Mark Roberts is fairly new in the comic book industry but has already worked as a colorist on numerous titles at both Dynamite and Zenescope. He has recently taken over coloring duties on He-Man with DC Comics, just as the series is launching into Eternity War. We got chance to talk with him about 80s cartoons, green skin and alien blood.
Graphic Policy: Were you a fan of the Masters of the Universe when you were younger?
Mark Roberts: Absolutely! I was a child of the 80’s, that Golden Age of toys and Saturday morning cartoons, and even with so much to choose from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe was my favorite. I had a pretty sizable collection of action figures, the mini-comics, I can even remember having some of the books that came with a record that had voice-over and sound effects on it. Sadly, all that stuff got tossed in the garbage at some point, but I’ve been slowly rebuilding a collection.
GP: Do you have a favorite character? And do you have a favorite to color?
MR: As a kid I was all about He-Man. Now, I still dig He-Man, but I think She-Ra is just as cool. If I had to pick a favorite I think I’d have to say Sea Hawk. I just think he’s an interesting character who has a ton of potential for entertaining stories. I’d love to see him make an appearance in the DC title with an upgraded look. As for a favorite to color… it’s gotta be the transformation scenes. Whether it’s He-Man or She-Ra, I just love trying to capture that same effect and the excitement it made me feel watching it as a kid.
GP: The characters in this series were originally designed as toys and their color schemes are different than what you might necessarily expect in comics. Is it challenging to incorporate different coloring techniques for the same characters across different mediums?
MR: No, I don’t think so. The comic is quite different in tone from the cartoons and the toys and while Eternia and the characters who inhabit it can be quite colorful, it’s not really a challenge to make it work in a more serious context. I actually quite enjoy it.
GP: The colors in the first issue of Eternity War really popped off the page. How did you achieve this look?
MR: Thanks! Well, for this new arc of He-Man I really wanted to make things more alive and vivid. The previous arc, Blood of Grayskull, was a much more somber tale. We didn’t get to see a lot of characters, we spent a lot of time in barren terrain or dark forests and caves. Now we have this huge cast of colorful characters fighting massive, epic battles and I’m just trying to do it justice. Pop is going all out on his pages, the detail he’s putting in is mind blowing, and I want to make sure nothing gets lost in the colors.
GP: Some of the coloring is this issue also achieved a lot by omission, notably in the first pages with Hordak and the mostly pale blue background mixed with the red from the blood. How do you choose when not to add a lot of color, thus setting a different picture?
MR: It’s all about serving the story, creating mood or putting emphasis on a certain character or action. That’s really a big part of your job as a colorist, making those decisions. Sometimes the script might contain some color notes or the artist might request something, but for the most part it’s up to you to interpret the script and the line art and make color choices that complement everything and bring it all together.
GP: Teela is shown here with green skin, which is a fairly common skin color to show something being different or alien. Why do you think that this is so common in pop culture to show aliens in this color?
MR: Oh, jeez, I don’t know… The color green can have different meanings. It can represent nature, life and growth but it can also be associated with things like envy or sickness so I guess that makes it fairly versatile. In this particular case, though, I think the green serves as the opposite to the red of the Horde. Luke’s green lightsaber versus Vader’s red, if you will.
GP: About half way through this issue there is a beautiful splash page depicting some of the background of the characters. Does incorporating so many elements into one large panel pose different problems for adding the color?
MR: No, not really. Those pages were fun to do and not really that complicated. With all the images coming from a magical conjuring it was fairly simple to unify them through color and then separating the flashbacks from the here and now with color holds on the lines.
GP: What is your favorite part about working on He-Man?
MR: There’s nothing about it I don’t like. Just working on He-Man and getting to relive my childhood would be enough, but getting to work with Dan and Pop is awesome. I’m a big fan of both of these guys. I get excited every time I get a new script in and can’t wait to see what Pop does with it. Everyone at DC and Mattel have been amazing to work with and I gotta say, the fan support has been fantastic. This whole experience has been the highlight of my career so far and I look forward to each new issue!