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B&N Week 172: What Are The Hidden Steps In Creating Comics?

| April 8, 2014

BoltsNutsFeatured-who do you know

It’s another Tuesday, and I’m happy to be here! Let’s just get into this week’s question, shall we?

What are the hidden steps to creating comics?

Like everything in life, there are things you don’t know about when it comes to creating comics. I liken it to Sherlock Holmes vs everyone else: Sherlock sees everything, and everyone else only sees vague surface detail without really thinking about it.

Go pick up a comic book, and I want you to actually look at it. It can be any comic, but a self-published one would be best. [This is because most of your work will be self-published.] If you don’t have any self-published books, look at a book from a smaller, newer publisher.

I want you to look at everything. You’re going to emulate this. I’m just going to make a short list of the more hidden aspects, with a short blurb for each.

Copyright. © This is when you have a physical form for your book. You can get this filed for a fee, but it isn’t necessary. You can’t copyright an idea, but you can copyright something that has a physical form. Poor Man’s Copyright? Any judge worth their salt will throw that out and laugh at you while doing so.

Trademark. ™ This is when you have something you’re going to do trade with goods under, and is used to tell where the source of the goods came from. This also doesn’t need to be registered in order to claim the mark, but it is a good idea to do so. There will be a fee attached to it if you do.

Registered. ® This is the symbol you use if you’ve registered your trademark. Easy peasy.

The preceding symbols you’d find in the indicia. The indicia is the small text you see on either the first page of the comic, or the first splash page, where the credits are. There is a lot of information held in the indicia: the name of the comic, issue number, publishing month and year, publisher’s address, copyright/trademark info, and a similarity disclaimer. Go read one. Your comic will need it.

On the cover, especially if you’re being distributed through Diamond, you’re going to need an ISBN or UPC. This is the barcode you see on the books, either on the front or rear cover. If you don’t have an ISBN, then your book won’t be distributed through Diamond. They require it. These have a fee associated with them. Do your research.

Make sure the logo of your book is easily read. You don’t want to have a convoluted logo adorning your book. If it’s unreadable, then the potential buyer will pass right on by it. It can be stylized, but it must also be readable from a distance. [And believe me, I’ve seen a lot of unreadable logos. These are generally done by new letterers who don’t have an editor to keep them in line.]

The cover also needs to have a striking image to it. It can be a pinup, or an image that boils the story down to its essence. It has to be dramatic. There are tons of bad covers out there from indie creators. Don’t be one of them. Let others see the cover ideas before you choose one. Let them help choose the cover with the most impact.

Page numbers. Your book is going to need to have more pages than just the story. You can fill these pages with pinups, backmatter [stories or text concerning the making of the book], miscellaneous art, ads, or what have you. You also have four pages of cover that you have to fill, as well. (Four pages?) The front cover, the inside front, the inside rear, and the rear cover. This space is good for ads, either internal or external. If you have another book of your own you wish to promote, or a service, or goods, then this is the space that can be used. Maybe a pinup. Something. Almost anything. Just don’t leave these spaces white. [When printing, the printer may give you a price break if you allow them to run an ad here.]

Assemble the book, and give it to other people to read. They’re looking for flaws: pages out of order, images cut off, colors missing or off, text that is hard to read, and other things. You can proof the book all you want, but your eyes are going to miss something. Your brain is going to be tired of looking at the same damned thing over and over, so you’ll need fresh eyes to really see what could be missed. My very first editing gig was as a copy editor for Digital Webbing’s Warmageddon Illustrated/Quarterly. L Jamal, the creator/editor, didn’t want me to see the book at all during the creation process, because he didn’t want my eyes to be tired of seeing it. [I saw a ton of stuff, I was fast, I was thorough, and I believe I impressed him.] Proofing the book, especially having other people with a knack for detail doing it, is very important. [This is said so that you can fix the problems found. This will be your next to last time to fix major problems before going to print.]

If you’re printing the book, get a sample first. Check the quality of the paper, look to make sure that all the pages are in order, the colors are good, the text is readable. Make sure everything is in the right place. This is the last time you’ll have to fix the problems before doing the print run. If problems are found, you will not get another sample to see that the problems are corrected. Make this last go-round count.

These are the hidden steps to creating a comic. These will add some man hours to the book, as well as some extra cost depending on your publishing/distribution method, but the reward will be well worth it.

That’s all there is for this week. See you in seven.

Click here to discuss in the ComixTribe forum at Digital Webbing!

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Category: Bolts & Nuts, Columns

About the Author ()

Steven is an editor/writer with such credits as Fallen Justice, the award nominated The Standard, and Bullet Time under his belt, as well as work published by DC Comics. Between he and his wife, there are 10 kids (!), so there is a lot of creativity all around him. Steven is also the editor in chief and co-creator of ComixTribe, whose mission statement is Creators Helping Creators Make Better Comics. If you're looking for editing, contact him at for rate inquiries.

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