Art of Color: The Dazzling Palettes of Rico Renzi
Comics coloring is one of the most unappreciated aspects of the medium, despite enhancing the thematic subtext of a work and just making it look better. In this series I'm going to shine a spotlight on some of the best and most interesting colorists in comics.
Rico Renzi is one of the most recognizable colorists in the business. Whether he's working on Marvel comics like Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, She-Hulk, and Howard the Duck, or a Vertigo title like FBP, it's easy to spot a Renzi-colored comic. Renzi always employs a striking color palette. His backgrounds and spot colors take advantage of the fact that comics don't always need to be realistic. While Marvel and DC comics are often colored in a more orthodox style, Renzi employs bold contrasts even there.
Look at this page from She-Hulk #5:
It's a fight scene at night, so one might expect it to be dark, with maybe some light pollution and odd shadows. Instead, Renzi colors the scene in a sickly pink-purple, which serves two purposes. First, it's instantly eye-catching; shades like this are rarely used in most comics, and it stands out. Second, it feels diseased and dangerous, which reinforces the meaning of the scene. Tigra has been brainwashed, and is trying to murder Hellcat, so the coloring, with its '80s neon aesthetic, implies a sense of uneasy miasma.
Yet even when Renzi is experimenting with color palettes, the figure work is never obscured. The hot pink sunset is contrasted against three main colors: Hellcat's yellow and blue costume and Tigra's green bikini. All three of these colors balance nicely against the pink background, which allows for Wimberly's figures to remain clear and present.
Or take a look at this page from FBP:
In this series, quantum disturbances and physics-related incidents are common. The Federal Bureau of Physics was formed to stop this disturbances when they occur, and the protagonist, Adam Hardy, is investigating one in the above page.
Renzi excels at creating the sort of beautiful, disturbing atmosphere that captures the weirdness of the book's concept. In this scene, pink and purple shades surround Adam in amorphous tendrils. Blue becomes the color of the unaffected, outside world, centered in the page as both the goal and a reminder of his home. The color scheme of Adam's helmet becomes a color synthesis of both the outside world and the quantum mess; a blue-tinged helmet with bright red goggle eyes. Even the crane, originally situated squarely in the blue center panel, changes hue when it falls into the physics disaster in the bottom panel. Renzi's coloring implies a contagious event, with a coloring scheme that infects the objects around it.
Renzi is a phenomenal colorist largely because he doesn't color comics the way the world "should" look. He's willing to experiment, to try new shades and contrasts beyond the established rules. If you find yourself noticing a particular shade of sunset that you haven't seen in comics before, there's a good chance Renzi is behind it.
Correction: An earlier version of this article credited Renzi for Southern Bastards. Renzi provided colors for the first two issues; Jason Latour primarily colors his own artwork for that title.