Marvel Entertainment, one of the leading comic book and cartoon publishers in the world, has a rich repository of comic books, developed over a 70-year period, with cultural icons like Spider-Man and Captain America as part of its line-up. It has morphed from a comic book publisher into a media empire, with over 5,000 characters featured in an array of media, including movies, video and online.
What this industry corporation needed, however, was the means to manage its ever growing content. Stories created for comic book forms are transformed into various formats, from hard cover books to video for PlayStation Portable devices, and to digital for on-line and iPad viewing.
Seeking a way to manage the contents of its vast library, Marvel Comics turned to Dalim Software’s (Booth 227) suite of products: Mistral, Twist, and Dialogue. Integrated by Blanchard Systems, the software products work in concert to ensure that the production assembly flows smoothly, and that content is correctly processed into the necessary format, and costs are kept in check.
“In the last two years, with all the content being repurposed, there was a desperate need for us to manage the content more efficiently,” says Jim Boyle, vice-president of operations at Marvel Entertainment. “Each format has its own specifications that we have to apply.”
Creating a traditional comic book is a challenging and time-consuming process, says Dan Carr, executive director of publishing technology at Marvel Entertainment. From inception to completion, a typical 22-page comic book can take 18 months to produce. An artist following a script sketches each panel onto an artboard. Once the entire page is approved by an editor, the artboard is sent to an inker. The inker is responsible to lay black over the pencils. The “inked” artboard is then digitized (scanned), cropped and sized correctly for print. These files are sent simultaneously to a colorist and a letterer. The editor, colorist and letterer respectively go through many rounds of corrections, eventually ending up with a final PDF file.
Twist will ingest these PDF files into a workflow. The workflow can include ripping and trapping for direct-to-plate and also outputting to many different file formats. Mistral is where the final layout or pagination of the book takes place. An advertisement is easily inserted between story pages and the book is set for approval. Pages selected for approval from Mistral can show up as monitor-based proofs in Dialogue.
“Each page is approved on screen,” explains Carr. “If you want more detail, you can click on the page and it takes you into Dialogue, which lets you view SWOP certified colors. Our monitors are calibrated so that we don’t require sending any hard copy proofs to our printing plants. We have a completely proof-less workflow that saves us a ton of money.”
In the future, Marvel looks forward to using Dialogue Touch, which will let users participate in complex approval cycles and comment on content and layout of project files from their Apple iPad, Apple iPhone, or Apple iPod Touch, regardless of time zone or geographic location.