Off My Mind: Too Much Color In Sci-Fi Comics

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Posted by gmanfromheck (42520 posts) - - Show Bio

This is a problem I've mentioned a few times. I like science fiction and (obviously) I like comic books. I have a hard time when the two are combined. You would think the comic medium would be perfect for sci-fi concepts. The biggest problem for me is the color. There's simply too much of it in most sci-fi comics. My current complaint deals with all the colors in Blackest Night.

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 Did a rainbow throw up here?
 Did a rainbow throw up here?
I like all the different "Corps" we're getting during Blackest Night but it's been my opinion (something that people don't like when I mention it in the reviews) that there's just too much color in the space scenes. The different Lantern Corps are cool and it's been interesting to see what each one does, but throwing them all together just gets a little intense at times. I'm not faulting the colorists on these issues. Maybe it's the sci-fi fan in me trying to envision these stories told as a live action feature. I know it's not fair and something I shouldn't get hung up on but it's there. 
It's not just the Blackest Night comics. This is something that has bothered me long before the current color bombardment we're getting. Take a look at these other recent examples:

Gallery image 1Gallery image 2Gallery image 3Gallery image 4Gallery image 5Gallery image 6Gallery image 7Gallery image 8Gallery image 9

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The overabundance of color takes away from the space/sci-fi action we're trying to enjoy. The colors make the art look too "comic book-y."  

The Star Wars comics are also hard to follow. I'm a huge Star Wars fan but I'm not always a fan of the comics. I'm not saying the space comics should be in black and white. If you think of sci-fi movies, do you super bright colors?  I don't. In Star Wars, especially the newer trilogy, all the CG comes across as shiny and bright. There are different colored laser blasts and lightsabers but if you get too much color, it just looks fake. I've seen some comic book panels (not just in Star Wars) where ships or corridors are brightly colored. If it was like that in a movie, everything would look as if it were made of plastic. The overuse of colors is also why I've had a hard time getting into Marvel's 'cosmic' comics lately.
Am I the only one that feels this way? What's the biggest selling comic book? Usually they involve brightly costumed superheroes. That's okay (to an extent). Superhero comics have usually been about the brightly clad individuals running around. Even so, the majority of the time a superhero is adapted into a movie, their costumes are tweaked and toned down. Maybe I just need to get over this and enjoy the sci-fi comics. If the colors were muted a little they would be less distracting. I don't need super flashy colors to sell me on a comic.
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#1 Posted by Freddy.Mercurial (152 posts) - - Show Bio

Pains me to say it, but this is def your weakest "OFF MY MIND" yet...  reads like u want to make a point but are afraid to...  or simply incapable?  it's highlighted, but not limited, to this little gem:  
"The overabundance of color feels like it takes away from the space/sci-fi action we're trying to enjoy. I comment I've made before that was questioned is the colors make the art look too "comic book-y." I know it's actually in a comic book but when you read and immerse yourself in the story, I don't think people usually think, 'Wow, this is a great comic book story.' People get sucked into a good story and it just happens that it's a comic book."
Que???  Hate to burst your thought-bubble, but its a COMIC BOOK primo!  You saying it should be toned down is basically saying the creators should tone down their creativity.  There are no limits in comic books, which is what separates this medium from film...  These are the ultimate big budget epics!   
Not sayin' your wrong to hate on the colors, im just sayin' the colors are an essential part of the experience, so stop whining about it & get back on the gravy train!  
Dale, get back to reviewing comics already! 

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#2 Posted by emerald_lamp_2814 (666 posts) - - Show Bio

I don't think that you should complain when it comes to green lantern or blackest night when it comes to color it is like complaning about wonder woman because she is a woman or the flash because he does not fly or superman because he wears a cape, The comic is what it is.In my opinion the colors of GL, GLC and blackest night is what sets them apart form other comics visually, the colors were toned down in issues 19-21 of green lantern and it did not look good.
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#3 Posted by MichaeltheFly (6651 posts) - - Show Bio

I don't know G-man the universe isn't so black and white, if you look more closely at it.

