Superman Blue … Archie Orange, by Mike Gold
In the comments section of my column of two weeks ago, I told Van Jensen that today’s broad spectrum of color could not be printed on the cheap toilet paper employed in the days of yore. That stuff would soak up ink like a spirit gets sucked into Harold Ramis’s ghost trap. Back in those days just after the invention of papyrus, color artists were limited to a palette of three values each of red, blue and yellow, plus black. Not a lot to work with.
Still, as Van implies, the end result was fine. It didn’t bother us, just as riding a horse to work didn’t bother us. Except… except … it bothered me.
To be specific, blue hair bothered me.
I understand why hair was blue: if it were black, it’d just look like Clark Kent and Bruce Wayne had a big blob of India ink atop their brainpans. You couldn’t make it look like hair, and not everybody could have brown, red, or blonde hair. The blue stuff was supposed to suggest highlights, but with a few dozen colors to choose from, what can you do?
I just suggested “red” as a hair option. Not true; in comics, redheads were orange. Jimmy Olsen… orange. Archie Andrews had orange hair, and he still has orange hair. Some day, this is going to cause him problems at some point in his dating ritual.
Well, no, not Archie Andrews. I’m sure that’ll never be his problem. But Jughead Jones has blue hair; nobody bitches about it because his name is Jughead.
I never met anybody with blue hair. Well except for one guy who, conveniently enough, just happens to be president and publisher of DC Comics. I’ll just assume this photo represents Paul Levitz’s natural hair color, although perhaps he dyed it either out of respect for the corporate family jewels or so he can be easily spotted at the San Diego Comic Con.
But even when it comes to hair dye, Paul… you know, they’ve expanded the palette.
Mike Gold is editor-in-chief of ComicMix.