|When is it ok to Recolor?|
The subject of recoloring comic book art comes up often, or at least it has been lately. It's not because it's a particularly new trend but perhaps because there's just so much more transparency in comics now that people notice it or the less cynical view would be that it's being done better so more folks are paying attention to it. For me I tend to follow one rule when it comes to when is it ok for a comic to be recolored. It has to do with the date the comic was originally published.
Usually if a comic book came out in the 1990's I really don't like it's coloring. That was the year that digital coloring was used prolifically. A lot of colorists and weird studios started popping up and over rendered art and abused the hell out of lens flare. A lot of comics that I enjoy like Grant Morrison's JLA, would benefit from a good recoloring. Frank Quitely's and Grant Morrison's Flex Mentallo was recently recolored and it was released in the 1990's from what I saw of the art from the old edition I really didn't like the way it looked. The colors were too dark and the skins rendered in a way that made Quitely's art look like a different artist. Now with the new colors the art looks surprisingly different and that's because the colorist added new things, and just overall did a better job. The Quitely of Flex Mentallo looks to me like the Quitely of All Star Superman now.
Perhaps that isn't fair to the colorists of the 90s they were just learning the technology and now many have mastered it. Dave Stewart is able to color digitally and make a piece of art look like it was painted. So they can be viewed as the stepping-stones that allowed coloring to improve. The conjecture to that however is Laura Martin she was one of the pioneers of digital coloring and her style is pretty much marvel's house style (much to my dismay) and she was never bad. So what's the excuse for the poor form? There isn't one, there are plenty of explanations for it but not any excuses.
I think prior to the 1990's especially with books like Watchmen recoloring shouldn't take place unless there was an especially big mistake in the original work. Dark Knight returns doesn't need new colors, neither does Batman Year one. There are more exceptions for this rule than the other however. Fantagraphics recolored Cark Barks Donald duck stories and they did a wonderful job using a very restrained palette. That work was originally black and white however so maybe there lays the key to the exception.
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