Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Coloring of Phantom Comics: A short comparative study of various publications

I rose this morning and to my utmost horrific surprise witnessed the deletion of my very last post (of 2nd March, 2009) from the blogger. I have no idea at all how it happened. But thankfully I always keep a back up of all my posts and through them I am able to restore any post if need be. The post when got deleted was also having few very interesting comments. It's appropriate to add them to the post.

As I had imagined, with a little practice and experience, now I am able to achieve a speed where one page is not taking more than 2-3 hours to color. That too when minute details are also taken care of. Now my next target is to minimize the time further to something one and half hour per page without compromising with the quality.

Couldn't resist myself from some experimentation, purely for fun. So, in one panel I have used a real life picture as the background. The pic was taken by my daughter a few days ago on a colorful spring evening from the terrace of the home.

Friends, I am feeling very happy in presenting next ten pages (page 11 to 20) of the current strip, Phantom #S136 "The return of the Thuggees". Hope everyone like them. Your feedback will help me improve the quality. Specially, if you can point out any short-comings in the work. So, I am looking for it.

Phantom #S136 "The Return of the Thuggees"

The link for page numbers 1-10:

Download complete strip here:
Meanwhile I was taking a deeper look at some of the phantom books from different publishers from the perspective of coloring. While most of the coloring work is just OK, some of the publications appear better than the others.

Harvey hits 1958
1. Harvey Hits: A very old series. They published original Falk stories with Wilson McCoy artwork. It seems that coloring plainly without much experimentation was the established rule in those early days. So we see a minimal use of colors. The entire page is filled using only 4-5 colors but the selection of colors is soft and easy on eyes.

2. Gold Key/ King/ Charlton Series: Most of the work was from Bill Lignante, another of phantom artist which is often not considered among the more popular people, but who produced some very good drawings. Unfortunately, the coloring of these series was sub-standard and that also caused the artwork to appear ordinary. Take a look.
Gold-Key 1963
King 1966
Charlton 1974

3. Indrajal comics: During my childhood, I always found the colorful presentation of indrajal stories very exciting. But looking at them now in light of others work, it seems indrajal was highly inspired by the order of those olden times, i.e., coloring with minimum of effort, choosing only a handful of vibrant colors. Surprisingly they continued in the same style for their entire publication life. Minor mistakes were routinely overlooked.
A very early indrajal. Only 5-6 colors are being used here though the colors are soft. Look the color of the horse in the last panel. Too much of liberty the coloring artist takes sometime.
#007 Man Eating Plant (1964)
#134 The Crime School (1971)
Now one from early seventies. More dark colors were in use as can be observed here. Though there was opportunity to show some fine coloring, but indrajal contended themselves with only the basics.
Late seventies show some kind of improvement. Light colors are used nicely. Good reflection effect has been created using white.
#275 The Masked Assasin (1977)
#394 The Call of the Jungle (1982)
And they are at it again. Too dark coloring with amateurish touch in leaves. Blue and orange/red is used only to make the page more vibrant but depth is missing generally. This is early eighties work.
And finally one from late eighties. Still we see the same pattern while printing technology was improved considerably worldwide.
#V25N08 The Masked Avenger (1988)
Financial constraints might be the reason behind indrajal's simple coloring. They were selling their product at quite low rates and this can be easily imagined that putting more money for improving coloring quality might have been difficult for them.

4. Newspaper Strips: Those were good indeed as can be seen here in the samples. Some of these are from illustrated weekly (an indian publication) and others from foreign newspapers. I like them over most comic books.
* Illustrated Weelky scans taken from CWs post. Thanks are due to him.

Will continue the topic in the next post - Next time, some very good and some very bad coloring work examples from other publications.

The following comments were there on the post when it got deleted:

