There’s plenty of work that goes into publishing a graphic novel or zine outside of writing and drawing it! Production Technicians are responsible for many things including project templates, color correction, art changes, book layout, and more. Each project is unique and requires its own special attention to make sure the end result is the best it can be. Below are just a selection of books I’ve had the privilege to work on. Click here to download a complete list of my professional work.
Anthologies & Collections
Anthologies are some of the most unique and rewarding books to work on. Some have compared putting together anthologies to herding cats! Unlike traditional graphic novels, anthologies collect stories from multiple creators into one book. Usually each story comes with its own unique technical requirements and it is important to keep everything clearly organized.
Archival books are created not with the original artwork, but often from scans of printed books or even old printing film. These books often deal with material that is old enough that the original artwork is no longer available, and often times the source material is out of print. The intention is always to make the work look “good as new” which means lots of clean-up to remove any flaws from the printing process, yellowing from age, and sometimes even lettering or coloring entire pages from scratch.
Art books & Encyclopedias
Art books usually feature a large collection of illustrations organized to showcase behind-the-scenes work for projects like movies, video games, and more. Lore books and encyclopedias may be more text heavy but still rely on visuals to flesh out and embellish the information they contain. Most art books contain hundreds if not thousands of unique images that all must be categorized, color corrected, and often up-sized to print size. Images may also need to be clipped from their backgrounds so they can be placed on a different color for the sake of design consistency.
While the term “graphic novel” can refer to any type of comic book, I’m using it here to classify comics that are self-contained stories that weren’t released in single issues first. Recently these kind of books have become more and more popular with comic book readers as they are easy to read and collect. A technician’s job is to make sure that everything is consistent throughout the book. Artwork can come in batches or all at once and line art may need to be scanned from boards, cleaned up, and sent to colorists. Lettering is merged with the colored artwork and any typos are fixed before the book is sent to the printers.
Manga & Manhwa
Manga and manhwa are comic books from Japan and Korea, respectively. They are usually smaller than American graphic novels and commonly printed in black and white with screentone patterns used to simulate gradients and different values. Any files containing screentone have to be treated with care or they can create undesirable patterns rather than a smooth shading. Since Japanese is read right to left, books are often printed “backward” by Western standards and have to be laid out thusly. Cover images commonly employ additional inks to achieve colors not available in regular CMYK printing. If a project does not have the budget to incorporate a fifth ink, it is up to the technician to adjust the cover artwork to as closely match the original printing as possible.
Ongoing Periodicals & Miniseries
Walk in to any comic book shop and you will probably find periodicals, or “floppies”, lining the walls. These comics come out in installments, usually once a month, and contain a chapter of an over-arcing story. They are usually printed on cheaper paper with print presses that are accustomed to printing large volume jobs like magazines. As such, it is important that the production technician makes sure the ink density is kept low enough to as not to saturate the paper. Otherwise colors might print dark or muddy. Since these books have monthly releases, deadlines are usually tight for all involved. Technicians must be efficient but thorough when dealing with books that come in late.
Reprints & New Editions
Unlike archival works, reprints and new editions deal with recent works that have been updated, expanded, or re-collected for a new audience. A reprint might correct mistakes from the first print run or update a black and white book to be in color. New editions may include bonus material, author commentary, or just combine multiple existing books into a large omnibus. A technician’s job usually involves sorting through existing files and making sure everything is present, or collecting files from multiple sources into one book in the case of omnibuses as well as making any needed corrections for the reprint.
U.S. Editions of Foreign Publications
Similar to manga, these books are brought over from countries like France, Portugal, Sweden, and more. European comics are often times printed larger than standard American graphic novels. A U.S. publisher might decide to resize the book to match others on shelves in American bookstores. The technician will have to layout the book to match the new dimensions and incorporate the new translated lettering onto the original art.
Short for “magazines,” zines are books containing artwork, comics, poetry, short stories, or any mix of printed media. They can be either saddle stitched or perfect bound, but are usually smaller than standard comic sizes and printed in small quantities. Some zines are even be printed at-home and hand assembled using a stapler! To get a zine ready for print, it’s important to make sure images are color-corrected and text is laid out properly.