Color Joker Dark Les Dorscheid: Focus on a Colorist

by Patrick Bain

Batman-Dark-Joker-Page-20-Les-Dorscheid-Colors-204x300 Color Joker Dark Les Dorscheid: Focus on a Colorist

Is it fair to say Joker is a darker character in the last thirty-five years than he was in the prior 35 years?  Compare Brian Bolland’s Joker in 1988 to Murphy Anderson’s Joker in 1966 (see below).  Compare Heath Ledger in The Dark Knight (2008) against Cesar Romero in the television series (1966).  So, when an editor assigned Les Dorscheid to Batman: Dark Joker the Wild, Dorscheid’s vision through his watercolor glasses must have been, “go dark”.  So, let’s explore original art from the perspective and brush of the colorist.  And perhaps, we’ll agree that Les Dorscheid must color Joker dark.

From Black and White to Color, Joker is still dark

Batman-Dark-Joker-Page-79-Pencil-and-Ink-198x300 Color Joker Dark Les Dorscheid: Focus on a Colorist

I usually focus on original art of the black and white variety.  For this 1994 Elseworlds tale, Kelley Jones and John Beatty carried the duties of penciler and inker.  Page 79, pictured to the right, auctioned at the bargain price of $108 back in 2007.  Even before colors are applied, the Joker appears a tad demented and devoid of a bright demeanor.

Batman-Dark-Joker-Page-80-Colors-203x300 Color Joker Dark Les Dorscheid: Focus on a ColoristJones and Beatty original art from this story has risen dramatically since 2007.  A buyer paid the spectacular price of $2,400 to obtain page 80 this summer.  Dorscheid hand painted the watercolor version of page 80 pictured on the left.  It also sold in 2020, raising only $84.  However, as can be seen, only half the page was colored.  I show a better production color page above.  Page 20 from Dorscheid really pops, it fetched over three times as much, $288.

Batman-Dark-Joker-The-Wild-195x300 Color Joker Dark Les Dorscheid: Focus on a ColoristI want to discuss a couple important notes about Dorscheid’s coloring pages.  First, his paintings are original art, just not the pencil and pen variety.  Second, the artist produces the color art for the production process.  Finally, it is one of a kind similar to the pen and ink art.  As an aside, this production art happens to be large for colorist’s pages, sized similar to the original line drawing art.

If Joker is Wild, Which Art Form is Tame?

As a collector, you may only focus on the comics themselves.  Or, perhaps you only care about the art.  Batman: Dark Joker The Wild offers some of each, still at reasonable prices.  I found the hardcover version and the TPB graphic novel both available on Ebay for $10 give or take a little.  The original colorist pages by Les Dorscheid would frame nicely for moderate prices.  Several of his watercolor painted pages have auctioned through Heritage for $47 to $300.  That includes other works beyond Dark Joker.  For fans of Kelley Jones and those who want the high end collectible, you’re going to pay more.  His original cover art for Batman 492 (Knightfall Part 1) sold for $33,600 this year.  Depending on quality and featured characters, interior pages by Jones may be obtained for hundreds rather than thousands of dollars.

Joker Compare and Contrast

Anderson-VS-Bolland-Jokers-300x300 Color Joker Dark Les Dorscheid: Focus on a ColoristSo it’s clear to fans of Batman and his nemesis the Joker, reader anxiety increased dramatically from 1966 (Batman 186) to 1988 (Batman: The Killing Joke).  Alan Moore and Brian Bolland’s depiction of the Joker in Batman: The Killing Joke changed the game on that character.  Line drawings by Bolland from that book fetch phenomenal prices.  Color pages by John Higgins, reputed colorist for the one-shot, also sell extremely well.
Cesar-Romero-vs-Heath-Ledger-Jokers-300x300 Color Joker Dark Les Dorscheid: Focus on a ColoristWith the change in demeanor exhibited by the Joker, he is less clown and more mad man.  Therefore, tell me, did Les Dorscheid make the right choice by choosing to color Joker dark?

Finally, Color has always impacted ambiance of a comic story.  While never more important than in the present, computer technology renders the old watercolor method archaic.  The opportunity to buy hand painted, production colorist pages may diminish dramatically in the future.

If you are curious about more colorist art, check out my blog about original art elements in a Deadpool specialty cover.


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