Q&A Comic Production Flaws
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By request of fantasyfootballbono.

The thread that answers all your questions about comic production or production related flaws.

 

Post your flaws or production questions in this thread with an example and hopefully we can get them answered.

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First flaw is holes that are common near the bottom edge of some comics.

They are more common on some issues than others, but can be on any printed and bound book/magazine/comic.

 

508010-pinholes.jpg

 

Here's the answer...

Actually the holes are created by a "Former".

Which would be the piece of equipment at the end of the Press that folds and stacks the printed book into raw untrimmed books that are ready to go to the Bindery.

It uses pins on a "Gripper" to grab the edge of the books, thus creating the little holes you see.

 

These raw books are then taken to the Bindery where they get the cover attached to the body, stapled, and trimmed.

The holes are meant to be trimmed off, but if there is any variance in the "press roll" or "bindery trim", they actually fall inside of the trimmed area.

This is a pretty common problem in some comics.

 

The reason it may be more common on a particular book, could be...

1) *Equipment* There is an equipment malfunction that may not severe enough to repair until there is downtime in the schedule. Usually as long as the press keeps printing with no major problems, they keep it running.

2) *Quality Control* That particular book could have been printed by a Pressman that had the pinholes too far out of spec. Thus a good portion of the copies were printed with the holes too far into the live area for the Bindery to trim them out without over trimming the book (Making the book shorter).

3) *Quality Control* The Binder could have the trim depth set too shallow on the edge where the pinholes are. As the problem before, it may be noticed and corrected quickly, or could go unnoticed for hours by an unattentive Bindery Operator.

 

There could be other reasons, but I'd bet the listed ones would be within 99% accuracy.

Bottom line...Common production flaw.

508010-pinholes.jpg.ba09c751a729432ea90107d361539287.jpg

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Next up...Print Creases

Here's what they look like.

 

508031-printcrease.jpg

 

Here's the answer...

The Printer crease is caused by the paper getting a wrinkle in it as it passes through the press units.

The units smash the wrinkle flat while printing the images onto the paper.

There is no ink on the inside of the wrinkle as this area was "hidden" during the print process.

If you have a cheap book with this type of wrinkle, you can try to unfold this wrinkle area and reveal the white paper area.

Do this only if you want to see what I'm trying to describe.

I wouldn't do this to a high grade or valuable book because you will end up with a white streak running through the cover.

 

Something I'd like to add to my response...

This is more common with thinner, cheaper paper.

It can also be caused after the ink is printed on the paper as it goes through the rollers at the end of the press.

If there is ink inside of the crease, it was caused after it was inked.

If there is no ink inside of the crease, it was caused before ink hit the page.

More often than not, it will be before inked.

 

This is very typical on specific books because the cover paper was cheap or very thin (Low basis weight).

Weird War #1 and Defenders #1 come to mind as books with a high percentage of this flaw.

Actually, Greggy pointed out to me that it is very hard to find a Weird War #1 without a Print Crease.

I have looked at many copies since he told me this to find that he is correct.

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508031-printcrease.jpg.c9dca2407ceed65e2ede3457c847cef6.jpg

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Marvel chipping!!!!

 

Miscuts! (Book not cut squarely)

 

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Marvel Chipping has been blamed on dull blades when the book was trimmed.

I'm skeptical of this because a dull blade would possibly only give a jagged edge, sort of like what you see as a common problem on Amazing Spider-Man #300.

 

I'd think a more likely possiblity would be poor paper quality that gets flaky on the edges as time and oxygen break down the fibers.

The edges of this particular paper would be more likely to flake.

I could be completely wrong, but I think it's a possiblity.

Borock may have a better soloution this defect because of his experience with looking at so many examples of it.

 

While I have no way of proving my idea...I'd need to see some solid proof before I believe the dull blade theory.

I have a hard time believing that the bindery blade was dull for 15-20 years.

makepoint.gif

If it was possible to trace the paper down to the mill, I'd bet the paper on all these chipped books came from the same source.

 

This is a hard one to answer because it is something that takes time to become evident, and can't be seen immediately.

