When people think of comic book creators, they usually think of pencillers and inkers. But, another important member of the team is the colorist. Color helps inform the emotional status and general atmosphere of the page. Wizard Beach from Boom Studios is an example of how coloring helps to dictate the mood by enhancing the artwork.
Colorist as Composer
Comics is a silent medium. But, in a sense, the colorist acts as a musical composer, adding emotional heft and connection to the page. A good colorist brings out the emotional beats of the story, adding boldness where necessary, and softness where appropriate.
Wizard Beach is a great example of how the colorist helps to dictate the mood through enhancement of the artwork.
The first issue opens on an icy plain with snow covered mountains in the background. The art demonstrates that we are in a cold and desolate land, and Meg Casey’s colors reinforce the idea.
The pale blue, the dark green, and the charcoal gray set a chilly scene. The splashes of color, indicate life and heat in this wasteland; this place is not as deserted as it appears.
The coloring on this page does a lot of work in a little bit of space. We feel both the cold of the land and the heat of the energy bolts crashing together. Casey’s colors elicit an immediate emotional response from the reader. Thinking of colorist as composer, you can almost hear the music swelling as the battle begins.
The next page is where we reach the full crescendo of the battle. Hot and cold colors combine and bring the battle to life. There are no sound effects on the page, but we can still hear the zap of energy bolts. We can still feel the heat of the phoenix and the icy air of the mountains.
The battle is hectic. Pegasi fight dragons. Giants swing large hammers. Giant bats dropping foes to their deaths. There is and magic galore, all of which the color helps bring together.
Coloring Makes Details Pop
If Casey’s coloring were not so precise, the reader could easily lose track of the events of the fight, which would make Wizard Beach a chore to read. However, the splashes of hot color show us the violence and its consequences, and it helps guide the reader’s eye. The skeleton engulfed in yellow electricity is a prime example of this.
That leads us to the darker, and colder, image of the purple foot coming down on the wizard. Finally, at the end of that panel progression we see the black bats dropping the warriors to their doom. We go from hot to cooler to cold in those three panels, which help to tell the story of the battle itself. It starts of hot and passionate, and becomes colder and bleaker as it progresses. The other colors on the page also help us to process the chaos of the battle.
The snaking red of the fallen dragon. the fiery orange phoenix in the background battling a gray elemental. The cool reds and purples in the foreground all tell the story of the ebb and flow of the fight that the artwork alone cannot quite accomplish.
The coloring in Wizard Beach makes the artwork pop, emphasizing and highlighting linework that may otherwise be hard to see.
In addition to helping convey the story of the battle, the colors also inform the reader’s emotional response, an idea especially apparent in the foreground. Looking at the left side of the page, we see people dressed colorfully in green. In our minds, they are immediately the good guys because green is the color of life and the forest, and it stands in stark contrast not only to the cold blues and purples of the setting, but also to that of their opponents, monstrous looking humanoids robed in purple , blue, and black on the right hand side of the page.
These darker colors mimic those of the setting, and are opposite to the vibrant and vital green on the other side of the page. Thanks to the colorist’s choices, we know at a glance who is on the side of life and who isn’t.
Quieter Moments of Wizard Beach Coloring
The importance of coloring to the mood and story of Wizard Beach is not limited to the battle that opens the issue. When we first meet Hex, the series’ protagonist, he is sitting in a small hut, the interior of which is bathed in warm light, and the color choices reflect this warmth. Yellow and brown are warm, earthy colors meant to evoke a sense of calm and comfort, which is exactly how the hut feels, especially in comparison to what came before.
Not everything is perfectly cozy in the hut, though, as evidenced by the snowy wasteland in the top panel. We are near where the battle is raging, indicating that while we may be safe for the moment, we won’t stay that way.
The idea of temporary safety is further reinforced by the purple shadows in the foreground and background of the middle panel. There is warmth and safety in the cottage, but also tension and unease. The artists tell us that with the look on Hux’s face, and the colors, straightforward and simple as they may appear, drive the point home.
There are several other instances of the coloring in Wizard Beach enhancing the artwork. One such example is the dinginess of the train station, which is conveyed through muted browns and light grays. The place looks dirty, thanks to the artwork, and it feels dirty thanks to the palette choices.
Another example of the coloring bringing out the best in the art is when Hex reaches Wizard Beach itself. As to be expected, the scene is bright and sunny, and the colors reflect that. Even on the beach, though, there are darker shades and cooler colors, indicating that not everything is peachy keen in paradise.
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