An Interview With… Alex Sinclair
Until a year or two back, I only focused on collecting golden age and silver age Superman comics. Now that I have finally started to collect Superman comics of all ages, I now have a few favourite creators. This man quickly climbed to the top of my list! His work is constantly flawless, and it really brings the character, the story and the emotions to life.
Alex Sinclair (I’m gonna say it), is my favourite colourist, and I know he is ranked highly with other comic book readers. They say don’t meet your heroes, but I was lucky enough to meet him at San Diego Comic Con – twice (definitely not counting….), and he was so lovely and patient with everyone that met him. Including me!
Well, this time I got to interview him, check out what he had to say!
Everyone has different journeys as to how they got into being a professional comic artist, what was your experience?
My experience is similar to the rest of the first wave of artists that Wildstorm brought into the studio in 1993. I showed my portfolio to as many people that wanted to see it at various conventions. I was fresh out of college so that meant San Diego Comic Con and any smaller, local shows and/or signings. Through the process it became very clear that color was my strength. When WildC.A.T.s #2 was released, it had a talent search on the back cover. The studio was looking for writers, pencillers, inkers and colorists. I decided to send only color work. A couple of weeks later, I got a call from Jim Lee. I was brought in as the first digital colorist for Wildstorm and the rest is history!
How long did that process take… how long were you looking for work for until Jim Lee called you in?
Back then there were only couple conventions and/or signings so artists and editors were not as accessible as today. I think it took me a couple of years after I graduated from college and decided to give the comics industry a real try.
How do you think your colouring style and technique compares to other artists? How important is it to have your own trademark/style in such a competitive industry?
Much like the inker, a colorist has to compliment the artist(s) that come before him/her. I believe that a top colorist adapts to each artists to make the art look better in the end. The “style” comes through in the palettes and color choices. Using these two tools to help tell a story through color are key to a successful collaboration.
From the moment you get a piece of artwork to colour, how lengthy is the process from starting a piece and finishing it? And how pressurising are the deadlines that you get for each piece?
It varies depending on the art and the artist. Some artists have a simpler art style that allows for more freedom and can increase my speed. More complex or realistic styles can be more difficult and time consuming because the realism has to be matched in color. I average anywhere from 1 to 3 hours a page. Covers take a little longer because I add more detail to them. A deadline will also establish how long a page can take. If I have 3 more pages to turn in and 9 hours to turn them in, then I have to average no more than 3 hours per page. Deadlines rule my days, weeks, months and sometimes hours! I get to make my own schedule, but at the heart of it, I have to make sure the work gets turned in on time.
Is it difficult to get used to colouring the artwork of different comic series or artists? Is there a transitioning period whereby you experiment with the art and the colours from artist to artist?
Yes, especially if I am working with an artist for the first time. I change my palettes, and approach with each artist and story. Since I color multiple books each month I jump from one deadline to another which means jumping from one art team to another as well. Even though I’ve worked with a specific art team on multiple issues, there is also a minor transitional period as I switch from the previous art team to the current one.
Do you do any practicing for that transitional period? If not, how do you prepare for the switch?
I find 2 or 3 pages from the new story/art that somewhat encapsulate the rest, and experiment on them – especially if I am trying a new technique or approach. I treat them like a canvas and just do different things and mess with brushes and modes to see if I can achieve what I had in mind.
What/who are your inspirations?
Artistically I have always loved Michelangelo and Van Gogh. In fact, I draw a lot of inspiration from Van Gogh’s paintings for my palettes. Whenever I hit an artist’s block, I flip through art books, or go online and just google artists whose work I admire. My biggest influences have been Joe Chiodo, Mark Chiarello and Lynn Varley. I am a fan of a few contemporary colorists whose work inspires and drives me to constantly improve.
Can you name a few of those contemporary colourists?
I have always been and will continue to be a fan of Jeromy Cox’s and Laura Martin’s work. They make it look so easy. Justin Ponsor, Tomeu Morey and Francisco Placencia are some of the younger colorists who give me a push with everything they do. Brad Anderson is doing some of his best work right now too.
