Q&A with Civil War Colorist Morry Hollowell

Civil War colorist Morry Holowell spills the beans about what it was like to work on the biggest comic event of the year, then takes time to answer some fan questions.

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By David Wiltfong
While some may have began to notice the work of Morry Hollowell on CIVIL WAR, he has worked in the comic industry for over eight years, lending his talents to trading cards, promos, comics and covers over the years including working on WIZARD's X-MEN 1/2. Fans can view his work at his website Mocolors.com and his most recent cover work can be seen on WOLVERINE. Morry has taken some time out of his busy schedule not only as a colorist, but a recently anointed father as well, to answer a few questions. David Wiltfong: Lets start off with how did the idea of "Mo!" come about for the signature on your work? Morry Hollowell: Well I'm a huge comic fan and I had seen pros sign their stuff with an exclamation [point]. Like Gene Ha (HA!), Adam Hughes (AH!) and Joe Madureira (MAD!). So as a goof, I did a few things and just signed it MO! It was extremely easy to sign that way so I just kept on doing it. Plus, it's easy to remember. DW: I'm sure you've been asked these questions frequently, but for those readers that might not know the answers, lets get the basic questions out of the way. How did you get your start in comics and what led you to working at Marvel? MH: Let me see if I can make a long story short. I graduated high school wanting to draw comics. [I] found out about the Kubert School and attended a year later. [I] graduated but then spent some time as a Mac Technician. I still went to conventions, though, and ran into Cross-Gen in Chicago. They looked at my stuff and moved me down to Florida. Spent a few years there until I was let go due to the company's financial problems. A day or 2 later Marvel scooped me up to work with Steve McNiven again. [He] had previously left CG to work for Marvel. DW: What were your thoughts when you first found out you would be working for Marvel? MH: Yahoo! Hooray! I was psyched. I'd be working with Steve again who I had gotten used to working with already (on Meridian) and I'd be working on characters that were legends. DW: You are a huge comic collector yourself. What titles are in your pull box and title are you enjoying the most at this moment? MH: I have all the Ultimate stuff pulled for me. Batman and anything Jim Lee. I'd have more but I really enjoy getting to the comic store on Wednesday and picking from the stack of new comics. I know a lot of people know ahead of time because of Previews and the Internet. But I enjoyed not knowing what was going to be at the store when I was a kid. So I still try to make every trip to the comic store a surprise. My favorite character is Batman, but honestly, his book is like a roller-coaster. Sometimes it's really good and sometimes its really bad. I'd have to say right now 80% of my comics are Marvel. There are more characters I like in the Marvel Universe. I don't think I could narrow everything to just one comic. It would be like trying to pick the best grape out of a vine of grapes. The comics I typically read first right now would probably be ASTONISHING X-MEN, NEW AVENGERS, ILLUMINATI, Walking Dead, The Boys and NEXTWAVE, but I'm sure I've forgetting a few. DW: As a comic collector yourself, does working on a project wreck the enjoyment of the story for you as a reader? MH: Not at all. In fact, if anything it increases my enjoyment. I get to read it ahead of time and contribute to the storytelling when I start in on it. The only time it may wreck my enjoyment is when I have to rush things out. Then I may look at an issue and only see my mistakes. DW: You've worked with Steven McNiven often on projects such as MARVEL KNIGHTS 4, NEW AVENGERS, ULTIMATE SECRET, and of course CIVIL WAR, plus those prior to working at Marvel. Do you feel that the two of you might fall into a stereotype where it might be thought that each other's work is not as good unless you two are teamed on a project? MH: Good question. I think our stuff is really good together, but that also has to do with how long we've worked with each other. When I start working on someone new it takes me a while to adapt to their art. So I'd have to say my stuff would just naturally be better on Steve because I've worked with his art so long. Honestly, I don't think the average comic reader is noticing the penciller/colorist teams out there yet. If you put someone else on Steve I'm not sure anybody would notice except maybe the die hard fans. Granted, colorists are starting to get more recognition but I don't think it's at a level it was with penciller/inker teams back in the day. Yet. DW: What is it like when you find out you are working with Steven McNiven on a project? Do you get the feeling of comfort or think of ways to push the boundaries and break away to look different from the last project you worked on together? MH: Both. I'm very comfortable working with Steve and I'm always trying to look different from the last project. I do my best not to use the same colors over and over again. Sometimes it can't be helped. I like what I like. I'm always trying to do better work though. Also every story has a different mood which I try to convey. CIVIL WAR for instance was a very dark book. I don't think I've ever colored more dark scenes than I did in CIVIL WAR. And I tend to like doing the lighter scenes. DW: Marvel sends you digital files to color and then send back once complete. Did they send them to you in order or out of sequence? What way do you prefer? MH: I prefer to get them in order. That allows me to progress the colors properly throughout the book. But that doesn't always happen. I find ways to work around it. DW: You've said that on average, it took you 16-20 hours per page. Were there any pages that you felt you had to give more attention to in order to get a better point across? MH: I'm starting to get a little faster now that I'm a dad. I gotta make time for my daughter. There are always pages that deserve more attention in a book, the high points in a story, and I always try to put more time into those pages. Often I find myself putting a good amount of time into the first page and last page because the reader will get their first and last impression of the entire book from those 2 pages. DW: Was there a panel that left you with the feeling of, "I can't believe we are doing this"? If so, would you happen to recall the panel? MH: The entire CIVIL WAR run was like that. Spidey unmasking was one of those of course. But I also found myself thinking that on pages with all the characters facing off. Also when Hercules smashed Clors' head open. DW: What was your favorite panel or page to work on? MH: Probably Punisher holding Spidey in