It’s Time DC Gave Cover Credit to Colourists

One thing that’s become increasingly clear over the last few years – in particular since Jordie Bellaire hit the comic book scene, you could argue – is that colourists are becoming a star attraction for comic readers. Anybody who has stood in line for half an hour to talk to her, or for other big name colourists like Matthew Wilson, Dave Stewart or Laura Martin.

And something that’s really hit my radar recently is how little comic companies have been attempting to get on this bandwagon, support their colourists, and add a few more sales to their books. Indeed, it seems to be a struggle for DC Comics, in particular, to even add a credit for colourists on the covers of their books.

Colourists like Rico Renzi, whose cover colours for FBP (formerly called Collider) are perhaps the reason why most people stop in the store and take a look at the issues.

In a post made by artist Yanick Paquette on Facebook a few days ago, he shares one of his answers to a DC creator questionnaire which the company sent out to many of their freelance creators. In it, he addresses the following point:

For me, above anything else, the quality of my work is imperative. The level of sacrifice required to do this job can only be justified by being proud of its final result. Yet, all my effort as the artist would be insignificant without the care and talent of my most pivotal collaborator; The colorist. 

By resisting to align its royalties and recognition policy on Marvel, It has become excessively difficult to secure the best Colorists for DC projects. In this digital day and age, where often the entire comic visual is a two person operation, it seem aberrant that one of the two won’t receive the Royalties or exposure respect they fully deserve. 

It’s about time we revisit that royalty pie split. And if we find the courage to slaps some annoying last minute advertisement banner on the cover, certainly adding the colorist name there should’nt be that challenging. 

Many companies give prominent credit to their colourists. Valiant are the most notable, with their signing of Brian Reber onto an exclusive contract. By signing him up, they give him a guaranteed level of work, and fix in the tone of their universe. With Reber overseeing most of their ‘important’ issues, there’s a level of consistency present in their line which no other company can boast of. And it trains keen readers, as well – if you see that Reber is solicited as colouring a certain issue, you know that something important is going to happen there.

Marvel, as well, have started to get an idea of how important it can be to credit a colourist. From Laura Allred to Ruth Redmond to Jose Villarrubia, their comics are becoming known as having three creators rather than just two (for the purposes of this post I’m leaving aside the importance of letterers, inkers, editors, designers – but don’t think I’m ignoring them!). The most discussed aspect of Moon Knight, which has a sterling creative team, isn’t the writing but the colouring. Jordie Bellaire’s choice of colours for the series is the single biggest talking point about the book thus far.

Likewise, fans recognised and were gratified when they saw Matt Wilson confirmed as the colourist for The Wicked and The Divine. From Phonogram to Young Avengers, his colouring has been as important a part of the Gillen/McKelvie partnership as anything else. He become known at Marvel, but then has become an active selling point by the time he returns to Image.

Now DC have books coloured by both Bellaire and Wilson. In fact, they have two of their most acclaimed current book coloured by Wilson in the form of Wonder Woman and Swamp Thing. And yet he’s not credited on the books, not on the cover. Why is that? Two words extra on the front cover, and fans of Young Avengers would stop and pause for a second whilst scanning the weekly shelves of their comic book store. But they don’t do it.

That, to me, seems like sales thrown out the window. It may not be a huge number of sales – but sales are sales, innit? With colourists becoming more and more well known and appreciated, it feels like time for DC to realise just what they’re missing out on here. Not only would it be some good publicity for them – which they could always use – but it’s money on the table which they’re leaving for Valiant, and other companies.

And on that topic of money – royalties. Paquette also mentions the point that colourists do not typically get royalties from their work. Now, think of how important colour actually is! Would the biggest characters in comics be as popular as they are now, were they coloured differently? How about a Wonder Woman in bright pink, or a Deadpool in yellow?

Some writers for Image, like Ales Kot, have said that they now give royalties from their work to the colourists concerned. That, to me, also seems like an important step forward. If a colourist is adding a boost of your readership, it should be considered whether they receive a fair amount of royalties from this. In the comments to Paquette’s post, it’s suggested that one of the only colourists to receive royalties from DC is Watchmen’s John Higgins.

We have the internet now. Colourists like Nathan Fairbairn have increasingly huge fanbases and supporters, because we’re in a place now where anybody can find him, get to know his voice, and follow him through social media. If mainstream comics want my respect – and I suspect yours, too, if you’re reading this – then it’s time to give colourists the credit they deserve. 

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