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#4 Posted by KRYPTON (2424 posts) - - Show Bio

That is really bright, when I saw the picture with the comment "Did a rainbow throw up here?" There was just too many colors to look at. Also the Picture with Nova vs. Annihilus to many colors.

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#5 Posted by Blindside002 (227 posts) - - Show Bio

I dunno...Personally I like the color. I've always been a fan of the superhero stories, but never actually read them in comic books until about two and half years ago. While I enjoy the occasional dark colored comic which adds to a certain feel to the comics that I have always personally enjoyed in stories. Although I read comics because I enjoy the art and the visuals that I get everytime I pick up one, but I could also make your arguement about colors in reverse. I personally find that the lack of brighter colors also seems to take something away because I personally have always had trouble focusing on the story of the comic book if I had an issue with the art, and the dark coloring or shadowing make it hard to notice and appreciate the art that is in the comic book and therefore harder to enjoy the comic itself in my opinion.
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#6 Posted by Decept-O (8098 posts) - - Show Bio

G-Man, this an opinion of yours I'm having trouble either agreeing or disagreeing.  You make some valid points, yet I also don't see where there have been many comics that were "too bright" in terms of color for me.   You post pictures as examples but none of these really jump out to make me agree with your point.  Not knocking you, just not feeling it.
Maybe you've been eating too many carrots and have a Vitamin A overload, making your eyes ultra-sensitive to color?   I kid because I believe you're a vegetarian.   
You have your opinion about it and while it's made me think I just don't know about this topic.   Some of the better Sci-Fi films at least were a bit "darker" visually, and examples that come to mind are the movies ALIEN, ESCAPE FROM NEW YORK,  and even TERMINATOR 1 & 2, so I can partly understand where you're coming from.  Maybe it's something to do with the story being a bit "gritty" in a Sci-Fi story?  I don't know.
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#7 Posted by Harlekin (727 posts) - - Show Bio

So he wants the characters to all wear black and the backgrounds to be gray. That sounds like a fun book.

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#8 Posted by Bobby X (1149 posts) - - Show Bio

Hmmm, I see your point. Not one that has every really bothered me befrore though to be honest. Maybe now it will though lol. 
I mean obvs I can understand the big fight scenes in Blackest Night having too much color sometimes (a necessary side efffect of having this War of Light involving all these corps though), but you lost me a little you started showing the pics from GoG, Star Wars, and Annihilation and such. 
I guess I just don't understand why color takes away from sci-fi/space action but not any other type of action? Why should sci-fi have less coor than any other genre of comic book? Are you arguing that sci-fi should be more realistic looking than other comics just because of the "sci" prefix? I guess the overabundance of color can make things look a less realistic and sometimes even fake.  

I think all these different sci-fi franchises have gotten more colorful as a natural consequence of their universes expanding. As they add more characters and places to each, they need to make sure each person, place, or thing stands out on its own from anything else in its repective universe. Star Wars has definitely gotten more colorful as the Star Wars universe has grown. They need to differentiate between different characters and planets and what simpler way is there to make one aspect unique from another than to render it a diiferent color? Look how many different color aliens we have now. Look at the lightsabers even lol.
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#9 Posted by mrlogical (40 posts) - - Show Bio

I totally agree--it's not that there's a problem with having "color" in a book, it's the intense over-saturation of those colors.  I understand why it is being done in Blackest Night, as the different colors of the emotional spectrum are being represented, but it is kind of overwhelming.  When the volume is set to 11 on every page, it really starts to lose the impact and just makes the book a bit harder to read.

