Tuesday, April 06, 2010


This past weekend in San Francisco was WonderCon, our wetter and more contained version of Comic-Con. I opted this year to skip the main festivities entirely, save for seeing cartoonist friends Lark and Thien; WonderCon is growing, a show that is definitely on the rise in terms of exposure & celebrity appearances, but for a fan like me there was little of specific interest-- give me APE or TCAF any day!

That said, I did make a point of attending the end of WonderCon on Friday to watch a panel titled, "How Computers Took Over Comics." This panel featured Steve Oliff reuniting with a number of artists from his original Olyoptics crew, along with Erik Larsen of Image Comics. In the panel, Steve and the guys talked about their work on the Epic color edition of Akira, which was a major and important step in the transition from flat 64-color to computer full-color.

If you want to read a little deeper into the specifics of computer color and blue-line process, please check out this interview with Steve Oliff conducted by Frank Santoro. For folks that remember, Last Fall I put up a post about the Akira color guides, the
B&W xeroxes of Otomo's line work that Steve hand painted and colored to serve as guides for separations and computer coloring. Steve also mentioned he will again be selling the Akira color guides at APE 2010(!).

I wasn't able to get my hand on an audio recorder to capture the entire panel, but I took a few notes and shot a short video when Steve was discussing Akira. Two asides that really stuck out to me were:
  • Working and thinking in CMYK was the way of life for the Olyoptics crew; To this end, they used to play games around the office where someone would point at a color on a wall or sign and folks would try to guess the exact CMYK numbers!
  • When asked for his main piece of advice, Steve said to always "Color a comic like you were lighting for a film."
  • When asked about his favorite color work he's done, Steve pointed to Issue #32 of Akira as the high point of trying out new techniques with the technology.
  • As for current projects, Steve/Olyoptics are now working on doing new coloring for Walter Simonson's entire run on Thor for a re-release Marvel is planning to tie-in to the film next year.

For Akira fans, here is a 4-minute video where Steve Oliff goes into some of the specifics of working on the first few issues for Epic:

I'll add this video to Vimeo soon, but here's another short clip about Oliff working with Otomo on blocking out color themes for the first issues of Akira:


Mr. Freibert said...

great video, I've been thinking about color a lot lately, this hit the spot.

Dembol said...

New colours for Simonson's Thor!? Count me in. I wanted to buy his run for a while. Now there will be one more reason to do so. I hope they'll do an omnibus or like DC's Absolute releases.

Ryan S said...

@Mr. Freibert: Yeah, me too-- I've been thinking about it a lot after hearing Dash & Santoro going on about it, and after looking more closely at what Jose Villarrubia and the new Brendan McCarthy books are doing. Also...AKIRA! Glad you enjoyed them :)

@Dembol: I'm not really a Thor fan at all (never read anything!) but I like Simonson and want to learn more. This seems like a good opportunity!