Click Image to Enlarge Original Art
How is a comic book made?
Contemporary comics are the work of several different people. Some creators choose to publish their works independently. They may write, draw and self publish their own works. Others work for a publisher who oversees many of the steps, including editing, marketing and distribution of the books. In many cases the publisher also owns the copyright and licenses for the comic book characters. These publishers choose artists and writers to create storylines for them.
While there is no one set format, the following gives an overview of the comic book process:
The writer develops the story and provides the pencil artist with a script that, as well as the actual text, includes descriptions of what characters are doing page-by-page. Often a writer will give anecdotal details to help the artist develop the mood or style of the work. An artist pencils out rough designs or layouts for the story. It is at this stage that the artist designs how the panels of art will appear on the page and the action that happens in each. When everyone is satisfied with the basic layout an inker draws over the pencillers work, adding their own artistic input with black ink. A letterer adds the text to the work, often using word balloons for speech and employing a different style of box for narrative. The lettering may be added by hand or by working with a wide array of digital fonts and balloons. Often the lettering is completed on a separate sheet of clear acetate which sits on top of the original artwork, an overlay. The fonts used and the size and style of the lettering add enormously to the mood of the work.
If the book is to be published in black and white, it might now move onto the photographing prepress and printing process. If color is to be added, it is the job of the colorist to do so. Today most colorists skillfully employ digital coloring techniques and add yet more dimension to the work.
With Elektra: Assassin the artwork was entirely produced by Bill Sienkiewicz and was produced in watercolors. The process of painting full color artwork for each page is both time consuming and expensive, and is therefore often reserved for special publications such as this. Frequently a painting is commissioned solely for the cover and the interior pages are produced as discussed above.
The original artwork and acetate overlay, if used, are photographed or scanned together and produced as one image of photographic film. The film is sent to a printer who generates proofs of each page of the book. Once the proofs get a final approval, the printer mass produces the pages and binds them together as a book.
The overlay process was employed in the development of the Elektra: Assassin book. This explains why, as you view the original work, there is little text. Bill Sienkiewicz did include some lettering as part of the body of his original art, but the narrative and speech balloons were created separately as overlays by letterers Jim Novak and Gaspar Saladino.