The final couple weeks of May were largely devoted to Black Rose – specifically, to putting the first collected book together and getting it off to the printer. Though it seems like that would be a simple job (just gathering up all six issues into one document), we did a lot of additional work to really make this volume shine: a new cover, a revised map, seven additional pages of story, and tiny edits throughout.
Aaron came up with a new illustration for the cover that really does a great job of encapsulating our protagonists and their role in the story. It can be difficult to condense a long story with a sizeable cast into just one image, and I think keeping the focus on just our two main characters works very well.
We added seven new pages throughout the book, expanding on moments that could benefit from additional art or story. The primary addition was a new four-page introductory sequence that better establishes the world and its underlying conflicts.
One of the challenges I faced in designing the book was how to incorporate the full-color covers to each issue. If you’re not aware, color printing is much more expensive than black and white, and the only way to print just a few color pages was to stick them in the middle of the book (which would be very distracting to the story). However, simply grayscaling the existing color covers made them look, well, like color covers that had been grayscaled.
The solution I eventually settled on was using just the inked linework from each cover, with some of Aaron’s ink washes in the background to add depth. This way, they more closely matched the rest of the interior art and didn’t disrupt the flow of the story, functioning instead as chapter intro pages.
Another design dilemma was what to do with the few one-page gaps between our irregular-length issues. The simple solution (and a common practice in comic book collections) was to use a few images from our ample stash of concept art.
We recently ordered a second print run of the book, for which I wound up going back and making another round of revisions. This time, my focus was on pulling some of our word bubbles away from the central gutter of the book. I hadn’t accounted for this when originally lettering our issues (they’re saddle-stitched, and have no gutter to speak of), and found that while none of our word bubbles were unreadable, repositioning a few here and there would definitely improve things for the perfect-bound collected volume.
Our map was another item in need of revisions. We had planned out the map way back for our very first issue, but the Black Rose world has continued to evolve since then, so a few locations needed to be renamed, added, or repositioned. The map is also printed much larger in the book than it was previously, which necessitated some tweaking from a design perspective.
The books were printed by Rink Printing in South Bend, Indiana, and we cannot recommend Rink’s services highly enough. Their print quality is spectacular, even though the books were run on a digital press as opposed to offset. The paper stock we used (something very important to me, as a designer!) is a great 70# matte that gives the book a more premium feel than many mainstream graphic novels. In fact, our 164-page book is as thick as a 220-page volume from Dark Horse! You can feel the difference just by holding it and flipping the pages.
The back cover continues the black bar from the front, with an illustration of Arion and Aliyana facing an Athelican city and their own uncertain future.
All in all, this book represents a huge time investment and accomplishment for all three of us, and we couldn’t be happier with it. If you’d like a copy to call your own, you can pick up the book direct from us in our online store.
Big things are ahead for Black Rose! Aaron has been hard at work on Issue #7 — the first issue in our second arc — as Chris and I continue to refine the rest of Arc 2’s scripts. We just got back from our second Ash Con of the year, and are gearing up for the Cincinnati Comic Expo later this month. We’d love to see you there!