OH: With the exception of getting laid off, you make it sound like getting a career in comics is pretty easy.
CS: I know, it’s terrible, right! The sad thing is, I don’t even have the best Easiest Story. Adrian drew like five sample pages, met [Runaways editor] CB [Cebulski], and ended up on Runaways, and never had drawn a book in his entire life. And then Justin Ponsor, somebody had met him when he was working at a toy store, and because he knew a lot about toys, they were like “You should try working at WildStorm,” and he learned Photoshop in a night, did a test, and suddenly was coloring at Wildstorm. Everyone has a different story on how to get in. I think the big thing always boils down to your skill level. I was terrible back in the day, so I will definitely say there was a lot of luck in me getting a job. Some people are just good. Adrian was just really good. My friend, who started working in comics after I had introduced her to some people, named Emily Warren, she’s just really good.
OH: You mentioned having a portfolio. So were you just taking it around, going to cons and getting reviews and all that?
CS: Yeah. I knew in college that I wanted to work, so basically I was saving up money to attend to two conventions a year, and every convention I went to I had a brand new portfolio. Each one of them I had a brand new series of pieces, and I had a strict belief in bringing five pieces – three sequential, and two pinups, because five was all anybody needed to see to determine whether or not I was any good. I went to as many conventions as I could and eventually I met enough people and showed the right people my stuff that people were willing to give me a chance. I got to do an Image pin-up for free, I did a Shi cover for Billy Tucci for free, which was worth it because that cover helped get me my job at CrossGen. I worked for Penny Farthing press; that was one of my first paid gigs. They paid me to color some pin-ups. All of that eventually led to the right person seeing my stuff, my portfolio, and taking a chance on me, and I was really lucky. Laura Martin hired me for CrossGen.
OH: Superman has been around forever, and Runaways wasn’t around quite as long, but they were both started by someone else. Did you feel any responsibility to make your look work unified with what came before you, or could you cut loose and do your thing?
CS: With Superman, I had to follow a color guide. The way that DC worked at the time, with that project, was that they wanted color guides from Peter, and then I had to essentially color based on the loose things he set down. He’s actually very tight with his color guides, so that was another way I learned a lot - by seeing the way he wanted things done.
With Runaways, there was another colorist on the book, so I was wondering “How should I go about doing this?” And they said, “Well, we’re in the middle of an arc, so we would like you to mimic what was here before, and at the beginning of the next arc, if you would like to go in your own direction that would be fine.” It was Brian Reber, so I mimicked Brian, but there was one thing I changed that first issue I came on, which was Karolina’s colors, because, and this sounds so bad, I didn’t like the way he was doing them. A friend of mine had shown me a trick about a week earlier and I wanted to try it, and I wanted to see how it would look, and that was the one thing where Marvel said “Ah! That looks good!” When you come on a series, they don’t want it to look completely different so it was understandable, but if you read the book, every other arc Adrian and I are both kind of experimenting to see what other things we could do together, and we found our groove.
OH: When you’re coloring a book, how much did you talk to the pencil artists about what the book would look like?
CS: It depends on the penciller. When I was younger, I was hardcore about making sure that I knew what everyone wanted. To this day, I still like to discuss it with the pencillers. I know they have an image in their head of what they want, and I want to give them as much as I can possibly give them to get the piece as close to what they have in their head.
Adrian and I are totally buddies. We’re doing an art book right now. I called him my “comic book husband” for years. We have a great rapport, and it didn’t take me long to figure out his aesthetic, and he was very good abut being very honest with me about what he liked and what he didn’t like. It was easy for me to riff off that. Runaways was the best team I’ve ever worked on. I don’t know how that happened. Everyone on that book was super supportive, from editorial to every member of the staff. Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane was the same thing, it was fantastic. Those two books are probably my favorite things that I’ve ever worked on. [Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane penciller] Takeshi [Miyazawa] was super cool to work with, and easy to talk to, and he was just really good about letting me know what he liked and what he didn’t like.
OH: Do you talk to the writer much?
CS: I definitely talk more to penciller because there’s more to be said between the two of us. It depends on who you’re talking about. Some writers are not nearly as talkative as other people. Everybody you work with is different, every team dynamic is different. With Runaways everybody was talkative, everybody was great about feedback, all of us were chummy, and we liked each other enough that at conventions we’d have little get-togethers and stuff. But not all books are like that. Some books I never talk to the writer, whether it’s because I’m not given that option or it’s not necessary.
OH: How did you go about developing your color palette and decide what kind of colorist you were going to be?
CS: I’m really bad. I know a lot of people make palettes and use palettes throughout, I don’t do that. Usually what happens is I get the scripts and pages, and I look at it and I kind of know where the story is going. The first thing I do is take a moment and imagine what palette would suit this project. Everybody’s got their colors that they’re naturally in love with. Like, I love a lot of colors. I love rainbows. If you look at Runaways, I use a lot of colors in that; and Runaways is a lot more muted than Spider-Man Loves Mary Jane, which is a lot more jewel-tone, because I thought that fit that better. It depends. When I worked on Strange with Emma Rios, I just knew I wanted all these really obnoxious saturated hues for when she looks through these glasses and sees all these demons. I wanted it to be sickeningly obvious that it was a horrific experience, so I used these really gross, saturated colors that were pissing me off because blue and purple are the worst printing colors when it comes to whether or not they would translate from my monitor to print. But, every book is different. I take a moment to figure out what would fit the art and the tone of the book and I run with it.