Saturday, October 15, 2005

Wonderful World of Color

I wanted to say a little more about the pictures I posted yesterday.

Each is a single poster-sized sheet of paper with 16 pages on it, with another 16 pages printed on the back. A book goes together like a complex jigsaw puzzle. It looks chaotic on these big sheets but, when the pages are cut, collated, and glued or stitched together in the right order, it all falls into place.

Those who saw "Mom's Cancer" online may remember that it's mostly black and white. I used color sparingly and deliberately to add extra meaning or punctuation to the narrative. I wanted the effect to be like the change from B&W to color in "The Wizard of Oz": a signal to the reader that something different was going on.

When "Mom's Cancer" was an online comic, I had complete freedom to use color or not as I chose. But in the physical world of ink and presses, Color = Cost. B&W printing takes one run through the press; color printing takes four. I don't know actual numbers, but conceptually color printing takes four times the ink, film, time, and labor as B&W (the only cost saving I can think of is that you only have to pay for the paper once). So from a publisher's perspective, it's evident why color is a big deal.

Look at the 16-page sheet above. Only two of the pages (at upper right) are full-color images. The rest are black and white. IF I had laid out the book so that those two pages were also B&W, this sheet could have been printed much less expensively. Now, I'm a cooperative guy, so when my editor and I first laid out our plan for this book--it's called a "book map"--we looked for ways to economize on color printing. He'd write me a note saying something like, "if we could keep the color to pages 7, 8, 17, 18, 55, 56, 111 and 112, that would be great." And I'd shuffle, slide and sort the pages as best I could, then reply something like, "well, I'd hate to give up my blue dots on page 6." And he'd sigh gently and go back to the map.

To my editor's and publisher's great credit, they never pressured me to compromise. We never found an ideal solution--my color pages were scattered and clumped all wrong, and no amount of shuffling worked without breaking up the story. So they bit the bullet and decided to print the entire book in four-color, even if 95% of a sheet was B&W. I find that amazing. There is one page in the book with a spot of color that I doubt most readers will even notice, but to me that one spot is a dramatic and thematic key to the story. If I'd had to change it to black and white I would have. But I'll always be grateful that I didn't.

1 comment:

Karen van Hoek said...

Just curious -- the page that had one spot of color that was critical to the story -- was it the panel in which the only item in color was the purse, in the yellowish colors that denote that it's from way-back-when?