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#10 Posted by Joey Ravn (439 posts) - - Show Bio

I can't speak for other books, but the whole point of Blackest Night iscolor. Color overcoming black/darkness. To be honest, when I read Green Lantern Corps #46, the issue from where the "rainbow throwing up" image comes from, I was pretty amazed by how well all the colors blend together. For example, take the splash page just at the beginning of the issue. It's really cool how each member of the Corps interact with the rest in that page, and how it is reflected through the colors used by Randy Mayor (who is the colorist, in case you haven't noticed :P). For example, Soranik Natu and a Blue Lantern throwing a combined green/blue beam.  The color-mesh trap all the Corps put together is awe-inspiring. Yes, there are many different colors all clustered in the same page, but you have to see it in opposition to the black figures in the foreground.
I don't think G-Man wants all sci-fi comics to be all black and white. I can understand that sometimes too much color can be a bit overwhelming, but I don't think it's the case with Blackest Night. That's the basic theme of the miniseries, in fact. 
PS: In that same issue of Green Lantern Corps, the Black Lantern Alex-in-a-fridge is awesomely disturbing :P 
PS2: Tony is a vegetarian? Cool. I'm vegetarian myself :P

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#11 Posted by gmanfromheck (42520 posts) - - Show Bio

Kind of funny how some people think my "opinion" is wrong. I never said said these comics should have zero color. It's just when I read a comic like Mass Effect, I enjoyed the story but images like this just looked cheap:

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But again, it's just my opinion.
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#12 Posted by Bobby X (1149 posts) - - Show Bio
I see what you mean. I think it's just the artists' way of differentiating between similar looking characters. If one is blue the other needs to be green everyone knows they are from different planets. It can definitely cheapen it. Actually, in the case of Mass Effect, I find it to be completely understandable because they need to stay true to the character designs from the video game and in the game the characters need to be different colors so you can identify them quickly to be able to dish out commands  in the heat of battle. I know I have had frustration in the past with video games that do not render characters drastically different colors.
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#13 Posted by Blindside002 (227 posts) - - Show Bio
In that scene I can definitely see what you are talking about, but rather I noticed the colors of the enviorment and characters look drained in comparsion to other parts which seem to contrast. I think some may take the colors over board, but at the same time it could be said the other way around with toned down color. I personally like the bright colors, but they also have to be done well or else as you said it just seems cheap like in the page you posted but I don't think most of them need to be toned down because myself and others i know associate most scifi and superhero comic books as supposed to be otherwordly which I guess the first thing that comes to our minds are amazing colors on a background of black and darkness.
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#14 Posted by Queen's Halo (2483 posts) - - Show Bio

I actually like Blackest Night's colors, I think it's symbolic. As for the rest, I think colder colors should be used, except Star Wars, they can use red and yellow.

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#15 Posted by BKole (590 posts) - - Show Bio

Forgive me for saying so, but as someone who actually can't see colours (I have a monochromatic colourblindness that means seeing colours is a difficult). I think colours are important for interpretation of things - They're indicative and important for emotional mood and stuff. I know this is your opinion, and so we shouldn't directly say it's wrong or anything like that, I'm not trying to say that. You are of the opinion that too much colour, etc, cheapens things. There's a certain amount of dystopian and bleak imagery that goes with a Science Fiction setting.  
You don't tend to see a lot of successful series whose main focal point is a bright and shiny future where everything is great. It's all a bit..well, horrid, and that's okay. What springs to my mind at this point is Mark Waid's LEGION reboot. The world was sort of falling apart socially, but everything outside was very bright and a bit...well, glowy. I think that led a different asthetic to things, as mostly when we saw people inside they were talking to each other in dark rooms with viewing screens etc. 
Colour, In my opinion, is important, because looking at space as a whole, scienficially rather than from the point of view of a science fiction fan, it's amazingly bright and full of beautiful colours. Every planet has it's own distinct colour and hue, often mixing different shades like Neptune, or Venus, or different colours entirely, like Jupiter. There's huge gas clouds in space that're loads of different colours, but space, as a whole is very black. Dark and black and faded. So, the typical view of space, is because of the large expanses of darkness that it's a sort of almost psuedo-dystopian environment, giving it a really oppressive and dark feel that's destroyed by too much colour. Star Trek, most of the ships are faded, or bland colours, or even dark like a Borg Cube. 
Really, It doesn't have too much of a bearing on my life, consideing my vision, but I can see why colours are important and why they should be used in comics, but I can also see that dependant on your mindset, that it might alter your feelings towards certain scenes etc if they were jammed with colouration. However, would you feel differently if they used different colours etc if you were reading an Aquaman comic? Below a certain threshold (I think it's 60 metres, but it could be more) light can't penetrate. Doesn't mean there's no colour down there? In fact, it's more colourful than above the darkness.
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#16 Edited by gettozachoppa (14 posts) - - Show Bio

