PopCultHQ is kicking off 2018 in a new way. Each month, we’ll be selecting Comic Book Creators of the Month and interview them for a spotlight article. For January 2018’s Colorist of the Month, we chose Tamra Bonvillain.
If you haven’t heard the name Tamra Bonvillain, or at least seen the name, get out from under that rock! The colorist’s work appears throughout the comic book industry, being featured in Marvel Comics (Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Uncanny Avengers), DC Comics (Doom Patrol), Image Comics (Wayward, Rat Queens), AfterShock Comics (Alters, Strayer), Dark Horse Comics (Angel Catbird), Action Lab Entertainment (Bigfoot: Sword of the Earthman), BOOM! Studios (Sleepy Hollow), Black Mask Studios (Transference), and more! And that’s just in the last few years or so!
After following her for a couple of years and seeing the hot commodity for which she is (and deserves), Tamra was an easy choice to spotlight as Colorist of the Month at PopCultHQ. So sit back, relax, and hear how Tamra truly enjoys working with other creators, how her style has developed, and why knowing her limits allows her to continue on in her comic book career.
PopCultHQ Spotlight Interview
Colorist of the Month – January 2018:
PopCultHQ: How did comic books influence your childhood? What was the defining moment in your life that you knew, from then on, that you wanted to color comic books for a living?
Tamra Bonvillain: I don’t know that I can really nail down one defining moment, but I read comics here and there from a pretty young age. I was generally interested in the characters and creating comics of my own. I think all the comics-based animated series from the early 90s also helped keep that interest going, since I wasn’t really able to buy tons of comics as a kid. I never really thought to be a colorist specifically until much later. It just seemed to click for me, and I was getting offered jobs, so I kept taking them and here I am!
PopCultHQ: Your work has been published by Image Comics, AfterShock Comics, and more recently with DC on ‘Doom Patrol’ and your long run with Marvel on ‘Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur.’ You’ve had the opportunity to work with writers Jim Zub, Kurtis Wiebe, Justin Jordan, and Paul Jenkins, and a lengthy list of artists with which you’ve teamed (Leila!). What do you enjoy most about collaborating with other creators? Which creator would you love the opportunity to work with on a project?
Tamra: Thanks! One great thing is that, as a colorist, I get to work with many different artists, with varying styles. It keeps things fresh and interesting for me. It’s really cool to see the different ways that artists approach a page. It’s also nice to be able to see a comic in script form, and their approach to how they handle this is just as different from one another as the artists’ works are.
I’m really bad at thinking of people I’d like to work with generally, and then think of some later. I was looking at some Tomás Giorello art the other day, and that seemed like it would be fun to color.
PopCultHQ: From what I’ve seen over the last couple of years, you’re pretty active on social media, with fans having the ability to follow you and your work on Facebook, Twitter, and DeviantArt. How has networking with the likes of social media helped you as a creator? How can it be beneficial, or even detrimental, for people in the comic book industry?
Tamra: Generally, I think it’s great! I enjoy getting to be able to connect with people with similar interests and experiences in life I may not have been able to speak with otherwise. Earlier on, I think it really helped spread awareness of my work and connect me with other creators, leading to more work. Other times, it’s just nice to have a little company while you work. There is an ugly side to it, too, of course, but I’ve been lucky that it’s never been too severe. I can see, too, that it can sometimes be a bit of a time sink if you let it, but as long as you manage all that, I find it a net positive.
PopCultHQ: Your résumé over the last five years is nothing short of impressive. When taking on a number of different projects as you are currently, do you approach each title differently as to, say, the color palette you employ? Or even a specific tone or feel which you’re trying to convey from the artist’s illustrations?
Tamra: I think I did more at first, because I was really trying to figure stuff out. I feel like now, I still do that, but I have a few “modes” that work well with different types of art. Sometimes, something new will come along where I have to rethink things a bit. On Firebug, I handled that all in a type of watercolor/painted style, and that required a huge shift in how I approach pages, more from a technical standpoint in that case. I don’t think I get super analytical about the approach to palette and all that ahead of time, I just kind of intuitively feel it out. That said, I definitely try to give the things I’m working on a specific feel based on what I’m getting out of the script and the art itself. Sometimes, other members of the team have things in mind which I’ll use to figure out the specific approach to any given project.
PopCultHQ: What has been the most important and/or valuable piece of advice you’ve received as an artist in the comic book industry?
Tamra: There’s a lot, but what jumps to mind right now is to try to know your limits. I feel like, for a long time, I have tried to take on so much in order to establish myself, but that at some point that began to really wear on me. I think it’s really important to know when to dial it back and get a better balance in your life. I’m still working on it, myself!
PopCultHQ: On top of the ‘Firebug’ TP with Johnnie Christmas (which is gonna be dope!), what’s on tap in 2018 for Tamra Bonvillain? Any conventions and signing appearances lined up? Projects you can discuss?
Tamra: The only two, definite cons I have planned are ECCC in March, and Heroes in June. Not sure if I’ll make it out to more this year. I’d like to try to do 3-4 a year at some point, but I’ve been keeping so busy, I have to limit them for now. I’ve got several new books I’m excited for this year coming, but I don’t think any have been announced just yet. Soon, hopefully! Otherwise, still going strong on Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Doom Patrol, and Wayward.
PopCultHQ: If you had the power or ability to make one change in the comic book community or industry, what would it be?
Tamra: Oh, that’s a big one! I don’t claim to know HOW you would achieve this, but if there was a larger outreach to customers of all types, not limited to comic shops, to help increase the audience numbers and the diversity of that audience, as well as the people creating comics, I think we’d have a healthier, more interesting industry.
Special thanks to Tamra for making time to speak with PopCultHQ.
Be sure to follow Tamra Bonvillain online for all the latest from the mega-talented creator!
Colorist – Tamra Bonvillain