Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Restoration Bulletin-- High Society Trim Size Suggestions

Greetings everyone!

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.

Okay, so how does this play out in the current decision?

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.


Anonymous said...

I'm thinking the last one. I like the outer gutters the thinnest and the most space on the interior gutters. All the work you guys put in , I would think the bigger the image the better (what about a Marvel treasury sized edition?).It's also a pain to read when you do not want to push down on the phone book to read the inner portion of the page. Not having the numbered pages does not bother me.

Here's a question that nobody has thought of. How will the new books smell when printed? I LOVE the way Preney Print & Litho books smelled!

Sean, those images of the printed pages look awesome! Happy New Year to you and Mara ... and everyone elsereading this.

Michael Ragiel

KevinR said...

If I'm following, right now the margins on the roughly 9x6 art are: 1/2" top, 1/2" bottom (incl page number), 3/4" outer, 3/4" inner.

To maintain aspect ratio, the top/bottom change needs to be 150% of the left/right change. That is, reducing the outer margin by 1/4" to 'only' 1/2" requires cutting the top and bottom by 3/8" to something like 1/4" and 3/8". And that only increases the image area by about 1/4" on 6", or 4%.

If you want the outer and top to match and be no wider than the bottom, too bad. You can't do it without going much larger. Or, putting some of the outer margin to the inside.

So, two suggestions:
* top 1/4", bottom 3/16" numbered, outer 1/2", inner 3/4". 4% bigger, but outer may be noticeably wider.
* top 1/4", bottom 3/16" numbered, outer 1/4", inner 1". 4% bigger, but inner margin might be getting wide for two-page spreads.

I think numbers are valuable, both for noting my place and for reference purposes. I'm less sure that 4% is worth changing the margins.

Anonymous said...

The bottom one looks best to me as well, at least as far as I can tell from a flat computer screen.

I think the best options are either the original way the books are printed, or your approach at the bottom.

What you have at bottom effectively creates a white border around the frames that feels like it holds the individual frames together. That effect is gone when the white space is expanded and it just looks like margins again. The smaller margins could look really sleek and seems to tighten up the look of the page, but as you point out, any unevenness will be more noticeable, so it could be riskier.

However, I just flipped through my Church & State Volume I (Eighth Edition) and have to say that the large margins look good. They create breathing room. They don't distract from the artwork. The artwork does not get eaten up by the fold of the book; although it gets tight at some points.

But overall, I have never noticed the margin spacing in any of the trades, or been distracted in any way by it, so it seems to be working pretty well as is.

So, my vote is an equal one for either the original margin size or the bottom one you have created, provided that the outside margin can be made to look even.

- Reginald P.

Michael Grabowski said...

Something to consider for the sake of consistency with other volumes is how changing the interior margins will alter any double-page spreads. You neither want to lose the adjoining art nor see any gap between the halves.

John Mosher said...

I don't have any of the trades as I much prefer to read each issue. However, since I reread High Society more than any of the others I am planning to pick up one of the new ones.

My big gripe with any trade is what gets lost in the center gutter. I like the look of the last one as it gives us the max image size and nothing gets lost. If page numbers is an actual debate, I personally don't need them, but I can see where they would be useful to others, so my suggestion would be go with the last option and move the page numbers to the center.

John Mosher

donal fallon said...

Any of these versions will be great. Keeping to the original dimensions is perfect if that saves time, slightly larger is beautiful if you have the time to spare... the page numbers can easily be removed or put to the inner footer area.

I just wanted to say that although I've been following along the whole time, the reproduction of the cleaned up 2-page spread here was the first time it really hit me viscerally how gorgeous this is going to be. So I'm not really adding anything constructive, just back slapping. But back slapping is deserved.

Sean R said...

Thanks for the great comments everyone. Keep them coming please!

I wanted to say, especially in light of some of the very helpful comments above, that a lot of these decisions are interactions with the current materials. Just posted this update to the initial post that will hopefully make it clear an instance of that interaction--

"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."

Hey Michael-- in regard to the spreads-- Church and State I and II are the only ones I've examined so far for this, but many (all?) of those spreads were actually designed with the monthly book margins in mind. If you take a look, you'll notice that they "shrink in" to the center of the book. So the double page spreads, in my estimation, are really an argument for a 1/2" gutter and case bound book.

iestyn said...

