Strip Panel Naked: Coloring Tradd Moore In ‘Ghost Rider’ #1
I love Tradd Moore’s work. It’s crazy, detailed, over-the-top nonsense, and I can’t get enough. So it’s great to see him back on a story --- no matter how short --- for Ghost Rider #1. Moore is especially notable for his flexibility, and the opportunities for fun this provides to his collaborators. With his work being larger than life, it means the colorist working with him can play around with their work, too. They don’t necessarily have to strive for realism in their rendering, and can make the colors really pop and get in your face.
Val Staples has that opportunity with their short story in Ghost Rider, and he takes it.
Like a cartoon, everyone in the story is identified by color. So this woman, Rhonda Rubes, is established with pink on the first couple of pages --- through her car, her business card, and her introductory panel.
If you check out the palette of that page, predominantly greens, nothing too saturated, that pink really really stands out --- but yet the page doesn’t feel off-balance. Pink and green are opposites on the color wheel, so the page, even though it's marked by radically different colors, feels a complete whole.
Same with her car on the next page, the pink car sits on a primarily green page --- and it stands out without looking jarring. Notice the chap in the middle of the second panel as well? Pink hat. Turns out he’s a Rhonda superfan on Instagram --- a subtle touch from Staples to tie those two characters together.
The heavy color linking comes in a little later, too. So, Rhonda has tried to steal the Ghost Rider car, and it’s having none of it. Huge swathes of orange cover the page, firmly established it as Ghost Rider’s color - the color of licking flames.
Then Rhonda turns on her power, and her color switches to blue --- a color opposite orange on the color wheel. Again, Staples is picking complimentary colors --- completely different so they stand apart, but colors that blend and don’t jar for the eye of the reader.
It’s clever because it means that middle panel, panel 5, can just be colors. You’ve identified colors are attached to characters, like theme tunes in Once Upon a Time in the West, and so that jagged blue line? Obviously that’s Rhonda. The orange chain hitting the tarmac? Ghost Rider. It’s even there in the lettering, which Joe Sabino links in with the palette established by Staples.
In panel one the "V-SPTZ" for Rhonda is baby pink, a link back to her normal colors on the first page, but then it transitions into the aforementioned blue sound effects.
It’s kind of color 101 --- but by choosing these bright colors, it reinforces the world that Moore has created on the page. Most books you’ll read will probably have some form of this color-linking, but I think it’s a factor of Moore’s art that colorists always want to tap into. In the same way that Laura Martin brought down the saturation in the original volume of The Ultimates, here Staples is allowed to go big, bright, brash and bold.
It’s not just the panel decisions, the eyelines or page flow, which can affect the way a story is presented; it’s often down to the style of the artist. That can dictate so much about the story. The backup in Ghost Rider #1 is an excellent example of a story crafted for Tradd Moore, and of how the sound effects, writing, and color all change to fit his style. Well implemented, this is comic collaboration working harmoniously.
In Strip Panel Naked, Hassan Otsmane-Elhaou looks at elements of the art of visual storytelling on the comics page.