illustration (c) Josť Villarrubia 2000 digital
illustration (c) Josť Villarrubia 2000
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Past Glories

Art by Chip Zdarsky. Copyright 2002.

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An interview with Laura DePuy by Christopher Butcher.

"What is the end of fame? 'Tis but to fill
A certain portion of uncertain paper."
- Lord Byron. Don Juan. Stanza 218.

The uncertain page hasn't been reached in the career of colourist extraordinaire Laura DePuy. In fact, Laura is nearing the top of her game in the industry, working on two of the most critically acclaimed books on the stands, THE AUTHORITY and PLANETARY. Late in 1999, Laura took on a new challenge, spearheading the colouring and colour design of JLA: EARTH 2, an original hardcover graphic novel from DC Comics. The book may well be the best selling comic, dollar wise, of 1999. Working on these books, as well as being very involved in online communities has made DePuy a name in comics, and with recognition comes fame. But is fame all it's cracked up to be? Christopher Butcher chats with Laura Depuy and finds out about fame, career choices, and being Warren Ellis' "filthy assistant".

One year ago this month, you were interviewed by 'Sequential Tart'. You had just started on AUTHORITY, and PLANETARY, for Wildstorm, and Were helping out with a few other books like DIVINE RIGHT and NIGHT TRIBES. What's the past year been like for you?

It's been a wild ride. I think I've learned more just by sharing ideas with [Bryan] Hitch and [John] Cassaday than I had in my previous years. It's been immensely challenging.

1999's been a big year for you, with AUTHORITY and PLANETARY being some of the most talked about books in the industry. Not to mention what was possibly the highest-grossing product of 1999, the JLA: EARTH 2 HC, had your name on it as well. Do you feel you're more "famous" now?

I think it's more like I'm more "seen" now. Not until the past year or so has Wildstorm put the name of the colourist on the cover, and that small change alone has made a huge difference. I'm noticing a lot more commentary on the colour as related to the story than I ever had before. It's very nice to be recognized for the work that I do, to be famous is a bit much.

It's interesting, because I've found you have a very high-profile for a colourist. People who only know the names of artists and writers seem to know the name Laura Depuy.

Yeah, and to be brutally honest, it bugs me a little. I consider colourists like JD Smith and Brian Haberlin and Wildstorm's Tad Ehrlich and Justin Ponsor to be the best around, among many others, but for some reason I'm getting a lot of press. That is a cause of consternation.

"It's very nice to be recognized for the work that I do, to be famous is a bit much."

JD Smith, Brian Haberlin and company aren't online though... That might make a difference.

Ah, you have an excellent point. What you and I see is mostly online response to comics. Fans who aren't online aren't necessarily saying the same things. Perhaps that's the discrepancy between fans' reactions to me vs. say, Richard Isanove...? (whom I adore, by the way...)

That's interesting. Although, I have noticed it offline as well. It's an interesting position to find yourself in.

Yeah. And a little creepy. I'll have to tell a story about a store I visited in my home town.

So a creepy homecoming story eh? To be honest, I don't think I want that kind of fanfare. Ever.

Me either. :) I went in, completely unassuming, just looking for something to read. When I was ready to leave, the owner asked if I wanted to reserve a pull box. I said no, I live in San Diego. Another kid piped up and said, "Are you Laura DePuy?" I was shocked. I'd never seen the kid before.

Did he recognize you from Wildstorm's website?

LD: He didn't say, although his mom and my mom worked together; I suspect my mom showed a picture to him and his mom.

My mom has pictures of me on her desk. God, that's creepy... he he.

I'm taking all my pictures away from my mom!!

Sounds reasonable. :) You are very active online though. What draws you to the online environment? Or your involvement with magazines like "Sequential Tart"?

I love the community atmosphere, albeit "virtual," in online message boards and other environments. It's exciting to find people from all walks of life with the same interests as mine. That's how the Tarts got started.
You could never find that sort of immediate community in your normal walk of life, not without going to lengths to bring people together or join groups.
I'm not much of a crowd person, so this way I can be a part of a large group without feeling crowded. It's also a leveling ground of sorts; no matter what your background is, you can still chat with people you otherwise wouldn't associate with for whatever reason.
Plus, I get to help comics as a whole, and coloring as an art form, in whatever way I can contribute.

You wrote a very scathing criticism of what you call "Verbose Writers" in PopImage's first issue. Was that editorial written to anyone in particular?

Not really. Since I get comps [complementary comic copies] from DC, I read a lot of stuff I wouldn't normally buy. That particular bad habit is one that's been sitting wrong with me since I started reading comics, so I decided to say something.

Has expressing your opinion in the virtual world ever negatively impacted on your profession?

Not to my knowledge, although I have gotten some different opinions of an article or two for ST. Namely the Bizarre Breasts column. But it hasn't impacted on my professional work. Unless someone isn't telling me something, that is. :) Speak now! I want to know!! :)

As I told the Tarts, if I could wear a schoolgirl outfit, I'd Wear pink panties too."

Speaking of controversy. You coloured this month's Sequential Tart cover.

Yes! Isn't the controversy wonderful?! I'm having such fun reading it.

Panty colour has been debated, you know.

I intended it that way. As I told the Tarts, if I could wear a schoolgirl outfit, I'd wear pink panties too. (grin)

Have you ever come across anything in your work, something you'd been expected to colour and you just sort of threw down your hands and said "No!"?

Yes. A Bible story came through one time, some sort of one-shot about Sodom and Gomorra. I refused to work on it on principle.

