Some Comic Colourists to Watch in 2014

Declan Shalvey and Brett White laid down the challenge “why isn’t anybody doing a top ten list for colourists of the year?” and they’re completely right. One of my earlier insights into comics came when I interviewed colourist Val Staples about his work at Marvel and other companies.

The comics industry is one of the few businesses where monthly content has to come out like clockwork. If someone is late with their duty, it throws the whole schedule off, and the rest of us often have to pick up the slack. And colorists are one of the last links in that chain. I often find it a bit unnerving at times because you bear the brunt of everyone’s stress. But that’s a given and as long as you accept that as part of the job, you can manage it.

We’re all used to hearing about writers and artists, who work in very personal ways with their comics. And whilst colourists also of course aren’t flippant about their work – their assignments are more like a real working job than anything writers and artists do:

So with that in mind, it’s a little late maybe for a top ten of last year – so instead I’ll list a load of colourists to keep an eye on over 2014, along with my massively uninformed and totally assumed thoughts on ’em.

Brian Reber
An obvious choice, as he’s the only colourist I know to have an exclusive contract. Brian went exclusive with Valiant Comics last year, meaning he’s guaranteed a certain amount of work every month and therefore a steady salary. I have no idea if there are other colourists with this sort of deal – to be honest I’m not even sure how the colouring companies like Hi-Fi operate with publishers, and want to find out – but Brian was the first to be celebrated for it. He’s currently working on some of the best superhero comics, and Valiant have made a big deal out of him. Which is pretty sterling news.

Jordie Bellaire
The second obvious choice, as Jordie Bellaire IS basically the human embodiment of comics colouring. She works on a staggering amount of comics, in an amazing number of styles and tones, and seems to be working for every company simultaneously. Her creator owned work is getting attention, which is nice to see – Pretty Deadly gets a lot of praise specifically for the colouring – and she balances it with work for hire. Wait, actually, now I think of it, I guess all of these technically might count as work for hire. Hm.

Francesco Francavilla
Francavilla doesn’t get all the praise he should for his colouring, because I’d argue that this is what makes his artwork so impressive to look at. He’s not afraid to coat a page in lurid colours and suffocating shadows, and yet seems to be incredibly aware of the balance he needs to strike in order to keep the two working together. Afterlife with Archie is an idiosyncratic take on colouring every month.

Dean White
He was all set to become the biggest colourist of the last five years, but it seems that he works on a book-a-month basis only, and so when he moved from Marvel comics over to Image he got a little lost in the mix. He’s still an absolutely fantastic colourist, but I felt he vanished from view halfway through the year, before he could turn his runs on X-Force and Captain America from cult favourites into mass-appeal monsters.

Ruth Redmond
I think Ruth Redmond could be one of the next name colourists to hit the industry. She’s been in comics for a year, and has already moved from self-published and small press work like Exit Generation into work for Marvel. This year she’ll be colouring, I believe, Dark Angel by Kieron Gillen and Dietrich Smith. She’s been in comics A YEAR and she’s already doing comics at Marvel. Astonishing.

Nathan Fairbairn 
Having made even more of a name for himself after recolouring Scott Pilgrim, he’s going to be the colourist on one of possibly the biggest books of this year: Seconds. Bryan Lee O’Malley’s new story if going to be a huge deal this year, I’m pretty certain, and Fairnbairn’s work is going to be right at the forefront of that.

Whoever is Colouring Ghost Rider
Because seriously people start crediting your ruddy colourists in solicitations already, what the hell

And of course there’s all the other obvious choices that everybody always lists because they’re always great like Matthew Wilson, Fiona Staples Matt Hollingsworth, Sonia Oback, Dave Stewart, and so on etc

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