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Should Black and White Comics Get Colored?

Black? White? Or read all over.

 Printing technology couldn't keep up with Little Nemo in his day.

I’ve been having a good time fielding questions from the community in my Almost Otaku column at Anime Vice, so I figured, hey, why not try at Comic Vine? Thus, I put the challenge to you maniacs. Come up with a good comics-related question and I’ll answer it, here. Send me PM. I’m up for handling all questions... within reason.

Damswedon gets +1000 XP points of courage for asking the inaugural question…

Damswedon: I have a very simple question "Do you think Black and White comics should ever be coloured?"  I was watching an interview of Alan Moore where he said he thinks the original B+W versions of V for Vendetta are the best. This is because there is no shading in the art, It is all black ink on white background, this means that the only shades of grey in the book is found in the text. 

This question reminds me of the very fortunate opportunity I had a couple years back to visit the Masters of American Comics exhibit when it was on display at the Milwaukee art museum. The collection had original pieces of art from a diverse sample of artists, including Jack Kirby, E.C. Segar, Charles Schulz, Milton Caniff, Chester Gould and even Chris Ware. What made this exhibit especially intriguing was that it soundly answered a question I’d had about whether modern artists could have existed in decades past. Even though the original Windsor McCay LITTLE NEMO IN SLUMBERLAND pages were over a century old, they looked like they were drawn today. That’s when I realized that draftsmanship and line hasn’t changed much over the years, but printing technologies have improved in astronomic increments. == TEASER ==

This doesn't need color.   

Considering that early comics were reproduced with methods about as crude as pressing playdough on the pages, I can see why creators would want to rebuild the bridge between the original art and what’s presented to the audience. But it’s not a one-size-fits all, to be sure. I think of Brian Bolland’s sumptuous ink work in DREDD VS. DEATH and can’t imagine color improving the experience. In fact, I figure it might diminish it. On the other hand, sometimes the color fits the art just right, even if the creators themselves are dissatisfied with it . I personally prefer the original coloring of THE KILLING JOKE over the revision it’s gotten. Even though the original colors might be garish by some people's standards, I think they fit the perfectly fit the feverish, hallucinatory feel of the story.  

So, to answer your question, there cases when it works and there are cases when ti doesn't. It just comes down to the specifics of the work.

Anyway, keep the questions coming everybody. Send me a PM and I’ll eventually answer it, here.

Tom Pinchuk’s the writer of HYBRID BASTARDS! &  UNIMAGINABLE . Order them on Amazon   here   &     here .

56 Comments
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Posted by BKole

Sometimes Black and White comics need colouring. The first volume of Jack Staff, for Example, wouldn't suffer from having Colour added to it. In fact, it might give it a proper silver age feel that it was putting out. 
 
However, I think the Essential and Showcase Volumes are actually better without colour. Sure sometimes things are missing, but, it makes everything a tad clearer. It makes things a bit more..visual when you're appreciating the art for the lines rather than the lines and the colour. For a colour blind guy like mean, sometimes it means nothing. 
 
However, things like Sin City, or TMNT the first volume. Or Even Guy Davis the Marquis, they NEED to be Black and White because they would suffer from colour. It'd wash out the heavy and dark visuals or change the visual of the issue drastically. So, yeah, sometimes it is important, otherwise, I think...Black and White for the sake of it ISN'T that awful.

Posted by Decept-O

It's a bit subjective, isn't it?  Certain comics and comic strips should simply remain black and white.   
 
Example of a comic strip would be Ms. Tree.  Holy cow, the beauty of the inking in that comic strip, the draftmanship, absolutely stunning.   I wouldn't want to see any of those old strips in color.
 
Another example would be Bernie Wrighston's Frankenstein ( Marvel Volume ).  The feel, the shading, the mood, all conveyed so well with his mad inks.  (At least I recall it being black and white! )   
 
A bit similar to the whole colorization issue with movies.  When Turner went that route with a few classics, not too many peeps were happy with it.   
 
I don't see there being any need for coloring older comics or comic strips that were originally black and white.  Maybe for some it might be "neat' but at the end of the day I think it is just a wasted effort and the original art should be appreciated for what it is. 
Posted by jakob187

Dammit, now you've got me realizing that I need to find Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland on DVD!!! 
 
Personally, I think it just depends on what the context of the story is, and whether the black and white complements it better that way or not.  My immediate "go-to" example is the jolt of color that gets thrown into Sin City's To Hell and Back during the hallucination/dream sequence in that book.  It's incredibly jarring, and moreover, the color stuff doesn't look nearly as great as the black-and-white.

Posted by danhimself

I don't think so...most of them work better as black and white....like Sin City and Walking Dead...the black and white actually adds to the mood of the book
 
I would however like to see a compendium or something of the Walking Dead that's in color

Posted by aztek_the_lost

I think Battle Pope profited from being colored...

