The Color Of Success: Jeromy Cox Talks Comics & Coloring

Fri, May 7th, 2004 at 12:00am PDT

Comic Books
Arune Singh, Staff Writer

Panel from "Otherworld"
You've seen the name "Cox" on a large amount of acclaimed DC Comics series and on some Image Comics series as well. You might have even noticed he's one of the few creators who is a shoe-in for Eisner nominations each year.

His name is Jeromy Cox and he likes color.

The acclaimed colorist took time out of his busy schedule to speak with CBR News and provide readers with a bit of history on the Eisner-winning colorist.

"My friend David Jolosky and I started off self publishing black and white comics under the banner, ZuZu Petal Press," says Cox of his early career. "I did the convention circuit around 1992/93. I did three of Dave Sim's Spirit of Independence tour stops. We had small numbers in terms of sales but I received a lot of good reviews for my writing and art. I also published other people's work… but alas, I was a mere 22 and I had a lot to learn. I hooked up an interview with the people at Wildstorm and they really liked my art. I was doing animation for television and video games at the time, but they hired me to color comics. I think my first work was an early 'Stormwatch' and then some 'Wildcats.'"

While Cox's immense talent is no doubt due to the "family business," he said the way he got things done was, surprise, by doing them. "Besides my grandmother being an art teacher, I really learned everything I know from actually doing something. Putting something down on paper helps you commit to memory not to make the same mistake twice. Also, when I was seventeen, I read the phrase 'draw what you see' and it really elevated my art. That concept has elevated into 'draw what I want to see' I also take a lot from older comics and illustrators."

Page from "Promethea"
Color theory, the basic process around which colorists like "Superman's" Alex Sinclair or "Birthright's" Dave McCaig create their coloring styles, is very much like pencilling or writing, in the sense that pushing the boundaries is important till you've found your groove, contends Cox. "What I find interesting about color theory is that you can learn the rules and then break those rules to define your own style. I learned a lot from working from Joe Chiodo color guides when I first started... but now, ten years later, I think my own style has evolved. Really most everything I do is primary... you'll rarely see me trying anything truly experimental with color theory. It's not that I don't want to; I usually don't have the time to experiment. I'm trying to do more of that with Phil Jimenez's new book for Vertigo... 'Otherworld.' He has so many things worked out color wise, yet he still leaves me plenty of room to play with the colors. If you compare someone like Richard Issanove or even Brian Haberlin's style of coloring to my own... you can see how their palette is much more earthy and less colorful. I'm going to see if I can get more of that in my own colors. Some of that shows through in 'Promethea.'"

While colorists are rarely spoken of in the same manner as writers or artists, Cox isn't too concerned: he's found that colorists have their own secret society of fans. "I'm really not sure how colorists are thought of outside of my office. One strange thing is to have people stop me at a convention and ask for autographs. I didn't realize people we're paying that much attention. I'm starting to get more involved with the online forums and I'm realizing there are legions of people out there who follow the coloring aspect of comics. The reality of the job is it's one of the best jobs in the world. It's hard to argue with someone's bad day when you realize you colored Cyborg blowing apart Brother Blood cult members all day. Okay, I'm dorking out now [laughs]."

Still, there are things that Cox wishes more fan knew about colorists and he shares what he feels is the most important "secret" aspect of coloring. "One thing I've noticed is that we're putting in way more details than most fans will ever see. I used to teach people how to color at Wildstorm and the most common mistake would be 'noodling.' That is when you're so zoomed into a page and adding details that will never even print. I've taught 50+ people not to do this…yet I still find myself adding obscure details that most people won't even notice. I guess what I'm trying to say is we put a hell of a lot of detail into their reading experience."

Page from "Rex Mundi"
The sheer variety of comics that Cox contributes to on a monthly basis, from the thriller "Rex Mundi" to the popular "Teen Titans," forces Cox to adapt his style to each project and flex his creative muscles. "Books like 'Mage' and 'Leave It To Chance' I wanted bright and open to let the art 'breathe.' The artwork for those two books was excruciatingly brilliant in how simple it was. The worse thing I could do as a colorist would be to overload the artwork with lens flares and useless details. Now books like 'Promethea' are so jam packed with interesting detail that the artwork deserves extra attention. J.H. spends so much time on his artwork that I try to out do him. I rarely succeed. 'Teen Titans' is a blend of the two styles I describe above. Even before the Titans cartoon hit so big, I was thinking I wanted to do detailed backgrounds and tight defined coloring for the foreground figures. Finally, with 'Rex Mundi'... I'm trying to bring a cinematic feel to paper. Arvid at times writes like a novelist and yet other times his writing is more like a movie. I try to compliment Eric's art with a rich textured approach. Ultimately, I try to bring something to the colors/artwork that improves how the comic reads."

Also included, are some samples of "Teen Titans" artwork, showing how Cox goes from pencilled page to ready to read product.

Click to enlarge.

Though Cox is nominated for an Eisner almost every year, he isn't considered a "big name" by many fans and truth be told, coloring isn't where Cox plans to make his mark. "I haven't really thought of becoming a 'big name' in coloring. I would love to be a 'big name' in writing or drawing... but coloring is really just a personal joy that I'm lucky enough to do as my job. I was wrapped up in the concept of winning an Eisner the first two years, but I've since relaxed. It's a humbling experience to be nominated. Complete strangers are taking time to point you out. I'm not too worried about being noticed enough, the day I start worrying about that is the day I need to check if I'm referring to myself in the third person."

Page from "Vampyrates"
On the topic of diversifying his work load, Cox has also created a new comic book series that he hopes will attract enough positive attention to warrant an ongoing series. "'Vampyrates' is a new comic I've written and drawn that is coming out in the end of May. 'Vampyrates' is a one shot action/horror story with the potential of becoming an ongoing series. My friends at Bloodfire Studios are printing it with a 'Kindergoth' back up story. I started off thinking I wanted to make a fun horror comic about pirates. I looked at stuff like Andy Hartnel and Jeff Cambell's 'Danger Girl' and then some Berni Wrightson horror stuff... I just wanted to have fun. Which leads me to my next project which is 'More Funner.'

"I'm starting a black and white line of comics for kids under the banner of 'More Funner.' Kids Only is the rough concept. The plan is to have our first comic, 'Skink and Skunk,' ready for the San Diego Comic Convention. After that we a couple of one shots and a 4 to 6 issue story in turn of the century Alaska with plenty of talking animals... and I might make them sing, just to tweak my friend Ben Dimagmaliw. We already have the booth so look us up if you get a chance. Also, my friends and I are making a movie that we finish principal photography for next month. We hope to have a trailer ready for the con at the Rogue Creations booth. The movie is a romantic/comedy entitled Gothic Cowboy."

Panel from "Teen Titans"

 
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