I don't think I've ever seen that, to be honest. How did your employer react to that?

Actually, Wildstorm has been extremely accommodating about sensitive material. Any time we were to work on delicate material, like swimsuit issues with very questionable swimsuits, they always asked how we (individually and as a group) felt about it. Almost always the response was "no problem." (I think it takes a great deal to scare or offend a colourist).
But just that one time I had to refuse, and everyone understood. I was never questioned about it again.

As I mentioned earlier, you worked on the hugely successful "JLA: EARTH 2" hardcover. What was that experience like?

It was both refreshing (to work over an artist I hadn't previously worked with) and frustrating. I had far less involvement in the book than I wanted. Between schedule conflicts and a reasonably short deadline, the time I spent with the book was truncated.
Originally it had been scheduled to be coloured by a four-person team. As the weeks progressed, team members got involved with other projects and other colourists came in to work on pages. This wasn't a bad thing but the consistency we'd strived for initially was becoming an issue. It was all tied up nicely in the last week, with me combing over almost every page, but I didn't feel that the credit in the inside flap reflected the true team effort of all of Wildstorm FX.
Wendy Fouts and Matt Milla both put in astounding effort on the project, and everyone else chipped in as well. But DC allows only a certain number of colouring credit lines, so to my chagrin, my name was placed above Wildstorm FX's.

Possibly due to you being "famous"?

Well, no, I think that was more the editor's decision. He had assigned the book to me initially, and I was the one in contact with him throughout the process, so he put my name in.

Your work on AUTHORITY and PLANETARY was interrupted this year. Was that due to your involvement with JLA: EARTH 2?

Yes. AUTHORITY #8 and PLANETARY #7 were reassigned to other colourists.

In retrospect, do you think taking on JLA: EARTH 2 was the right decision for your career?

LD: Yes. For one thing it taught me the importance of seeing a project through to the end. Also taught me a very valuable lesson that I can't do it all by myself, no matter how hard I try. :) As much as I'd like to think I can color 100+ pages a month, I can't, and I learned that the hard way with JLA: EARTH 2 and AUTHORITY and PLANETARY colliding on the schedule. :)

Humility as a life lesson? Almost sounds like the plot to a comic book... :)


We talked briefly at San Diego this year. You mentioned that you were thinking of leaving PLANETARY and AUTHORITY for some higher-profile books at DC and possibly Top Cow. Was JLA EARTH 2 a part of this? Will you be leaving these books, and possibly joining Bryan Hitch on JLA?

Well, I knew all along that I'd be leaving AUTHORITY after issue 12. It had been understood from very early on that issue 12 would be a cutoff point for most of the creative team.
I had been considering leaving Wildstorm, but hadn't because I didn't want to sacrifice PLANETARY or the remaining issues of AUTHORITY. When Bryan Hitch told me about JLA, and his desire to see me colouring it, I started considering the position of freelancer instead of staff colourist. I'd brought up my concerns to some of the folks at DC, who seemed very eager to keep me at Wildstorm, and shortly after the [San Diego Comic Con], I was offered JLA: EARTH 2. I'd already decided to stay on through AUTHORITY #12 but this was definitely a nice project, and I appreciated the renewed effort on DC's part. However, I will be leaving Wildstorm to pursue that freelance career, and I will be joining Bryan and Paul Neary on JLA, and I will continue working on PLANETARY. So all has worked out in the end.
It was a bit sticky there for a while but I knew I couldn't and wouldn't walk out on either book.
As far as Top Cow goes, I've always wanted to work with those guys, but I think I have a wonderful thing with DC now and I'm quite content.

You've described some very tight deadline situations at Wildstorm, both here and the various online forums in which you participate. Putting in 16 hour (or longer) days. How do you find time to have a social life, let alone be an active contributor to things like 'Sequential Tart'?

Hahaha! Good one! Let's see. Up until the San Diego Con, I didn't have a social life. But I met a very wonderful guy there and we have been dating ever since. Luckily we see each other only on weekends, so I can keep working my 16-hour days during the week.
I just can't work on Saturdays and Sundays anymore...which is a Very Good Thing. As far as ST goes, my contributions have dwindled in the last few months due to those insane deadlines. I dislike that, and part of my decision to go freelance was so that I could dedicate more time to articles and research than I have in past.
Oh yeah, and I don't sleep. :)

Where do you see yourself 5 years from now? Do you have any artistic aspirations outside of comics? Or outside of colouring for that matter?

I can barely schedule my life two months in advance, you want to know about 5 years?! :)
I would like to explore more traditional and computer-generated art forms, such as painting and animation and 3-D stuff. I will most likely still be colouring something, though. It's in my blood now. Or, technology will allow me to replace body parts with computer components and I'll just live inside a computer, with my body on life support...who knows? (grin)

Heh. Now THAT's a creepy way to end an interview!!

Ha! I've scared plenty of people today! I love my job!

I can just see your contract with Wildstorm; "Must disturb at least 2 people per day..."

Oh yeah, and I've been hitting above quota for years now... :)

Oh, on a final note a friend wanted to know, does Warren call you his filthy assistant?

No dammit, he doesn't, and I would very much like to be called that...but he does refer to me as Colour Witch, so that's OK.

You can find Laura Depuy's work on AUTHORITY #12, and monthly on PLANETARY from Wildstorm DC. Look for Laura to bring her unique coloring style to DC's flagship title, JLA, this fall from DC Comics.

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