Moderator
Posted by Dracade102

Most of them Should be colored

Posted by AMP - Seeker of Lost Knowledge

Black and White was good for films back in the 30's, 40's, and 50's, but eventually we need to colored in. With comics like The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (VOLUME 1) and MICRA, we need to see color. MANGA (Japanese comic books), however, does not want to be colored in for reasons unknown

Posted by Amegashita

  Only when the colorer does the pencils justice.  Sometimes you get great pencils, but crap coloring.

Posted by Omegavondoom

I for one am a massive fan of black and white art. For some comics/stories the lack of colour really adds to the feel and and atmosphere, and I think in most cases is a conscious decision on the artists part. Like Sin City and the original V for Vendetta. (I didn't know there was a non-black and white version)
 
Even with new comics, if I see something that's done in just black and whites, I definitely try to check it out. 
 
Also, I love the original colours for Killing Joke too... the "bad acid trip" look really makes the story kick,

Posted by ironshadow

I don't think it would hurt 

Posted by ateygheyev

No.

Posted by N7_Normandy

It depends; there are times when black and white enhance a comic's gritty, noiresque atmosphere. 

Posted by jamdown

not the walking dead

Posted by danhimself
@AMP - Seeker of Lost Knowledge said:
" Black and White was good for films back in the 30's, 40's, and 50's, but eventually we need to colored in. With comics like The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (VOLUME 1) and MICRA, we need to see color. MANGA (Japanese comic books), however, does not want to be colored in for reasons unknown "
why would Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles need colored?  I've read it (several times actually) and I thought that it was one of those gritty books that benefited from being in black and white
Posted by Journey Into Chaos

I think truth be told it depends the comic.  If the shading, shadows and outlines aren't strong enough on their own then the comic needs color.  Or if the comic was originally made for color and the transfer for the comic goes to black in white then it should stay color to absorbed the original feel of the comic (see the tpb version vs the actual comics of JTHM). But some things such as The Kabuki manga series  look amazing in the original black in white. Bare in mind this just my opinion  and this what I have to say on this matter. So take it from an artist.  

Posted by GreenLantern555

Yes. On all accounts.

Posted by Icon
@N7_Normandy said:
" It depends; there are times when black and white enhance a comic's gritty, noiresque atmosphere.  "
Exactly.
Posted by crusader8463

Can't really give a blanket statement Yes/No as it all depends on the comic. It depends on the comic and the tone it's going for. I prefer coloured just because I like the way it looks, but there are times when b&w looks nice too.

Posted by Man of Lengend

i enjoyed the teenage mutant ninja turtle comics because the black and white made the story so dark

Posted by haydenclaireheroes

I hate black and white comics they are more difficult to read. They need color 

Edited by Dr. Maxwell


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
NO
Posted by greenenvy

Yep that would be cool.

Posted by RATZGobbler

Looks like this could start a potential NAACC. You see what I did there?

Posted by MannyMAR

Depends on the book and the artist's intentions. There's some works like Sharknife that would seriously benefit from coloring, but something like Sin City and couple of other books should be left as is.

Posted by LRM23936
@Dr. Maxwell:
Perfect argument. Well done! Some books are meant to be in Black and White. And in the case of some of these reprint volumes the original printing wasn't that flattering color wise. I'm not knocking the colorists but the  seperation technology of the time.
Posted by batmanboy11

I'd kind of like to see Scott Pilgrim in colour, but then again I wouldn't. If its done in Black and White originally, I don't think it should be changed.
Posted by Pizawle

Guess it depends.

Posted by ArtisticNeedham

Sometimes the artists art looks better black and white.  Will Eisner's for example.
Also if the intent was to be in black and white, then no.  Don't color it.

Posted by tonis

really great question Damswedon, 
There is a beauty to original work in B&W. Be it a classic film, photograph, and yes, definitely comics and artwork. Although it's sometimes interesting to see an updated colored rendition of something, I still prefer the originals look and feel in pretty much every case.

Posted by brendon277

I wouldn't care if they did get colored i don't know any comics that i like that are in black and white

Posted by robokungfu

Black and white comics are the same as black and white film.  It's a completely different art to its colored versions.  I can't imagine early Orson Welles films redone in color.  The use of blacks juxtaposed with whites have different and sometimes greater importance.  I did however like the Marvel versions of Akira where it was colored.  It works better in the original, inked version.  Colorizing can be an interesting version of an original in some cases but if it's what the artists had in mind it should stay that way.  

Posted by Carolina574
@Man of Lengend: Completely agree. When they reprinted the stories in color I feel like it actually hurt and stories. 
Posted by MadClawMannn

Look at The Walking Dead, color would ruin the vibe of the comic.

