With a dazzling portfolio ranging from licensed properties to edgy creator-owned projects, the work of Jordie Bellaire epitomises the vital contribution colourists can make to a comic.
You probably don’t need me to remind you that Sunday (January 26th) is Colourist Appreciation Day. So, if you’re in the vicinity of one of comics’ premier crayon-jugglers, this is the perfect opportunity to stick a rose between your teeth and burst in with breakfast in bed.
For the rest of us, the best we can do is grab a pile of our favourite floppies and marvel at the contribution made by comics’ chromatic conductors. And no contribution was bigger last year than that of the US-born, Dublin-based Jordie Bellaire – voted Best Colourist in the 2015 Broken Frontier Awards.
Bellaire’s dazzling portfolio in 2015 ranged from licensed properties (The X-Files) and stylish takes on corporate stalwarts (Scarlet Witch, Vision, Magneto) to the wild frontier of creator-owned comics, where, away from the old industrial production-line mentality, creators’ contributions are receiving their full due.
Bellaire’s 2015 was bookended by two projects that highlight why Image Comics was once again voted our publisher of the year. It started with the startling final chapters of Zero, written by Ales Kot and illustrated by a parade of artistic stylists, the challenging and fragmented narrative woven together by Bellaire’s palette, evocative of decay and entropy.
L-R: Pages from Pretty Deadly, The Surface and The Autumnlands
Then, with the holiday season hurtling towards us, we saw the welcome return of Pretty Deadly, Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Ríos’s rich and poetic take on the embodiment of death. With the action leaping from the Old West setting of the first arc to the grim trenches of World War One, Bellaire brought an appropriately feverish atmosphere to the horrors of war – both human and supernatural.
Her other work for Image, on a series of well-received books, continued to display her virtuosity. In Injection, written by Warren Ellis and drawn by Declan Shalvey, the red hair of jaded scientist Maria Kilbride leads the reader like a jewelled thread through the bleak, labyrinthine institutions in which she finds herself operating.
Three pages from Injection
In They’re Not Like Us, she employs a much busier, punkier style, matching the frenetic energy of Simon Gane’s art and the book’s theme of teenage rebellion. In The Surface, another book written by Ales Kot, naturalism again goes out the window, giving way to a strangeness that reflects the characters’ approach to the heart of a multi-dimensional mystery. And in the first issue of The Autumnlands, she grounds the anthropomorphic fantasy in earthy tones before a phantasmagorical dance of light heralds the practice of magic.
As 2016 lays out before us, “like a great shoe with its lights on”, one thing is sure: from the continuation of Pretty Deadly and the return of Nowhere Men to a promising new version of Moon Knight by Jeff Lemire and Greg Smallwood, Jordie Bellaire will be adding a welcome bit of colour to our lives.