Sunday, January 25, 2009


Jim Ivey's Sunday Comics (...and a lecture on newspaper color)

A few (okay, many) words of explanation ... when Jim says that the black and white Sundays in these bound volumes were 'printable', he's referring to the fact that it is notoriously difficult for reprint book publishers to reproduce vintage Sunday comics from old color tearsheets.

Newspaper color (called process color) is made up of thousands of tiny 'dots' of color, often a rainbow of different colors going into making what seems to the reader's eye to be a reasonably solid continuous color. Seldom are vintage tearsheets in pristine enough condition to allow publishers to reproduce from them -- faded process colors on yellowed newspaper turn horribly muddy and blotchy when reproduced. In the old days there was no way to reproduce this color attractively without access to the original proofs, very few of which have survived. Even today with computer aid the process is still extremely difficult, time-consuming and fraught with problems. One great solution is to find a newspaper that printed their Sundays in black and white, like the Sentinel did. These tearsheets can be used to create a black and white proof a lot more easily. Then a colorist can come in and add color to that proof in continuous tone to make a new proof that is used to print crisp and clean vintage Sundays.

But it is a catch-22. The problem with this method is that the colorist must work very hard to duplicate the colors used originally, and even if the colorist does a great job many reprint book buyers object to recoloring. Because continuous color looks much more bold, or stark, than newspaper process color the reprinted strips tends to look garish. This makes fans object on the basis that the strips no longer look like they remember them from the newspaper. They make the quite reasonable case that the cartoonist picked their color scheme based on what it would look like in process color, much more muted and grainy than continuous color, and that the cartoonist would have presumably toned everything down considerably, perhaps even drawn the strip differently, if they were expecting continuous color to be used.


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