So with the comic drawn and lettered, the fake letter page, bonus cover, and “ad” assembled, it was time to put it all together into one document and prepare it for printing.
Given that I used to make my living putting documents together and preparing them for printing, this should have been the easiest part.
Should have been.
Unfortunately, it had been a while. So much of a while, in fact, that I found that I could no longer do pagination – that is, figure out how to late out the pages for printing so that once the document was printed and bound they were in the correct order – in my head, and I was forced to actually grab paper, fold it and assemble it all as if it were the finished product, and write down the page numbers.
Even with that, I screwed up the page order in my first attempt at printing out a proof.
Once I had that figured out, though, it was a matter of deciding just how I was going to actually print the thing.
I’d found a company online that specializes in printing comic books, but they typically take up to twenty-eight days, and the fastest turnaround time they could offer was ten days – and that was only if I paid a 175% markup.
By the time I was actually ready to print, I had about nine days left before her birthday.
Still, the site was useful in that its FAQ gave me the specific dimensions I needed to reduce everything to and the trim and bleed settings I needed in order for my comic to have a final trimmed size that matched that of a standard modern comic book.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I bought a stapler that would allow me to properly saddle-stich the comic if I printed it myself, and I have a high-quality large format printer, so I took a crack at printing it out myself. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find paper of a suitable quality to get the slick, professional look I was hoping for.
I wanted glossy paper, at least for the cover, but the only glossy paper I could find was glossy on one side and matte on the other. That wouldn’t have been so bad, but as it was photo paper, the matte side also had a watermark of the manufacturer’s name, and I’ve found – via mistakenly putting the paper into my printer incorrectly – that even setting aside the issue of the watermark, the matte side will not properly accept ink.
The other issue was that no matter how hard I tried the pages either printed crooked, or ended up crooked after I trimmed them with my crappy paper cutter.
Ultimately I decided to go with Staples.
I finished putting everything together in Adobe InDesign – which was an application I rarely used, as it was still new and unproven back then, in my desktop publishing days, so there was a bit of a learning curve to accompany my rustiness – and created a print-ready PDF, complete with printer’s marks to indicate bleed and trim. (This will be important in a bit.)
I had dropped off the file after work, then sat at home eagerly awaiting their call to let me know that it was ready, a call that seemed increasingly unlikely to come as it got closer and closer to their closing time. So, with only about 45 minutes left until they closed, I headed back over and was pleased to find that it was ready (though I was annoyed that they hadn’t called me).
When I got home I texted Scott to let him know that Giddy Jon Was Giddy. He said, “Pics or it didn’t happen,” so I sent him a picture of myself holding my masterpiece and looking giddy. Not pictured: my dorky little “Jon is giddy” clap or my giggling.
I was not able to get glossy paper, unfortunately, but I did at least get a cardstock cover, and the interior pages were a decent stock.
I did notice that a couple of halftone pattern elements on the cover kind of faded into the background – having one shade of red over a different shade of red is a bit beyond their printer’s capabilities, apparently – but it wasn’t a big deal, and everything else looked great, so I let it slide.
I ordered a display case for the comic so that I could send her a signed and sealed copy to keep in addition to a copy to read.
When I got the case I was dismayed to find that comic didn’t actually fit in it properly, being about a quarter inch smaller all around. I tried one of the imperfect copies I had printed, and it fit properly, so I was confused. Then I remembered something that had happened when I printed out a proof earlier.
The trim marks fell slightly outside the printable area on a tabloid-sized piece of paper, and Adobe Acrobat automatically did a “shrink to fit” with the PDF, reducing the size of the image by 6%.
On a subsequent proof I unchecked that, and just used a ruler to guide my trimming on the sides that weren’t displaying the trim marks.
Even though I told them what the final dimensions should be at Staples, I didn’t think to tell them to uncheck “shrink to fit.”
I didn’t want to go through the expense of having it reprinted, though, so instead I printed out my own copy of the cover, on glossy paper, signed it, and put it in the display case in front of the copy of the comic.
With that done, I sent the final product off to the (Former) Boss Lady, and that’s where our story began.
Now that I managed to get the comic to her in time for her birthday, I have considered sending it off to that online company for printing just to see what the results are like, and to provide her with a proper signed copy, but I’m still mulling that one over.
So anyway, that’s that.
I did something that I didn’t think I could do, and I did it much more quickly than I would have ever thought possible even if I assumed I could do it at all, and the end result is actually…well, acceptable, certainly, at least from my perspective, and the coolest fucking thing ever from her perspective.
Generally I give my own opinion more weight than anyone else’s, but in this case, I’m going to have to agree with the (Former) Boss Lady.
What? It’s just because I respect her. I’m totally not being egotistical.
At this point, given that I’ve successfully created a comic book, what, if anything, does that mean for the future?
I don’t know, honestly. I can tell you that at one point working on it made me think that I should just give up on drawing entirely. Possibly after amputating my useless Frankenstein hands.
I’m frankly rather amazed that I didn’t completely burn out the “undo” button on my Cintiq.
Or throw my Cintiq out the window.
I mean, seriously, the window is right there…
In the end, though, I didn’t give up, and after the fact I discovered something that will be the basis for another post.
At some point I need to actually finish that page that Jamie requested years ago…
I’ve also been toying with the notion of making some changes to the basic story and the character designs of the comic, and expanding on it to create a webcomic, but even with this comic under my belt, that prospect still seems rather daunting, and experience has taught me that just because I did something once that doesn’t always mean I can do it again.
But we’ll see, I guess.
Anyway, thanks for indulging me in my self-indulgence.
I also want to give a special thanks to my friend Renee, who didn’t bat an eye when I sent her this message:
Two quick questions (I'll explain later):
1 What is your handwriting like? Is it legible and recognizably feminine?
2. Do you have a scanner?
Or at least as far as I can tell she didn’t bat an eye, and after I explained why – I needed some handwritten text for the comic – she quickly provided me exactly what I needed. So…thanks!
And, of course, I have to thank the (Former) Boss Lady for inspiring me to give this whole crazy thing a shot, and also for her general awesomeness.