Not too long ago I was one of many respondents to someone on a Webcomic Creators’ group who was interested in starting a webcomic and wanted advice from the veterans on possible pitfalls to watch out for.
Well, of course one of the responses was about making backup copies of your work. Almost goes without saying, right? Even if you physically draw your pages first and then scan them for upload, it’s good to have those digital copies preserved in a few different places to minimize any problems. If (heavens forbid) your house burns down, you’ve at least still got those Dropbox/Carbonite/etc. images. Hopefully in high resolution form.
But now, expand on that. What about the various promotional materials you’ve put together for websites or print? What about your tax documents? Your sales spreadsheets? All these are things that would be a serious bummer to lose, and if you’ve put together your operation over the years as piecemeal as we have, you may not have them all as consolidated as they perhaps should be. We still make the effort to ensure they’re preserved as much as the artwork is, and I would venture to say people by and large would still think of doing it.
And then again in our almost five years of production, there’s another matter that I never hear webcomic people talk about. It might be because it’s not as universal an issue as having good site navigation.
It’s about fonts. Ever heard the expression where someone’s a “font of wisdom”? Let’s talk some hard-learned wisdom of fonts.
Now first of all, if you hand letter your comics, this advice is completely irrelevant. But if you use any kind of digital lettering, even if you make your own fonts to use — in fact especially if you make your own — then every font you ever used in your comic’s production ought to be on the backup list along with everything else. You never know when you might need it again.
Seriously. You might be of the thought when a page is done, it’s done, but at least in our case, we’ve gone back and revisited old pages many times. Even if you never plan to change the lettering in any way, you might want to reuse a certain style of sound effect for consistency. You might be wanting to reuse part of a page as an advertisement.
This might also be a moot point if you’re flattening all your originals, but I really don’t recommend that. One of the whole points of going digital is being able to maintain the flexibility of a layered page. But the terrible thing is to go back to one of those pages with that font you really liked, and as it’s loading you get the pop-up that one or more of the fonts are missing. Where did you get them from originally? Even if you remember that much, is that site still there? Are the fonts still available? There could be years in between then and now.
It’s an easy thing to overlook, and I’m saying that because it’s a thing we overlooked. It’s only just recently, as we’re looking into putting together a trade collection, that I’ve really knuckled down and tried to track and consolidate and preserve all the fonts we’ve ever used. In that five year stretch of time Dawn has changed computers once and reformatted twice, and will soon be changing computers again. It’s my hope that we still have everything. Time will tell, since I have over 200 pages to review.
That brings up another point, which is that we’re not the only “team effort” out there. If you’re a solo act who does everything yourself on a single computer system, keeping track will be much easier than when multiple people with multiple computers are involved. You’ll need to work out a system where those mission critical fonts are kept up to date for everyone, because they don’t travel with the page.
This is not a big deal if you don’t want to edit or warp the text, because the program will usually still preserve it as an image, but for instance on the comic page before the current one Dawn found a new font online to use for the sound effects in the final panel, and while it looked great, I didn’t have it and so when it came time for me to letter and I found a typo I had to call her back to her own system to fix things. It forced me to think how we had never put together a shared repository for such finds where I could just grab the font download, and that that might be something it was high time to change.
Now that’s just two of us working off two computers and it was still a headache. I can’t imagine the headache for someone who has a long-distance letterer on staff and then that letterer quits or goes AWOL along with all the fonts they used. It’s not as big a deal as having to redraw all the art but I imagine that would be a humungous pain in the ass.
So, long story short: keep track of the fonts you use for lettering, keep copies in a folder your whole comics team has easy and immediate access to for installation, and back that folder up along with all your other mission critical data. An easy, simple thing to overlook, but there may come a day that you will feel quite wise for doing so.