Five questions with Laura Martin

A colorist’s contribution to comics is often overlooked, so it’s always awesome when one gets recognized for his or her talent. That’s the case with Eisner- and Harvey-winning colorist Laura Martin. Her artistic background and eye for color has added depth and emotions to titles such as Astonishing X-Men, Planetary and many more. She was picked by Dave Stevens to recolor his work for The Complete Rocketeer, due out next month from IDW Publishing.

Martin was kind enough to answer my questions via e-mail before her upcoming appearance at Baltimore Comic-Con.

Comicsgirl: How did you first get into comics? Was there a title that initially inspired you?

Laura Martin: I was in college studying graphic design, hoping that I’d land a job in the art department of some theme park in Orlando. I was working nights at Kinko’s, and made friends with several hardcore comics geeks there. I’d read comics off and on, but these guys reintroduced me to them. One of them was my friend Ian Hannin, who answered a talent search in the back of a Wildstorm comic. He got the job, and convinced me that I should pursue comics as well. I changed all of my senior projects to comics-related stuff and, as soon as I graduated, I headed for San Diego to join Wildstorm.

During that year when my friends immersed me in comics (1994 to 1995), I began absorbing every title I could that had the “Image style” of coloring. So my biggest inspirations were WildCATs, Wetworks, Witchblade, and Cyberforce. I very much wanted to be a part of that magic.

CG: While I’m sure every project is different, what’s your typical work process?

LM: Typically, I’ll start by receiving scans of the pages from the editor, along with the script. I’ll take a look through the book and see if there’s anything that requires clarification, such as characters I’m not familiar with or settings that might have been established earlier. The next step is to flat the page. Essentially, this is where each object on the page is filled in with a flat color, so that it is separated from adjacent shapes. The result is kind of like old-style comic strips or animation. I’ll often hire a flatter to do this part, so that I can concentrate on the rendering.

The color choices that my flatters choose are not necessarily my color choices, so when I get the flatted page back from them, I’ll go through and choose the colors that I want on the page. This helps me to establish a color scheme to set the mood for the scene. This step moves straight into the rendering step, which is where I add highlights and shadows to give the objects dimensionality, depth and focus.

When the page is finished, I’ll send a jpeg to the editor and the penciler for any possible corrections. Notes come back, I make any necessary changes, and I trap the page (kind of a difficult process to describe, but essentially, trapping is a system to make sure the page prints correctly) and send the final file back to the editor.

Regardless of what kind of art I’m coloring, or how I adjust my technique to compliment the art, these steps are constant throughout every page.

On average, I color about three to four pages a day. This can change drastically depending on the art; the more detailed it is, or the more rendering I have to do, the longer it takes. The time I spend on each page also changes drastically based on the deadline. When a book’s gotta go out, it’s gotta go out, and I gotta color fast!

CG: How much freedom do you have when it comes to coloring?

LM: It depends on the penciler. Some pencilers are very hands-on, and I’m happy to accommodate their requests, while others just let me do my thing. I like having an open line of communication with the colors, because ultimately, the book is a collaborative effort.

CG: While you’ve already worked on some of the biggest titles and creators in comics, do you have a dream project?

LM: I’m pretty sure I just did my dream project — recoloring all of Dave Stevens’ The Rocketeer. I mean, it doesn’t get any better than that, and it really was a once-in-a-lifetime thing. I wouldn’t mind revisiting The Authority one day; I’ve always had a soft spot for those characters. And I’m just a tiny bit jealous of Chris Sotomayor for getting to color Pet Avengers!

CG: Is there anyone at Baltimore Comic-Con you’re looking forward to seeing?

LM: It would be lovely to see old friends I haven’t seen in a while, like JG Jones and Tom Raney, and to meet people I’ve worked with but never met, like Doug Braithwaite. I hope I get a chance to get out from behind the table a bit — I tend to stay put most of the show, but really, I need to walk around this time! This is my first Baltimore Con so I have to check it out.

See Laura Martin this weekend at the Gaijin Studios table — #2108 — at Baltimore Comic-Con. Find out more about her and her work online at Gaijin Studios and at her blog.

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