Richard Isanove: I was born and raised in France and moved to Los Angeles about 13 years ago to attend Cal-Arts. I started coloring Comics right after graduating and I've been working principally for Marvel for about 9 years. I've mostly colored the pencils of the Kubert brothers and Joe Quesada. I guess my most noticeable work was on Daredevil, Ultimate X-men, Origin: the true story of Wolverine and Neil Gaiman's 1602.
Lilja: How did you get involved with The Dark Tower comic?
Richard Isanove: Joe Quesada, the Editor in Chief at Marvel, called me out of the blue and asked if I liked Stephen King. I had no idea where that conversation was going. I thought he may be kidding because I'm such an outspoken fan of King, but when he told me what it was about I was ecstatic.
It's been 2 years since we did those first 4 demo pages and I'm still just as thrilled as when we started.
Lilja: How does it work practically? You get the sketches from Jae Lee and then you color them? Do you decide how and what colors should be used or is that a decision Jae makes?
Richard Isanove: Jae E-mails the pencils to me. I ask that he sends color notes along with them. It's usually one line explaining the time of day, what he thinks is important on the page and if a detail has to be a specific color. After that I just dive into it and improvise. I've read the books so I have a pretty good idea about what is what and what it should look like. We also talk almost everyday day on the phone (he lives in New York).
When I finish a page, I E-mail a small jpeg to Jae to check if I got anything wrong, like a character's hair color or clothes. He helps me keep track of the continuity.
Lilja: How often, if ever, do you have to ask Jae to make changes? And if you do, what changes are we talking about?
Richard Isanove: By the time I get the pages, it's already the second or third version. Jae can't let go until he thinks it's perfect. I like to do things as best as I can the first time around, move on.
Sometimes I'll notice a small mistake in some costume accessory but before I say anything, Jae has already sent a new and corrected version. I think he spends his time looking at his own art over and over.
When we finish a book, we go over it and make more adjustments.
Lilja: Do you also have access to the text when you color the illustrations?
Richard Isanove: I have the plot and I read the page description before I start. The more information you have before you begin the more focused your vision will be. Just by looking at the pencils and reading the script, I have a very precise idea of how to approach the page.
Lilja: Were you or are you now a fan of Stephen King and The Dark Tower?
Richard Isanove: To be honest, I had never read the Dark Tower books until I started on the project.
I dated a girl a quite few years back who was a huge SK fan and she kept telling me to read some but just to be pigheaded, I never did. I thought it was airport literature.
One thing to know is that when I work I love listening to audio books. So, in 1998, I bought the Bag of Bones audio book read by King himself. It was an awesome experience. I was very impressed by the sheer quality of the prose, but mostly by the dimensionality of the characters and the intimate connection with them, increased by the fact that the writer himself was telling the story. From then on, I've made it my mission to convert all the nay-sayers.
One of his books I could never finish was The Gunslinger. The writing was so detached and descriptive that I just didn't care for it. I even found a version Stephen King recorded himself in 1998 and still I couldn't make it past the first third without my mind wandering and losing track. Finally I bought the revised version and listened to it while coloring the first 4 demo pages to immerse myself in the universe. It was only about 8 hours long so I was done with it by the end of page 1. So, I downloaded the Drawing of the Three and I was blown away. I simply loved it and it's still probably my favorite Chapter. After that, I listened to the whole series in one go while working on the first issue. I only took one break halfway through to listen to The Memory of Running which King had recommended in his Entertainment Weekly column.
Lilja: Some people might say that you don't need to be a fan of or even know anything about The Dark Tower to color Jae's sketches. What would you like to say to them?
Richard Isanove: It's true but I don't think you can keep producing your best work day after day if you just work for a paycheck. I want to make each page look the best possible because I know it's part of a bigger thing. I remind myself everyday of how lucky I am to be an active part of it. The Dark Tower is important for a lot of people and it has become the main part of my life: I work 12 hours a day on this thing. It's probably not necessary to be a fan to do what I do, but it makes for a really unique experience and I enjoy every moment of it. At the end of the day, for me, that's really what matters.
Lilja: Others might say that coloring someone else's sketches is an easy task, that the real work is in doing the sketches themselves. How would you respond to that?
Richard Isanove: Man, you know a lot of negative people! Seriously, It's all part of a group effort and if anyone drops the ball, it falls apart.
Jae is a very solid penciller and that makes my job easier, but if you look at his previous work, you'll see that different colorists will completely change the final result. It's not really a matter of how hard it is, but what look you're trying to obtain. People come to me because they want a certain look and it's more of collaboration than an employee /employer relation.
Lilja: How nervous were you about working on The Dark Tower? After all, it's King's master piece.
Richard Isanove: I feel pretty confident now, mostly because the response has been so positive. Last year was a little weird because we had a few issues done and no one outside of people directly involved had seen anything. Jae and I both felt it was our best work yet and were very proud of it but no one even really knew what we were doing and without too much feedback, you start to second guess yourself. Also, no one really knew how the series would be received by the public.
Lilja: I understand that King has the last word on everything. Has he asked you to change anything so far and if so, can you tell me what?
Richard Isanove: Nothing so far. He's been very enthusiastic and supportive. I hope it stays that way. It's very rewarding to know that the man himself is looking at your work and that he's happy with it.
Lilja: How far in the series are you now? Have you finished all seven issues and moved on to the next set?
Richard Isanove: Issue 7 is in the works but I'm also retouching pages on issue 4 which goes out to the printer next week. My technique has evolved a bit through the books and I like to go back and apply my new tricks to the old pages.
Lilja: I take it that you are in for all the issues, first to last, right?
Richard Isanove: Hopefully. With my crazy schedule, it's that or a heart attack. Whichever comes first.