colors and details

In class we have looked at different comics that cover different genres, themes, and tones. The art styles of each of these different comics attempt to match or compliment  them. I find that when the comics tone or “feel” is light hearted like those of comedic comic, the colors are brighter and the details in characters are simple so that they can merely convey simple and easily recognizable emotions for the punchline.

Garfield is a perfect example of how brighter colors, simple details, and simple expressions are used in the comic to help make the joke and maintain a light hearted tone.  In the first panel we see Jon Arbuckle’s expression  as calm, in the next we see that hes happy and in the third and final panel we see that hes angry. There’s no question or extraneous thought that needs to be added from the reader in order to determine what Jon is thinking or how hes feeling; everything is depicted. If you were to take away the word balloons, It would still be easy to determine what Jon is feeling and predict what hes thinking.


Another example of how comedic comics tend to use as little detail to get the point across as simply as possible is from one of my favorite web comics Cyanide and Happiness.


Every comic is drawn with stick figures and almost no fine detail used in any of them. Most of the time the colors are brighter and there is little use of darker hues of purple or black, so that the tone of the comic never feels serious or depressing. (of course that’s when they are not doing their annual depressing comic week. which I don’t suggest to anyone unless you’re a horrible person)

More “serious” comics, or those that are not supposed to be light hearted tend to apply more detail and use darker colors in order to aid in the tone or feel of the comic.  The prime example of use of details and dark colors would be batman. As everyone knows batman is probably one of the most dark and broody heroes in the DC universe, and the colors and amount of detail are used to convey that dark “feel”. A lot of batman comics make use of black,and dark purples in their panels, and these colors give the comic a sense of mystery and uneasiness respectively. Dark reds is  also used in conjunction with black which tends to convey anger.   Its clear that compared to cyanide and happiness and Garfield that the amount of detail. A contrast in the use of color can be seen in Batman comics themselves when you look and compare robin to batman.


This drawing by Frank Miller shows the contrast between Robin and Batman.  Obviously Batman has darker colors and robin is drawn with brighter shades of red than what is commonly seen, and his costume uses bright green and yellow which is rarely seen on anyone else. The use of brighter colors on Robin implies that he isn’t as serious or dark as Batman, which is true.

The use of colors and the amount of detail varies depending on what comic is trying to convey. I’m not saying that funny comics always lack details or use bright colors, but merely that those types of comics tend to be like that.






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6 Responses to colors and details

  1. sarahdeboer says:

    I think you made some great points about colour having the ability to set the tone of a comic or a particular character, and the fact that humor-based comic strips often require less detail to deliver a punchline.

    However, It is important to note that that Batman drawing is not by Frank Miller; firstly his style is recognizably different than the image you posted, secondly, Jim Lee’s signature is actually noticeable on Robin’s cape. Jim Lee was the artist for the series “All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder”, which was written by Frank Miller, and presumably what that image is from.

  2. nadim says:

    O GOD you are correct my apologies

  3. dcfoy says:

    The use of color or lack of color as well as the use of extreme detail or lack of detail also interests me. I agree that generally the use of lighter colors and simple details are largely incorporated within light hearted comics while your example of Batman is effective in showing the other side of the coin in which darker colors and more detail conveys a more serious atmosphere.

    I would argue however there are several exceptions to this trend which I’m sure you are also aware of. There are many examples of comics which employ light colors and plainly drawn characters which may suggest a light or positive atmosphere when in fact the dialogue between the characters is in fact quite dark or negative (and vice versa). This ironic combination may surprise or amuse readers, however I believe it is nevertheless an interesting development in comic history which might reflect the emergence of a darker humor which appeals to our generation. Take for example the comic strips below, particularly the Garfield minus Garfield comic as well as the comic entitled Diesel Sweeties.


  4. hgillespie says:

    I think dcfoy has made an interesting point. The contrast of light, simple drawings with dark dialogue or meaning creates a dichotomy in interpretation that draws the reader into the comic and invites them to take a closer look. In some ways, the drawing of Batman and Robin may have been more interesting (though also likely comic suicide) had Batman been portrayed with lighter colours and lines, and Robin with more heavy detail and darker colours. By deviating from the expected interpretation of these characters, the artist can lead to us to interesting conclusions.

    • nadim says:

      Oh i would definitely agree that going against the trend makes the comic more interesting. It essentially forces the reader to see things differently, ie garfield without garfield, is sorta a dark parody on garfield by removing him and making Jon seem insane and desperately alone, but it still maintains the birght colors that tend to go with funny comics.

  5. gsbeatty says:

    I think you have an interesting argument, but I’m not sure it’s fair to suggest that the nature of a character can be gauged by the colors that they wear. After all, superhero comic books do traditionally draw from a primary color palette.
    You speak to the contrast between Batman and Robin quite succinctly, but Grant Morrison’s run on Batman several years ago comes to my mind as an example where costume color was not linked to personality. Morrison famously “killed” Batman/Bruce Wayne in Batman R.I.P. and positioned Dick Grayson, the first Robin (depicted in the image you selected) to take on the mantle of Batman. The Robin to Dick Grayson’s Batman was none other than the son of Bruce Wayne and Talia al Ghul, Damien. One of the conceits Morrison developed early on in this dynamic was the role reversal of these two characters; while Dick’s Batman was much more jovial (he sometimes even smiled), Damien’s Robin was dark and brooding. And yet they both still worn variations of the traditional costumes associated with both Batman and Robin.
    After the success of the first X-Men movie there was a movement in all of the X-titles to change their costumes from colorful spandex to black leather. I think this movement stemmed from the belief that if superheroes were meant to be taken seriously they had to wear black. I’m happy to say that this mentality has largely disappeared in American mainstream comics and that color does not have to denote whether something should be taken seriously or not.

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