Today, I sat down with my sons, aged 7 and 3, to test out Color Your Own Marvel Masters, the newest “grown-up” coloring book from Marvel. This collection of iconic works from Jack Kirby, John Romita, Sr., Steve Ditko, and more brings together covers, splash pages, pin-ups and more from the earliest days of Marvel Comics to modern takes on heroes and villains, some well-known and others more obscure. Like all “grown-up” coloring books, the book gives uncolored versions of the pages, letting you harness your inner Matt Wilson and color the work of the masters.
I love the classic comics brought to life in these pages. I wasn’t sure if they would translate well to a younger audience who had never seen them before. I showed him a page from The X-Men, with pencils by Kirby, as well as one with Iron Man and the rest of the Avengers (The Avengers, pencils by Kirby).
“I like the old ones and the new ones. They’re different.” – P., 7
With little thought to the history behind the characters and the changes made over the past 50-plus years, he nodded approvingly at the original costumes. We searched through the book, looking for characters he recognized and pages without too much superfluous detail. We passed by several full splash pages in favor of pages we could easily complete in one sitting. When we found what we were looking for, I used the single most valuable thing in this book – the perforations on each page – and pulled our three chosen pages out to be set upon before bedtime.
“I like that I can take comics from the past and bring them to the future.” – P., 7
My 7 year-old smiled as he colored his chosen page: Ant-Man running through an ant hill from Tales to Astonish #35 (1962), penciled by Kirby. He decided to give his own take on Ant-Man’s costume colors, but really wants to work on the dirt tunnel in multiple colors, using our best colored pencils, to simulate the Georgia red clay he’s grown up with. He bends over the paper, testing out different pencil styles he’s learned in his art classes. His younger brother has given up coloring his personal favorite, Spider-Man, taken from Amazing Spider-Man #3 (1963), pencils by Steve Ditko. This one comes complete with an autograph from everyone’s favorite webslinger. The page has a bunch of scribble-scrabbles now, but I’m not sure we can call this one colored completely. His artistic technique of dropping multiple colored pencils on the page at the same time is a new take on pointilism.
For my pick, I chose my own personal favorite, Captain America. Old school Cap, not new Hydra BS Nazi Cap. From Avengers #10 (1964), pencils by Kirby, this page is a classic. It was even copied by the Yugoslavian comic Panorama in issue #112 (1967). So, I noticed something in this panel that I had never seen before: Cap is wearing tiny shorts. I looked up the original online and, sure enough, he has tiny shorts that are the same color as his tights. I asked my oldest about it and he noticed that Ant-Man also had tiny shorts! Why? The Panorama cover makes this super obvious and even funnier. Cap looks like he wore his boxer-briefs on the outside when posing that day.
We each had different experiences with the book, of course, but all really enjoyed it in our own way. My single quibble with the book is the lack of detail. Not in the art, certainly, but in where the images come from. All the detail I provided above came from my own Google-ing. There is nary a mention of issue or artist on the pages in the book. Even a mention of the issue and artist would have been great. Other than that, this one’s a win for both me and my growing colorist. We’ll be working our way through Marvel history for quite a while.