RINGGENBERG: It's September 19th, 1994 and I'm speaking with Marcus David.
MARCUS DAVID: Who?
RINGGENBERG: Marcus David. You know him, right?
DAVID: No, I never heard of him.
RINGGENBERG: Oh, okay. Anyway, Marcus, why don't you tell me how did you break into coloring comics?
DAVID: I took a stained-glass window and threw it through a Marvel comics store. No. Let's see, way back around the beginning of the eighties I was a musician at the time. I was playing in L.A. I was touring a lot. I used to play with Huey Lewis and John Shippley, many people from the Bay area. Anyways...
RINGGENBERG: What was your instrument?
DAVID: I was a drummer. I kept the rhythym in the band and I was making some good cash, and I started buying comic book collections. And, which turned out to be a really smart investment. I was into Golden Age stuff. But, in the collections, a lot of the collections had portfolio prints in them, black and white portfolio prints of just whatever, from, there was a series of Marvel superhero team-up prints, like you know, Frank Miller does Spider-Man and Daredevil, you know, it was a splash-page thing, and various other kinds of black and white art. Well, at the time I was kind of getting back into comics because I'd been into comics since I was a kid, of course and I started--Now how did I do this? Oh, I started noticing that colorists were given a credit in, you know, it said: writer, penciller, inker, colorist, and I'm going `Cool!' And at the time I had a girlfriend who, she was kind of a doodler and she had all these marking pens. Well, one thing led to another and I started doodling, and coloring these portfolio prints, and I'd go out on the road and instead of watching tv, I'd do this. And I was actually, instead of partying it down so much on the road I would actually get into this and spend my time doing it. And after a while I had a bunch of these and I used to go to Golden Apple Comics in Hollywood, Bill Leibowitz' store, and we were friends and whatnot and I just, `Hey, by the way, what do you think of these?', and I showed `em to him. And he went, `Wow, these are really good! Who did these?' And I said, `Well, I did them.' And he goes, `These are really good. Have you ever thought about doing this for real?' And I go, `Well, not really, but you know I see there's a job there, it says colorist.' So, he said, `Well, why don't you get ahold of Steve Schanes.' It was just when Pacific was starting out and he says, `They might be able to use you.' And right at the time that Kraft's Comic Interview--
RINGGENBERG: Oh, yeah, Comics Interview.
DAVID: Yeah. Had a interview with Steve Oliff, who I had seen his name as a colorist, right? And I go, Cool! And so I bought it and I read it and it turns out he's using the same brand markers I was using and that's when I said, Wow, I could really do this. I'm into this. I use these markers anyway. So I can...So, I called up Steve Schanes and made an appointment and drove down to San Diego and he took a look at the stuff and gave me work right away. So, that was about how I broke into the, being a professional doing. And from there I just kept on sending either samples of my work, which at the time was hard to do because color xerox hadn't been really proliferated as it is today. It would cost like five dollars to get a color copy as opposed to seventy-five cents or a dollar now, so...But within about six months I had four or five things printed with Pacific, so...
RINGGENBERG: What was your first job for them?
DAVID: It was called, oh, I can see it but I can't remember it. Actually, while I'm talking to you I'll look. I've got a list of books that I did. And it was in the last issue of Jack Kirby's Captain Victory. It was a backup story, which turned out to be the last regular book that Jack Kirby ever did. And, let's see--Pacific Comics. Yeah, it was Captain Victory #15. It was something called "Yesteryear". And I couldn't even tell you who drew it. And about three or four jobs into it I got to work on some Berni Wrightson stuff that they were reprinting and colorized. It was the stuff he did in Creepy.
RINGGENBERG: Oh, yeah. That wash stuff he did for Warren.
DAVID: Right. Well, Steve got ahold of that catalog and sent me an issue to do, and that was Master of the Macabre #4 and I was going nuts because I had never really realized who Berni Wrightson was but I just loved the artwork. It knocked me out and I went and copped the other issues that Steve Oliff did before me and kind of did his style on it so it would look like there wasn't a different colorist in there, you know what I'm saying?