imo the aliens comic books seem to have got the colour scheme right at least lately although I guess there's only so much colour that can be implicated into a comic book that follows the tail of black aliens.

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#17 Posted by Freddy.Mercurial (152 posts) - - Show Bio
@G-Man: u do have a right to your opinion, so apologies if u feel like i've bagged on u for that...  its just that i spend a significant portion of my day (a few minutes being VERY significant) listening to your reviews/podcasts (which are otherwise thorough might i add) & u've been saturating them with your unnecessary anti-color propaganda as of late man!  i guess my gripe is based on your opinion of "reality" & the fact that colors make a comic feel less "real" to u, when IN reality, said reality is all based on perception...  
Bottom line:  COLORS are here to stay!  Ask Robert Duvall & Sean Penn!  hehehe...
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#18 Posted by Son Of The Northwind (295 posts) - - Show Bio

G-Man i remember you complaining about Star-Trek being less colorful (and shown a vid on youtube where some people added some lights and stuff), now your complaining about Sci-Fi being too colorful LOL

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#19 Posted by emerald_lamp_2814 (666 posts) - - Show Bio
no one is saying you are wrong we are just disagreeing and stating our own opinions not every one is going to agree with you. In the case of the mass effect picture i like the contrast in the color mixing the darker tones of the armor with the light form the screen of the computer it is no diffrent form regular lighting effects only exception is it is orange insted of regular color for light.
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#20 Edited by Nova`Prime` (4172 posts) - - Show Bio

I think the problem is comics just aren't film, they need to be colorful to get noticed. I don't have a problem with the colors in comics like GL, GLC, GotG, or Nova, because those are super hero comics before scifi. Now Star Wars I can see being more toned down, but lets face it, you go off the movies. Imperial imagery is usually shades of black, grey, and white. while the Rebellion/Jedi are brightly colored. Now Mass Effect its colors are based on the game, where there are tons of different armors and space suits that look similar but are in different colors.
Not saying your wrong, I just don't get what you want the comic artists to do.

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#21 Posted by Mr.Hulk_Smashin'! (2663 posts) - - Show Bio

you almost sound racist!

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#22 Posted by Freddy.Mercurial (152 posts) - - Show Bio
@Mr.Hulk_Smashin'!: i didn't wanna go there, BUT, hahahahahahahahahaha!
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#23 Posted by gmanfromheck (42520 posts) - - Show Bio
@Mr.Hulk_Smashin'!: Actually, I was waiting for that one. ;)
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#24 Posted by Archetype (726 posts) - - Show Bio

It's strange reading this because colors don't really bother me,unless something is colored wrong, not even in the Blackest Night books.In fact I enjoy the colors it contrasts with the darkness of space like stars do and it also contrasts with the dull gray and metallic colors often used in science fiction for ships and such.There are things I don't like about some of the images for instance just how pink whatever Nova is pulling out of Annihilus is or the toned down kind of washed out color in that Star Wars page with Cade.It just doesn't bother me for the mostpart but like you say it's just a matter of opinion.

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#25 Posted by lostlantern13 (1033 posts) - - Show Bio

It's harder to understand the point of view because the title of the comic states: Green Lantern. I mean the whole concept is about a guy who makes green light constructs in space. I expect color, I expect light, and its usually one of my favorite aspects of the GL comics because the visuals matter to the story. If the colored lights were dingy, dull, or muted, I feel like it would lose a part of its identity as a book about colored light construct creating space cops.

