I hope you all had a great holiday season.
I just got back from the arctic, i.e. Minnesota, to find a fax from Dave regarding the almost-ready-to-go High Society. In the fax, Dave proposed the (radical?) notion of, for the first time since their initial publication, changing the trim sizes on High Society to squeeze a larger image out of the paper size we have to work with. Here's what he had to say--
So first off, as far as enlargement goes, the files as we currently have them can be enlarged much further than that without any issues, one of the many advantages of working at a higher resolution. So it's really just a question of balancing the various aesthetic considerations verses the practical ones.
Dave's follow-up fax mentioned one of those potential practical problems--
So here's the issue-- without affecting the size of the book, and thus the cost and overall consistency of the series, we have some space to enlarge the artwork in this High Society edition, and in the other books going forward. Dave is specifically looking for AMOC readers to give their input on this.
There are more things to consider here than you might imagine.
First off, there's the matter of why the gutter space was expanded in the first place. If you take out a copy of the monthly Cerebus book you'll notice that the margins are much tighter than the collections-- there a 1/2" margin on every side of the artwork. The trades have a 3/4" margin on the sides.
I personally think that the 1/2" margin of the monthly issues look much more elegant than the imho too wide margins of the trades. But there's a practical reason to keep a wider margin on the interior of the trades-- in a larger book, it helps offset the problem of the artwork being obscured/lost in the gutters of the book.
The Akira editions put out by Dark Horse in the 1990s are a good example of the "Classic comic book" Cerebus trim size being applied to a long book. At 394 pages a book, they can't compare to, say, Church and State, but the gutters give you a good idea of what you're losing applying that interior margin to a larger book. I'd consider 1/2" on the interior margin to be the outside edge of possibility, from a readability perspective.
Akira Volume 3, which has a paper size and trim almost identical to the monthly Cerebus issues-- 1/2" trim on all sides, with slightly more at the bottom, to account for the less tall artwork size. Notice with the 1/2" gutter how close the two facing pages are to each other-- on pages closest to the center of the book, the 1/2" of space is easily eaten up by the fold of the book.
However! There's no reason that the interior margin has to match the outer margin, especially with the more extreme sizes Dave is suggesting above. What would it look like to have a 1/4" margin on the outside and top, and a 1/2" margin on the interior, with the bottom taking up the slack?
Bang's prepress guidelines specify a gutter margin minimum of 3/16", which is even smaller than the 4/16" Dave is proposing above. But you rarely see margins this narrow, possibly for historic reasons, but also because, as Dave mentioned above, any little variance in the trim is then more visible than it would be under other circumstances. In other words, if the trim is 1/16" too tight in, you're unlikely to notice that with 12/16" margins, but the narrower the intended margin, the more visible the error.
I went on a little reconnaissance mission on my bookshelf, and then at the local Barnes and Noble, to get an idea of typical trim sizes on graphic novels. 1/2" (8/16") seems pretty standard, at least among my collection, and I've found plenty of instances of 3/4" (12/16") and a few narrower margins as well. Notably, the collected edition of Box Office Poison, which also uses the trick I'm suggesting above, of keeping the interior gutters wider to prevent losing the image in the gutter.
Heart of Thomas. 6/16" gutter on outside, slightly larger on top and bottom, and 8/16" (1/2") gutter on interior, in order to lose less artwork to the center fold.
Above is a photo of Heart of Thomas, which uses 6/16" on the exterior and 8/16" on the interior margin. This is proportionally the closest I've found to what I'm suggesting. I also saw at least one example that was tighter than the proportion Dave suggests above-- 4/16". This was on the exquisitely reproduced Attack on Titan: Colossal Edition. I wish I had my ruler with me when I was browsing this one in the store. Once again, tighter trim on the outside gutter, looser on the interior gutter.
Here's a random spread for the book, as it currently exists. There is a gutter of 1/2" (8/16") on the top and bottom of the artwork, though the bottom one floats a bit on some pages. The side margins are both a very generous 3/4" (12/16").
Way back in August I faxed Dave a proposal to redesign the trades, so that the "Legacy" editions could have new clothes to suit their new interiors. My original proposal to him in that fax involved a tighter trim margin that preserved the original monthly book's proportions. Here's what that would look like, without resizing, just tightening the outside margin to 1/2" (8/16")leaving the interior as-is, at the more generous 3/4" (12/16") size--
The same size image, with tighter trim on the exterior gutter. Now all of the gutter space is visually the same size, when taking into account the amount of paper visually absorbed by the interior gutter.
This is probably where I would go with this, were I to redesign the books from scratch, along with a cardboard casing that was larger than the interior pages. Of course, as I'm sure Dave will point out, it would surely bug completists who would want all of their books in the series to be the same size. So let's table that idea for the moment and see how much more room we can get through expansion, while leaving the paper the same size--
And now we get an inkling of what the real issue is here-- proportion. Here is the same sized paper, with the margins significantly moved in, to 6/16" on the outer, and almost that same size on the top and bottom. For all that effort we've only gained a 4 percent size increase-- here the pages are now 104 percent of their previous size, and our page numbers are now dangerously close to the edge of the safety zone-- it's possible that they'd have their bottoms trimmed off accidentally. Now, this size increase is more dramatic in print than on paper, but 104 percent is still fairly modest.
Okay, well, what if we went with the very narrow margin Dave was suggesting, and dropped the page numbers? Where would we be then?
Even then we're still constrained by the proportions. This is at 104.75 percent. You can see that the interior gutter has actually grown here as I'm struggling to make the image area larger while still maintaining the relationship between the top, bottom and exterior margins.
So, where does that leave us?
I personally think the only way to expand the image while keeping the current proportions would be to drop the page numbers, or shrink them and move them to another place on the page. Even then, the size gain would bring us to about 105 percent, max, of the current size.
As Dave requested, I'm throwing this out to you all for comment, and evaluation. I'm sure it's clear by now how much Dave values everyone's input. If there's something that you'd like to see, or any questions you'd like answered, please let us both know in the comments!
Happy holidays to you all!
Edit: Jan 1
I just realized that I didn't explain why the 1/2" gutter margin works on the Heart of Thomas book but not the Akira book. That's because of the binding. Akira is "perfect bound" like the Cerebus volumes, i.e. signatured glued together. This eats up a lot more image in the gutter than a case-bound book like Heart of Thomas, which will easily sit open on any given spread. This is certainly the direction I'd go with future Cerebus volumes, if that option were available.