5) Working With My Artists.
Aaron Lange, the artist of the Mickey the Moose series, is a master of page layout, among many other things. He sometimes takes my specific ideas and modifies them in a way that is visually pleasing and often quite remarkable. Other times he just follows my instructions to the letter. Nearly every time, his decisions have been appropriate.
Aaron and I have worked out a system where I send him the script pages as I finish them so he can begin work on drawing the pages. I always try to get 2 or 3 pages ahead of him so if he has a day where he feels particularly motivated, he has some stuff to work on.
We have always had a meeting before we start a book to discuss the overall flow of the project. Although we don’t have many specifics, basically a plot with some major plot points, at least we are both tuned into where the story is going. This is particularly important for Aaron because there are subtleties in his pages that are important within the context of the whole story. For this reason, he does not like drawing the pages out of order unless he absolutely has to.
As I receive finished pages from Aaron (he sends me hi-res scans) I print them out and add them to my mock-up. At this point, I am watching details very carefully and paying strict attention to the way the story is flowing. It’s much easier now because the mock up is allowing me to read it as an actual comic as opposed to a script or a bunch of rough sketches.
Often as I’m receiving pages I will modify the script on unfinished pages to take advantage of strong storylines which seem to be developing or things that are particularly interesting. The book itself definitely goes through a morphing evolution.
I do all my own coloring with the help of a wonderful collaborator who helps with a few pages when she can.
COMING SOON: My Photoshop Coloring Process!
When I am coloring I shoot for a page a day, but sometimes manage to get even a little more than that done.
6) Laying the Book Out.
I never even think about the odds and ends, such as letters pages, ads, puzzle pages, etc. until I have completely finished the story and have it laid out in the book. When I’m happy with what I have, I start to work on the individual parts that make up the rest of the book.
One thing I’ve noticed about the odds and ends pages is the tendency to start to slack a little on the quality of those pages. I often catch myself compromising because the end of the process is in sight and I’m excited to get it completed.
This is a fatal mistake. It’s important to remain consistent with these lesser pages because it’s easy for a reader or worse, a client, to get taken out of the overall experience of the book by a poorly constructed page no matter what it is.
I use Adobe InDesign to layout the book page by page. The pages are placed in the file in their native format, .psd for Photoshop and .ai for Illustrator (which I use for all text elements). I size the pages in their native format to fit exactly. Never resize images in InDesign. If they don’t fit, go back and do it right.
After I have completed the layout, I export it to a low-res pdf and send it out to a few people I trust to do any kind of final proofreading. Better to spot trouble now than when you are holding your printed copies. At the time, I ask them to be merciless in their criticism. I can take it.
Final changes are made to the individual pages and a hi–res pdf copy is made for client approval (if needed). Then it’s off to the printer.
COMING SOON: Working with your Printer
One last note: Every comic I have done so far has included at least one flaw which no matter how many times I scrutinized the book, I miss. Of course, I catch it the instant I open the final printed product. It’s rarely anything anyone would notice other than me, but it drives me nuts. I think this is something you just have to get used to.
If you are anything like me and know you are going to go crazy over something like this my advice is to leave yourself at least a week between when you have completely finished the book and when you are taking it to the printer. During that week, completely resist all urges to look at the book. When you look at it again after a week, chances are you have created a little distance and will catch most of the errors which would normally drive you nuts.