I do understand that a lot of sci-fi movies go for colder color (blue, gray, black) schemes to match the vast void of space or the unlife-like qualities of robots or androids, but A) that's the movies and B) that fits that world well.

When it comes to the lanterns, I just expect (for the most part, but not necessarily all the time) that the colors are going to "pop."

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#26 Posted by xerox_kitty (17342 posts) - - Show Bio

Wow, a lot of people are passionate about this subject!   
To be honest, I like the bright colours, but they do look... well, almost childish.  Just a shinier, glossier version of the old fashioned 4-colour crack that comics used to be (i.e. before the 'dark' modern age).  As someone already pointed out, there really is a lot of colour out there in space.  The powerful telescopes have taken photographs of stunning colourful patterns that naturally occur in the depths of space. 
What bothers me is that a lot of 'space' comics (like most others I guess) rely too heavily on digital colouring.  They use the ultra bright & shiney colours to hide the fact that the linework is mediocre at best (and just plain rubbish at worst).  But a black & white comic (or greyscale comic) just wouldn't sell as well as the digitally coloured trash.

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#27 Posted by SuperXAsh (573 posts) - - Show Bio

so you're saying they should adopt the apparent current mindset of video game designers, and just color everything gun-metal grey, black and brown? or just starting making comics in black n white? :P
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#28 Posted by Golden Cod (630 posts) - - Show Bio

I think the point that GMan is trying to make is that colors can be saturated to the point that it ruins the believability of a scene.   Imagine a post-apocalyptic videogame like Gears of War and try painting that with the bright colors used in comics.   It'd kill the atmosphere of the game.   
That brings us to the question of what sort of atmosphere are space comics trying to evoke?   I have no problem with Blackest Night's usage of color because it's a metaphysical event where the presence of a color represents an individuals' inner driving psyche.   It's about emotion rather then science.   I do have a problem with excessive color in comics that try to create a somber atmosphere unless there's a lighting effect such as an explosion, engine pulse, or computer screen.   I'm a big fan of Ronald Moore's reimagined Battlestar Galactica and I was intrigued by the fact that there were Battlestar comics.   I flipped through an issue briefly but I had to to put it down because the color was WAY too saturated.   Battlestar's color palette is fairly muted and to see bright and cheery colors in a dark story killed any interest I might have had.   In my opinion they just chose the wrong colorist for the comic.
In the end I think it comes down to hoping the publisher pairs the right colorist with the right type of comic.   Heavily saturated colors correspond with stories that are fantastical because it's about a world that's more vibrant/intense then our own.   Muted colors correspond with stories that are more down-to-earth or even darker.   

This is also a debate that is happening to a small degree in videogames where some people are arguing that there's not enough color.   The palettes of games like Killzone, Gears of War, Armored Core, and Resident Evil are fundamentally the same even though they technically fall under different game genres.   Strangely enough, screenshots of Diablo 3 caught some flak with its community because they complained that the colors weren't bleak enough for the story.

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#29 Posted by couzinit99 (181 posts) - - Show Bio

honestly i dont think this is much of a big deal.  I feel there is not "COMIC BOOKY" feel in comics frankly because in space there are a lot of colors, at least i think.  I dont really see a problem here at all.

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#30 Posted by defaultdefaultdefault (16426 posts) - - Show Bio

