor really say “Give me something that’s muddy and distracts from the story telling?” I think it comes from a basic misunderstanding of what coloring IS and what it is supposed to do.

    The only editor I have ever worked with who actually understood coloring is Jimmy Palmiotti. Reading his notes, I felt like I was back in kindergarten — of course they come from his knowledge of being an artist as well as an editor. As a non-artist I can tell what looks right and wrong, but my working knowledge of light source and perspective is nowhere near where it should be to actually FIX what is wrong with these pages.

    I do think that what these pages show is that just saying “Paint it in Photoshop!” is a non-decision. Hiring the right colorist for the right artist is the best decisio that can be made 80% of the time.

  7. And knowing is half the battle.

    I’ve been in the colorists shoes.
    I had a job turned back to me for revisions; the editor asked (told) me to change the work so that it would be “all airbrushy like the kids want,” despite the fact that that art and the artist dictated otherwise.

    I did it and hated myself for it.
    I sent a note of apology and regret to the artist and paid my rent.

    Of course, the bigger message: if the stuff looks like crap, don’t buy it. lots of those Epic editions out there for next to nuthin’

  8. I don’t think the “kids” actually like this art. I think they like VIDEO GAME art which is planned and executed in a way that is harmonious with the final result. However, with artists being asked to draw in the detailed “Hitchy/Lee” way and then having it slathered over with washes of gradients, NO ONE is being served.

    I sincerely doubt that any civilians are is being attracted to the dark, muddy angsty art I see whenever I open up a superhero comic.

    I dount they are being attracted to the dark muddy badly executed “Grayscale” art that a lot of book publishers seem to think is “indie”, either, for that matter. Don’t get me started on grayscale art. It isn’t pretty.

  9. “For instance, re Mark Sweeney’s comments, would an editor really say “Give me something that’s muddy and distracts from the story telling?” I think it comes from a basic misunderstanding of what coloring IS and what it is supposed to do.”

    No, I can’t imagine an editor asking for that, but asking for “update the coloring, give it that modern ‘computer’ colored look,” and looking for style over storytelling – all too often.

    I’ve worked on books that have been recolored, flatting the lineart using the 25% increment color swatches that were use back then, and the original printed pages as guides to match the colors, while the colorist added any airbrush effects that were in the original. Which personally, is how I prefer to see books re-colored to match the original. Not painted up like a cheap hooker for the Governor’s ball.

    If you want to talk coloring in new comics, in general, that’s a whole other ball game.

    Colorists get blamed for a lot of things they have no control over. For instance, I know of one popular Marvel book that was slammed for the dark, muddy colors. I saw the original colors, which were beautiful. Naturally everyone blamed the colorist. In this case, the printer couldn’t even match their OWN color proofs on their OWN press. At that point, as a colorist, you’re screwed no matter what you do.

    We don’t have any control over printing, and all the color related problems on that side of the equation. Many times an editor doesn’t even know what company will be printing a given book, much less which press it will be printed on, which is why we’ve given up on trying to get ICC profiles to improve color fidelity.

    Many times the paper stock is changed after coloring, which has a tremendous impact on how colors print.

    Printers don’t clean presses after printing a book, they just load the plates for the next book, start printing, and adjust on the fly. So the color adjustments for a previous book affect the colors on the next book.

    Companies also give very bad information or guidelines for coloring. Take Ink Limits. They will typically give you 100 Black Ink Limit, 240 Total Ink Limit. If you color in CMYK, ink limit settings have absolutely no effect. If you color in RGB, these settings are pretty much guaranteed to give you the worst result possible when converting from RGB to CMYK. You will have tons of K-tones, and poor color purity. Bright reds turn orange; dark reds turn brown, purples turn blue; greens turn more yellowish…

    Now I’m not excusing poor storytelling with color, or bad, anatomically awkward rendering, or color styles that fight or obscure the artwork and more.

    Coloring is both an art, and a science. The science is getting the colors you see on screen to be the same in print. Unfortunately, once colored files leave our hands, we have zero control over all the factors that affect how it prints.

  10. The basic underlying difference is LUMINANCE. The way the light is distributed between the original coloring and the second gen coloring are polar opposites.
    It isn’t even about the storytelling per se, but fundamental color theory. Look closely at the lighter sections of the original. They create beautiful negative spaces that are strong compositions even if there was no line work involved but just shapes of tone. Now look at the second gen coloring, there is light SURROUNDING the light. The second gen was relying on color hues to distinguish depth while the original established depth through their luminance.

  11. On “greyscale color”, sameproblem. The colorists think differences in the palette create depth, but they don’t have an idea that if they focused on the luminance and tonal values first, then it would be stronger. That’s just how the brain picks up cues. If colroists thought more like Sickles or Toth in the way they approach color, then you’d have some beautiful coloring going on. The best of the digital colorists understand this.

