Olyoptics Timeline - Pre-1978 Page 2

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The Full Color Era Begins

   The first time I ever saw full color comic art wasn’t in a comic book. It wasn’t in a book at all. It was on bubblegum cards. In 1966 the Batman TV show spawned a ton of merchandising. For the bubblegum trading cards they hired pulp fiction illustrator, Norm Saunders to paint 3 series of fully rendered Batman and Robin cards.( He was also the artist of the famous “Mars Attacks” cards) I liked them as a kid, but they looked odd to me. I wasn’t used to seeing comic characters rendered, as well as being photo referenced (Drawn with the aid of photographs).
   One book that did experiment with a form of full-color was the Canadian comic, Capt. Canuck. You couldn’t quite tell that it was full color because of the line screen and the newsprint paper, but it was interesting and different.
   The next place rendered comic color showed up was in Richard Corben’s underground comics. At first he did kind of crude separation work on the interiors, and beautiful covers. That was because he was experimenting, finding a system that would basically redefine color in comics. He was already pushing the art and story limits. Around the time he began the Den saga, he got his copy camera setup. He was combining photographic and halftone textures with his line art to amazing effect.

  This allowed him to create his own color separations, and gave his art a look that was totally unlike anything else. It was a technique that no one could duplicate, so he had a corner on that kind of full color.

   Full color comics and graphic albums had been published in Europe using the blueline system for years. Original art was copied in a non-reproducing blue onto artboard by a photochemical process. The color artist then painted on the blueline board. Another copy of the art was put onto clear acetate, which was used as an overlay so the colorists could see how the final product would look in print. The color was photographed separately to get clean colors, and the black was added as a separate plate. This gave a nice color look, but because of shrinkage, registration could be a problem. It was also not a cheap system, since it required photographic color separation and better paper to print on.

  American comic readers had seen this kind of color in Herge’s TinTin books, but not many other places until the magazine Metal Hurlant came out in Dec of 1974. Metal Hurlant was published by les Humanoides Associes in France , and distributed in the USA by Bud Plant. It was an adult comic that had articles, interviews, and beautiful art. Each issue had two 8-page color stories. One of the regular features (at least in the first 6 issues, which is all I have) was a beautifully reprinted color story from Richard Corben’s American underground comix work. (Often much better than the first printings) The other color story rotated between Mobius’s Arzach color series and stories by Tardi.

  A few years later in America , Heavy Metal magazine appeared. Heavy Metal began reprinting Metal Hurlant stories and all sorts of other cool European comics, many of which had great painted color.

  Once the US market had seen what comic color could look like, publishers slowly found ways to introduce full color into their products. Covers got nice color treatment, and there were a few color portfolios, but generally full color still wasn’t practical.

  Byron Priess was one of the first publishers to expand the limits of the comics market. Actually, what he produced weren’t quite comics. They were graphically illustrated renditions of science fiction author’s short stories. Some in comic form, some in mixed prose and illustration. EC Comics had published versions of Ray Bradbury, and Otto Binder stories in the 1950’s, but this was the first full color, quality paper graphic albums.

  My first professional comic coloring, other than a few portfolio prints, was a Shadowjack story drawn by Gray Morrow for “The Illustrated Roger Zelazny”.

 





Battman & Robin Card
Batman & Robin Card


Corebn's Fanagor 2
Corben's Fantagor 2


Metal Hurlant
Metal Hurlant

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