A Reflection on Watchmen: The Power of Color

The comic Watchmen was my first exposure to a full-blown colored comic.

When I want to read a comic in my spare time, I tend lean towards manga so all the color present in Watchmen was a tad overwhelming for me at first. I noticed that I had trouble focusing on the speech bubbles and the images at the same time. Sometimes I would look at a page and simply just look at the images and then go back and read the text afterwards, as doing both simultaneously seemed unfeasible at the time.

But I will say once I finally got use to so much visual stimuli I really appreciated what the color added to the story as a whole. But after recently turning in my disassembly assignment, I couldn’t help but tweak the first page of Watchmen just to see what it would look like in black and white.

DC Comics (c) 1986
DC Comics (c) 1986
DC Comics (c) 1986
DC Comics (c) 1986

The first thing that really stuck out to me was in the first panel. With color, it is pretty obvious that blood is running down the sidewalk, but when that color is removed it takes until the second panel with the help of text for the reader to discover that blood is what is covering the street. Also, without color being present on this page it would be almost impossible to distinguish Rorschach strolling through this scene if one was to look back once his identity is revealed later on in the comic.

I think after having this experience reading a comic in full color I can really appreciate what color can add to a story. I remember discussing several chapters in class where color served as a “tone” of sorts in certain scenes. One in particular that comes to mind is when Rorschach’s identity is revealed. The first and third panels in the strip below are dominated by warm colors (red, orange, and yellow) while the panel in between showcases more cools colors. For me, it as if those warm colors are representing the anger and frustration Rorschach is facing during this scene as he is being pinned to the ground and dragged away. And again, with the color removed this scene seems to lose a lot of its original intensity.

DC Comics (c) 1986
DC Comics (c) 1986
DC Comics (c) 1986
DC Comics (c) 1986

Now I realize trying to compare DC comics, like Watchmen, and a manga, like Naruto, to one another is like comparing apples to oranges, but it was still interesting to test out and see what Watchmen would look like without all its famous saturated colors.

 

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