Guest Blog: Dark Horse Editor-in-Chief Scott Allie Interviews Artist Dave Stewart
Time for another installment in our guest blog series in which Dark Horse Comics Editor-in-Chief Scott Allie interviews some of the best and most prolific contributors to the horror genre. On tap today we have the multiple Eisner Award winning colorist Dave Stewart.
Scott Allie: You color all the Mike Mignola books, as many as three a month, and Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips’ Fatale for Image. That’s a significant portion of the horror comics on the market. Do you feel an affinity for the horror genre?
Dave Stewart: There is something really fun about giving people the willies. I really enjoy good horror. There’s nothing like coloring the perfect creepy mood or a nice gory monster.
SA: Why do you think you and Mignola clicked so well? You, his wife, and I are his longest lasting relationships.
DS: Well, I think I’ve always been willing to work hard to extend his vision into the color. I trust Mike entirely, and that’s allowed me to learn quite a bit. I think it’s also a mindset of having fun while working hard. We all take what we do seriously but still feel like kids in a candy shop.
SA: What’s the biggest factor in choosing a project? Story, artist, or something else?
DS: The art is usually the first thing I think about—how can I fit color into what the artist is creating? That’s the closest relationship I’ll have on a project. I think great artists are usually hooked up with amazing writers.
SA: The most scared I’ve ever seen you was when you fell out of that boat on the Deschutes River. Has any comic ever really scared you?
DS: That was scary. Thanks for pulling me out, by the way. Yeah, Richard Corben (The Conqueror Worm), Guy Davis (B.P.R.D.), and Mignola all still have that ability to freak me out. Al Columbia, wow! Biologic Show was really scary. When I was a kid, I’d read those Jack Chick Christian comic book tracts. Holy crap, those were spooky. Now I’m scared of them for a whole different reason.
SA: Would Jack Chick’s books be more effective in full color?
DS: I’m sure they would. The covers would sometimes have a swatch of color, mostly a strong red. They had painted color in the comic size versions of those. I remember really liking the art in those.
SA: Al Columbia’s Doghead made a big impression on me. Doesn’t he tend to avoid color? Even when in full color, doesn’t it tend to be gray? Do you ever borrow from that approach?
DS: It’s been awhile since I’ve looked at that stuff, and using gray would mostly be for a specific effect.
SA: You approach each artist differently, or at least you apply very different techniques to different artists. How do you decide?
DS: I try to decide what is going to enhance the art. I need to find a balance so that the rendering and color don’t overshadow the lines. I think good coloring isn’t the first thing you notice. The lines work in unison with the color. Sometimes that is matching a rendering style to an artist’s inks. Watercolor washes for ink washes, etc. Bolder art can take a cut rendered approach. Sometimes the project demands a different approach. I colored Gabriel Bá’s art in Umbrella Academy very differently from his B.P.R.D. project. Umbrella Academy sort of asked for a more playful style than B.P.R.D., which was dark and serious.
SA: You once told me—perhaps under the influence—that you never wanted to color another sky blue again. Sometimes the Hollywood folks we have to deal with get confused when things aren’t colored the way they’d look under normal lighting. What’s wrong with coloring things the color they are?
DS: I will tell you again—stone-cold sober—no more blue sky! There is so much you can make people feel if you skew reality a bit and play with the unexpected. At the very least, it creates interest. In the context of horror, that can create a tension building the mood. Not to mention it’s a way the colorist can be an individual—an opportunity to create an identity and style.
SA: I got you to color Tim Seeley’s covers for Ex Sanguine, and Tim asked you to color the first one like a Dario Argento movie (The Phantom of the Opera, 1998) or Mario Bava (Twitch of the Death Nerve). Can you talk about how you approached it?
DS: It’s that idea of unnatural color in a tense context that those guys used so well. Why is there a hot magenta light hitting everything in this scene? It’s almost a harbinger of a supernatural presence in those films. I think that idea translates to comics.
SA: On the next cover you abandoned Argento. How come?
DS: I thought popping the vampire’s gums and eyes seemed pretty creepy. The areas of contrast were decreased, so the concept changed a bit, but the desired effect was hopefully the same.