Posts Tagged ‘San Diego Comic Con’

The Comic Company:
True Colors – Part 1

Tuesday, September 14th, 2010

Comico’s switch from black-and white to color in 1984 added heavily to the learning curve we required to make comic books. We were young guys learning by the seat of our pants, making lots of mistakes but growing with each ounce of education we received “the hard way.”

Jumping to color would be an adventure for several reasons. World Color Press who was printing most of the newsstand comics at the time had no more room in their schedule for the Indy publishers. They were the experts in printing comic books on newsprint which had been the standard since comic books were first published in America.

Indy publishers turned to other options to print color comics which included better paper stock by necessity since most printers were not set up to print what was considered low numbers on newsprint.

Bright, white, glossy stock came into vogue and presented a surface that could better handle full-color images that would not hold up well if printed on newsprint. But comics were still dependent on the traditional black line art that held the color.

Full-color separations that were made from line art that had been simply painted-in produced nasty ghosting of solid magenta, cyan and yellow when images came out of register which could easily happen when printing low runs. Several thousand prints could be made before registration could be fully adjusted forcing the opportunity for a lot of waste and driving up the unit cost of each book.

The black line art had to be held on its own plate and the colors needed to be added on another layer which would later be separated into the four print colors, CMYK. This is done easily today in Photoshop but in the early eighties there was no digital solution.

Doug Wildey

An early maverick attempt by Doug Wildey on his Rio comic, which was published by Eclipse Comics then later compiled by Comico, provided an interesting solution.

Doug Wildey's Rio

Doug painted his colors on tracing paper that he laid over his black line art. The tracing paper was shot and separated then registered to the films of the black line art. This created a beautiful, ethereal watercolor look but provided very fragile originals that warped easily and were difficult to preserve.

Other people were experimenting with different solutions.

Early Pacific Comics-Captain Victory and Starslayer

In the summer of 1983, while in California to attend the San Diego Comic Con, we paid a visit to Pacific Comics. Pacific was not just one of our biggest distributors, it was also one of the trailblazing alternative publishers of the early Indy movement. Founders Bill and Steve Schanes and editor David Scroggy were great hosts. While giving us a tour of their production department, they took the time to show us how a new approach to coloring comics that they were using worked.

The Gray-Line System required that a negative film was made from the original black-and-white comic art. This negative was sized at 60% of the original size which was equal to the actual print size of 6×9″ for the final comic.

Blackline on acetate transparency

From the negative a positive transparency of the line art was made. The lettering on the negative would then be masked with rubylith and, using a dot screen, a 10% gray, positive print was made on photostat paper.


The transparency and “gray-line” had registration marks and were aligned and hinged using a single piece of tape. The colorist would paint the grey-line layer, frequently reviewing the art by flipping down the transparency to see what the final image would look like.

Blackline & Grayline combined

The gray-line gave the colorist an accurate guide for which to apply color on a separate layer. If ghosting were to occur due to registration errors the faint image of the gray-line was barely noticeable.

The photostat paper that was used had a polymer base that made the gray-line very durable and stable. They would not shrink or warp when the color, which was usually water based, was applied.

Unfortunately, the surface of the paper was not absorbent at all. Painting with translucent watercolors and dyes was difficult, often creating a streaky or smudgy look especially in areas requiring larger coverage.

The Gray-Line System was an answer to the coloring dilemma but it was not the only one.

To be continued…


Making comics because I want to

Gerry Giovinco

The Comic Company:
How to Start a Comic Book Empire

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

I became obsessed with making comics when I was in high school during the late 1970’s. I wasn’t content with just drawing them, however. The process of making comics was not complete for me until the comics I had drawn were read by an audience. 

I would make comics and print them on an old mimeograph machine then distribute them around school, usually selling each copy for a nickel. I always considered my calling to be that of a cartoonist but in reality I was a born comics publisher. 


 I read a lot of comics and I read a lot of books about comics and their history. I read books on how to draw and how to draw cartoons. My favorite books were two by Jack Hamm. Drawing the Head and Figure and Cartooning the Head and Figure published by Grosset & Dunlap in 1963 and 1967 respectively. These books are so great they are still published today by Perigee Books. Get them if you can.

 I considered myself self-taught and I was constantly on the prowl for more material to learn from. Unfortunately, there were no books that I found that actually taught how to make comics.


In 1977 Prentice-Hall published The Complete Book of Cartooning by John Adkins Richardson. My world had changed. The secrets to making comics were out of the bag and brilliantly collected in just over 250 pages of lavishly illustrated, intelligently composed and detailed instructions. More important to me was that this book paid specific attention to creating comics for reproduction.

The publisher in me was percolating. 

Though the production information in this book is completely outdated today, all of the other content is a must read for anyone interested in creating comics. Copies can be found online. Trust me, if you have not read it, it belongs in your library! 

I tell my children to constantly be aware of and use all resources to achieve the most success. When I was coming up there was no internet with a seemingly infinite knowledge base as there is today. I had to search for information in strange and unusual places. Sometimes the knowledge found me. 


In the summer of 1979, the year I graduated high school, I opened my mailbox and found a magazine that had been placed there by my next door neighbor. It was an old copy of Free Enterprise “The Magazine That Makes You Money” originally published in April 1978. The cover featured Poster King Ted Trikilis who had cashed in by selling the famous Farrah Fawcett poster. 


Inside, however, was my gold-mine. A comic feature titled How to Start a Comic Book Empire by Don Rico who had received an Inkpot award in 1976 at the still young San Diego Comic Con. 

The comic adventure of Captain Free Enterprise chronicled the hero showing an aspiring entrepreneur how to publish comics detailing how to buy art, manage expenses, sell advertising, print and distribute product. 


Following the comic were two articles, Big Boom in Adult Comics by Len Andrews and Best Buys in Comic Collectibles by Cara Greenberg. Both gave a stunning outsiders view of the early days of the Direct Market. 


All three features are posted here for historic reference. 

The Publishing Monkey in me was bouncing off the walls! 

I quickly called two of my friends who were also aspiring comic creators, Vince Argondezzi and Phil LaSorda. Both of them had graduated the year before. We got together and laid out a plan. We had a distinct advantage over the business model that Captain Free Enterprise described. We would create our own art, eliminating half of the expenses he outlined. 

Comico the Comic Company was conceived. 

I spent the rest of that summer cavorting around comic conventions in my Thing costume as seen in the wildly popular film that we posted here on CO2 Comics. Those conventions represented a lot of networking, education and maturing. Comico was a solid idea that would require a lot of nurturing, planning, and development especially since the three original partners were all now enrolled in separate colleges. 

Notice in the Captain Free Enterprise story he is seen flying into the San Diego Comic-Con International were many of you are this week 32 years later! While you are out there, look for CO2 Comics contributors Raine Szramski and Mitch O’Connell, also keep an eye out for all CO2 Comics updates

Captain Enterprise descends on The San Diego Comic Con

Making comics because we want to! 

Gerry Giovinco

© 2009-2018 CO2 COMICS All Rights Reserved. All other material © their respective creators & companies