Strip Panel Naked: The Lime Green And Purple Of ‘Hawkeye’
You’ve got to hand it to Jordie Bellaire; she really understands color in comics. There’s something effortless, restrained, and yet bombastic and intelligent about her work in basically everything I see her color. Yet again, in last week’s new Hawkeye #1, working alongside writer Kelly Thompson and penciller Leonardo Romero, Bellaire concocts a perfect palette for the storytelling.
I’ve spoken about Bellaire’s work on the Strip Panel Naked webseries, where I discussed her very subdued, subtle palette. In this issue of Hawkeye, Bellaire goes the other way — bright, in-your-face choices.
There’s one choice in particular that I want to highlight, which is the use of green and purple. Those two colors sit opposite each other on the color wheel, which means they are complementary, they are harmonious. This is important, because what Bellaire does here is paint the scenes in green and purple for Kate Bishop to represent two sides of her personality: the detective and the superhero.
So it makes sense that they would sit as a nice contrast to each other, and not be jarring or chaotic. So you can see in the example pages that when Kate isn’t being Hawkeye, she’s often wearing this green hoodie. Purple for Hawkeye, green for Kate as detective. Once you’ve noticed this happening, you can start to break down all the other times Bellaire has painted green and purple in a scene.
The most obvious case happens pretty quick into the comic, with these circles that Romero puts around points of interest. They’re purple – and that’s because clearly this is a particular power of Bishop’s as Hawkeye — the keen eyesight. So it would make sense for Bellaire to identify this as purple to represent that part of her. Conversely, the green is everywhere; even the inside cover credits page that shows Kate applying for a P.I. license has green post-it notes.
Which then brings up a number of interesting points about when Bellaire has chosen to use purple in other moments of the story, and the inherent focus she brings to those items. For example, Kate’s apartment building is green. She uses it for the office of Hawk Investigations, so that makes sense. But Ramone’s Surf Wear is purple. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything yet — but when coupled with Ramone herself actually having purple hair, you start to wonder if it maybe hints towards something.
A similar effect happens a few pages later when Kate is talking to her client, Mikka. The table she uses as her base for Hawk Investigations is surrounded by a purple rug. It creates something akin to the opening page, where we can see Kate wearing a green hoodie with a hint of the purple Hawkeye costume underneath it. It’s enclosing the space around Kate, and — please bear with me as this may sound ridiculous — it reinforces that there is a clear, defined link between the two sides of her.
Yes, I’m inferring that from a rug and a table, but this is how clever colorists work; by imbuing every facet of the story with their designed palette for storytelling. It’s not a coincidence that Bellaire just chose to color this rug purple. (I mean… who has a bright purple rug?)
Interestingly as well, with Mikka we get someone who’s wearing purple, a purple actually the same color as the fringe of the rug in the page of their dialogue. So Bellaire is deciding to draw a connection between Kate’s superhero persona and this character. I mean, we’re reading a Hawkeye comic, so undoubtedly at some point Kate will end up having to bring Hawkeye out to save the day, but even here there is beautifully subtle work going on by Bellaire to reinforce all these various elements of the story, and tie them all together.
You won’t find this level of work in every superhero book, or in a lot of comics generally. It shows a level of competence of craft that you don’t see everyday. Bellaire is coloring a lot of books (like, really, a lot), and there’s a reason for that. Even in a small scene where two characters have a conversation, Bellaire is giving you story through the colors. Every page, every panel. She’s bringing just as much to that process as Thompson, as Romero.
Take away the colors and this is a completely different experience that’s lacking a whole dimension, and a perfect example of why colorists rightly deserve their name on the covers of trades.