If you’re a reader of Snapshot, you know I like to take a look at a weekly release and focus in one one of three elements not talked about very much in your normal review: inking, colouring or lettering.
This week it’s colouring, as I take a look at Paper Girls #8 with work by Matt Wilson, alongside Cliff Chiang, Jared K. Fletcher and Brian K. Vaughan.
Wilson has been doing really beautiful work in this book since its first issue, but over the past couple of months there’s been one particular thing I wanted to highlight. I’ve previously mentioned a version of it on my Twitter (I do regular art breakdowns there) but this is a good opportunity to take a look a little more in-depth at what’s going on.
One of the main things I learned about colour as a film graduate, and one of the things you notice good colourists doing, is to give your scenes a palette. You limit the scope of colours so you can create a mood and feel, but also to help highlight key storytelling items. It works the same way as lighting – make the brightest point your focus, and so with colours you can adapt that technique in a similar way. That’s what Wilson does really cleverly here.
You’ll see looking at the page example here how the comic is these pastel pinks and blues, used by Wilson to evoke the mood of an early morning. That “magic hour” soft rendering that brings up Days of Heaven in the approach, as everything becomes the same sort of colour.
The whole issue is essentially this – with some green for one scene, and blue for the other. Now we’ve got these two characters here, and this is what I want to highlight. So if we look at their pages and scenes, it’s all this. Soft pink, soft purple, a touch of soft blue. You can see Wilson colours their skin and hair in the same way, so we start to understand and accept that the world in this issue and scene is just all pink. When I mentioned earlier about creating a palette and then adapting to draw focus, this is what I mean here.
If we look near the end of the issue, we see these two girls again. They’re chasing after something, and come across a noise. The noise is a different colour – a pale yellowish we haven’t encountered yet with them. Then the next panel, the background also becomes that colour, alongside the speech bubble of, “You hear that? Sounds like my dad upchucking.” So why change the background? It matches with the dialogue, thematically, as it’s speech about that noise which is reflected with that pale yellow. That’s clever. It’s simple, but it’s clever. It just gives us a reminder that something isn’t right here.
Pale yellow is one of those colours that sits alongside pale green in that it can be used a sickly colour. It can remind you of someone’s face with the colour sucked out, being unwell. If you change a film grade to include more pale yellow and pale green, you’ll get that uncomfortable feeling. Yellow also works well as a warning colour, but here, softened, it still fits in with the overall palette choices Wilson is making. But it stands apart.
On the next page we get the reveal of this creepy creature, alongside another sound effect text, and it’s this grim, sickly yellow again. The monster is coloured the same way, and it’s a colour we don’t find in this world ordinarily. Wilson establishes a pallete and explains the colours of the scenes, and then is able to bring in these new colours to denote something out of this world, out of the ordinary. It’s not jarring, because in terms of saturation of the colours, they all fit in together, but it’s different.
A page later you’ve got a great visual representation of it. Wilson colours the girl in straight purple and the weird vomit-goo in that same pale yellow. It’s really heightening how gross and alien it is, and is nice work on both Chiang and Wilson’s part to build a panel designed to showcase that.
The other example of this comes a little nearer the end of the issue, where one of the girls has come from the future. Wilson highlights this by upping the saturation of key elements of her attire. Her boots, backpack(-thing) and dots around her costume are all a rather striking red. You could render her in more muted tones and she would still have the futuristic garb, but – for example – on that third panel of the page she would just start to blend in. Here, even drawn looser in the distance, she really stands out immediately.
I’m a big fan of this subtle additive way of building story and character, and Matt Wilson in Paper Girls (and many, many other series) is more than carrying his weight of the narrative duties. The book has a lot going for it, but the colour work is reason enough to be interested.