Tuesday, July 24, 2007

How FutureQuake gets done

First off I need to say that FQ is not a one-man operation, but is a team comprising of myself, Richmond Clements and Mark Woodland. If I say ‘I’ during this it is because I am only writing about how I do my share of the work.

The best place to start is with the arrival of A SCRIPT!

Scripts almost always arrive by email these days, (in fact I’ve only ever had one batch of scripts arrive by post, and despite liking one of them I never heard again after asking for an email copy) so it is quite quick for a script to be received and logged into the first of the folders I use for organising myself- The RAW SCRIPTS file.

Depending on how many scripts are floating around this file can vary dramatically, in fact until we recently closed to subs we were getting more scripts each week than we could reasonable keep up with and have any time to read. Scripts are read in order of receipt, as I don’t like having anyone jump the queue so it can take quite a while for scripts to get read. However, once the script has been read by all three of us we will decide on the next step- either modifications or the script goes into the regular SCRIPTS file. There to lie in wait for an unwary artist to accept. At this point the script makes its first appearance on a spreadsheet- the imaginatively titled FQP PROGRESS spreadsheet. Carrying details of Writer, Title, pagecount, artist, letterer, status and note (which is normally a one-line description of the plot). This spreadsheet is my main record of the strip other than the strip Email, but that hasn’t been generated yet.

The next stage for a strip is to find someone to draw it. We’ve been VERY lucky here at FQP to have worked with some amazing artists, both pro and small press, and so I’ve got a rather useful database of who has got what script and what strips they have drawn for us in the past. This lets me see who is working on something and who is possibly available for work for us. I’ll also get art submissions every so often, and quite a few of the artists I like most have arrived that way. Anyhow- If, once the script is accepted, there is an artist free that would be suitable for the strip, I’ll ask them if they like it. If they turn it down then the script will go back into files to wait for a suitable artist. I try not to just give an artist any old script- as I want to get the best standard of work I can.

Once a script is accepted by an artist I’ll send out a proper commissioning Email to both creators, detailing when the deadline is, and any other bits of information that may be relevant to the script. This is also where I outline the conditions we use for printing the strip, as FQP only have rights to the first appearance of the strip- the actual work belongs to the creators. At This point I’ll also update my PROGRESS sheet with the artist details so that I can easily see who I am hassling for news as deadline approaches.

Then it is all down to waiting…. And more waiting.

Once a strip arrives, It will be formatted for the page space and lettered ready. A set of pages will be sent in a web friendly format for spell checking and a final once over before being logged into the last of my spreadsheets- the COMPLETED STRIP sheet (dead imaginative, me) This sheet will also remind me which comic this strip is being placed in.

Apart from the strips, the main thing to do for FQ is the cover. FQ has been lucky enough to have some astoundingly good covers over the years, but I am always aware that the cover has to be the main focus of attention when displayed. Sometimes an artist will come to us about the cover, but more often we will approach an artist specifically. Once we have an artist we send them some scripts that are due to appear in that issue in the hope that one of them will provide suitable inspiration for a cover image. Once that is sorted I know which strip is going to be opening the issue. We also like to have a single page strip on the back cover- which is a nice opportunity for us as it is the only strip that will get to be in colour that issue.

As I said, the first slot in each issue is the cover strip, so the last is normally saved for the continuing adventures of Neroy Sphinx- our only continuing strip.

The organising of strips for FQ is now largely a rolling process. The first strips to be placed in an issue are those that arrived too late for the deadline for the previous issue, those strips are locked in place. Newer strips are logged onto a spreadsheet that is set to calculate running page totals and has formatting to allow me to actually layout the comic for the printers. Normally I will find that once the deadline comes round I’ll have too many strips for the issue, so I have to do some apologising and pruning. The criteria I try to follow then is to see if any off the writers or artists have multiple works in the comic, and then it comes simply down to which ones fit the pages best and deliver the strongest balance of tales in the pages available. Any that don’t make it are automatically guaranteed to be in the next issue.

Once I have the available strips sorted I organise the last two pages to be sorted, the inside front and back. Usually the inside back is given over to short bios of all the creators involved and the inside front is for any news or interesting stuff we want to rattle on about.

Then the comic is assembled in InDesign (a lovely program) and packaged for the printers. We use a printer that is local to myself, where I am able to get small print runs done at short notice to keep my stocks of comics to a manageable level and reduce the amount of funds needed to be locked away in stock.

Then we sell them and it all starts again. As of the time I am writing this we are gathering strips for issue 09 of FutureQuake, the cover is done, and we have enough strip commissioned to fill two issues. I’ve also just organised the cover for issue 10, which is not due to see print till Spring 2008.


PJ Holden said...

Blimey, the world of small press sounds a lot more rigerous than it was in my day!

Bolt-01 said...

Nah- I'm just very organised, probably too organised. I imagine that this is the sort os Stomm that Tharg has to deal with all the time- and then he's got a new comic every week!