December 4, 2020

Simply Marvelous

Seniors color in Marvel’s lines

Andy Noelker, senior, is a colorist for Marvel Comics. He works for the comics company for $10 per page. PHOTO BY GALE WHITEHEAD/ The Journal

Two Webster University seniors are helping to restore color in old Marvel comic books.  Seniors Marie Enger and Andy Noelker digitally color comic book pages that are sent to them.

Marvel was first published in 1939 under Timely Comics publications.  In 1961, they branded their own Marvel Comics.  When these comics were created the quality was poor for archiving online.  Now, Timely Comics is trying to take the original print version and alter it into a digital format. The process requires a lot of work and help because there are so many to restore.

“There are hundreds of pages,” Enger, animation and drawing major, said. “Think of every Spider-Man (comic) you’ve ever seen and multiply that by ten, because that’s probably how many there are, if not more.”

Enger and Noelker aren’t employees of Marvel directly, but of a St. Louis-based animation company called Colortek that receives the pages from Marvel and then distributes them to their employees.

Collectively Enger and Noelker worked on several pages of “Thor,” “Captain America,” “The Uncanny X-Men,” “Spider-Man,” “The Avengers,” “Fantastic Four,” and “Ghost Rider,” to name a few popular comics.  However, they do get some of the less known comics to color like, “John Carter, Warlord of Mars” or “What If”.

“X-Men is probably my favorite comics line so it’s pretty exciting to work on that,” Noelker, an interactive digital media major, said. “It’ll be exciting when these are finally released probably years from now and know that I contributed in some way.”

Enger was not much of a Marvel fan to begin with, but thought the job was still a good opportunity to make some extra cash and gain experience. She prefers the darker comic book line “Vertigo,” which produces her favorite superhero “John Constantine: Hellblazer”.

Enger also creates her own cartoons and comics that she hopes to produce someday.

Enger and Noelker receive a scanned copy of the original page and a black and white copy with only the line work.  Their job is to determine the digital colors of the original comic and color in the outlined version accordingly.  They use Photoshop tools and CMYK color channels to create the correct shade.  The task can be slow and time-consuming because they must look close at every digital dot and fill them in correctly. They also must stay in the lines. To finish an average page, the process sometimes takes about two hours. The difficulty level can vary depending on how many characters are on a page and the amount of action.

They can request how many pages to color on any given week. If they need extra cash and have some spare time to color, they can request more pages. Each receives $10 per completed page. Enger said it is not an ideal amount but it helps, and the job is useful to post on her resume.

Enger and Noelker differ in the technique they use to color the pages. Enger uses a Wacom tablet which is a digital pad that uses a pen to color on directly.  She sets up the colors she wants to use in Photoshop and then physically colors them in on the tablet.  Noelker, however, does the whole job by mouse.  He can use Photoshop tools like the magnetic lasso to select specific areas and then the paint bucket tool to fill in the entire selection to speed up the process.

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