issue #5. Something about Punisher saving Spider-Man really made me dig it. Plus Spidey bleeding all over Frank's nice white skull and the sewer water all over his boots was fun. I like dirtying things up sometimes. DW: Least favorite? MH: Any panel with multiple characters always make me cringe a little just because I know it's going to take me a while. I love all of Steve's work though. Every time I get a page in it's better than the last. I have a really hard time giving up pages when I'm running into a deadline cause I don't want to give any of them away. I wanna make them shine. I'm greedy... DW: Was there any character or characters that you enjoyed coloring the most in CIVIL WAR? Any that you enjoyed the least? MH: Not really. I enjoy all the Marvel characters. Some may be harder than others but that's it. Iron Man is a bit tough cause of his armor and the same for Cap's scales. DW: What would you consider your defining moment thought the entire series? The one that you hope readers would be awe stricken over. MH: I hope readers are awe stricken by the whole thing! If readers are only coming away from CIVIL WAR thinking one page or a few pages looked good, I haven't done my job right. Anybody else but me should probably pick my defining moment as well. I could probably look at every page I've done and have something I could nit-pick about it. DW: Where there any that you were not completely happy with and felt you could have done better with? MH: All of them. I can always do better. DW: You not only did colors on CIVIL WAR itself, but promo art, covers and tie-in issues like CIVIL WAR FILES and CIVIL WAR: CASUALTIES OF WAR. How does it feel to not only be involved in the major part of the project, but also in other areas of the project? MH: It was great. I don't work that fast, so I rarely get to work on much more than one title. So It was a lot of fun to add to other parts of CIVIL WAR. DW: What are your thoughts when doing pages or even covers like CIVIL WAR FILES and the OFFICIAL HANDBOOK TO THE MARVEL UNIVERSE with over 20 characters on it? MH: This is going to take me a while....and I gotta make sure there's a proper focus to a multi-character piece. You have to try to lead the eye to every character but at the same time it has to work as a whole. DW: What do you feel is your limit with how many projects you can handle as a colorist before you are not happy with the quality of your own work? MH: Once I start working on more than one book I really start to feel pressured. Because of my speed. I'm not that fast and I definitely start to lose quality when I'm rushing myself to meet a deadline. I'd like to do more work. Not only could I make more money but I'd like to branch out and work with other creators. I'm always struggling with the work versus art aspect of comics. DW: You placed various background images or Easter eggs thought the entire series, mainly on computer screens. Do you look for anything in particular, something you come across and decide to use, part of the script or little of everything? MH: Little of everything. I always put what's in the script first. But if there's nothing specific I look for stuff that might make sense or I do a shout out to things that help the comic book industry. DW: What was your feeling when you had a copy of the first issue of CIVIL WAR in your hands? MH: I thought it was cool. I loved the cover design for the book. Definitely stood out on the shelves. DW: What about the last issue? MH: A lil' sad. I really liked being able to work on all those great characters in one book. But I'm still exclusive at Marvel so none of them are too far away. DW: Onto some questions from the posters on the Marvel.com message boards. Kazekun asks: What is it like working on a project like CIVIL WAR? And how has this experience helped you? MH: CIVIL WAR was a lot of fun and at the same time there was a lot of pressure. It was quite a big book to be working on so I wanted to do my best. The experience of CIVIL WAR has helped me greatly! I think quite a few more people have noticed my work than usual. Big books like this can really help an artist's career. nightvision1990 asks: Has CIVIL WAR changed your perspective on comics? MH: Nope. Still love 'em. Maybe even more now. CIVIL WAR did deliver on shaking things up. Whether you think it's good or bad. s05bf0d4 asks: Now that CIVIL WAR is ended what series are you going to be doing or what would you like to do? MH: I'm currently doing WOLVERINE #53. Then I'll be working with Steve again on whatever comes next. bigtymin504 asks: Hey Mr. Hollowell. I noticed that in some panels in CIVIL WAR where blood is shown, it appears to be really dark, almost black. Its most notable in the part where Cap beats down Punisher and he bleeds, also when Johnny gets attacked outside the club. Its also shown when the cyborg Thor is being operated on, although I thought it could have been motor oil in that scene. Was the different coloring of blood a conscious decision and due to certain factors? MH: Blood in comics has always been tricky. I don't know the exact history or rules of it but basically most the time it's not acceptable to render blood "blood red". Typically you have to keep it black or very dark. Depends on the book's rating. I personally like to try and depict it as realistically as possible but I've often been told to tone down bloodshed. rook asks: On a project like CIVIL WAR, where there are so many different titles that crossover, there must be a lot of scrutiny and pressure on your work. Was there a longer approval process for your work on CIVIL WAR? Did you end up having a lot of last minute changes and editions? MH: Actually I can say CIVIL WAR didn't have any more last minute changes than any of the other books I've worked on. During the course of an issue there are always lil' things that need changing. It is probably the only book I've done where I've had to make entire characters disappear, though. ironhand48 asks: Whose side are you on? MH: I was always on Cap's side. I think a lot of people were. Omega Flyer asks: How much time did you get to spend on the issues of CIVIL WAR and how much time would you have liked to have? MH: I had a good amount of time on each issue. If I weren't so slow I'd say plenty. But there were only maybe three issues where I wished I had an extra week and you can probably tell which ones those are by looking at the credits page. David Wiltfong: Thanks for taking the time out to answer these questions. In closing is there anything you'd like to say to the fans in general about CIVIL WAR and colorists within the industry? Morry Hollowell: No problem. Hope everyone truly enjoyed the book. I had a lot of fun working on it. To keep up to date on my work visit Mocolors.com. Colorists keep on coloring!
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