Interview With Steve Buccellato
(May 2001)

Steve Buccellato has worked in almost all areas of production at Marvel, and here he talks about his separation work on the Daredevil Visionaries: Frank Miller TPBs.

Kuljit Mithra: Did you start working in the comics industry with Epic Comics? I seem to recall seeing your name listed among the editors, in the 80's. How'd you get your 'big break'?

Steve Buccellato: In 1985, while I was a Junior at the High School of Art & Design in New York, I was lucky enough to do an internship at Marvel. Not very glamorous (I mostly xeroxed, read fan-mail and fetched coffee for the bullpen), but it was a great opportunity to "break in" and meet many of my heroes. After the internship, I worked part-time as an editorial assistant (paid intern!), and once I graduated from High School I worked full-time for John Romita and then after a few months, for Archie Goodwin & Co. at Epic.

  Actually, ever since I was 16, I've always been employed by Marvel in one form or another.

Mithra: DD fans may not know that you are partly responsible for getting Dan Chichester onto the comic. When I interviewed him a few years ago, he said you're the one who suggested he take over the writing gig from Ann Nocenti. So... how come you didn't suggest yourself as writer? :)

Buccellato: I wouldn't say I was at all responsible! Dan was already establishing himself as a fine comic book writer. At the time, I had an interesting relationship with Dan as I was working directly UNDER him and sharing his office at Epic, while at the same time acting as HIS EDITOR on Epic's "Shadowline" comics. Anyway, I just happened to hear through the grapevine that DD needed a new writer, and suggested that Dan look into it.
  I didn't suggest myself at a writer beacuse I knew I wouldn't be taken seriously. I was still very young and most everyone at Marvel still thought of me as "that intern kid." It's easy to be pigeon-holed in comics. Frankly, it's STILL difficult for me to be taken seriously as a creator, even though I've done my own comic for Image. Most people consider me only as a colorist.

Mithra: When did you start dabbling with comic colouring and why?

Buccellato: Good question! I started coloring because it was an easy way to supplement my income as an associate editor. Though it has always been my goal to write and draw comics, those are full-time jobs themselves. Coloring was something that didn't take much time (especially back then), so many people who were on staff ended up doing some freelance coloring on the side. I guess I was really fast and capable, so a lot of work started coming my way. In 1989 I left staff and made my living as a freelance colorist. Wasn't my plan, but that's how it turned out. I'm still trying to make the leap from colorist to "creator."

Mithra: Have you always used a computer to colour, or did you learn the 'traditional' way? Which do you prefer and what do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of each method?

Buccellato: I learned the "traditional way," that is, painting "color guides." Back when I started coloring, that was the only option. Colorists would be given xeroxes of the inked line-art, and they would paint them with water-colors with an extremely limited chart of colors to choose from. These were used as guides for the separator who would use many different ingenious, but crude methods of creating the films that would be used for printing.
  I learned to color on the computer when I moved to Los Angeles in 1993 with the help of Marc Siry, another ex-marvelite. The computer is an INFINITELY superior tool. Even if you still have one person doing color guides and a separator using the computer, it's far superior. This is simply because you can zoom in close, and be extremely NEAT, never mind all of the effects you can achieve.
  That said, of course I prefer the computer. It's much more satisfying to be in control of what the final product will look like, without an "interpreter." Anyone who's colored comics the "traditional" way has had their coloring ruined by that extra step. And, then of course there's the wider pallete and neat effects!
  The only disadvantage of computer coloring taking over the business is that it's taken work away from some good colorists who aren't computer-savvy. Though, I think that those colorists are to blame--they've had nearly a decade to get up to speed. Unfortunately, the newer colorists who have replaced the old are often not trained in the most important aspects of comic book coloring: Storytelling and clarifying the line art. Most of the new guys are too enamored with the tool and not the craft.

Mithra: Turning to the DD Visionaries TPBs, you coloured Frank Miller's cover for Volume 1. Considering Miller's legendary status on DD, how did you feel working on a Miller piece and how do you think the end result turned out?

Buccellato: I thought it was pretty cool. I've colored over the work of many of my heroes, but until now not Frank. To be honest, coloring isn't something I necessarily enjoy, but I must admit that working on the Visionaries books has kind of brought out the fan-boy in me!

Mithra: Marie Javins coloured the first volume (or as it's properly defined, 'separated' the first volume). You did the second volume (along with a few others). Are you on for the third?

Buccellato: Yes. This is largely due to Klaus Janson, who is a good friend of mine.

Mithra: I was going to ask what's the difference between a colourist and a separator, but I think you've already answered that question.

