Culture & Lifestyle
Published January 19, 2023

'Asked & Answered with the Women of Marvel': Laura Martin

Get to know longtime Marvel colorist Laura Martin just in time for Colorist Appreciation Day!

GIRL COMICS (2010) #1 cover by Amanda Connor and Laura Martin

Laura Martin (she/her) is one of the most in demand colorists in the industry, having worked for Marvel, DC, Dark Horse, and CrossGen (the list goes on!). At Marvel, she’s brought mutants, gods, aliens, and royalty to vibrant life all while inspiring—and mentoring—the next generation of color artists. 

She has goals (not resolutions). She’s not messing around when it comes to Our Flag Means Death. She’s a Woman of Marvel. And we had some questions for her.

We asked. She answered.

What is the first thing you do when you wake up?

Slap my iPhone until it shuts up, then extricate my cat Sidney from my face.

What makes a great day?

Novelty. Day-to-day life can get monotonous, so any day where I  experience something unusual is a good day. A new restaurant or music style; having a laugh with someone I don’t see or talk to very often; going somewhere I haven’t been. Hiking is always a great day. The best is when I can meet an animal. I want to be besties with wildlife and with everyone’s pets!

Make any New Year’s resolutions?

I say I don’t, but then I make lists of what I’d like to accomplish by spring, or by summer, or by X date. They’re not resolutions; they’re goals on a to-do list.

How would you describe your job at an elementary school career day?

Have you ever colored in a coloring book? That’s what I do, but I have digital crayons, and I make it extra fancy, and I get paid for it!

What was your favorite book, movie, or TV show as a kid?

Oo. So many. As a little kid, I loved Bunnicula, Where the Wild Things Are, Charlotte’s Web, and The Velveteen Rabbit. There was a book about animals on a farm; I can’t remember the title, but the art stuck with me. Babar was another fave. Clearly, I was into animals and anthropomorphism. A little later, I obsessed over D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths, and a book about Egyptian mythology, because my family was stationed in Cairo. The Greek and Egyptian pantheons were my first Super Hero teams.

A little later, I devoured all of the Nancy Drew series, and envisioned myself as George, even though I knew I was more like Bess. How totally predictable that I grew up to love animals and true crime. (Not at the same time, though.)

I didn’t see a lot of movies or TV as a kid, especially prior to 1978, because we were stationed overseas twice before I was 8. American entertainment was a rare special treat. Once we moved back to the States permanently, the movies that stick out to me are E.T., Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, all of the Disney animated movies, Animalympics, and The Muppet Movie. But I also had a weird fixation on the movies Tootsie and Stripes. No idea why. I’m sure I’m forgetting a bunch.

As for TV, it was all about Muppets and Warner Bros. cartoons and Peanuts holiday specials. The first human-acted TV show I remember having to set aside time to watch was The Dukes of Hazzard. Yeah, I know… [cringes at General Lee] I grew up on The A-Team, Beauty and the Beast (again with the anthropomorphism!), Moonlighting, V, Gargoyles, and Miami Vice. And let’s never forget my favorite comedy, Night Court!

What is your favorite book, movie, or TV show now?

Right this minute, I am trying to keep up with popular streaming shows, like Andor and Wednesday. But the show I’ve really latched onto, and joined social media groups and read fanfic and made my own fan art (which is something I’ve NEVER done before), is Our Flag Means Death. As far as I’m concerned, anything Taika Waititi touches is gold. Yes, that includes Thor: Love and Thunder, which might as well have been scooped right out of my ‘80s arena-rock brain. As for books, I sadly don’t read much these days. Not even comics. I know, I know… [cringes again] Do podcasts count?

Roy, G, or Biv?

ALL OF THEM. And Cy Mack. 

What gets you up at 3am?

The sound of a cat puking. I will wake up from a dead sleep to that sound.

Superpower of choice?

Healing powers, for sure. Bad back? *bloop* There you go! Cancer? *pling* All gone! Burning hatred? Existential dread? QAnon addiction? *zoop* Enlightenment!

In an alternate universe, what would your alternate job be?

I’d be a veterinarian, animal trainer, or zookeeper. Anything where I can hang out with animals all day long. Because animals are awesome.

Best advice you’ve gotten?

“When in doubt, blue!” —Jeromy Cox, fellow colorist

Weirdest thing on your desk?

A crocheted stuffed toy of Shaun from Shaun of the Dead.

Favorite digital coloring tool?

Wacom Intuos Pro. Yes, I’m the rare colorist who doesn’t use a Cintiq. I’m learning to love my iPad, but my laptop/Intuos setup is my comfort zone.

Favorite traditional coloring tool?

Copic markers. For now. I’m branching out into watercolors, ink washes, acrylics and gouache. 

Board games or video games?

Exploding Kittens is a great card game. Loads of fun. We have the Hellboy board game that we really need to crack open and try out. The last non-tablet video game I played was Guitar Hero, so that’s how little I play console video games. But oy, have I put some hours into Gummy Drop. Don’t judge.

Salty or sweet?

Sweet. I will always default to sweet.

What color is your aura?

That’s a good question. I have no idea. [takes three online quizzes] I could be pink, orange or yellow. So my aura is sherbet…?

The comic book that started it all?

Hmm. The earliest ones I remember were kids’ books like Little Lulu, Caspar the Friendly Ghost, and Uncle $crooge. The one that made me go, “Wait, there’s more to comics than kid stuff?” was a dog-eared copy of Conan the Barbarian, from around 1979. It was my brother’s (he denies this; it’s possible I got it from a neighborhood friend), and the cover was missing. If I saw the first splash page, I’d recognize it. I also read an awful lot of Archie and MAD Magazine, and dabbled in UNCANNY X-MEN in the late ‘80s long enough to know who the characters were. But it wasn’t until I was introduced to WildC.A.T.s in 1994—I can’t remember the exact issue, but I think Jim Lee was the artist—that I even considered comics as a career.

Mantra or quote that keeps you going?

I found one recently that gives me hope: Everything is figure-out-able.

Best thing about being a Woman or Non-Binary Creator of Marvel?

It’s taken a long time for me to answer this question. So much has changed in my time in this industry, and I keep getting off-subject with deep dives into generational, cultural and social progress. The point is, from its early days, Marvel had a clear directive to explore and express racial diversity in its stories. In the last 15-20 years, Marvel validated that vision by welcoming a lot more women, nonbinary, LGBTQ+, and marginalized folx into editorial roles and creative positions. I applaud Marvel for the advancements made in representation. There will always be room for improvement, and I hope Marvel never loses sight of that.

I think the best thing for me personally—the thing that made me feel accepted as both a reader and a team member—is that female characters are no longer drawn with highly sexualized bodies and ridiculously skimpy costumes aimed exclusively at the CisHet Male Gaze. I found those hypersexualized, exploitative depictions of women, with no regard to their character development, to be disrespectful, and a huge F.U. to me as a reader. (And as a professional, but damn right, I colored those boobs and took that paycheck.) It’s such a relief to see that these depictions are cringey and passé and are being left in the past. How a female character is posed, what she’s wearing, how she’s inhabiting her form: it matters. I’m so glad that Marvel supports artists who depict female characters’ bodies in authentic ways that align with their complex, multifaceted characters and their stories. FINALLY.

MacKenzie Cadenhead (she/her) is a children’s book author and an old school (Read: former) Marvel editor — not old-old but let’s just say she knew Gwen Stacy when she was dead. She co-authors the "Marvel Super-Hero Adventures" chapter book series for young readers and is a proud Woman of Marvel. You can see what she’s up to over at Instagram @mackenziecadenhead.

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