I still love that very-much-like “PWND!” sound-effect in panel four, beautifully realised by Kel’s letters.

Today, we have another special guest joining us for commentary.  As I’ve said before, one of the most significant elements of Chapter 3 is that it marks the debut of Mike Gagnon as colorist, the role he would retain for the remainder of the series.  And, as those of you who’ve been following will know, he did a spectacular job.  So, Mike took some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions about the creative process of colorists and his memories of working on THE STANDARD…


Hi, Mike!  Thanks for joining us.  To start, I thought you might like to share any memories of first coming onboard the project as a flatter back in issue #2.  Back at that stage, were you looking at the pages and thinking of ideas for how you’d approach the series if you were principle colorist?


When I first came in to help out as flatter for issue two I had no idea about how things would work out. I just knew that I was working on an awesome comic that I was very proud to be associated with and working with a very talented creative team and assisting a respected colorist. As sometimes happens in this industry with professional commitments and schedules Gulliver was not able to carry-on as the principal colorist after issue two, so I threw my hat in the ring. It wasn’t until I took over as the main colorist in issue three that I really pushed the idea that we could use the classic time period of the Standard’s flashbacks as inspiration for the entire thematic colortone of the series. I drew heavily on the idea of very vibrant flat bright colors that you would’ve seen in comics in the 50s and 60s but blended in some modern stylings as well. Though all of the colors are very vibrant and nostalgic there is a purposeful and clear delineation between the colors used during flashbacks and ones during present day. I was really hoping to use the colors to evoke those classic comic books that many people grew up reading and love and marry modern day coloring principles together with them, especially in the modern-day scenes where there are intentional darker filters laid over the vibrant colors.


When you became colorist in issue #3, I made a joke that the colorist role in this series was a bit like being the drummer in Spinal Tap, or Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher at Hogwarts!  So, coming onboard the team, there had already been two different coloring styles applied to the book.  Did you draw anything from Ray or Gulliver’s approaches, or did you consciously avoid looking to closely in favor of bringing your own touch?

I looked over both of the previous colors, there’s no way I could’ve gone into it without doing that. (Also a fan of the series, so I was already reading it) I wanted to respect the work that had come before and in this situation I have a lot of respect for the colorists that came before me so I never wanted to present the idea that I was completely throwing away their concepts. Ray and Gulliver are both very talented colorists and their work does bring new enhancements to the artwork, just like any colorists work does. My goal was to take my idea for a basic old-school nostalgic pallet and marry together some of the techniques and ideas that have been used by the previous colorists. I think I did achieve that, respecting their work while still making my own mark on the book.


Of course, through the series you worked closely with artist Jonathan Rector.  The penciller/colorist pairing is a significant one in determing the aesthetic of a book.  What would you say a colorist brings to the art of a comic, and what do you look for in artistic collaborators?

There’s no doubt that Jon is a very talented guy. When you consider that he does his work digitally, what he’s able to achieve very naturally and smoothly is awe-inspiring. I would never want to downplay the significance of the importance of an artist. That being said, in an ever-increasing fashion, colorists are contributing more and more to the books. Now that we have such easy access to advanced digital technology it allows us to do almost anything we want with the artwork colors and we’re being given more artistic responsibility and room for creativity to further enhance the artwork that is provided. When you work with a great artist like Jon Rector it already makes you look good, so it makes my job easier as colorist. When you merge a great artist together with great colors you get an even better end result.


Is there any particular sequence in issue #3 that you’re especially proud of?  If so, would you like to talk a bit more about the process of bringing the colors to life there?


I think all of issue three was an achievement because we spent so much time analyzing and perfecting colors and effects on that one. If I have to pick a sequence it would have to be the sewer sequence where The Standard is searching for the missing children that seem to have been abducted by that issues evildoer. So many effects and color tones based on shading and lighting were done and that sequence contains a splash where the character stands in the middle and one half the page is a flashback while the other half is present day. There is a subtle color filter that splits the character in half and visually explains that the two halves of the picture are not taking place at the same time, without any words to explain that. That’s definitely a thematic choice I’m proud of and I was so happy when I got the editorial notes back that it was something that was very subtle, but the rest of the creative team picked up on right away and knew what I was doing. That was gratifying.


It seems like lately, there has been something of a rise in the recognition given to colorists in comics.  Both Marvel and DC now give colorists cover credit, and more readers are recognising star colorists like Jordie Bellaire, Nathan Fairbairn, Frank Martin, Dave Stewart and others.  What are your thoughts on this trend?

I think that because of the advancement of digital technology and the effects and enhancements that colorists are able to do now giving them the recognition was inevitable. When you’ve got prominent artists like Yannick Paquette speaking out about colorsists not getting enough recognition, people start to listen. I do believe in giving credit where credit is due and I know there have been situations where I’ve been the artist and a colorist has made my work look even better and in those cases I am the first to make sure everyone knows that I have worked with an amazing colorist. Colors have become just as important as the inks. It used to be a big point that professionals had to stress that inking wasn’t just tracing but was actually adding detail and enhancing the pencil artwork. Now with all of the things we can do with computers, the same is true for coloring. We’re not just filling in the spaces between the lines, we’re actually in enhancing the artwork and adding depth, shading and detail.


Finally, while you’re a gifted colorist, you’re actually a jack of all trades, trying your hand at your fair share of writing and art too.  Would you like to share with us any projects you currently have in the works?

Yeah I do little bit of everything. I’ve been working almost exclusively full-time in the Publishing and Comics industries for the last 15 years. I’ve made sure I have diversified skills in order to do that. I’ve done a number of self publishing project too and sometimes people fall through and I’m left stuck without a colorist or letterist or something else that is needed in the process, so if I want to get things finished and released I’ve made sure that I know how to do every step of the production from beginning to end. As for stuff I have going on right now, I keep very busy between clients and teaching at colleges such as Max the Mutt College of Animation, Art and Design in Toronto and others. I have actually reduced my number of freelance clients so that I can devote more of my creative time to my own creator owned and self published projects. I have several new books written as prose novellas now available on my publishing website at www.hammerbooks.ca. My crime novella, Skidsville, has just recently been signed on for worldwide print and digital distribution, so readers and followers will be hearing a lot more about that book in the coming months.

Overall The Standard is a great experience and is a project that I took on because I truly believe in it and think it is an example of great storytelling told in the form of sequential art.

Thank you very much for interviewing me and I hope everyone reading this enjoys it and picks up a copy of The Standard collected edition.
Thanks very much to Mike for the interview!  Remember, you can back THE STANDARD on Kickstarter now!