Thursday, March 02, 2006

All Star Superman and Jamie Grant

In a podcast interview in August I said that Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely's twelve issue All Star Superman run would be for Superman what Frank Miller's Dark Knight Returns was for Batman: the definitive run. Two issues in I am holding by that opinion. What I did not expect was the importance of the fantastic coloring job by Jamie Grant. The first two issues have a lot to appreciate. Three of the images I discuss below are available on the Newsarama preview of All Star Superman #1 (scroll down to the bottom of the page and click on the images).

A page showing Leo Quintum's ship falling into the sun, showing images of the ship's interior "falling" down the page whose background is the sun, juxtaposes the bright yellow of the sun with the ship's purple interior; purple is the color opposite to yellow on the color wheel, and so a ship designed to withstand orbiting the sun resists the outside light with an opposing color: science becomes aesthetics, a good measure of the difference between comic book sci-fi and hard science based Star Trek-style sci-fi.

Every place in the book has its own color: an image of a woman "genetically attuned to all life" is bathed in soft green light, every scene in the daily planet is colored with various shades of brown, including almost everyone's clothes, Lex Luthor always appears in red light as if he is in a dark room, though it is a less intense red than the red hallway leading to Superman's "dangerous" lab in issue two. Leo Quintum -- genius Dr. Who style science guy -- has a technicolor jacket and stands in front of blank bright white walls both of emblematic of his status as an explorer (all areas are open to him).

The book does not seem colored so much as "lit." In the second issue Grant does amazing things with light: he perfectly captures the soft, strange and limited glow of an interior car light, doesn't forget to leave the light on as Lois exits the car, and captures the moisture in the air in the Antarctic as the car's headlights are captured in the air as if in fog. Magical objects are set apart: Superman's golden key is the brightest thing in issue two, and the room with the mirror of truth and time telescope is an absurd and fantastic shade of hot pink. When Lois loses her sense of wonder, we see what she sees in black and white.

You can recognize Batman by his distinctive silhouette, but the shorthand for Superman is the bright colors Red Blue Yellow. Color is a major part of Superman, and Grant is a major reason this book is as good as it is.


Anonymous said...

Hey Geoff. Great post.

Question about "All-Star": What do you make of the Shuttle Columbia being among Superman's treasures in the Fortress? I think it's a pretty daring move on Morrison's part. Later in the issue Supes speaks of using the Time Window to "stop tragedies before they happen" and collaborating with the Supermen of the future. Is this Morrison's take on Superman? Is Superman an effective superhero because he has advance knowledge of events before they occur? Is Morrison's Superman a "cheater"?

Great website. Take it easy.


Mitch Montgomery

Anonymous said...

You give a lot of credit to Grant Morrison for the coloring of the book. While I understand that Grant probably directed in how he wanted the pages colored, it was Jamie Grant that did the fabulous job of bringing the color to the book.

Martin G.
Spokane, WA

jennifert72 said...

I'm going to answer for Geoff here. I think you are confusing Geoff's use of Jamie Grant's last name only when talking about the coloring with Grant Morrison. The purpose of this entry is to point out how important Jamie Grant's coloring talent is to the total success of All Star Superman.
Nice observations Geoff. Keep 'em coming!
Cheers. Jennifer.

Geoff Klock said...
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Geoff Klock said...

Mitch Montgomery: I think Morrison IS suggesting Superman used time travel to avert real world tragedy, and I agree that it is quite a bold move (though not as bold as Ex Machina's first issue's final page).

Martin G and Jennifer72: Jennifer is right that when I write "Grant" I mean to refer to Jamie Grant and not Grant Morrison (I never call writers by their first names, and put Jamie Grant's name in the title of the post). One of my aims here is to correct the emphasis of my superhero book on writers rather than artists (and colorists); if you read How to Read Superhero Comics and Why, or have heard my podcasts, I can see why you might have thought I meant Morrison. It's a bad habit I am in the process of breaking.

David Golding said...

I was rereading We3 last night and realising just how much Jamie Grant's colours (and inks) did for Quitely's art. So much of the mood, humanity and environment comes through from his work.

Have you read Jim Roeg's analysis of the first issue of All-Star Superman? Some great stuff there, including about the art. Chong Rutherford also has a great comment there regarding Quintum's jacket.

Geoff Klock said...

david golding: I agree Jamie Grant is very good on WE3, a book I will be posting about soon.

That is a fantastic blog you provided a link to; he does a great job catching the Icarus painting as a source of All Star Superman's first splash page. Jim Roeg's posts are huge; I am trying to do "micro-criticism" here, appreciations of the little things rather than essay length theoretical arguments, but perhaps I will do larger, more argued posts in the future, or at least a series of short, connected ones.

Anonymous said...

Thx Geoff for lavish colour praise! *glow* *glow*

Grant and Kristan swung by Studioffice yesterday fresh from Hell-A (L.A.). They said they'd been broad reaction to the Superman new series so I thought I'd finally take a peek at the boards.

Vin (Frank Quitely) and I work together from same studio in central Glasgow, Scotland. Since last autumn, he's lept from paints to digital media. From ASSuperman #5 onwards he's handling the covers!

I've been lucky to get good pointers from him on the interior colour as we've gone along, with Grant checking progress and feeding back in the way we produced We3's look and feel.

I don't really think too much about the colours when first doing them - just put on some music, enjoy a coffee (made by Vin - always the best cuppa) and light up. It's best not to think about anything too much really...

Thanks, this was fun!

Jamie Grant

Geoff Klock said...

Thanks Jamie Grant -- no kidding, it's fun having you here, and it's great to get an inside view of how this stuff gets done. I cannot tell you how much I am looking forward to future issues of this book. Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Please do remember the Alpha Macho Lizard going "Reeeedddddd" and "SSSSSSSSS!", like joking to us "RED!", "S!". The entire issue 3 is about steam, hot, lava, territorial reptilian conflict (verging the homoerotic on the herculean figures).

The Red S! (check Krull's tail when Samson is holding him -- without the mention to being an extension to Sansom's [bleep] and other possible subtexts. It's a cocktail alright)

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