Apr 4, 2006

Titanic talent: Decatur artist makes pictures pop off comic page

Source: Decatur Herald & Review
Written by Tony Reid

DECATUR – Krista Ward knows the color of the beast.

She mixes it up in her electronic computer cauldron and splashes it on via mouse clicks to create folks you really would not want to meet outside the pages of a comic book: take Marvel’s “Thanos,” aka the “Mad Titan,” for example. His ghastly lavender-tone skin has been shaded into ferocious life by Ward, along with the explosive and fiery worlds he terrorizes.

For the noncomic savvy, Thanos is a Titanian Eternal with all kinds of destructive powers. He winds up killing his own mother, and the girl he wants to date is the personification of Death who, surprisingly, plays hard to get. Thanos, who looks like an animated mountain, shows some tendencies toward being better behaved and then goes bad again before, at one stage, being defeated by a character called Squirrel Girl; you just know that had to hurt the titanic ego.

Meanwhile, back in Decatur, Ward sits in her bedroom office, charged with the task of making this world of the fantastic come to vibrant life. The technical term for what this computer graphics major does is “colorist,” a person who takes the black and white bones of cartoon line drawings and shades them in flesh and blood, fire and thunder, dripping fangs or laser-vision eyes.

“The comics are not drawn or written by me,” explains Ward. “And the artist who drew them usually picks the colors. But what I do is apply them and work in all the shading and highlights.”

Computer-assisted coloring makes infinite color variations possible, but it is highly specialized work, and many artists who draw the strips look at the exacting task the way Superman views Kryptonite. “The old guard, as we call them, may have no idea how to do it,” explains Ward.

But she navigates Adobe Photoshop’s software labyrinth with consummate ease and has been called on to color the adventures of everything from kid favorites such as the Transformers to major DC Comics superhero superstars Batman and Superman.

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