Are there any current/new DC artists that stand out to you? Are there any that you could see yourself working with that you haven’t yet already?
I’ve been lucky enough to work with so many amazing DC artists that it would be almost too greedy to even mention anyone. Still, there are SO many more I haven’t had the pleasure to work with. I really love the work of Lee Weeks, Mitch Gerards and Babs Tarr, and would love to collaborate with them at some point.
Are there any Marvel/Other Comic artists that you’d also like to work with?
I would love to work with Alan Davis, Jock and Dave Mazzuccelli.
In the past at Comic Con’s you have taken a part in a few DC Comics Art Academy’s. How important is it to you to encourage and teach the future generation of comic book colourists?
In the past the technology and equipment were very expensive, and coloring digitally was hard to try out. That has changed dramatically and everyone and anyone has access to it. I feel that showing artists how to do it properly is important. I also do those classes at Comic Con because a lot of fans don’t know or are not familiar with the process. I believe they can appreciate and understand comics better if they learn how they are created.
I’ve seen on your social media pages that you are also an excellent artist, as well as a fantastic colourist. Would you ever consider drawing AND colouring your own work in a comic book or graphic novel adaptation?
Thank you! I do get asked this question quite a bit. I am so much better and faster at coloring that I think I would take a huge financial hit if I drew comics. I still love drawing and painting and will continue to do so for as long as I can.
What is your favourite thing/character/storyline to colour?
I am a huge Batman fan and will work on him whenever it is offered. I also get excited by specific situations. Bendis, Reis and Prado is a job I would NEVER turn down. I’ve built some great relationships with a few writers and artists like Geoff Johns, Scott Snyder, Bryan Hitch, Terry Dodson and would love to work with again.
What are the specific situations that get you excited?
Anything that starts off with Frank Miller! Nowadays, I am usually approached by an artist asking if I would like to join him/her on a project. Other times it is the editor offering me a project and letting me know who the rest of the creative team will be. I mostly do work because of the team I will be working with. The character(s) are the icing on that cake. I am such a fan that I honestly have a hard time saying no to projects. The only time I turn work down is when I just can’t fit it into my schedule.
Which of your pieces is your favourite Superman?
It’s funny because if you had asked me this while I was coloring Superman over Pacheco, I would have said that one, same goes for “For Tomorrow” and “Unchained.” Unfortunately for those books and series I feel I am working on one of the best Superman series ever. Brian, Ivan and Joe are doing some of the best works of their careers and I am SO glad to be along for the ride. All of them, including our talented letterer and editors, really inspire and push me to do my best in each page of every issue.
Is there anything you can tell us to expect from the current Superman series?
Rogol IS coming back! Brian writes him so well and Ivan and Joe bring him to life so beautifully—for an ugly, nasty villain!—that I’m excited to see how that story line comes to and end… …or IF it does.
What does Superman mean to you?
He embodies all those one-word tag lines that we hear all the time: Hope, Truth, Justice. I also love the human moments when they come up. The irony that, as an alien, his humanness is usually his weakness makes him that much more relatable even though he can leap tall building and stop bullets, etc. I think he is what many of us wish we could be. Not superhuman, but pure of heart and incorruptible.
What are some of your favourite Superman stories to read?
There’s so many to choose from! I love Superman: For All Seasons. It’s a perfect blend of story and art. I am a huge Kurt Busiek fan and his take on the Superman character in Superman: Secret Identity was so great. And anytime Alex Ross writes and/or paints Superman, I am definitely reading that.
To you what are the essential Superman characteristics/colours that have to be captured in your work?
His suit presents some challenges because he wears the three primary colors. It is hard to make him NOT stand out in some situations or scenes because of how bold and imposing those colors are. I use golds and yellows around him quite a bit, not only to pop him, but also to bathe him in that light, since that is what gives him his powers.
Trunks or no trunks?
Not trying to be non-committal here, but I like both. I think no trunks works great in New 52 and the movies, but love them trunks when Ivan draws him. It helps balance the red throughout his suit too, as I feel the belt kind of disappeared without the trunks.
What do you think of the current representations of Superman and do you have any particular favourites? In Film, Comics and TV?
