Gold Digger v3 #51-59

White on White

There's something missing from color comics these days — the color white. It's a popular color for clothing, cars, walls, appliances, and yet it occurs in comics with far less regularity than it does in real life. Flip through the average superhero comic and the only white you're likely to see are the word balloons, and maybe teeth and eyes. It's even been banished from the panel borders of many comics.

I can understand the reticience to use white. It's a very powerful color that taxes the eyes even in small amounts. Pure white can draw the eyes to unwanted areas, just like pure, highly saturated areas of any other color. Its very presence can throw off your perception of other colors, darkening or lightening them through the magic of simultaneous contrast. Large areas of pure white somehow feel less "realistic" (though that doesn't explain why even cartoony coloring jobs exchew it). As the underlying color of the paper stock, large white areas can make the coloring feel rushed or incomplete.

Gold Digger v3 #52 p. 24

Gold Digger v3 #52 p. 24

But when used effectively, white can be your friend. The above page uses it beautifully. Here it's an unstoppable force, suffusing everything over the page, blurring over the edges of objects and enveloping them of in an imitation of film effects. This page would not be nearly as effective with a a different base color, such as a paler blue or a subtle cream.

Other comics also use white effectively. Walt Simonson memorably used large white expanses to suggest an eerie nothingness during his Fantastic Four run. Greg Wright used pure white areas to depict blinding, crackling energy when he was coloring Thor. Silver age comics often use it effectively, though of course they have an entirely different design and color aesthetic.

It just strikes me as odd that mainsream colorists have removed white from their palette. It strikes me as mildly defeatist and short-sighted as well. Why would any designer constrain themselves in that way?

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