Lately I’ve become preoccupied with being a comics creator. You know, writing and drawing cartoons and other funny stuff. Much of my time has been spent sketching and writing notes. Lately I’m concentrating on the digital side of art. I’ll scan my inked sketches and attempt to color them. They’re pretty crude but I’m learning.
The rest of my free time has been spent observing artists I admire. One of my biggest inspirations these days is writer and illustrator Roger Langridge. He’s best known as the man behind The Muppet Show and current Popeye series. Langridge has such a fun vibe to his work while also being technically precise. Some people say he reminds them of legend Carl Barks. I cannot disagree.
Recently Langridge posted this inked sketch on his blog. The individual who commissioned the work was not me but it easily could have been. The piece combines a favorite subject of mine, The Muppets, with the vintage Marvel Comics series I avidly collect, Marvel Team-Up.
Since I started collecting comic books in the early ’80s, I’ve been in love with Marvel Team-Up. I preferred the tidy, self-encapsulated storylines. There was no need to religiously follow each issue like you do with episodic series. The issues paired Spider-Man (usually) with another random hero in tights. It was a great way to sample the Marvel legion.
I got back into comics a few years ago and in that time I’ve been picking up the Team-Up issues I missed back in the day. I’ve slowly accumulated about half of the 150 issues in the run from 1972 to 1985. I could easily buy all the missing issues on eBay but I prefer the serendipitous method of getting issues here and there as I stumble upon them.
That same serendipity struck when I saw Langridge, my new artist obession, tackle a cover from my favorite series. And I knew this was also the perfect opportunity to hone my own skills. I decided to color Langridge’s black and white sketch.
I understand the basics of colorizing line art using Photoshop. I’ve become pretty adept at using Photoshop over the years but I still took the time to read and watch tutorials on the subject. It seems as simple as staying inside the lines but, lemme tell ya, coloring is an artform in itself. Especially when you consider analog methods that colorists had to take when Marvel Team-Up #68 was produced back in 1978.
Back before digital publishing, the color separations were produced by cutting the opaque layer of acetate sheets known as Rubylith. All this tedious separation work typically meant basic colorings. The analog age also produced a lot of brightly hued covers as opposed to the muted and complicated palettes used by digital artists today. These were all factors I took into consideration when coloring Langridge’s illustration. That and I wanted maintain some of the color choices that were made with the original issue 68.
I hope the above rationale seemed plausible. It does sound like good justification but, really, I kept it all very simple because I’m not very good. Nor do I have a fancy Cintiq Pen Display to draw in the color areas. I used lots of mouse clicks to select the black-lined cells.
The result is something I’m pretty proud of. I probably spent a total of four or five hours working to color the piece. I used all flat colors with no shading but started to get more sophisticated near the end. The last thing I colored was the Miss Piggy/Comics Code Authority stamp in the corner. In that tiny area I dabbled with some shadows and highlights. Despite the fact that it’s hardly noticeable, that small element of the piece is my favorite.
I’m a perfectionsit so I’m not completely satisfied with it. I’m not too happy with Sweetum’s colors. I wanted to use a tone similar to Man-Thing. I also don’t like the colors on his hat and cane or Kermit’s guitar. It’ll do for this exercise. Now that I’m more comfortable with the task I probably should go back and start over. On the other hand, perhaps I’ll just work on Roger Langridge’s latest artwork. He recently posted another commission based on the same Marvel Team-Up, this time using Popeye characters.