I really like where the character is right now. I love what Bendis (and the respective art teams) is doing with him on Action and Superman. I think Henry Cavill was born to play Superman. Seeing him in the suit is always so cool. I do wish they would write and direct a proper movie for him though. They need someone who gets the character and how Cavill can portray him. On the TV side, I would like to see Superman more in the Supergirl series or maybe give him his own. In fact, DC/WB/CW should just do a series called World’s Finest and have alternating Superman and Batman stories with an occasional team-up. who wouldn’t watch THAT?!!
Following from Comics, was/is there a particular Superman suit you prefer to work on?
I’m loving the current one and it is probably because of how Ivan is drawing him. I felt the exact same way with the suit Jim Lee drew him in when we worked on Unchained.
Are there any characters that you haven’t yet worked on that you would like to?
I have worked with DC for most of my career and have been lucky enough to have worked on most, if not all of their characters during that time. I think the list of characters for me is from other companies and books that I grew up reading and loving like Daredevil, X-men, Thor and Hellboy.
In your industry, when you work for a particular comic company, do you have to stay loyal to that company? Or are you free to do whatever work you like?
Most freelancers do the work they can get. Most companies will keep the talent they like busy so other companies won’t be able to hire them. I am under exclusive contract with DC which means I only do work for them and for their part, they make sure I stay busy coloring their books and projects.
What can we expect to see from you in the future?
Right after this interview I am starting Superman: Year One with Frank Miller, John Romita JR and Danny Mikki. I am so excited to get going on it. The story and art on this is phenomenal and I can’t wait to put my two cents in! I have a couple other books I have been approached about, but cannot talk about them quite yet.
Is there anything you can tell us about Superman: Year One? So far there have been a lot of speculations, but not many confirmed details. But by the sounds of it, we have an absolute DREAM TEAM working on it. What can we expect from this book?
I have seen a ton of the art and read the first issue and can definitely say that Frank has written one of his best DC stories ever! The art that John and Danny are banging out is doing that story so much justice. I keep pinching myself to make sure I’m really on this project!
Will you be attending any comic conventions in the US or UK anytime soon?
I will be attending Emerald City, Wonder Con, Suffolk County Comic Art and Expo, San Diego and New York. I will be In Ireland and England in August and will be looking to do some signings there. More details soon!
We can’t wait to welcome you here in the UK this year! See you then. Thank you for taking the time to do this interview Alex!
Thanks so much! Appreciate you being so understanding and accommodating with my crazy schedule.
2 thoughts on “An Interview With… Alex Sinclair”
Hello Mr Sinclair: Do you have new ideas about Superman’s Kryptonian SunGod, RAO, stories and artwork with beautiful/dazzling colouring for the Kryptonian SunGod which DC may like?
Hey! Look at this miracle at real, flesh-and-blood SUPERMAN actors, some deceased or alive:
Superman of the 1950s and 1960s ……….. REEVES George
Superman of the 1970s and 1980s ……….. REEVE. Christopher
Superman of the 2000s. ……….. ROUTH. Brandon
Wow! The names Reeves, Reeve and Routh are so familiar as strong movie Supermen and sound close to the name of the Kryptonian SunGod ……… RAO!
LOOOOOKIE at the letter O in the name: RAO and punch a tiny dot in the centre of letter O and what do you get?
Letter O with dot in centre symbolizes what you see in books of astronomy, astrology, Superman’s father, Jor-El’s love and respect for the letter O with centre-dot. Even Kara Zor-El Supergirl and dog Krypto love it.
Mr Sinclair: What is this holy symbol of O with a dot inside as part of RAO??
Aaaaaaaaaaaand people and fans nominate REEVE as the definitive SUPERMAN! If you see REEVE (Chris) riding a horse near you, just shout “RAO” and he will turn thinking somebody calling him REEVE!
If you shouted RAO to actor REEVE, he would have stopped his horse and screamed ‘WHOAA!” to his restless horse before trying to jump over that dangerous barrier ……… Mr Sinclair! You would have saved the actor’s life from permanent spinal paralysis!
Where were you, Mr Sinclair, admirer of Superman?