Midnight Sun on ComicsWorthReading

Johanna Draper Carlson has posted a great review of Midnight Sun over at ComicsWorthReading.com, Midnight Sun – Recommended.  Among other things, she mentions the book’s trim size:

Plus, the package is well-chosen. It’s a squarer book than typical, making for a compact volume that feels great in the hand and suits the rectangular panels and straightforward presentation. No fancy layouts here, just good storytelling.

The book is indeed squarer than the standard comic book page-shape, and it’s something that necessitated a bit of extra consideration both with the original comic book issues (which retained the “standard” comic book shape and therefore had areas of blank space above and below each page of art) and with the final book form which is shaped to accommodate the unusual page dimensions.  Despite both SLG  and me having to devote some extra thought to the book production-wise, I’m really happy with the way the final book turned out.  Here’s the item itself:


So, though, why the odd page shape in the first place?

Most comic books (for reasons dating back to how large sheets of  newsprint could be folded and trimmed most efficiently) have a page shape that’s roughly 2:3.  Comic books are printed at about 9 inches tall by 6 inches wide, and therefore most cartoonists working slightly larger than final printed size will work on a 10 x 15 inch page area.

While I understand the convenience factor for retailers, who have displays designed specifically to accommodate this shape and size of book, I’ve frankly always bristled a bit at this adherence to these strict page parameters.  At the very least, the idea that one should work on a 10 x 15 inch (as opposed to some other 2:3 ratio size) page is somewhat arbitrary, being based on a reduced bristol board size imposed by comic book publishers trying to save money on paper back in the day when artist would be issued bristol board by the publisher he or she worked for.

Anyway, my first book was called Farewell, Georgia, and in it I stuck to a self-imposed nine panel grid shape format.  What I found from working on that book, though, was that I frequently struggled with panel shapes that seemed too tall and skinny to work compositionally.  When I gave a pre-release version of the book to my friend Ted Stearn and asked him to critique it, he noted as well that I tended to “stack” things into the bottom of panels, at the expense of potentially more interesting compositions that lead the reader’s eye through the panel.  With that confirming what I already suspected, I vowed that for my next book-length work I’d let the demands of the story dictate the page shape, not the other way around… and I’m really happy with the way it turned out.

An added feature of the odd trim size is that if you buy the book and don’t like it, it makes a great drink coaster!

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