Any publisher or creator will tell you that colorists make or break a book. A talented colorist can lift a book to new heights. They’re responsible for creating form for figures and their environments, they establish mood and tone through specific color palettes and they are the ones who add the fancy effects to a beautiful glowing laser blast, a vibrant glow or flare and much, much more. Colorists are an essential part of the creation process and, needless to say, a talented colorist is worth their weight in gold.
Over the past year, Brazilian born colorist Marcelo Maiolo has achieved a lot of success. His eerie colors in I, Vampire put him on the map, but he’s also worked on other successful series like True Blood, Demon Knights and, most recently, Green Arrow. Maiolo colors will also be featured in DC’s upcoming Constantine series. If it looks like Maiolo is working on several titles at once it’s because he is. He is currently coloring an astounding 80 pages a month. So, how does he do it, how did it get started and what’s up next? RCB was fortunate enough to sit down with Maiolo and ask him all of these questions and more.
RCB: For those readers who are unfamiliar with your work on I, Vampire, Demon Knights, True Blood and, most recently, Green Arrow and Constantine – could you let us know a little about your background and how you got started in the industry?
Maiolo : Well, for as long as I can remember I’ve always loved comic books! When I was a kid all of my friends used to dream about growing up and becoming famous soccer players, but it was always my dream to work in comics. Thankfully that dream came true.
I originally got my start as an artist. I was heavily influenced by Buscema’s Conan. When I was drawing I used do everything in black and white. I hated to color my work, but after 14 years I became bored with what I was doing.
When I was 22 years old a pair of friends called me up and asked me to help them in a fantasy project. I used to be a RPG Master for many years and I had experience helping with their scripts in past. I provided the art for their pages and we tried to release it on the Internet in black and white. They felt if the art was colored that it would gain more attention. So, I gave it a shot and haven’t looked back!
RCB: Your work on I, Vampire with artist Andrea Sorrentino was extremely well received and now you’re going to get the chance to once again collaborate with Sorrentino on a high-profile series like Green Arrow. What makes you two such successful duo?
Maiolo : First of all, I love Andrea (no, he is not a woman, he is a guy!) Ha. I kid. While working on I, Vampire with Andrea we developed a close friendship and I think the fact that we know each other so well really helps in the collaboration process. I believe what really sets our work apart is that we never stop pushing ourselves. We both love what we do, and we want to reach new levels on every book that we are fortunate enough to work on.
Andrea and I also we talk a lot and share a deep trust. There are many situations where he will send me an email saying that he won’t do something, because he thinks that would be better in colors. Sometimes, I read something in the script and I send him an email saying about something that he doesn’t need to do. There’s definitely a friendly bond and a mutual respect for one another and I think it shows through in our work.
RCB: Sorrentino handled coloring duties on Green Arrow #17 and his work was completely different from what readers are used to seeing from a typical DC series. What are your thoughts on Green Arrow #17 as a whole and what did you think of Sorrentino’s unique colors?
Maiolo : Well, I have to tell you that I hate his colors! Come on! I can’t say that he is AWESOME with colors or he will kick me! AHAUHAAUHA I kid. I love how Andrea managed the mood. This is one of the most difficult aspects of coloring especially when you start with a new artist, but it really fit his work. I’m goin to try to follow his lead, but it won’t be easy. However, I am going to put my own spin on it. One of the coolest aspects of Green Arrow is that you’re going to see the same two artists from I Vampire, but what we are going to be doing something very different. I think that it may be one of my best works that I’ve ever done.
RCB: Without spoiling anything – can you tell us what readers can expect from future issues of Green Arrow?
Maiolo : Yes. Something you guys have NEVER seen before. What Jeff and Andrea are doing here is something that will become a masterpiece. I’m trying to reach their level, but it’s a huge undertaking.
RCB: What method of coloring do you employ? Are you old school, digital or a mixture of both?
Maiolo : I went straight to digital. I have tried some oil paintings, but I color mainly digitally. I would love to get a shot at doing some more oil paintings and I think I’ll try again soon!
RCB: How involved is the rest of the creative team with your creative process?
Maiolo : Well, every artist is different. As far as Demon Knights is concerned, Bernard Chang and I don’t talk
much about style or stuff! He gives me a lot of freedom to try my own thing. It was the same when I worked with Michael Gaydos on True Blood.
Now, with Renato Guedes and Andrea Sorrentino is different. We talk a lot about style, what we can do to improve the book or even our art. For example, Andrea and I never finish a cover if we both aren’t 100% happy with how it turned out. Many colorists don’t like that, but I don’t care. I love to collaborate and I learn a lot during these conversations. I feel as if they make my art better.
RCB: Most artists don’t have the freedom or time to work on multiple ongoing series at once, but colorists seem to be able to juggle many series at once. How do find time to work on several different series at once and how many books are you currently working on?
Maiolo : I have an advantage – I can color fast! At the beginning of my career as a colorist I had taken on a lot jobs so that I could attempt to make as much as possible. Since the jobs didn’t pay much I forced to become faster. I used to hate those jobs, but now I say thank you to them. I wouldn’t be near as quick as I am had I not had that experience.
Until the last issue of I, Vampire I’ll be doing 80 pages per month – Constantine, I Vampire, Green Arrow and Demon Knights. It’s pretty tough, but I, Vampire is almost in his end, so I’ll keep with 60 pages per month.
RCB: How do you approach each of these series as far as color palette? Is this something that the creative team decides together or are you generally left to decide for yourself?
Maiolo : The color palette is something that I do alone. This is the part of my job I like the most. I get to create drama, mood with my color choices. I try to do superheroes with a palette that gives them strength and power, but without losing the beauty of a harmonic page. It’s difficult and I feel that I am still far from where I want to be but I’m trying!
RCB: What artists and/or colorists influenced you the most when you began your career as a colorist?
Maiolo : At the beginning it was all about Laura Martin, Rain Beredo and Dave Stewart, but my true influence usually comes from photos and paintings. I never start any works without drawing inspiration from Van Gogh, Mucha and Sorola.
RCB: Is there a favorite character or series that you particularly enjoy coloring?
Maiolo : I’m pretty fortunate this year. Constantine and Green Arrow are two of my favorite characters of DC, but I’d love to take crack at Guy Gardner, Lobo, Animal Man and Batman. Any one of these characters would be awesome to work on, but to tell you the truth, I like a lot of all characters of Demon Knights, especially Exoristos. And I, Vampire was my favorite. To be honest, I love my job, so I love all these books and it’s hard to pick favorites. I love them all.
RCB: For our aspiring colorists out there, do you have any tips you can share with them that might help them in making that jump from amateur colorist to professional?
Maiolo : I could say that, if you want to be a professional then you have to be professional. In everything, from the portfolio to the way you talk to people.
And the only way you’re going to become better is by doing three simple things: study, study, study!