I'm going to say - I would always favour a case bound book, it makes the reading experience that much easier and better.

I find that the perfect bound books crack on the spines very easily and chip very easily. I also find that holding them open is a much harder thing to do, eventually it's just too tiring on the hand!!

The other thing that I think about is the use for these books - I know my local library (Brighton UK!!) had the whole collection of Cerebus trades, but this has slowly been eroded due to the spines wearing out.

Commercially - I also think it is important to consider the impact of what you are trying to achieve, if this is to be the 'perfect' edition, then I think you should be going with something that has more longevity and which rewards those individuals re-buying these trades with more than an improved image - providing an improved package.

I guess it comes down to what you see as of value here.

Aesthetically - I'm always a little disappointed that the pages sit in isolation to each other in trades - I know everyone sees the discreet unit in a comic as a page, but I always think of it as the spread. I also think a double page could be given closer internal margins to make it match together, where as something like the landscape pages in some issues can sit in much wider margins. I'd even say there's room for full page bleeds, as we see in the Heart of Thomas example - but I bet I'm in a minority on that one!!!

I think, in the end, I'm saying there is some call to reconsider the package as a whole - the quality of the item on sale - to reflect the improved aesthetic. I think considering page layouts that are variable and suited to pushing forward the impact of the story and reading experience is the way to go. I will always, personally, favour having a thin margin between pages because it maintains the double page unit - but I suspect I'm in the minority on this.

iestyn said...

Sorry I was so rambling by the way

iestyn said...

Oh - and page numbers - definitely page numbers - looks much more like a unified whole.

iestyn said...

Am I also allowed to make a more radical suggestion - as well as standard editions - issue limited numbers of Archival editions with analysis and historical content from critics to provide context to the work as a whole.

I think some kind of archival version would be great - examining the comics market place in terms of content and production - why were the phonebooks such a break through, etc.

The controversy over Dave's views, as shown in articles published at the time.


Jeff Seiler said...

Having read all of this and the (aardvark) comments, I agree that the last example is the most aesthetically pleasing.



You still out there?

Remember what happened with your 2-page spread in CRIC4(#right?)

In the centerfold?

Of course, that issue was, what? 20 pages?

Still, Tim, take a look at it or similar exemplars, and I think you will see that the centerfold margins are the most important. All of the other 6 margins, on a 2-page spread are peanuts, compared to the fold.

Jeff Seiler said...

Btw, just to be a pain in the ass, at which I am so adept (just ask Dave) what about the pages, wherever they occured, when Dave used ribbon borders instead of "flat" or "straight" ones?

Could that affect new margins/gutters?;

Sean R said...

Hey iestyn,

Thanks for the great comments. Not rambling at all!

I'm with you on the case bound, but it's not in the cards for this edition, as it's already been solicited with the current price, and the casing would add some money per book to the production cost. Ditto your idea of a second edition-- there's a very strong economic argument against having dual editions, mainly the cost of keeping all of them in print simultaneously. I think if casebound editions or any really different changes in the format were to happen, it would have to happen as a replacement to the current editions. I think those of us who would prefer a redesign (I'm including myself and you in this) would probably be best off sending Dave comparable books in the mail, making a mockup, or even getting together an informal list of preorders. With the new printer we're working with, we can do web offset work with only 500 minimums. So, conceivably, if 500 fans wanted something badly enough, and were willing to pay for it and preorder it ahead of time...

Sean R said...

Hey Jeff,

As far as I've seen so far, though I haven't studied all of the books as of yet with an eye for this, most of the pages stay within the same aspect for the majority of the time, except for the pages that were intended to be full bleed (i.e. travel off the paper) in the monthly book. Of course, with the current margins, those pages aren't full bleed in the trades... Another argument for tighter trim sizes, imho...

Sean R said...

Carl had this to say via email--

"With respect to your question about High Society trim size... If you can give me Moar Biggerest Artwork! for the same price, and without making the print fall into the gutter between pages, go for it. I have no problem with moving page numbers (or even *gasp* deleting them entirely.)"