DAVID: So, that was like one of my first attempts at making something look like it hasn't been, not stylized, but, in a continuity fashion. So that was about '82 and then I started going to the comic cons. And I remember one time I met Shooter at a convention, I can't remember when it was and I had a bunch of these Marvel team-up portfolio prints and he looked at them, and this is before Marvel even thought of, or not thought of, but this is when they were still into the flat coloring and did very few full-color, not even few, one or two a year full-color books. So, he told me I had to simplify and he gave me his basic color spiel, which last year I heard it again when I went to work for him at Defiant. But, I would send books to all the independent companies. I would send books to all the major companies, and go to conventions and meet editors and whatnot, and basically get to meet them so they would remember my face when I would call and see if I could get work from them. And eventually I got work here, I got work there, I got work, you know, at one time I had worked for just about every independent comic book company. And then I finally got some work from Marvel. Breaking in is, it's, it means, it's different things for different people. If you're a penciller, you've got to do one thing. If you're an inker you've got to do another, you know what I'm saying?
DAVID: And a colorist, it's probably the easiest, yet hardest because youhave to understand some concepts of coloring that you don't realize it until you start working with people because it's not something you can read in a book. And I learned almost everything I know from talking to other colorists and editors taking me apart. So, let's see, it's, it would be easy because you can get some black and white art pretty easy, almost. You know you can get, you know, reprints of E.C. books that are in black and white, and there's a thousand different ways to get black and white art to colorize and send for samples.
RINGGENBERG: Yeah, I think those E.C. books are a great resource.
DAVID: Oh, yeah, because first of all, the one I got to say, a colorist, when you're working on bad art it is so hard to make it look workable because unless you're...I don't claim to be, or try to be a really good artist, I just have a knack for a sense of color and there's not much you can do with bad art, even in color because what defines good art is their sense of shading, their sense of perspective, all the little subtleties that, you know, you open up a page and go: Great! or Yuck! When you work on bad artwork it's so hard to, you know, because I like to try to have a sense of light source, and if there's no clue to that in the line art then you're constantly trying to get a fix on, you know, are they standing looking at each other, or did they change position, and you're in for a whole bummer train there.
RINGGENBERG: Yeah, well, that given, who are some artists you like to work on?
DAVID: Uh, well, uh without saying, Berni Wrightson, let's see, David Lapham, Howard Dunn, some of the, and I didn't really know too much about him until I started working with Defiant and he's got a wonderful sense of depth and whatnot. Oh, let me think about that.
RINGGENBERG: Okay. You can get back to me on that. Okay, so Marcus, anyway, you said eventually you were working for Marvel.
DAVID: Yeah, I did a few fill-in issues. Marvel, you almost have to live in New York to work for them because they run right up to deadline and the two days in transportation that it takes for the art to get to you and you to send it back, they usually need those two days.
RINGGENBERG: You know, that's an interesting take on how they do business. Because every editor I talk to there seems overworked.
DAVID: Oh, yeah. Yeah. Well, you know what it is. It's your writers being late, your pencillers, you know, being late, and the inkers being late, and then you end up, I mean the colorists are the most, I mean I have had things that I had to do literally, there was a Sable book that I did overnight, twenty-some pages.
RINGGENBERG: Jesus Christ!
DAVID: But, it was flat color, which is doable, and Mike Grell's pencils, I mean the stuff was so wide open that it was just a one-color wash background...So, it wasn't, and the thing took place in snow, so there was nothing to color anyway. But I did do it overnight.
RINGGENBERG: That must be some kind of record.
