Monday, April 14, 2014

Coloring Captain Pike

Back in the Stone Age, I colored a comic book series about Captain Pike's Enterprise, pre-Kirk. Star Trek aficionados before then knew Captain Pike then as the guy in a rolling box who blinked lights for yes or no.

(An aside: I ran into a neighbor of the penciler on a ferry to Gambia in 2011. "You make comics? Oh, do you know a guy named Patrick Zircher?")

When we made this comic, coloring was in a state of transition. It's painful sometimes to look back, because the colorist would paint guides, and the shading would be interpreted by a team of people, with varying results. Some of the people interpreting the guides and putting them into the digital files would be very, very good, and others you weren't quite sure why they had a job. Plus, due to the hectic pace, everyone (including the colorist) sometimes had to knock stuff out in a hurry.

We didn't do too badly with Early Voyages, and that's probably because it was never as late as the books down the hall. In my time as a Marvel (guide) colorist, I actually colored photocopies of faxes of pencils. I think it was on a book about Magneto. I remember puzzling over shapes and taking my best guess.

Eventually, everything went to one person doing the coloring on a single book, or a few people working together. I got pretty good results working just on guides with my friend Monica handling the digital end on an issue of Ultimate Spider-Man and on a Generation X issue, but that's because we knew each other, knew what the other expected, and both understood our roles. Back with Early Voyages, I have no idea who was doing the separations, as they were called then in a leftover term from pre-Photoshop. I imagine more than one person was doing them. (Actually, looking at the guides I just pulled out, they were going to Ireland to a house called Graphic Colorworks.) 

But really, whoever did these did a pretty good job. And then it looks like someone lost the film or the files to nine of the ten issues (and an eleventh colored by Matt Webb) that have just been reproduced in a beautifully designed hardcover from IDW. The first issue looks clean and then you see the screens.

I've tried scanning from comics too, and it's damn hard to get it to look right. I've gotten good results from duplicating layers, setting them to multiply, then using adjustment layers with eyedroppers to sample certain colors and bump them up a bit. But like the guys who did this hardcover I received from IDW today (thanks, IDW!), I can never quite get rid of the screens, or moire-looking patterns.

But I always liked Early Voyages. I'm glad it's back out there in the world, screens and all. 

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