What do the colors of your favourite superhero tell you about them? We're applying traditional color theory to iconic comic characters, to see what we can learn about them. Our focus this time is on darker colors, and how they define both heroes and villains. Black and red are colors for dark passion.
Last time in Superhero Color Theory we explained why our main heroes look the way they do. Now it's time to look at the secondary colors and how they often, but not always, signal the presence of a bad guy. Obviously it makes the most sense visually, that to stand apart from a primary colored (red/blue/yellow) hero, you want a secondary colored (purple/green/orange) one. But what do these colors tell us about what type of character the heroes are encountering?
Take a look at the biggest names in superheroes and you probably realize that you're looking at a sea of red, blue, yellow. There are some greens, whites, blacks, etc, but the most iconic superheroes are the red and blue, with yellow accents. It's no accident that the easiest colors to render in the four-color printing process became the choice for bold heroes. But what does it mean for characterization of these heroes? What does it tell us about those characters?
The Dress. For a little while there, in between one story and the next, the dress was all anyone seemed to be talking about --- or more specifically, a picture of a dress. Some people swore that the dress in the picture was white and gold; others felt certain it was blue and black. Color, which we tend to think of as a matter of fact, is really a matter of perception --- but, "it all depends how you look at it" is an unsatisfying answer to a question that nearly tore the internet in two.
Thankfully there are people whose whole business is color, among them the talented artists who color our comics, applying color theory to create space, time, mood, and emotion on the page. One such artist is Nathan Fairbairn, whose projects include Multiversity and Wonder Woman: The Trial of Diana Prince. Fairbairn was as confounded by the mysteries of The Dress as anyone, but as an expert in his field he had a better idea than most of us on how they might be decoded.
When it comes to superhero comics, color is a bigger deal than you might think. As great as black and white stories are, the psychology of color is an important storytelling tool. Some characters and titles even rely on it explicitly...