Marvel: My Printer, My Enemy

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Or...how bad printing can ruin a good graphic novel.

Marvel's recent focus on publishing more graphic novels is great news for everyone...or is it?

The big problem I'm seeing in recent Marvel graphic novels is bad 'trapping', and bad color registration.

'Trapping' is when the color and the black line art overlap so there is no gap inbetween. When done incorrectly, it leads to awful white lines in and around the printed art.

This is happening at a rapid rate and enough to raise quality control issues.

Recently, I bought the Avengers Forever TPB, $24.95, without flipping through it.

What could go wrong?


Over 40 pages are printed off-register, just enough to alter the artwork.

This could be a widespread problem.

I've looked at different copies, in different stores that arrived months apart.

Some books are OK, some are just spoiled bad.

Not every page is out of register. The misprinted pages can be different from book to book, but they are in the same area of a book.

If you have a copy of Avengers Forever WITHOUT any printing mistakes, then congratulations.

Victims of this printing nightmare I've seen also include: Jim Lee's Heroes Reborn: Fantastic Four; Spider-man: A Day in the Life; and (the absolute worst) Avengers: Ultron Unlimited. The ultra-detailed artwork of George Perez and Al Vey is so out-of-register with extra white lines, it's the first time that artwork physically hurt my eyes to look at it.


This doesn't have to happen with proper quality control.

There is a setting in both Quark Xpress and Adobe Pagemaker that takes care of 'trapping' when outputting the pages to film for the printer. You just need to know what you're doing and what to watch for.

So, you just bought a Marvel Graphic novel with bad printing.

What can you do?

Well, not much; it's buyer beware. All sales final.

Local comics dealer: They might take it back, if he or she wants to keep your business.

Chain store: They will let you exchange it for another copy, but that one could be no better or even worse.

Mail order: You'll get your credit card bill before you get that straightened out.

E-bay: You could sell it, hope you don't get bad feedback on your name.

Buddy, you're stuck; just hope the story is good.

For more information on correctly printing comics:
"Digital Prepress for Comic Books", this book is a good reference used by professionals throughout the industry.

Ron Stallcup, an avid comics and computer collector, has for the past 15 years been working in newsroom graphics departments. He is currently the Graphics Editor at the Pensacola News Journal in Florida and the owner of a bad copy of Avengers Forever.

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