INTERVIEW: RUTH REDMOND ON COLOURING, DARK ANGEL & MORE

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On the heels of the release of her first Marvel work, I ask Ruth Redmond about working on the book, the mysterious (to me) world of colouring and what’s coming next from her.

I’ve only begun to really notice the impact of colouring in the last year or so with the work of people like Jordie Bellaire, Len O’Grady and yourself. What got you into being a colourist?

I first became interested in becoming a comic book colourist when Rob Carey approached me to colour a few shorts he had drawn. You’d have to ask him why he thought I’d be any good haha but it turned out to be a lot of fun! That was around the end of 2012. Then in March 2013 I went to a talk about Irish Comics that was on in Trinity, you prolly remember it! I was startled to see Jordie Bellaire in the audience, the row in front of me actually, and since I had recently discovered I really liked colouring comics I seized the opportunity to approach her (after a brief pep talk from a friend that was with me) and she invited me to talk to her at the bar after I showed her two of the short stories I had coloured (I was super lucky that they appeared in Lightning Strike Issue 2 which was on sale there, I borrowed a copy). After we spoke at the bar for a while she invited me to come over to her and Declan Shalvey’s apartment to learn about colouring. That was the beginning of my informal internship with them and the real jump start to my colouring career!

To the untrained observer, like myself, colouring seems like a tougher and more technical gig. Is that fair to say?

I think colouring is probably one of the more mysterious aspects to making comics haha~ I think the average comics reader doesn’t really know how it works so that makes it seem harder. But it is not any harder than writing, or drawing, lettering, editing or anything. Every aspect of comics comes with its own technical nuances and difficulties, every discipline requires its 10,000 hours. But I suppose since there are very few colourists who don’t use Photoshop, there is the added trouble of learning that huge program first. It can be very frustrating when you know what you want something to look like but don’t know how to manipulate Photoshop to do it haha.

I know you worked with Declan Shalvey and Jordie Bellaire as an intern. How long did it take you to get to the level you’re at?

I guess 21 years? Haha~ Well I started my internship with Jordie and Declan in April 2013, so it’s getting close to a year now. I started learning a whole lot faster when I started training under Jordie, and I learnt a lot about the more businessy side of comics from Declan, which helped an awful lot, so I definitely owe them a huge debt. It didn’t hurt though that I knew a fair bit about Photoshop before I met them. I had learnt a lot about the program by fiddling around with it doing my own personal work and college work too. I think that might have been part of why Jordie was willing to take me on, it’d probably have been pretty annoying for her if she had had to teach me the basics of Photoshop first haha! But yeah, I think everything I have ever done or seen has led me this far, I’ve just gathered some speed recently thanks to the push Jordie and Dec gave me.

Your Revolutionary War: Dark Angel issue for Marvel comics just hit shops (congrats). The characters have not been around for a while. Were you familiar with them before doing the issue?

Thanks!

Not even a little unfortunately! Dark Angel came out the year I was born but was cancelled within a year or two and I didn’t get into Marvel, or any mainstream American comics really until well after that. My first introduction to comics were the ones my Dad read when I was growing up and those were mostly collected newspaper strips and European comics, no superheroes! So that was a universe I never stepped anywhere near until I was about 17.

I was wondering how much research was involved before starting?

I did do my own research when Marvel approached me and offered the gig. I was fascinated to find Dark Angel and I had so much in common! Haha~ None of the demon stuff, but as I said her first issue came out the year I was born, and in it she was portrayed as being 21, the age I am now, and we both have a sidecut on the same sides of our heads. I also loved the story about how she got her name, Dark Angel, it’s really fascinating! But yeah apart from trivia I also looked at past issues of her comics for colour cues. Thankfully Marvel were super cool and supplied me with digital versions of some old back issues!

Dietrich Smith drew the issue. How does the choice artist change your process? Do the artists provide notes or vice-versa?

The artists’ individual style definitely influences what I do. I try to establish rules for every project I take on and try and force myself to do something I haven’t done before. I take my cues from the artist’s style, how they were coloured in the past or how they like to colour themselves. I also ask for notes and suggestions from the rest of the creative team and read the script before I start colouring. I get to make my own creative decisions but I do consider what others on the team have to say. That’s why I always try and do test pages, a page or two of the project done before I really get started. I use these pages to establish the look of the book and to show the rest of the team what I plan on doing. Yeah some artists provide comprehensive advance notes. I like them since it’ll save me any hassle later on having to change things after the fact. I don’t mind edits, but the less I have to do the better haha!

What was your favourite part about colouring the book or the page your most proud of?

It might sound a bit dumb but I really enjoyed colouring Dark Angel‘s hair! She ticked so many boxes for me! I liked the shade of red her hair was, the length, and how Dietrich drew it. I don’t often get to render hair the way I did with her so that was a treat haha I’m also pretty proud of the very first page in the issue. Mostly because I was stressing over it, the first page of a new project is always nerve-wracking, and it being my first Marvel gig only added to that pressure haha But once I got the look I wanted colouring the rest of the book felt a lot easier
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What else should we expect to see from you in 2014?

I’m colouring two more titles in the Marvel UK Revolutionary War event and filling in on an issue of a Marvel title in the mainstream Marvel universe. I also just hopped on board with a new series at BOOM!, this time an ongoing called Dead Letters. More of the indie series Exit Generation will be coming out in 2014 too and it looks like I’ll be colouring at least two other indie books too. So yeah, lots of exciting stuff happening!

Revolutionary War: Dark Angel went on sale on January 15th. Ruth will be a part of Big Bang’s event in Cork on February 1st. Check out their Facebook page for details.