Beating the Spread

One of the criticisms often leveled at the editorial and production staff at Marvel and DC is that they don't seem to know anything about art. Sometimes that's an unfair criticism, but more often than not it's right on point. Here, let's take a look at an example from the print version of The Demon: Hell is Earth #1...

I hate interruptions.The Demon: Hell is Earth #1 (January 2018), pages 17-18
Pencils by Brad Walker, inks by Andrew Hennessy, colors by Chris Sotomayor.

That's... not great, is it? Neither page is bad on its own, but when they're right next to each other in a two-page spread it creates some issues. Having a full bleed page next to anther full bleed page gives your eye no room to rest and creates some unfortunate tangents.1 Both pages also have similar color schemes, which makes everything blur into a purple-orange haze at first glance.

Here's the thing: these pages are only next to each other because production screwed up. As an odd-numbered page, story page #17 should be on the right-hand side of a spread. Let's use the magic of Photoshop to see what this is supposed to look like...

I wanna use your shoelaces for new fun!The Demon: Hell is Earth #1 (January 2018), pages 16-19
Pencils by Brad Walker, inks by Andrew Hennessy, colors by Chris Sotomayor.

That reads a lot better, doesn't it? Not having two full bleed pages side-by-side eliminates those tangents, which now become associative cues that help the reader navigate the page flip. The color scheme is no longer a problem thanks to the addition of negative space that let's your eye rest. Everything works together as a harmonious whole.

So why are these pages next to each other in the printed comic? Because DC needed to insert twelve pages of ads into this comic,2 pushing the story pages out of alignment. I have no problem with ads. But when inserting them into the comic screws up the storytelling of your comic this badly, maybe, just maybe, you should make sure your production staff actually knows something about the art of storytelling.

This wouldn't be tolerated in another medium, would it? Television production staff wouldn't just slap a commercial break in the middle of a mid-sentence dramatic pause, would they?3

Looking into the Future

As I noted, this won't be an issue when this comic is collected into a trade paperback and the pages are in the right place. It's probably not an issue for people who get their comics digitally either, since they're not likely to see the pages side-by-side.

If ever make the jump to digital this problem will be a curious relic of their print-based past. I suspect the art of page-to-page storytelling is going to change dramatically in the next decade as a result.

  1. The flame billowing from Etrigan's mouth on the left and the smoke and rubble being used as panel borders on ther right. Etrigan's arm and Etrigan's arm. the gap between Etrigan's leg and boot and the billowing flame coming out of his mouth.
  2. Of the fifteen pages of advertisement in the comic, four are house ads, four are trade-in-kind from other Warner divisions, and six of them are from actual paying advertisers. When your ratio of paying customers to house ads is that low, it's probably time to consider whether the advertising revenue is enough to offset the cost of adding another signature to your book.
  3. I mean, maybe if they worked Hell's Kitchen. But seriously.

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