 

Who knows...In 20 years when we have Marvel Chipping on all the ASM 300's and Hulk 340's, we may have the question answered.

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Crooked, warped squarebound! sumo.gif

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Spine puckering! on GS and square bound books. . . you da' man Dice! hi.gif

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Crooked, warped squarebound! sumo.gif

 

Squarebound books are made the same as stitched books with one exception.

The body pages are grouped into 8 page "sections" and stacked on top of each other.

The stack is stitched (stapled) front to back to hold them together, instead of through the center of the book as on a regular comic.

Then a bead of glue is put into the spine of the cover, and wrapped aroud the body pages.

 

A constant bead of glue was very hard to maintain, and very often an excess dose of glue would be put on the cover.

When the cover was stuck to the body pages, the spine is ran across a roller to flatten it and give it the square shape, then through another pair of rollers to flatten it out on the front and back covers.

If there was excess glue, it would cause the various defects in question.

Also if the first roller was not set with proper pressure, it would hold the excess glue in places or even across the entire spine, giving the spine lumps or even a curve.

 

Today's technology keeps tighter controll of glue on squarebound books to almost perfection.

Years ago, comics were created as cheaply as possible, and most times on old antiquated equipment to keep the cost down.

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Miscuts! (Book not cut squarely)

 

893applaud-thumb.gif

 

I'll get back on this one with an illustrated explanation.

It may take a while.

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Spine puckering! on GS and square bound books. . . you da' man Dice! hi.gif

 

Answered above in response to Greggy.

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Comic Production (Post Artist) from a post I made a while back...

 

Here's an abridged version of how it was done. And I'll skip the part of penciler/inker/colorist because most people understand how the art was done.

 

1) The original artwork arrives at the printer where it is reduced to comic size by shooting it with a very large horizontal camera.

2) The image is now on a piece of film in negative form.

3) The film and color instructions are matched up by a "stripper" to begin his job of putting color into the negative. (Note that the "color instructions" are what the colorist painted up with Dr. Martin watercolors, and are often seen sold on eBay)

4) The stripper takes a clear piece of mylar and begins the tedious task of masking out every single area by various methods. This was known as "Flatting".

5) The stripper makes a separate *hand cut* mask for every different color seen on the page. For instance, there was a mask for the light blue in Spidey's costume. It might also have a few other spots on it that had the same exact light blue in other areas of the page. Another for the dark blues. Another for the light reds. Medium reds. Dark reds. And so on. This process took hours per page to complete. On complicated pages it's possible it took 24 hours plus of hand work on some individual pages.

6) Now that the flatting is done, he can begin to compose the images into the four negatives needed for printing. (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and Black (or Key as it is called in the printing world))

7) The stripper has four unexposed pieces of film. One for each color. He takes the piece used for the black and pins it in a vacuum exposure frame. Then he sorts through his pile of multiple masks and exposes each one, one at a time, onto the piece of raw film. Note that the black will contain the line art, plus multiple other screen values and gradients with other masks that contain black ink.

8) Once this color has been composed, he can then move on to do the same thing for each of the remaining 3 colors. One color could take upwards of 5 to 10+ minutes plus to expose.

9) Now that the four colors have been composed into 4 pieces of film, they need to be proofed. To proof the page was to take the colors and create a full color representation of what the printed page would look like. Often at this point the stripper would check his work and notice he made a mistake on an element in the page. This could be a minor mistake that would only take him 30 minutes to repair, or could send him back to work the page up from scratch.

10) After an acceptable proof has been produced, the printer packs them up and mails them to the editor. The editor would look them over and make corrections that were stripper errors, or he could possibly completely change it because it didn't turn out the way it had originally been envisioned.

11) The proofs are returned with corrections noted... that again, could be nothing, or could cause the page to be completely redone.

This process took weeks to complete for a book. Obviously the strippers were working on other comics while waiting on the corrections to return, so it was a daily grind.

 

Once everything was acceptable, the pages were laid out on a grid to be exposed onto the printing plates. The plates in the old days were crude and not very quality minded.

