By the mid-1980s, the comic book business was changing drastically. What had for fifty years been a product printed on cheap newsprint on old letterpresses was becoming something far more upscale. Better grades of paper and state-of-the-art offset printing were going from an oddity of the market to the norm. We joked, in fact, that the industry had finally entered the 20th century. It was only a matter of time before the color separations would have to follow.
Each year at DC, department heads were required to present a list of goals they hoped to achieve in the coming months. By 1988, my quest “to find a way to do color separations on computer” had become something of a running gag. Each year I would list it and each year Jenette Kahn and Paul Levitz would nod and smile and call me Don Quixote.
In fact, I had spent a lot of time over the preceding few years meeting with computer hardware companies and computer software companies, explaining what I wanted and what I needed. Invariably, they would look at the comic book artwork and assure me their product could do the job “if you can just get your artists to close up all the gaps / get rid of all the dots / use thicker lines / etc.”
My response was always the same: Our artists are not going to change the way they work. I need a system that will work with what I have.
Enter Grafascan, an Irish company that had been doing traditional color separations for many years. Founded by Gerard Malone Sr., the company was looking for ways to expand as most of his seven children joined the business. I met with David and Gerard Jr. early in my quest, gave them copies of artwork and color guides, and sent them on their way to see what they could do. Like so many other people I’d spoken to, they went away assuring me they would be back with something… and then I didn’t hear from them again.
Until early in 1988, when David showed up in my office with some sample pages they’d done. They had solved the problem of the gaps. They had solved the problem of the dots. They had solved the problem of the thin lines. In short, they had come up with something that worked.
David invited me to come to Dublin to see the setup and use the system firsthand, which I did. Despite the fact that my body clock was all messed up by the six hour time difference, I spent much of my three days there using their machine. (Amusingly, it was sitting alone in the middle of an incredibly large and quite empty room – which David assured me would be filled with more computers as soon as they were able to start doing actual work.) I was thrilled with what it could do.
I went back to DC and told Paul and Jenette that we had a potential supplier. Paul’s response was, “You just had a nice vacation in Ireland. You’d probably say anything.”
Faced with this less than enthusiastic response, David arranged to have the system shipped to New York so it could be demonstrated for the DC staff. He got space at the Irish Trade Board, invited everyone from DC who was interested to come see it, and even arranged for a reporter from PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY to come by.
Dick Giordano was impressed. Joe Orlando was impressed. The editors, artists, colorists, and production folks who saw it were impressed. Even Paul and Jenette were impressed. It was the first step down a road that would change the look of comic books forever.
[One amusing sidelight: The laudatory article in PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY about the system and its potential use in the comics industry raised a few hackles in the DC offices. Every quote in it seemed to be mine… even ones I knew were comments from Jenette Kahn, Joe Orlando and Richard Bruning. Someone later pointed out that mine was the only name the reporter had written down, presumably because he’d need to know the spelling later on.]
Coming in the next “chapter”: Some incredibly prescient remarks from a 1988 radio interview.
This is the first part of a three-part theme…
1. Each time Robby Reed dialed, he became a different hero; what hero did he become first?
2. An “unofficial” Challenger was a relative of one of the original four; who is it?
3. Steel was the name of what cowboy outlaw’s horse?
4. This World War I American flying ace once fought Germans over Long Island Sound; name him.
5. In the 50s, Cap was revived in YOUNG MEN; what was the original title of that magazine?
6. She was discovered living inside the sunken U.S.S. Arabesque; who is she?
7. Elroy is whose son?
8. Atlantis’ Prince Namor was created by whom?
9. Singing about Superman with Lois Lane led to who getting his own DC book?
10. Transformed in the Bloodlines Era, who did Father Dennison become?
BOBRO’S FUN FACTS TO KNOW & TELL:
1. The lifespan of a taste bud is ten days.
2. Each king in a deck of playing cards represents a great king from history. Spades – King David, Clubs – Alexander the Great, Hearts – Charlemagne, and Diamonds – Julius Caesar.
3. The average person falls asleep in seven minutes.
CONVENTION ALERT: I’ll be one of the guests at UTICON at Mohawk Valley Community College in Utica, NY on Sunday, September 24th from 10:00 a.m. till 4:00 p.m. This is a great little show with lots of guests (Joe Staton, Roger Stern, and Todd DeZago were among last year’s attendees) and lots of reasonably-priced comics stuff. Plus: a truckload of door prizes, including items from my own Cabinet of Goofy Stuff! Join us!
FROM THE EMAILBOX:
How much did a vista card cost in 1988?
? Declan Malone [firstname.lastname@example.org]
A lot more than it would cost today! The vista card was one of the key components in the computer system Grafascan out together to do comic book separations. Declan, by the way, is the third of the Malone brothers and the one who ultimately took charge of their comic seps operation.
What happened to Ripclaw in CYBERFORCE that he has metal razor blades? How did his arms look before whatever happened to him?
? Ricardo Zea [email@example.com]
Sorry, I’m going to have to plead ignorance about the characters in this Mark Silvestri series. Any of you readers have an answer for Ricardo?
Were the on-again/off-again powers in the ADVENTURE COMICS exploits of Supergirl based on someone Mike Sekowsky knew who had Multiple Sclerosis? Some of the scientist’s words to Supergirl about the condition were identical to what my neurologist told me about MS.
? Bobb Waller [firstname.lastname@example.org]
It’s quite possible that Mike used information about MS, a disease of the central nervous system in which symptoms come and go, as the basis for Supergirl’s “diagnosis.” Unfortunately, he’s not around to ask.
I picked up the Millennium edition of PLOP #1. The cover notes mention DC’s Comicmobile, driven by one Bob Rozakis. Any anecdotes you could share about driving the Comicmobile that you can share?
? Ed Coyote [email@example.com]
I discussed many of my adventures driving the Comicmobile early this year in the column I did for Comic Book Life. But I’m sure there are more of them to talk about, so I’m adding a note to my list of upcoming column titles.
By having their questions used in this column, Ed, Bobb, Ricardo, and Declan (although I’d hope the publishers he works with are sending him copies of the books for free) earn an extra 10% off anything they purchase from Comics Unlimited through Silver Bullet Comics. You can save yourself some bucks too by submitting your question using the box on the left.
That’s all for this installment. See you next week.
2. Red’s brother
3. Kid Colt
4. Phantom Eagle
5. Cowboy Romances
7. George and Jane Jetson
8. Bill Everett
9. Pat Boone
10. Cardinal Sin
Want more trivia? Check out the Daily Anything Goes Trivia at www.wfcomics.com/trivia
Copyright ? 2000 to 2003 by Bob Rozakis. All Rights Reserved.