Klaus Janson colors part 1


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

I’m trying to pull together a nice, well rounded article on Mr. Janson. But it’s just lots of notes at this point. So until I get it together, here are some fragments:

St. George by Klaus Janson. I’m just gonna write about the art. The story is unreadable. Awful. But the art is really interesting to me. This was after Janson’s Punisher run in the late ’80s. And long after his fabled run with Frank Miller on Daredevil and also on Dark Knight.

He was doing art and colors at this stage in his career. Pencils, inks, and colors. Well, color guides; he wasn’t making screens or cutting film. What’s interesting to me is the way Janson used the available palette at the time to get such rich “dark” colors. In St. George I like how he mixes and matches bright “block out” colors next to layered browns and greens. Plus there is something about the black panel gutters and margins that really adds to the mood.

                                                                  St. George 

Check out how different the mood is in an issue of Daredevil from years before. Black pages were uncommon then because most comics didn’t have the option of full bleed printing processes. The tone of the newsprint lightens the colors and makes the whole composition read differently than the examples above.


Janson was one of the few artists at Marvel who did his own colors. There is a real synthesis of his linework and the colors themselves. It’s a very sophisticated system for such a limited color process. In St. George, I can tell that he’s drawing for color. There are “open” containment lines and lots of elements in the backgrounds that are not delineated, I think, because Janson knows that he will color those elements accordingly. That is a very different thought process than most cartoonists who are strictly thinking in black and white.

Anyways, Janson’s comics stick out. I come across his St. George and Punisher comics a lot in bargain bins, and they’re always good. Solid drawing, solid color. Too bad the stories are inane garbage. Still, they’re worth a look. Janson seemed to understand what was possible in color comics. And he did this at a time when the processes were really changing. Pretty cool.

More soon.

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12 Responses to “Klaus Janson colors part 1”
  1. Jude Killory says:

    Klaus Janson has a lot of strong opinions on other people coloring his work. Regarding World War Hulk he feels that the coloring in that did not help the art or the story at all. I agree with him. He also mentioned that he would love to re-color the Dark Knight Returns following Brian Bolland's re-coloring of the Killing Joke. I have to admit the seemingly unavoidable onset of colorists replacing inkers is not satisfying to me aesthetically. I understand how it can punch up the dynamism of an X-Men comic, or create a great fast moving Flash effect, but for the most part I am taken out of the story with a lot of what is going on.

  2. Klaus Janson says:

    Frank-Pretty accurate assessment of what I was trying to do. Your kind words are much appreciated!

  3. Frank Santoro says:

    Is this an okay time to ask for an interview? haha

    I need help with my article

  4. E.H. says:

    Klaus, didn't you say in your class once that your first job was doing color seps at Marvel?

  5. Klaus Janson says:

    E.H.-Not color seps but a step below (lol) that I think: it was applying zip-a-tone to the old 1950's monster stories that they were reprinting at the time in a black and white magazine of some kind. I think the powers that be at the time didn't have the financial resources (or format) to reprint them in color, so they took the black and white files and had some flunkies (like me) lay in some tones so they would look a little less stark in the black and white version. It was a real fly by the seat of your pants operation.

  6. Amin Amat says:

    "flunkies (like me)"



  7. Scratchie says:

    What Jude said.

    Modern coloring is awful. On top of destroying the line art with lens flares, focus tricks and awful 3d effects, much of today's coloring is just too dark to see what's going on (see the Astro City: The Dark Age TPB or DC's recent Incal reprints, which are guilty of horrible 3d effects, and too-dark coloring).

    Klaus J: Love your work over Sal Buscema on the Defenders and George Perez on Logan's Run. Mid-70s Marvel represent!

  8. Scratchie says:

    And speaking of mid-70s Marvel, another artist who did his own colors — to spectacular effect — was Jim Starlin on Warlock.

  9. Michel Fiffe says:

    I remember reading somewhere that Klaus was a huge DD fan as a kid and was excited when he took over as the inker/colorist and how he wanted to give the title its own identity back in the day.

    In reading the pre-Miller issues (Kane & Infantino on pencils), I noticed how the tone of the art was practically identical to the actual Miller issues. It had always been Klaus' look!

  10. Jeffrey Meyer says:

    What I loveed about those colors at that time was how they always looked like the newsprint was hand-colored using an array of those Chartpak brand design markers… not just the hues, but also like the colors soaked into the paper and bled a little around the edges. I don't know enough about coloring and printing to understand if this was a product of some unique process (or combination of several) but I always loved the way it looked.

    Janson was definitely one of my favorite colorists.

  11. Anonymous says:

    The work he did with Gil Kane is phenomenal.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I really like Janson's art work. His line work and coloring on Daredevil conveys so much mood and atmosphere that thirty years on it's still inspiring to me.

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