Art of Color: Reinvention Through Limitation With Cris Peter’s ‘Casanova’ Colors
The purpose of this Art of Color series is twofold: to highlight some of the best colorists working in comics, and to explain what it is about these artists' work that makes their comics better. With Cris Peter's work in Casanova: Luxuria, we have someone who perfectly exemplifies both criteria.
While one can usually offer some educated guesswork as to the division of labor when it comes to a book's color techniques, the back matter of the Luxuria trade features commentary by both Gabriel Bá and Cris Peter. They discuss the recoloring that Peter would do over the original single-color spot colors of the original run, and how they melded her sensibilities with the established color scheme of the world of Casanova.
Both of the first two volumes had a primary color, Luxuria had green, while Gula had blue. Bá and Peter's idea for the recolor was to use a limited palette filtered through the primary color of the original run, which is how you get this.
The top panel is the original panel, the bottom panel is how it ran in the recolored versions, and the middle panel is the original rendering that Peter did before integrating the limited color palette. By filtering her own color sensibilities through a limited number of shades, and while meeting Bá's desire for flat colors, Peter's recoloring allows the comic to be noticeably more colorful without taking away from the strongest qualities of the original.
Take these two pages for example:
Casanova's going to a flying casino to engage in a psychic battle against Fabula Berserko, the tri-headed MODOK-like thing. Remember that green is the spot color of the original book, and look at how the coloring changes the scene. The backgrounds are red, pinkish-purple, and white; Berserko's colors, as you can see on the page above. The casino is highlighted in pink and white, and the river below is green. It's out of Casanova's area and into Berserko's.
But as soon as the psychic battle begins, the pink and purple backgrounds recede. The fourth panel has them behind Casanova, but the fifth and seventh ones are focused in on Berserko, with no trace of them. The sixth panel has the colors on Casanova's face, but weakened. By the bottom panel, Casanova's spider projections, manifestations of his psychic will, are colored in a thick red and black. They match Berserko's color scheme in size, and the reader's eyes are drawn to them. Casanova's clearly winning the battle, and Peter's colors reinforce that understanding.
But while Peter is dazzling the reader with color theory, she's not overpowering Bá's line art at all. The eye is still drawn to his figures and encouraged to follow the same line, with Peter's colors offering a gentle nudge.
While comics readers are understandably reticent to accept recolored works, Cris Peter demonstrates exactly how great they can be. Peter's flat colors and specific shades set the gold standard for recoloring, by making Bá's line art look even cleaner, while underlining the thematic concerns of the work.