The theory back then was to print comics.

Print LOTS of comics as quickly as possible.

 

 

 

Ok...fast forward to present day.

Now comics are colored quickly (by the COLORIST) on a computer, underneath the quickly scanned lineart and a file is created for each page.

That file is color separated inside a computer and digitally imaged with a laser directly onto plates that are FAR superior to the plates of old.

 

Technology...gota love it.

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Marvel Chipping has been blamed on dull blades when the book was trimmed.

I'm skeptical of this because a dull blade would possibly only give a jagged edge, sort of like what you see as a common problem on Amazing Spider-Man #300.

 

I'd think a more likely possiblity would be poor paper quality that gets flaky on the edges as time and oxygen break down the fibers.

The edges of this particular paper would be more likely to flake.

I could be completely wrong, but I think it's a possiblity.

Borock may have a better soloution this defect because of his experience with looking at so many examples of it.

 

While I have no way of proving my idea...I'd need to see some solid proof before I believe the dull blade theory.

I have a hard time believing that the bindery blade was dull for 15-20 years.

makepoint.gif

If it was possible to trace the paper down to the mill, I'd bet the paper on all these chipped books came from the same source.

 

This is a hard one to answer because it is not something that takes time to become evident, and can't be seen immediately.

 

Who knows...In 20 years when we have Marvel Chipping on all the ASM 300's and Hulk 340's, we may have the question answered.

893frustrated.gif

 

Jerry Weist attributes the chipping to how thin the paper stock was on early Marvels. He says in his new book in reference to AF#15 that Marvel was near bankruptcy and was using super thin paper stock to save money. As a result, the chips came off the edges when the cutting blades went through the paper (instead of a clean cut that you'd get if you used better paper). Steve Borock told me a while back that Marvel chipping and pre-chipping existed when the book was on the rack, although on books with brittle paper (whether early Marvels or not) the chipping could obviously have happened at any time in the lifespan of the book.

 

There is also the theory that chipping occurs from tiny tears that form from the bent overflash that Marvels had back in the day. As the tears get bigger, pieces come off. This likely happens on some books with overflash, but I have seen so many books that don't have overflash that still have chipping, that this can't explain how the chips happened on every book.

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There is also the theory that chipping occurs from tiny tears that form from the bent overflash that Marvels had back in the day. As the tears get bigger, pieces come off. This likely happens on some books with overflash, but I have seen so many books that don't have overflash that still have chipping, that this can't explain how the chips happened on every book.

 

I agree, the majority of MC occurs along the right edge of the book where there is no overflash, so I don't know how much water this theory holds. There's also the possibility the ink layer was somewhat brittle, or had other properties that caused the "crack" the led to the chip, like putting fingernail polish on a piece of paper and trying to cut it with a scissors... 893scratchchin-thumb.gif

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What did they do with all the printing plates once that run of comics was finished?

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Miscuts! (Book not cut squarely)

 

Not much to say here other than a Quality Control problem.

If the cover is misaligned during binding, it can have have a bad wrap on the book.

The trim could run high or low causing additional problems.

By "wrap" I mean how the black line dividing the front and back cover not falling perfectly on the spine.

 

Now for something you might not know...

This is a problem that is much more common in the Bronze Age than any other age.

If you've ever seen a book where the spine line lays perfectly on the spine, but the "Marvel Comics Group" banner runs slightly diagonal compared to the top edge of the book.

One possibility is that the trim of the book is skewed (the sides are not a perfect 90 degrees from the others).

However, if you see this to be an extremely common flaw on a particular book, it's quite possible the Original Artwork itself is skewed.

Example below...

The red lines are perfectly parallel, but look at the lines that make up the "King-Sized Annual" banner.

 

508648-coverskew.jpg

 

This is common on a lot of books from the Bronze Age.

Marvel Spotlight #5, and Ghost Rider #1 (Two of my favorites) have this problem.

And it all goes back to the original art.

