I was Googling for some Moebius images, and ran into this 2015 article, entitled “Should old comics be recolored? Ever?” Exhibit A for the prosecution is this horror. The original is at the left.
Let me list the sins.
- The recolor is absurdly dark. It’s an attempt to turn Moebius’s absurd city-well into, I dunno, Gotham City. That’s a profound misreading of L’Incal, which is not a noir story, but a space opera intended to strum our sense of wonder like a guitar.
- It also just doesn’t get Moebius. The original color is by Yves Chaland, but Moebius explained his methods in his introduction to “The Long Tomorrow”: “Pete Club’s costume, for instance, is at the limit of the ridiculous.” All the more so John DiFool, with his absurd pantaloons with a puffball on the shoes. Yes, new colorist, he’s supposed to dress in purple, maroon, and orange.
- Notice how John stands out in the original. He gets lost in the recolor.
- The recolor adds detail precisely where we don’t need it. The scene is not about seeing how the ramps look on the 22nd level. It’s about John’s predicament.
- The original is simple in its color scheme, and all the more effective for it. There isn’t even the excuse that Chaland didn’t have Photoshop. It’s not flat colors and newsprint; it’s subtly shaded watercolor on fine paper.
- Chaland purposely inverts the likely “real” colors, making things brighter in the abyss. The colors fade as you go down, drawing the eye to the brilliant white below. The recolor completely loses this, making everything muddy shades of brown and gray. It no longer looks like a miles-long drop.
- The recolor is obsessed with 3-D modelling, as if we can’t accept the picture of John, or the birds, without complicated shading. But this sort of thing doesn’t mesh with, and even undermines, Moebius’s intricate linework.
The other examples in the article are more of a mixed bag. The Thor recolors are not bad. I don’t like either version of the Batman story. There are also more pages from L’Incal showing that the mistakes above just keep flowing.
You could improve some old comics with better colors. But just adding shading, and toning down the color palette, are not necessarily improvements. Older US comics were drawn with flat colors in mind, and for that matter when the story is garish, you’d might as well do the same with the art.