Neal told a wonderful story about the early days of comic production that I will condense and illustrate for you today.
First, to follow any of this, you need to understand that comic books used to be printed using just 3 colors: Red, Blue and Yellow with very limited tonal difference (100%, 50% and 25%) This gives us Nine (9) colors to work from:
While this doesn't seem like a lot of colors, when you combine them in various ways (like using R2 with Y1) you get a range of 64 colors as this chart which I got from Todd Klein's site demonstrates.
DC was not using all 9 of the base colors. This caused them to only have access to 32 of the 64 colors. Here's an version of Todd's chart showing which colors DC was able to print.
Because of this limited selection, you'll notice (among other things) that the skin tones in Marvel comics look better than they do in DC books during the 60's.
The reason is this: DC was using TWO antiquated rules from the 40's to color comics in the 60's when printing press improvements had rendered those rules unnecessary.
First: DC was not using Y2 and Y3.
The explanation for *why* DC was not using Y2 and Y3 seems to be lost to the ages, but there is a suggestion that it was an accounting decision made some time in the 40's or 50's that was never revisited.
Second: DC was not using any combination of colors that totaled more than 200%.
This means that while the could print Superman Red (Y + R = 200%) just fine, they could not print a deep rich brown (Y + R + B = 300%) - until Neal came in and changed the game:
How Neal did this was through some skilled office politics involving the then current Production Designer Sol Harrison, Carmine Infantino, Joe Kubert and Jack Leibowitz wherein Neal convinces them Marvel is getting a better deal than DC. He then used that as the fulcrum to get DC to revoke its antiquated coloring rules. That part of the story isn't something I can really illustrate, but if you are interested in the full details, you can read a transcript from an interview with Dave Sim here.
I gotta say, if you ever get the chance to see Neal Adams in person, get him to tell this story. His version is a rousing, pejorative laced tale which will keep you glued as he describes some of the people working at DC at the time, often supplying voices.
It was easily my favorite FAN moment of the con!
btw - we got a lot of cool photos from HeroesCon which you can check out on our NorthStars facebook group.
Have a great day.