DAVID: I've heard more amazing things. Greg Wright literally doing an issue on the train from Philly to New York, but with color guides, it's very conceivable to do because, A: there's almost a mechanic approach to coloring when you're doing flat color books. You have to do lighter colors in back and your brighter colors in front and greens and browns in the middle. That's about, that's the only way to keep a clear look to it. Although Greg totally goes beyond that in his coloring. He's rewritten the color book, you know, the color manual. But given its limitations, there's good and bad points to it, although now with computer coloring, when you do guides for computers, you...Well, I've done some stuff for Oliff and he's told me, just keep it real simple and we jazz it up on the computer. And I go, well, cool. And the rate they pay, I said fine. You give it to me all you want. So, I mean, I probably myself will be getting into computer just because it's not going to go away and there's a lot to be said for it. There's good, like Steve's the best there is.
RINGGENBERG: Listen, I think Spawn is the best-colored comic book out there.
DAVID: Yeah. I mean, see, the thing is, Oliff understands color concept, you know, what colors blend well, and what colors emote certain emotions, and what colors work printed and what colors don't. Because there are some colors that if you try to print them, they look muddy. They don't, it looks like some kind of sludge. And, he's got it down. We've always known each other in the business but it wasn't till this last San Diego con that we kind of sat down and rapped it out. We're both musicians and we both kind of got into comics in the same way and all this shit and he's a good guy.
RINGGENBERG: Yeah, I'm going to be talking to Steve later this week, Wednesday night.
DAVID: Oh, cool. Well, tell him to give me a buzz.
RINGGENBERG: I will.
DAVID: I've got to call him, it's just that I know he's so overworked there that I don't, there's sometimes I want to pick up the phone and, Hey, what's going on, and I know he ain't got five minutes to talk. But he's one of the better guys as far as the computer colors. And the people that have split from him probably learned a hell of a lot from him, and I know they're doing some of the other Image books. But, in computer coloring, like, there are certain companies, and I will not name them, that use it and they don't have a clue. They let, they figure, all right, we'll give it to some guy who understands computer and he'll be able to color a book and those guys kind of start figuring out because they probably do like comics, they like the artwork, and then they start figuring out what it is that color does to a book because it's not just knowing it's Superman has got a red cape.
RINGGENBERG: Yeah. Well, who are some colorists you've liked in the past? You mentioned that you really respect Steve.
DAVID: Let's see. Marie Severin does wonderful work on the flat color stuff, and Greg Wright as well. And then my coach at Defiant, Janet Jackson. She paints like nobody else I've ever seen before. I worked, they sent me to New York to work on the first Plasm, on the card set. Like I was doing almost all airbrush stuff at the time and I really didn't use too much brushwork because when I first started coloring I started coloring on graylines and my approach was to get a flat finish, much like flat color, but I had to use markers to get that because of the finish of the paper that a grayline is. It's a photographic paper. So, and then I progressed to using Tombo and Mars brush pens, which are a soft felt nib and I really didn't use too much regular brushwork until I started working for Defiant, and she taught me a whole lot about that, and really in the few weeks that I worked there, they sent me to New York to work on the Plasm card set, then a couple months later, they sent me back there for a couple weeks to work on the Dark Dominion card set, and she was a great coach. She would show me how to get these great airbrush effects without using the airbrush. And, let's see, who else? Sam Parsons. He's really good. Linda Lessman's got a very quaint style of coloring. I don't know how to explain it other than it's just pleasant to look at when she does a book. Let's see, I know I'm forgetting somebody, they're going to...
RINGGENBERG: You know when you mentioned Marie Severin, were you thinking of the E.C. stuff?
RINGGENBERG: Yeah, that was great.
DAVID: Yeah, I mean some stuff was so...Now the concept of less is more works totally when you look at those books. Because back then you couldn't do more, you could only do less because otherwise you'd muddy things up. Because they didn't have the engraving skills that they...Almost everything's done with computers now anyways, so when somebody would cut the color the process that they had to use was so limited that you could only use twenty-five, fifty and a hundred percent values. So that's three values of four colors and that's hardly anything. So, the early E.C. stuff was...Because that caught, that had a lot of mood to it. And you get a lot of mood by using different color choices than you normally would, but you can't get over on it. You know, that's where it muddies up on you.