  12. The redone color completely kills the mood, the storytelling, and the depth of field. It’s very un moebius-like. I’ll bet he’s not happy with it, I know I’m not. :(

  13. Rafael, I remember hearing Joe Kubert say something once that has always stuck with my “non-artist” brain — the eye goes to the area of greatest contrast. The first example, as primitive as it is by today’s standards, completely understand that. The second, as you point out, uses light against light. Turner and Monet took years to figure out how to make this work, and they’re the greatest painters who ever lived.

    Dave, you nailed it, none of the redone stuff is remotely like anything Moebus would consider.

    Mark, you are undoubtedly right about the computer thing…I have been railing against K-tones since the first time I looked at proofs. Black ink almost always gains on press. It’s simple.

    No wonder I look with relief on duotone books from AdHouse or D&Q.

  14. DOH! You know, I love Moebius work, but I’m newer to it, and I honestly never knew their were differences in the coloring, and I never disliked it – I actually kinda dig it (sorry, sorry)…. how can artistic value idiots such as myself pick up on things like this?

    Also – where are these easily found and not very expensive Epic collections of Moebius’ work… I feel like I’ve been looking for them for ages…

  15. In the originals the colorists used strong color theory to convey mood, emphasize the story telling, and to guide the readers eye around the pages. In the updated colors all of that is thrown out and replaced with an attempt at some eye candy technique. Color theory will beat color technique every day of the week.

  16. I guess I’m still a sucker for shiny and glossy… but I started comparing all of the different versions we had in the store, and I have grasped the broad implications of what has been done… but man, we have some of the Epic editions in the store here and they’re killer expensive.


  17. The original piece is a more graphic approach, which directs the eye around the page with color and contrast. The second approach is more realistic, and perhaps CGI inspired–the false color disappears, and more attention is paid to light sources. These are two artists, in different decades, using different tools and art direction, approaching the piece with their own ideas and process. I would expect them to be quite different.

    Coloring today is closer to the Beltran version. So, if the publisher is looking for a new audience for the work, it makes sense that it would be recolored in this style. I don’t think the new version is horrible. There are some quick revisions that would help it a lot.

    Some colorists today may be getting caught up in the “more is more” trap. More rendering/painting = more value to the publisher. It can be a confidence thing on the colorist’s part. Experienced colorists are more secure in their style, and color more to the art in hand, than with an eye on impressing in order to get the next job.

  18. I think Rafael put it the must succinctly. I’m not a colorist, but I understand the concepts of using tone and value to lead the reader down a specific path on the page and to point the eye toward key elements within a frame. Working with tones in black and white, I think this emphasis is even greater because that’s all you have to work with.

    There is nothing wrong with a modern, airbrushed look, but when something is modernized at the expense of the quality of storytelling (in this case, the colors distracting from the focus of each panel), I think we need to question the reasons for updating from the original in the first place . . . and how this may currently reflect on the industry in general. A lot of modern coloring that I see (and certainly not all by any means) tends towards the hyper realistic instead of the stylistic. But when it comes to comics, sometimes you have to sacrifice realism in return for better storytelling and for creating a certain mood through lighting and shadow. This isn’t about putting photographs on the page. It’s about telling a story, and if you shrug off coloring as not being an integral part of that storytelling, unfortunately, you end up with something much like what you just showed us above.

    The original coloring wasn’t amazing, but it complements the art and layouts and doesn’t distract from the smooth flow of the page. It’s functional and it works.

  19. I think the main thing in this, quality of the modern colouring aside, is Moebius wasn’t drawing to be coloured in this fashion. The ocassions where this sort of colouring really works is where the artist is aware that this is the style of colouring intended and adjusts his work accordingly leaving space for modelling and light effects and the like. If Moebius had been drawing for this style of photoshop colouring I imagine his page would look very different and would have probably included lots of guidance notes for the colourist.

  20. The original is lovely. The question is: who is doing beautiful color now? There’s so much horrible crap out there color-wise. Who are the really talented colorists, though?

  21. I’m not a colorist, but I am a longtime comics fan. I’ve attended San Diego Comic-Con off and on since about 1983, back when it was the Civic Center.

    Moebius attended, I want to say 83 or 85 — I hope I’m remembering it correctly that on a panel Moebius claimed, he labeled his drawings with numbers representing colors. These numbers represented the colors he wanted the colorist to use. It stuck in my mind because I found it odd that he could keep in his head numbers for the colors he chose, it seemed a too abstract way to work for my brain to grasp. I never had use for the color, I loved his draughtsmanship.

    Anyone remember Jean Giraud saying this on a panel or maybe in a print interview? I think I’m remembering correctly.