Many times when it comes to our favorite films, comics, shows and all other forms of entertainment our love of the characters or world can blind us to the individual or crew of individuals that helped bring that world to life for us and others to enjoy. The goal of Creator Spotlight is to help bring some attention to those individuals and get to know them and their journey.
When it comes to the world of comics most conversations that aren’t about the characters/world tend to center around the writer & the main artist, leaving the colorists, inkers, letterers and others who help bring every issue to life hidden in the shadows. Every person that works on your favorite comic plays an important part to that issue ending up in your hands and should be appreciated for what they do.
So for this first Creator Spotlight, I interviewed the awesome colorist Marissa Louise who has worked on everything from creator-owned series like Semiautomagic and Mystery Girl to licensed series like Escape From New York & Robocop and so much more.
(Note: This story originally ran on 08/18/2017. Reposted as part of the new version of Geekfinity for 2018.)
When it comes to the world of comics everyone has that origin story of how they got into the world of comics, whether it’s reading them at a young age or finding them later or just coming into the world without having read comics. What is your origin story when it comes to the world of comic books?
When I was a little kid I was able to run around mostly freely. I lived near a dime store so I went there when I was some age under 10. I don’t remember exactly how old, because sometimes my brain gets a little fuzzy. One summer when I was hanging out at the dime store a guy came storming out of the dime store, he asked me if I read comics and I just must have me the right face or something because he tossed a bag of comics and candy to me. From then on I was hooked. Not to candy, it’s okay, but to comics.
But probably the better origin story is how I got into coloring. I had been laid off my job at an architecture firm during the recession. I started working at a cafe. I kept getting moved to cafes further and further out of Portland until I was in an area called John’s Landing. This is a funny little quasi-suburb former wharf area. Mostly the tips were terrible and it was a ten-mile bike ride out there, but it was hard to find a job back then. I did my best to connect to each customer, but one day someone I was really fond of came in. I asked them about what they did, my usual pathetic attempt at small talk. It was Dave Stewart. Dave Stewart told me coloring is a job and that I didn’t need any comics degree or anything to get it. It was like my purpose was just suddenly laid at my feet. From there I just worked and hustled and became color elf you have here.
How did you end up working with Albatross Funny books and Eric Powell? What’s it been like working with Powell?
Work ebbs and flows. A lot of the time you either have too much work or don’t have enough. Sometimes everyone assumes your busy, so you just have to remind them how much you want to work with them. I had put out a tweet that I was looking for work and my dear friend Francesco Francavilla retweeted me. Eric just happened to be looking for a colorist and emailed me. Which, was utterly shocking. I thought I got the email by mistake. It took me about a day to respond because I was so floored.
Eric is awesome. I adore him. He’s got a ton of grit, honor & empathy. He’s got incredible taste and is a great communicator. I went to see him at SDCC and a bunch of my favorite people were already hanging out with him. Eric gives the best notes.
For those that might not exactly know, generally what are the duties of a colorist for comics?
Aside from color, the colorist will often do prepress and sometimes do line art clean up. Often a colorist can pay someone else to do flats. If you’re looking for a way to break into comics, flatting is hard but there is always an opening!
The role of color in a comic is to add mood and clarity. A colorist can guide the eye and also make the viewer feel the emotions of the page.
A lot of times with comics the conversation centers around who the writer is and the main artist is, with inkers, colorists, letterers and others being sort of left in the background many times even though they are an integral part of the process. What do you think could be done better to bring the spotlight fully onto the entire creative force behind comic books?
It’s hard for the average person to see how those elements work in a comic. We’re all taught to read critically, but very few people get to learn to look at art critically. And of those people, even fewer learn how to analyze color critically. Well done inks, color and lettering should all be so seamless with the writing and penciling that they are effective but almost invisible.
I write some essays on coloring if people ever want to read those. Other than that, talking about your favorite colorists or any color you like really helps raise the profile of everyone! One of our colorist groups does a regular colorist jam on twitter that can be really fun to check out.
I won’t ask one of those cliche questions about a favorite thing you worked on, because that is like asking about someone’s favorite child, but what are some of the experiences or moments during your time in comics that you’ve really enjoyed? Were there any of those dream getting to work with a creator you love moments?
You’re right, it is like asking who is my favorite child. But one of the things I love the most about comics is that I get to develop long-term relationships with partners. The way those grow and the ideas we get to bat around are really my dreams.
Also, going to cons is really magical. I put together colorist dinners and it is so fun to sit with master colorist and giggle and eat dinner. I had dinner with the Allreds once and that was really magical.
You’ve worked on everything from creator-owned comics to licensed worlds like Robocop, Judge Dredd, and others. What is it like to be able to work on such a variety of projects?
I live for variety. I have serious Wunderlust. If a project has a lot of local color and goes on for 12+ issues I get kind of bored. But if I can get wild then I will always find things to interest me. For instance, I was really trying to push my ability to use blue on blue in the snow scenes of EFNY [Escape From New York]. Contrast that with the toxic Miami scenes. With Broken World I was able to test out different flash back ideas.
Are there any books or worlds you haven’t gotten to work on yet that you really would love to be able to work on one day?
Well, I love Spider-Woman, so one day I’d really love to work on her. But I also have a dream to do a creator-owned comic with Cassandra Peterson. I haven’t figured out how to make that happen yet, but I believe I can. I’d also like to do a creator-owned project with Missy Elliot. I want to work with Chris Sebela again. And I have this fantasy of doing some really psychedelic things with vantablack and gold leaf, but it would be more art book and less commercial.
If there was just one piece of advice that you could give to those that aspire to work in comic books or just get themselves out there with their chosen creative field, what would it be?
It takes grit and mercy. You have to be able to push through when things are hard and you have to be able to forgive yourself and others when things don’t work out.
Is there any upcoming or past work that you’d like to plug for our readers to go out and check out?
Heck yeah! Always, please, come say hi to me at conventions.
But SPELL ON WHEELS trade paper back is out recently, I have some stuff coming out of VAULT soon. I did some fill ins on STAR TREK BOLDLY GO issues 11, 12, 13. SPOOK HOUSE trade paper back is coming out soon too. I’m really proud of what we did on INVASION FROM PLANET WRESTLETOPIA.
Thank you once again to Marissa for taking the time to speak with me for this interview, and make sure to check out Marissa’s page for more of her work.