Wednesday, March 13, 2013
interview 002: val staples
by Alec Berry
For those unaware, Val Staples is a colorist most well known for his work with Sean Phillips on the books 'Criminal' and 'Incognito'. He has recently made the switch to Marvel where he has been coloring the books 'Deadpool' and 'Red She-Hulk' among others, and has returned to writing with a webcomic entitled 'Divination' for MTV Geek. I figured now would be a good time to catch up...
Describe to me what you get out of it. Why be a colorist?
Originally I wanted to break in as a writer. Coloring was a result of Matt Tyree and me splitting creation duties when we dreamed about breaking into comics with self-publishing. Coloring suited me well as I enjoy making artwork pop while adding to the story-telling. It's definitely a tough job. I've seen rate cuts, dry spells, changes in creative teams resulting in lost work, and more. So it has it's ups and downs. It's definitely NOT for everyone. But creating something that so many people enjoy is a very rewarding experience.
You’re freelance. Are there contracts similar to artist contracts for colorists at either Marvel or DC? If so, is that something you’d want?
There was a time when exclusive contracts were all the rave. These days they aren't as common. Plus I've heard ups and downs about them from talent. For me, I think I'd enjoy a couple years with an exclusive. It would take the pressure off the month-to-month, and I'd like to have the time to plan my schedule more regularly for a couple years.
I try to tell a story most of the time, but 'Criminal' and 'Incognito' are when I really pushed what I could do with story-telling via colors. I used colors to focus on mood and push the eye across a page. How you use intense colors or white can really pull you through the art. The opposite holds true if you have a lot of light values with darker, more saturated color contrasting against them. Then you can use different colors themselves to walk you through a panel or a page.
I like to think I'm pretty clean all the time. I'm a colorist you don't really “see.” I tend to be a softer touch that works alongside the artist. Coloring can certainly get messy. There are times when a colorist and penciller don't mesh. You can end up with muddy values, colors that fight the modeling indicated by the artwork, and so forth. I try to never do that but I also make mistakes from time to time like most everyone.
When you typically start a panel, what’s the process? Background first? Figures? Take me through your usual plan of attack.
For me, the first thing I do is lay out my colors. I probably shouldn't work this way as I think having any existing values on the page throws off your intent with design and color, but when you have deadlines looming, it's the fastest way to work through a page. Regardless, I tend to mull over the color choices for quite a while. Then I work background to foreground on the page.
Not really, but I do tend to work pages in terms of harmony. So, I'll put together a scene based on a color palette that I feel ties it all together.
Who are your guys, influence wise, and what do you admire about them in terms of the work they produce?
Working today there's a lot. I look at colorists both seasoned and new because you see a lot of great things being done. Growing up, I was partial to Earl Norem and Bruce Timm from their work on 'Masters of the Universe'. I try not to emulate anyone too closely though. I want to be my own, even though I don't think I really stick out as having a style of my own. I love to look at other art, but I don't study it and try to replicate it. Maybe I should, but I don't.
I know there are some books out there, but most of what i know is self-taught or picked up on through school. I had a great Fundamental Design course in college that was fantastic about color theory. That course helped spark my own exploration into what I felt worked and didn't. For people interested, I'd say one thing to really look at is successful advertising. Good creative agencies and advertising designers and artists know how to use color, composition and contrast to sell a product or produce an emotional response.
There’s a trend in the industry right now to ship titles twice, sometimes three times a month. How does this affect you or other colorists who work on those books specifically? Do you feel this brings you an opportunity for more work or does it shred your ability to hit deadlines?
If you are the colorist on both books, it can often mean that you do two issues a month for that title. If the editor offers you the projects, you simply need to manage your workload. If someone is talented, easy to work with and meets their deadlines, they'll usually keep getting work . But there have been times where I've witnessed some colorists (usually new colorists) take on too much work. They overload themselves, start blowing deadlines and eventually find themselves without work just as fast as they started. It doesn't hurt to say no to work if you have too much on your plate. Editors appreciate the honesty and colorists can learn their own limits and adjust their schedule accordingly over time.
Not really. The editors at Marvel are good people and they all know by now what to expect from me, and I can work to give them what they want.
What can you say about comics at the moment? As both an industry and a medium.
I wish people bought more comics. People across the world have a love affair with comics. They they love the movies and pop culture, but they don't buy them. But we comic readers and fans can help. We can share comics with friends if they have a passing interest in the movies and TV shows that comics have inspired. Also, give the gift of a comic or a gift certificate to a local comic retailer. There's a great big world of awesome titles out there to which we may expose new readers.
It was Ed's and Sean's decision. Dave Stewart is awesome, though, and I completely understand them wanting someone of his caliber on their projects. I loved working with both Ed and Sean and have the up-most respect for their work. I would love to work on their books again if given the chance.
Thanks again for this interview. I'm grateful for the opportunity and I appreciate all the support from everyone who enjoys my work in comics. And, please try out 'Divination' at MTV Geek. It's a comic I co-write with Gina Iorio that's illustrated by Julia Laud and lettered by Crank!. Plus, it's FREE to read with more story coming soon. Please go check it out!