Buccellato: In the case of the DD Visionaries, it's an important distinction because they really aren't being "recolored", so much as "reseparated." You'll note that the original color guide artists (Glynis Wein, Christie Scheele, Bob Sharen and, of course, Klaus Janson) still receive credit. This is because on these books, Marie and I have been copying the coloring from the original printed comics. Compare the visionaries books to the originals: we've only changed things in minor ways; adding some gradients and color-holds.
  This is one of the ONLY times I have separated from another colorist's work. It's an interesting situation that I won't be making a habit of! In the case of these Old Daredevil books, I couldn't resist.

Mithra: Can you go into detail as to how you are re-doing the colours for the TPB? Do you scan in the originals and then colour using the computer? What kind of equipment do you use and software?

Buccellato: Marvel has been doing the scanning. Their Repro department stores most of the old film from past projects. In the case of the Visionaries book, Marvel scans the original black plate, and I treat it much as I would any new project.
  The real challenge lies on pages which originally had color-holds. That's when they take line-art and print it as a color instead of black. Because the scans are of the black plates only, the color-holds are all missing. These old Daredevils were quite experemental, especially once Klaus started doing all of the art--including the coloring. Because he was so involved, Klaus tried a lot of color-hold effects to achieve depth and mood. Many of the popular effects we do on he computer today are direct descendants of Klaus' experimentation--only he did them by hand! The separators of his time must have thought he was a madman or a genius!
  Anyway, all these effects are missing from my scans, so I've had to recreate them as best I can. This is done in several different ways, sometimes I scan the original comics and try to pull out the images I need, more often than not, I've been re-drawing them! It's a lot of work, and that's why Klaus insisted that I do the 3rd volume--because he know's I'll take the time, and have the ability to do it!
  My equipment is a Macintosh G3 with a 21" monitor, Wacom tablet and Photoshop.

Mithra: How long does it usually take to colour each page?

Buccellato: Anywhere from a half-hour to four hours. Depends on many things. Also, I employ an assistant to "flat" my coloring pages ahead of time. That means that when I get the pages, the main shapes are already separated from each other. I can easily "grab" each shape, pick a color for it, and then go to work on modelling and shading. It's hard to explain.

Mithra: How are you determining what colours to use? Are you just using the closest match for what is already there?

Buccellato: Usually it's up to me, but on DD Visionaries, I'm looking at the original comics. One thing that makes me well qualified for this job is that I was trained as an "old-school colorist." I can look at the different shades of colors in the printed book and determine exactly what percentages of magenta, cyan and yellow were used. I've even created a pallette in photoshop that is the same as the one I used to follow as a color-guide artist!
  Of course, because I am using gradients, I have not limited myself exclusively to that pallette. But it's very close!

Mithra: How do you think the stories in the DD volumes have stood up after all these years?

Buccellato: I think they are awesome! Some details in the language and how the characters are clothed are a bit dated, but those stories are hard to top.

Mithra: What was your favourite issue or sequence to colour in the DD TPB and why?

Buccellato: I guess there are TWO favorites! I think issue #179 is great. That's the first one that Klaus colored and I think the difference between that one and all of the issues before is like night and day. It really comes together, and why wouldn't it? He knows best what was intended in the inks. I especially like the movie-theater scene.
  Next I REALLY enjoyed issue #181, the death of Elektra. It's that fan-boy thing again!

Mithra: What did you think of the overall product? Did the colours print the way you wanted them to look? How about the paper quality?

Buccellato: I like the Visionaries books in general. This one got special treatment with the glossy paper and the new separations. The paper really shows off the ink lines, many of which got muddied up on the original newsprint. I liked it fine!
  The colors printed great. The only thing that maybe reflects poorly on me, is that I think you can tell which issues I enjoyed coloring more--I put more care into them. Then again, I think the other issues were not colored as well to begin with. It was hard to get excited about copying issue #168, which has the coloring credited to "Dr. Martin". Obviously colored in a rush by a bunch of people in the bullpen. Ick.

Mithra: Finally, your most recent colouring work was on this week's Tangled Web issue. What's next for you comics-wise? Are you going to be doing more Weasel Guy?

Buccellato: Well, I'm the regular colorist on Tangled Web for the time being. I also just started Volume #3 of DD Visionaries. Later this year I hope to get some self-published work off the ground which will include some Weasel Guy (Thanks for asking!). Also talking with Hyperwerks about finishing the Weasel Guy: Road Trip story which Image Comics cancelled prematurely. People are encouraged to check my web page at madsciencemedia.com to see what's new with me!

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(c) Kuljit Mithra 2001
Daredevil:The Man Without Fear
http://www.manwithoutfear.com
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