 

I have no idea why some of the covers were built this way, and some were not.

confused-smiley-013.gif

508648-coverskew.jpg.a4222f5341704a0baf195f6747fedea2.jpg

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If you've ever seen a book where the spine line lays perfectly on the spine, but the "Marvel Comics Group" banner runs slightly diagonal compared to the top edge of the book.

 

You nailed that one, Dice. I have a protractor in my "tool kit" and yes, I have seen quite a number of not-90 degree cuts! Yet the spine is nice and aligned. Just the top/bottom that is not so nicely aligned!

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What did they do with all the printing plates once that run of comics was finished?

 

Back in the days at least until the late 1970's two sets of plates were created for each job.

Because it took so long to make the plates, they made two sets in the event something happened to a plate during the run.

That way they wouldn't have to shut the press down and wait for a new plate to be made.

 

After the press run, the plates were melted and recycled for new plates.

The plates used during the Silver through Bronze ages were large, heavy, and made of lead.

Not very practical for a collector today.

 

However...I personally know someone that has several of them.

When this type of plate was dated and no longer being used, a few of these were saved for nostalgic purposes.

Some of these are the originals used to print the books, and some are the backups.

The backup plates are very very pretty. The used ones are a bit beat up and inky.

I've personally seen them. (There was an unknown issue of Amazing Spider-Man on one.)

Sometime down the road, I'll see if I can get pictures of them so you can see what they look like.

It's quite possible these are among very few that still exist, due to the size and weight.

Not many people would have saved them.

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Marvel Chipping has been blamed on dull blades when the book was trimmed.

I'm skeptical of this because a dull blade would possibly only give a jagged edge, sort of like what you see as a common problem on Amazing Spider-Man #300.

 

I'd think a more likely possiblity would be poor paper quality that gets flaky on the edges as time and oxygen break down the fibers.

The edges of this particular paper would be more likely to flake.

I could be completely wrong, but I think it's a possiblity.

Borock may have a better soloution this defect because of his experience with looking at so many examples of it.

 

While I have no way of proving my idea...I'd need to see some solid proof before I believe the dull blade theory.

I have a hard time believing that the bindery blade was dull for 15-20 years.

makepoint.gif

If it was possible to trace the paper down to the mill, I'd bet the paper on all these chipped books came from the same source.

 

This is a hard one to answer because it is not something that takes time to become evident, and can't be seen immediately.

 

Who knows...In 20 years when we have Marvel Chipping on all the ASM 300's and Hulk 340's, we may have the question answered.

893frustrated.gif

 

Jerry Weist attributes the chipping to how thin the paper stock was on early Marvels. He says in his new book in reference to AF#15 that Marvel was near bankruptcy and was using super thin paper stock to save money. As a result, the chips came off the edges when the cutting blades went through the paper (instead of a clean cut that you'd get if you used better paper). Steve Borock told me a while back that Marvel chipping and pre-chipping existed when the book was on the rack, although on books with brittle paper (whether early Marvels or not) the chipping could obviously have happened at any time in the lifespan of the book.

 

There is also the theory that chipping occurs from tiny tears that form from the bent overflash that Marvels had back in the day. As the tears get bigger, pieces come off. This likely happens on some books with overflash, but I have seen so many books that don't have overflash that still have chipping, that this can't explain how the chips happened on every book.

 

I agree with the thin, cheap paper theory.

I have a hard time swallowing the bit about a dull blade.

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How about those 100 page giants which seem to have an inch or longer cut on the BC that is straight. It looks like it was from the trimming but why? confused-smiley-013.gif

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I agree, the majority of MC occurs along the right edge of the book where there is no overflash, so I don't know how much water this theory holds. There's also the possibility the ink layer was somewhat brittle, or had other properties that caused the "crack" the led to the chip, like putting fingernail polish on a piece of paper and trying to cut it with a scissors... 893scratchchin-thumb.gif

 

I can't answer for the ink used in the 60's, but today's ink is very pliable.

It doesn't set up hard like nail polish.

But I know today's ink is quite different than what was printed years ago.

 

It's possible this could have contributed to the chipping problem, but I have no way to prove it one way or the other.

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