*Content Warning: This article contains nudity and bondage. Turn back now if you don’t like it.
In graphic novels and comics, color plays a very important role. The presence, or absence of colors, or one specific color, can paint the way we interpret the images. This is especially true in the romance genre, and in the series I want to look at, Sunstone. Sunstone is a romance series by Stejpan Sejic, one that focuses on two women who connect through their ties in BDSM. Another blog post, “Roped up in Perception,” covers the story of the series if you want more information. I’ll be taking a closer look on color in Sunstone and how it influences the emotions in the comic. In Sunstone, red is very prevalent. Red is the color of Lisa, the submissive of the pair, as well as a general color of romance. Throughout the series, red plays a very important role. It shows the passion and the devotion, it shows the thrill of their games. People use color to help interpret the world in everyday life. Blue is seen as sad, or as water. Green is earthy and calm. Red is fire and romance. Pink is love. The same holds true for this comic. Ally, the dominatrix, has the color back. Lisa is the color red. When Ann comes in much later, her color is yellow. In this series, the shades of red are some of the most important colors given. In the first volume, which I’ll be focusing on, Lisa is the main focus, and red dominates the panels.
Throughout Sunstone, red plays different roles. Here, it shows danger, and passion. This is the scene where Ally and Lisa first meet, as a Dom and a Sub, and both experience their first night in a BDSM session. . Look at Allison’s face compared to Lisa’s expression. Allison has complete control of the scene, and Lisa is very quickly falling into her games. Despite all of their knowledge, both of them are new to this. The colors here, the dark red of Lisa’s dress, the way Ally’s face and clothes are shaded in red, give the reader a sense of excitement and danger. I’m not sure if the words come through, but I’m not really sure they need to in order for the emotions of this panel to shine through. Allison is explaining the rules of the night, while slipping into her role of Lisa’s Mistress. Lisa is quickly sinking into submission, giving Allison almost full control.
Now that red has been shown to represent the passion and the romance between Lisa and Ally, as well as Lisa herself, the lack of red begins to play into the comic. When the red begins to fade from the panels, we know that something is wrong. Lisa has just left Allison’s over sized house, and suddenly the reddish walls are replaced by white, and we realize that Allison is lonely, and not just lonely, she’s specifically missing Lisa. She’s lived on her own for years, but now, as the red fades from the panels, leaving just Ally on the sofa, surrounded by a void of white the “house feels bigger somehow.” Lisa has left her house, and she’s taken all of the warmth and all of the color with her, leaving Ally alone in a very big, now very cold and colorless house.
There’s one more panel I wanted to talk about. During their scenes of play, red is everywhere, in fact, it’s very hard to find a panel in this comic that doesn’t have that color somewhere. Even this panel where Allison is realizing just how lonely she feels, has as much red as it does white. The white stands out more-but the red is still there. This panel to the left is actually one of my favorites in the book. These two women have just finished their first BDSM session together, and begin the stages of aftercare. (due to the highly emotional roleplay that BDSM sessions often bring, cuddling is necessary for unwinding, and bringing people back to themselves). This scene in the shower has little to no red, even Lisa’s hair is dulled down to a near brown. This lack of red not only shows them coming down from their passionate play, but unlike the scene to the right, doesn’t show any missing affection. It shows that passion sometimes needs to be put to the side in order for romantic love to grow. It’s this moment in the comic that these two women begin to fall in love, past their passions for their kinks. It’s here, in this moment of vulnerability, where neither of them are blinded by the bright red, and can see the other for who they are.
The colors in Sunstone show the growth of the characters, as well as the growth of their relationship. The use of color throughout this series is used to draw parallels and connect the dialogue with and the images with the emotions the characters, and hopefully the readers, are feeling.