2. JP: Very interesting read! I was a huge fan of comic strips in Illustrated weekly of India. Keep up the good work.
3. The Phantom Head: @Rakesh: Thanks and welcome. I'll try to speed up so that whole strip can be completed in quick time. But it is a mammoth 65 page story. Your support through feedback is much appreciated. @JP: Thanks. Illustrated Weekly of India was one of those rare publications which carried full colored versions of phantom strips. They were very good indeed. The larger than life phantom picture against the backdrop of jungle in the title panel was very exciting. I just loved it. Thanks for your visit and comment.
4. Comic World: Again nice performance TPH.Illustrated weekly was the 1st magazine in which Phantom strip did appeared in India,its coloring was very good and the glossy page of IW gave it a much better appearance,though later on IW shifted on publishing strips in B/W but still they remained quite better in terms of page and printing technology.
5. The Phantom Head: @CW: Thanks and welcome. Excellent info. I didn't know that they also published in b/w. You are having a good collection of IWs. Do they have any complete strip? In case you have it why not post it? It would be an exceptionally good post and unique also. Even if some pages are missing, you can replace them with b/w strip or ijc version. consider it a request.
6. Ciro: Interesting article! interesting experiment!
i hope you continue on this way!!
7. The Phantom Head: @Ciro: Welcome Ciro. I am very happy that you liked the coloring. I'll continue and possibly with increased speed.

9 comment(s):

  1. I have been downloading comics from your site for sometime now, I have always liked them, but today I took time to read through your post, and I realised you are a genious, you are coloring old phantom strips, man you are brillant. Thank you for sharing your hard work with me and all. Really thank you..

  2. As a school kid, I used cut out newspaper strips and collect stories by pasting the snipped pieces on used notebooks. Sometimes, I coloured them with water colour also. Later on, I even coloured some B&W photographs (colour film was not so easily or cheaply available then) with special colours. What software are you using for colouring the strips now?

    One technical comment. Colouring has become much more than what it was earlier - you see a lot of shading, light effects etc. But it is diffficult to try that on a basically B&W strip because the artist has already put in those effects in his drawing, particularly if you take strips by someone like Sy Barry. In such cases, one has to stick to honest-to-God inking only, with rare opportunities to do anything more. Of course, you still can show your artistic sense with the choice of colours.

    Best wishes for your experiments.

  3. @Tapas: Thanks a lot for your in-depth views on this aspect. Correctly pointed out by you. Today's comics are illustrated keeping in mind the additional effects to be brought in using computer added coloring effects. Much dependence on computer graphics has made the working of artists easy but human touch is missing in current comics.

    To fill the old black and white strips with colors is a different kind of job. It's so consuming but at the same time enjoyable also.

    And your childhood passions matches mine. I too did a similar job of cutting and pasting of strips on notebooks though never tried coloring on them.

    Adobe photoshop is used by me for this coloring work. Thanks once again for your excellent comment.

  4. I am a great fan of Indrajal comics and its heros especially the Phantom. Your analysis is great. I also wanted to know if some one has done an analysis on the artists who have drawn for Phantom. there are many of them. I hope Barry is best. Ofcourse if you have done any analysis on them, please definitely do a post on blog!Thanks & Rgds.,

  5. @Shiv: Thanks and welcome. There are mainly three artists who worked on original Lee Falk's work. Namely Ray Moore, Wilson McCoy and Sy Barry.

    Barry obviously stands out among them but Ray Moore's work is also very good. In fact, in some interview Falk said that he considered Moore as the best Phantom drawing artists, but he was referring only to the drawings of 'Phantom' as character and not the entire illustrations.

    I'll try and make some post on the subject soon.

    Thanks again.

  6. TPH: Thanks for the next set.... I would leave the commenting about coloring to experts like ComiCrazee and Prabhat... and will enjoy the comic as the reader & lover of comics art :)

    I hope you referred to the Cloud Formation at the background to Phantom, as the one taken by your kid. It's really wonderful and goes along with the plot. You creativity seems to be having no bounds.

    And the coloring Comparative Study is really great. I should admit Indrajal, eventhough having considerable financial strength never really managed to get over their cheap printing limitations. Maybe a better comics loving publisher could have done better and could have continued to stay in the market. We and our fantasies.... Gosh.

    Out of the 4.... Newspapers strips from Illustrated Weekly is pretty nice effort for coloring. Atleast someone did seem to have the passion.


  7. @Rafiq Raja: Welcome. Yes, you guessed it right, it was the same panel. Nice to see it going well with most enthusiastic comic lovers like you.

    And I share your views that a publishing house, which itself understand the value of these comics, specially from the readers point of view, would come out with better quality in technical terms also. That could have helped indrajals in continuing. We never know.

  8. Your scans of Illustrated Weekly brought back sweet memories of childhood. Thanks a lot. But I disagree with you, in the sense that Indrajal's quality went down, with its new series, both in terms of coloring, paper and covers. Indrajal was awesome till late seventies. I can provide some scans to prove my point. You are doing a good job. Keep it up!! Viva el Fantasma!!