Super Hero Squad Rumorbuster

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Stealth Iron Man: Blue vs. Black.

I've noticed that one trend in Super Hero Squad rumors tends to be costumes. I've previously discussed 616 Mr. Fantastic, Sabretooth, and even Ultimate Hulk (although that was more of a size thing than a costume) and now I'm addressing the greatest burning question right now: Why do customizers make Stealth Iron Man dark blue?

The answers tend to vary... I've heard that customizers do it because that's the way the other action figures represent Stealth Iron Man, which is too simplistic. I've heard that it's easier to do blue, which, once again is rather simplistic.

Actually, let me back up a bit... the question of why the armors are painted blue comes from the perception that stealth means black. While yes, the original Iron Manual does refer to the stealth armor as jet black, color was not such an issue with later designs as the "stealth" aspect of the armor came from energy bending, wave evading, super-duper technology.

Back to the blue armor...

The mother of all answers came from a gent who said, and I'll paraphrase to make it sound LESS crazy... "before digital printing, there was no way to produce black, so dark blue was used."

Note, the actual language had a little dis-jointed language and some talk of "pre-90's digital printing", but without proper structure so it's impossible to tell if he's talking about (a) printing before the 1990's digital printing, or (b) digital printing before the 1990's. I'm going to assume he means (a) because... well... that's the crazy answer that makes more sense.

Now, the actual answer as to why Stealth Iron Man is dark blue: Because it almost always gets drawn that way! All the way back to Iron Man 152. Cover Browser shows a nice cover of Iron Man 152.

Yes, the background, which was some early photo/art collage style (and in my opinion, done much more tastefully than the Marvel Universe card set from the late 90’s that tried the same thing) is blue, but to the discerning eyes (or, as I like to call ‘em, “most people”) you’ll notice black. The armor is black, the text is black, the line art is black.

Now, having never had a chance to interview the artist, I can’t tell you if the dark blue highlights were chosen for pure aesthetics (as opposed to using, say, gray-tones, or white highlights) but I can tell you the look is sharp. Green highlights? Dark red? A gray-tone Iron Man in a full-color comic? Maybe the right artist could pull them off, but the dark blue on black just works.

So why blue? I can’t speak for each customizer, but it’s either a mistaken perception that the blue highlights are the actual color of the armor, an attempt to recreate the classic, iconic armor color scheme, or maybe just because it looks good.

Either way, lack of pre-90’s black ink isn’t the answer.

Now, of course, I feel the urge to address the no-black ink rumor (well, I guess it’s more of a belief or an assumption.) It’s bunk. Total bunk. As fans of the “dot” art look that resulted from half-toning in pre-90’s printing will know, (see recent issues of Mighty Avengers for Iron Man, Doctor Doom and the Sentry in a half-toned adventure) that dot look from old comics comes from the CMYK printing process that was used in early printing.

Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and Key (aka Black) inks are used in various combinations to create the remaining spectrum of colors. Layman’s answer: the pattern of the ink “dots” results in what we see.

For good (but more technical than I want to get into) explanations, try Tech Color’s explanation, or, Manga Tutorials explanation of the difference between CMYK and RGB printing techniques, off-set printing versus digital printing, or this piece from Comic Artists Direct, which is dated, but so isn’t all good history, and finally the fine folks at Gutter Zombie discuss the differences in CMYK and RGB printing in depth.

When all is said and done though, the fact that black ink is one of the 4 essential parts of color printing in “pre-90’s digital coloring”, pretty much shuts down the claim that the Stealth Armor is blue because black wasn’t available.

Now, keep in mind I've simplified the explanations to make it more user-friendly, but if you're at all interested in the secret world of four color printing, check out those links and use them as a gateway. Who knows... maybe now you'll enjoy that Mighty Avengers story a little more.

Edit: Confession time... the "no black ink in pre-90's digital printing" guy was my word count stalker. I was going to give idiocy the benefit of anonymity, until I ran across him randomly flamebaiting me in a forum thread I'd never participated in and telling me to not bother posting. On top of being called stupid for not believing Hasbro reps secretly pulled Collector's Pack out of anti-wheelchair sentiment and then explaining their rational to a friend of some guy on the internet (and then having my insulter backpeddle by saying he never said I was stupid, just that I've never said anything smart) I wonder why I was trying to be nice. Try and do a nice thing for someone and this is what you get. Sheesh!

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