ut. sorry man. i get where your coming from where scifi plays out well like in the Aliens monochrome
effect of things, but that was not only a movie there was specific reasons everything was that way, and alot of scifi ended up following that lead. Star Wars hardly lacks in color, at least not since Episode 1 it hasnt.
and those are movies. sci-fi movies. these are superhero comics first and foremost. even R.E.B.E.L.S. is
for example, regardless of it also being sci-fi. GL doesnt need to be pointed out why, the whole concept is driven by the color spectrum against the lack thereof. take away the colors and the whole story is gone. 
most of the examples you provided are examples of hues and lacking in any vibrance (maybe your resolutions to high on your video card?). take a look at the first GoTg picture you put up. its dulled when you actually look at it, and floating around two colors flirting with greys and browns. and like at least someone said here colors are and artistic effect in comcis, as they view differently then movies. different colors hit our brain and send differnt signals to us. where they are placed on pages and how is what dictates how our eyes will both move along pages and what will stand out, and what i supposed to stand out. equaly as important as in a B&W when dictating how heavy or light shadows should be. film has advantages of being able to do this another way, but film isnt drawings either so it warrants a different approach. think more on the lines of animation instead. animation usually does not lack color either, and in art, there are no true blacks or whites, just color values. just not seeing this. lol. and lastly, that last Star Wars image. you know what year that was from and what the quality of ink was like dude. look at the Indiana Jones one that came out right around the same time.

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#31 Posted by Thunderscream (2322 posts) - - Show Bio

I agree that the Blackest Night stuff is very "Rainbow Bright with Skittles stuck in her hair" almost hurts my eyes. But the other examples don't live up to that. In fact, some of those have a very mellow tint. The Guardians of the Galaxy cover is basically reds, blues and neutral tones.@G-Man said: 

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But again, it's just my opinion. "
I must be confused cuz I'm not overwhelmed by the color in this. Lavender, copper, gray, baby-poop green and shades of brown. Are you talking about number of colors? brightness? the glare/glow effects?
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#32 Posted by ninjasquirrel01 (85 posts) - - Show Bio
@Freddy.Mercurial:  You know what I like? Subliminal messages of anti-color propaganda. Funny stuff.
Also I agree with that guy but didn't feel like quoting him.
The only part where I saw the problem was that Green Lantern map thing. All the others looked like they were at least decent art. A couple of them didn't even look remotely colorful...
I guess this might just be G-Man's problem, because I think all the art for the marvel and DC cosmic stuff has been fantastic, Especially Blackest Night.
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#33 Edited by Fizzyotter (10 posts) - - Show Bio

Interesting points. One side. Space is dark. REAL dark..unless your looking through the hubble and you get some amazing colors of galaxys nbulae. Such as the pillars of creation or the Large Magellanic Cloud. 
The sheer ammount of color for comics seem to be perfect. As long as you are not saturated with it. Or conflicting them.
Lets take a look at the cover of the Guardians of the Galaxy, one of my favorite comics. For me the colors just seem to blend properly. From the dark shade of their uniforms. The gun metal grey of Rocket and Starlords guns with the minor flickering lights on their weapons.. Mixed in with the darkness of space. Perhaps the wavy lines of the looming fault. It just works for me. Nothing to much of an eyesore. 
Interesting points though. while dark...can be very colorful.    

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#34 Posted by spartan177 (1465 posts) - - Show Bio

I kinda like the colors.

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#35 Edited by gmanfromheck (42520 posts) - - Show Bio
@Thunderscream:  I just think in that particular scene, the red suit and color of the aliens don't work. The red suit makes me think it's just made out of plastic. Just the way I see it.
And again, no where am I saying these sci-fi/space comics should be devoid of color.
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#36 Edited by Harlekin (727 posts) - - Show Bio

Whats wrong with the 1 Mass Effect page of Omaga. Its a rock with red lights on a space backdrop? Thats how it looked in Mass Effect.

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#37 Posted by levack (17 posts) - - Show Bio

Have you been checked for color blindness/deficiency?  it can make this kind of stuff very unpleasant for the viewer.

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#38 Posted by WoundingFactor (172 posts) - - Show Bio

...Not really seeing the issue here. It's not like when you go into space, colors should all of a sudden become muted in tone to where they're nearly gray. I do see where you're coming from sort of with the latest GLC comics, but to be fair, it's about a bunch of different groups who have powers directly symbolized by a color. It would be silly to go into a comic book like that and not expect to be assaulted by a rainbow.

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