I had the tremendous pleasure of working on a Marvel project recently at Brain Zoo. With the success of the Avengers and Iron Man franchises, we were hired to animate a dvd feature film starring Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk. My main responsibilities on this project included creating lighting studies to help establish the mood as well create several matte paintings for production.
Before beginning production, we did a test sequence, which can be found in the movie in various parts, of Iron Man fighting Zaxx at night. With limited time and budget and an emphasis on glowing effects, we took a very graphic approach. To help pop the effects, the movie takes place entirely at night except for the final scenes. We used primary colors a lot for the outdoor scenes - an epic red dusk leading to a night sky to pop out a red and yellow Iron Man and a green Hulk. I didn't end up handling the lighting studies for the interior, but they're often dark rooms illuminated by the main superheroe's complimentary colors, red light and green light.
Some of the above keys are a little bit styled. At the time, we considered having more 2D comic effects, like speed lines for flight scenes and energy trails for Iron Man's boot/hand repulsers. We ended up abandoning those ideas, but the show ended up getting a nice 2D look, and no wonder, our creative director Leo worked on Tron Uprising!
When I'm tasked with developing color keys for a movie, a lot of times I'll go through the animatic and choose frames from key moments in the story or action that can guide the lighters through the rest of the shots and do really rough color keys. If time permits, I'll bring them to the level of the above keys or higher. This is helpful for the Brain Zoo team, but especially for discussing lighting ideas with clients.
Below are the matte paintings I created for production.