Women’s History Month: Tamra Bonvillain by Lan M.

Tamra Bonvillain was born on March 1st, 1982 in Germany, before moving to the United States.  While studying at the Kubert School in New Jersey, Bonvillain began working as a colorist in the comics industry.  Her first credit as a colorist was for an adaptation of Charlaine Harris’ Grave Surprise, published by Dynamite Comics in 2017, years after she’d actually finished work on it.  According to the Marvel Wiki, she made her Marvel debut with 2014’s Fantastic Four #14 as a fill-in colorist, before making her full debut on the Secret Wars tie-in Ghost Racers. She then debuted at DC in 2016 with the release of the then-newly-released Doom Patrol #1, the first issue of the Young Animal imprint’s relaunch of the franchise.  Some of her longest runs in comics include Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur and Captain Marvel (2019) for Marvel, and Wayward for Image.  While primarily a colorist, she also did the art, colors, and lettering for Bakersfield, Earth: Evolution #1.  Bonvillain names Dave Stewart, Jordie Bellaire, and Matt Wilson as her creative inspirations.

Any given week, there’s always at least one new book on comic shop shelves that Bonvillain has worked on.  The unique, vibrant palettes she uses sets her apart from other contemporaries in her profession, and propels the artists she works with to new heights.  Take, for instance, her recent work in January’s Future State: The Next Batman #1.  Working with Nick Derington’s linework (who she’d worked with previously on Doom Patrol), here’s three pages from three different parts of the issue:

In the first page, Bonvillain uses bright and cool colors for the background, making Batman’s actions appear more striking and vivid as he’s pummelling through bad guys.  It evokes a grindhouse feel to this Batman and his fighting technique.  

The second page introduces the “Bane-litos”, the villains for the issue.  Their introduction is bathed in yellows and greens, evoking the feel of Bane’s venom enveloping the characters and their surroundings. But where Bonvillain’s genius truly comes into play is in the third page, where the Bane-litos and Batman have their first encounter.  The greenish-yellow hues surrounding the villains are abruptly met with the presence of Batman, as the reader gets a replay of those vivid background colors once again as Batman mows his way through more villains.  It’s evident that Bonvillain puts a great deal of thought into the way she approaches her coloring, and it’s approachable in a way that even those who aren’t familiar with color theory, or the science behind colors (for example, me), can understand.

Outside of her coloring work, Bonvillain also advocates for trans rights, and is quite vocal about it on social media.  As a trans woman herself, her presence as one of the most prominent colorists in the comics industry is a great sign of progress.  But the fight for trans rights is not over, and the lives of trans people continue to be under threat both in the United States and around the world.  The onus to make the necessary changes so that these people have the support to live their lives free from harm is on us.  For instance, the comments on the official Marvel Quickdraw episode featuring Tamra shouldn’t have to be turned off while they remain turned on for other episodes featuring cis creators.  We should not only recognize these voices this month and every month, but ensure that they have the opportunities to thrive that they deserve.

Note: 130% of the author’s pay for this article will be donated equally across Trans Lifeline, the National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network, and The Trevor Project.

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