RINGGENBERG: No, I understand the limitations of the processes they were using.
DAVID: Yeah, I mean when I did some Punishers for Don Dailey and it was flat and although you could use seventy percents and K-tones, which are ten and twenty percents of black, which is, you know, a nice gray, still the same process, the same thinking goes into that Shooter ran down to me when I first met him. You know, lighter colors in the back, your brighter colors up front and it's almost like a, if you're a musician, if you understand the rudiments of your instrument, you could play almost anything. And for rock and rollers that goes, if you understand, for a drummer, rather. For a drummer, if you understand blues shuffles you can play any rock riff there is because that's, it's the rudiment, it's the core of all the rock drumming. And the same thing with coloring. If you understand the basic approaches to how you, like how things are supposed to look, and the limitations with which you're dealing with, you'll end up with a pretty good-looking piece.
RINGGENBERG: Well, if you were going to give some advice to some guy fresh out of art school or somebody who wanted to break into comics, what would you tell them to do to learn how to color comics?
DAVID: Understand perspective. Actually, something that, and I just got ahold of it last year, a book called Dinotopia, a book by a guy named, uh, it's right here. It's always right next to my desk because I always reference on it. James Gurney.
RINGGENBERG: Right. Beautiful book.
RINGGENBERG: Beautiful book. I've seen it.
DAVID: Yeah. I mean he paints in a way that you get, you understand if there's an inside and an outside. There's perspective there. If there's a gateway, you know, a doorway between here and there, you realize by the color choices that he uses that there's an inside and an outside. There's depth of field, there's atmospheric perspective. There's almost every approach. Now, since color is done, either, these days you have just about enough...I mean the industry has advanced enough that you should understand some of these painter concepts so you can use that in part of your coloring arsenal because it's not just the colors of a costume. You know, your backgrounds have to be subtle yet distinct, and by distinct I don't mean like if there's a building way in the background you paint the doorway, you paint the windows, you paint the cracks in the wall, you know. That's going overboard, but you know, you have to understand a bit of painter technique when it comes to coloring these days just because a lot of stuff, if it's not done full process color ninety percent of the time it will be done computer colored, so you still have to use those, some of those concepts. Let's see, what else would I tell them? Send submissions in and be ruthless about it. And don't feel like you're, because if you're good, and this is what Shooter once told me: He says most editors don't know what they're doing. They do know what they're doing, but they won't take a chance on somebody unless they're a name because they always have to answer to somebody. And so what you should do is always send stuff in every couple of months and try the smaller companies because as far as coloring goes, coloring is one of those borderline talents where it could be considered production or art. And if you're aware of production needs and constraints, you'll be more valuable colorist because then they won't have to teach you, well you can't do this here, or you can't do this there or whatever. So, try going on with the, trying to work for some of the smaller companies because, A: they can't pay as much and get the higher priced talent, and B: You'll be able to learn a lot in doing so. And still, send samples all the time and go to shows and try to meet those people you send samples to. And, at least shake hands with them and try to get a little dialogue going and you know, try to get some kind of, you know, find some way to interpersonally relate other than comics. Like, I actually became friends with Don Dailey long before I started working for him and it's because he's a drummer as well, so you know we became friends about that and then later on he, you know, he got me involved in some Marvel books. So that's a good way, using whatever interpersonal skills you can because, you know, talent, I mean how many people turned down The Beatles before you know, Brian Epstein was smart enough to go: Hey. So, and that's happened time and time again in the comics world where one editor will look at something and, Aw, this guy can't draw. And the next thing you know, he's the next biggest thing.
RINGGENBERG: Yeah. Okay. Well, that's good, Marcus. I think I've got everything I need unless you have one thing you want to add or anything.
DAVID: No, just if you believe in what you're doing, stay true to yourself and keep at it. And never, ever take no for an answer. And if you're good, you'll get work. And if you're intelligent and can get better at what you're doing, you'll learn and get better at it and get work. And that's about that from Dr. Marcus here.