Empress #1, the newest Millarworld series, premieres this week at comic stores everywhere and on digital platforms like Comixology. It tells the story of Emporia the wife of a high-tech dictator in Earth's ancient past who's fleeing her husband in order to protect their children and escape the violence of his reign. We've had a chance to take a look at the first two issues and they are a splendid combination of a new, beautifully presented science fiction universe, stunning action sequences, and compelling family drama striking at universal themes. That's no surprise coming from this creative team though.
Every person contributing to Empress is a modern comics all-star, and we had the opportunity to speak to each of them at ComicBook.Com. Follow along as we ask 10 questions to everyone who helped make this stunning new debut what it was, finding out how it came to be and what to expect next.
Ive Svorcina - Colorist
1. Could you describe your role as colorist on Empress and the workflow for completing pages? For example, did you utilize a flatter?
Ive Svorcina: I like to think my role is that of providing atmosphere and drawing you into the comic as much as possible. I think color plays a great role in that, setting the mood and ambiance and of course pencils and inks do as well, but as they say colors make it or break it. Colors should compliment art and enhance it if possible, not get in the way or detract from reading.
My workflow consists of doing flats for 5-6 pages in a row and then working on them simultaneously which speeds things up and keeps them consistent. Also, I try to get my flats as close to the final colors as I can while I'm doing them since that saves me time later on.
2. How did you approach designing your color palettes for the series? Is there a set concept for each setting or is every scene unique based on the context of what is occurring?
Svorcina: I had some consulting with Stuart around general color choices and direction we'd like to take it. I'd say every scene is unique but we have some things we want to be clearly recognizable throughout the series with distinct color palette like Earth's forces.
3. In the scenes that occur in space there is a clear distinction between the soft, cold hues of the cosmos and the sharper effect of objects floating in it. Space really feels like a unique thing within the coloring scheme of Empress. How did you go about differentiating this one aspect from the rest of the book and to what intended effect?
Svorcina: I like my colors to have depth, so characters and objects feel like they are standing in actual 3-D space which makes them feel more real. Space should feel huge and I tried to emphasize depth even more in those scenes - for example you have black space in the background and black shadows on the spaceship in the foreground of the same panel. One should feel closer than the other and I used various tricks to achieve that like coloring things farther away from us slightly darker and colder, utilizing nebulae and other space phenomena so that space doesn't feel just like flat surface. I painted some stars brighter than the others - details like that lend greatly to the atmosphere of the panel and I'm glad they stood out.
4. Empress is a story that can move very quickly from a close up of a child's face to a wide open panel of a city. How does your technique change based on the distance and scope of what is being colored?
Svorcina: By this point those things are pretty much intuitive. I try not to leave things too flat and then again I try not to overdo it with rendering. Things that are of more importance should have more detail and vice-versa.
5. One thing I noticed in Empress #1 is that the sci-fi elements bring a lot of lights to the page, whether they're the flashes of a stadium or flare of explosions, and they're very impactful. What kind of effects do you utilize to provide the effect of bright lights on a printed page?
Svorcina: That's a very interesting question! I actually thought about it while coloring those pages - I thought how digital comics that you view on your computer or tablet aren't limited in amount of values they can display but we still have to adapt to the printed pages. It typically means you have to avoid bottom 20-30% of values because they print muddy, but sometimes the best things happen in those ranges. In low-key paintings and movie scenes you can have a lot of subtle things going on in the shadows that gives you a great mood but we can't use it in print. Sure, we fake it - ink replaces (compresses) that lower range in a single black color but it isn't the real thing. So to go back to those bright lights, you have to blow them out, overexpose them to achieve the same impact.
6. How has your experience collaborating with Stuart and Wade been like? How does a different artist's style affect your approach to coloring a story?
Svorcina: It's been great. Those guys are top of the class and I try my best to catch up. Usually I ask the artist about his vision, how would he like the colors to look like and if he has some particular details that he really cares about. Better to ask before then to do a bunch of corrections later.
7. What unexpected challenges as you began to work on Empress and what was the key to handling them?
Svorcina: The biggest challenges were the deadlines since I came in the middle of the production so I didn't have as much time as I would have liked but Mark and Rachael were very supportive and everything turned out ok. The other thing is the sheer scope of Stuart's artwork. He's like the first artist I've worked with that literally draws everything that's in the script and every panel looks amazing. I like to elevate the artwork not bring it down so that's kinda stressful - I don't want to deliver underwhelming colors.
8. Both in collaborating with others and tackling new material, what have been the most significant lessons you've learned as a colorist working on Empress?
Svorcina: It's easy as an artist to fall into a routine and take the easy way out, but in order to evolve you have to push yourself more and more and comics are both frustrating and rewarding in that aspect. A single page of a comic can have things going on such as spaceship going down crumbling with bunch of people crashing on a planet and a panorama of a large city glowing in the rainy night and you have to be able to deliver on that. Empress is that kind of script, it has so much going on in it that I had to pull myself out of the usual routine and actually think about how to approach different situations. It's great to be in that situation every once in a while.
9. Looking ahead at what is still to come, which elements of the story have you most excited to keep working on the series and see how readers respond?
Svorcina: I just love sci-fi in general, especially depictions of alien planets and cities, what would life on another planet be like? This isn't hard sci-fi but it's damn fun and it's always a treat when Stuart sends in a new page to see what he drew.
10. Would you mind sharing with our reader one panel or sequence from Empress #1 that you really enjoyed working on and speaking about your process on that example?
Svorcina: There's a panel near the end of the issue where Dane blasts the hull of the spaceship and we have a bunch of dead guys floating in weightlessness in space. It's a really cool panel and I kept seeing it in 3d, this eerie scene in absolute silence with them just floating around. I couldn't get the depth I wanted, it didn't have the impact I was hoping it would have, so I said let's say there's a really bright hot light somewhere off panel that's just shining on them, and let's kill the lineart behind them 20%. It did the trick and I think they popped out really nicely. And there's the panel where a spaceship comes out of warp, that panel looked amazing just raw, in black and white. It was almost a shame adding color to it but I tried to stay out of the way as much as possible. Those were maybe my two favorite panels.
Empress is available April 6, 2016 from physical and digital retailers of comics.
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