Posted by LT1085
@aztek the lost said:
" I think Battle Pope profited from being colored... "
@N7_Normandy said:
" It depends; there are times when black and white enhance a comic's gritty, noiresque atmosphere.  "
Edited by damswedon

I'm always of the opinion that a black and white comic should stay black and white. Hell this applies to most art forms (from Manga to Anime being good exception to the rule). I think a part of me would die if Odd Man Out or Wulf and Batsy where ever to be coloured. 
And for anyone interested the Interview I mentioned is here.

Posted by Larkin1388

I think most of them should be colored but if its done well i say leave it black and white.

Posted by ArtisticNeedham

I got a Fantastic Four (The End I think) by Alan Davis that was uncolored and uninked, it was called the "Rough" version.  It was awesome.

Posted by CATMANEXE
@danhimself said:
" @AMP - Seeker of Lost Knowledge said:
" Black and White was good for films back in the 30's, 40's, and 50's, but eventually we need to colored in. With comics like The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (VOLUME 1) and MICRA, we need to see color. MANGA (Japanese comic books), however, does not want to be colored in for reasons unknown "
why would Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles need colored?  I've read it (several times actually) and I thought that it was one of those gritty books that benefited from being in black and white "
agreed. keep the color away from that, especially volume 1. the b&w is what established the depth and grit in that series.
i've heard some folks say that it should be colored so they can recognize who each Turtle is. what they don't know is that
in the originals they all wore the same colored bands (red and brown). they were identifiable by their weapons, and the fact
that they were called either by name or described in the narration. i appreciate the fact that Eastman & Laird considered their
readership intelligent enough to figure it out on there own.
Posted by danhimself
@CATMANEXE said:
" @danhimself said:
" @AMP - Seeker of Lost Knowledge said:
" Black and White was good for films back in the 30's, 40's, and 50's, but eventually we need to colored in. With comics like The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (VOLUME 1) and MICRA, we need to see color. MANGA (Japanese comic books), however, does not want to be colored in for reasons unknown "
why would Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles need colored?  I've read it (several times actually) and I thought that it was one of those gritty books that benefited from being in black and white "
agreed. keep the color away from that, especially volume 1. the b&w is what established the depth and grit in that series. i've heard some folks say that it should be colored so they can recognize who each Turtle is. what they don't know is that in the originals they all wore the same colored bands (red and brown). they were identifiable by their weapons, and the fact that they were called either by name or described in the narration. i appreciate the fact that Eastman & Laird considered their readership intelligent enough to figure it out on there own. "
completely agree...Vol. 1 is one of my favorite series of books and I don't think having it in color would help anything
Posted by Comicgirl93

Comic are better with color! You can actually see the actions and what the color of other things are and what they really look like! So colored comics are way better that way!

Posted by goldenkey

If the artist wanted it to be black and white then it should stay that way.  Some films are black and white that shouldn't be either.

Posted by goldenkey
@Dr. Maxwell: this is a good point.  I was thinking of the Crow.
Posted by Girth

Black & white only works sometimes. It mostly depends on the artist and the story.

Posted by No_name_here
@Omegavondoom: "Bad acid trip" is definitely the best way to phrase it. I'm glad somebody else sees it the way I do!
Posted by No_name_here

And, hey everybody... where all the questions for me to cover? I was serious about answering them in this column.

Edited by UnclePappyWolf

So long as there are coloring books and  children under 4 years of age with crayons their will  always be the coloring of old black & white comics. Sometimes even the colored comics get a touch up job!

Posted by MisterDK
@batmanboy11 said:
" I'd kind of like to see Scott Pilgrim in colour, but then again I wouldn't. If its done in Black and White originally, I don't think it should be changed. "
We did get to see what it would be like in colour at the beginning of Gets It Together in some of the editions.


I do like these coloured pages but I still think it works really well as b&w. (And just imagine how long the books would of taken if they were getting the full colour treatment!)
Posted by excalibur5150

Not necessarily. 
 
I think comics like Sin City, Batman: Black and White, First Comic's TMNT, Maus, and Walking Dead are made for no color at all. 

There are times when I tell myself, "I think I would have enjoyed that comic a lot more in color" usually when it's a young creator who in fact wanted color but it was cheaper to produce their comic with no color.  
 
For my money, there isn't a cookie cutter answer where all comics should be color, there's room for exceptions.

Posted by Eyz

I prefer b&w comics to stay b&w.
I mean, it's the same with pre-WW movies. (King Kong... )
I always find the colors cheap, forced and improvised.
 
Boneyard and Bone for exemple, are two comics that look amazing in black & white. I only bought and read the original versions. I quickly checked the colored versions for both...and...huh.. it came out sort of cheap. (though the later Bone books look better, Boneyard in color is awful...)

Posted by CATMANEXE
@Tom Pinchuk said:
" And, hey everybody... where all the questions for me to cover? I was serious about answering them in this column. "
You heard the man pee-pole! Make with the questions!
Chop! Chop!
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