As of this writing I’ve posted fifteen hundred comic strips of my “Four Talking Boxes” comic strip. I started posting them back on January first of 2010 and have been posting five of them a week ever since. That’s a solid amount of comic strips and has made me want to release them digitally as a sort-of comic book. It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while now but haven’t quite wanted to put all the work into making it happen. It’s a lot of work.

I actually figured out the format a couple of years ago. I post them on this site as a horizontal comic strip but I don’t like the way that looks on an iPad. Too much wasted space. But when I first came up with the idea for this comic I decided to make all four panels the same size so I could reformat the strip into a vertical rectangle. The first two panels would be on top and the final two on the bottom. Of course, that meant reformatting all the comics. Reformatting so many things means a lot more work.

Luckily for present me the past me figured out just what to do to reformat the horizontal strips to vertical and saved it all as an action (a macro) in Photoshop. That means all I have to do is open the horizontal strip in Photoshop, hit a button, watch as the action runs to reformat the strip, and then type the strip’s number on it (the one thing I couldn’t automate). I don’t even remember what all the steps in the formatting are so it’s a good thing it’s all saved for me. It still takes time to do all that but considerably less time than if most of it wasn’t automated.

What really takes a lot of time is proofreading the strips. It’s always tough to proofread yourself even though I do it a few times before I post the strip. First I write a strip, second I proofread it, third I proofread it a few weeks later when I make the art, and fourth I proofread it the day it posts on this site. You think that would be enough but it wasn’t. Especially for the early strips that I did back in 2010.

In the beginning of the strip I was still figuring things out. It took me a while to learn how I wanted to do my lettering. I use a font that my friend and comic book letterer Dave Sharpe made but how I wanted the balloons to look and the lettering to stack is what I had to figure out. That took time. There are certain things I needed to learn to get to look right. Since a word balloon is a horizontal ellipse I want the top and bottom sentences to be the shortest with the middle ones being the longest. This sounds easy enough but unless you’re really paying close attention it doesn’t happen. And I wasn’t paying close enough attention in the beginning. I get it right seventy five percent of the time but there was always a couple of balloons that were off per strip in my early ones.

It also took me a while to catch on the the fact that I didn’t want any dangling I’s. That’s when the capital letter I appears by itself at the end of a line. It doesn’t look right. It throws off the balance of a balloon. I’d heard of that before and knew I should get rid of them but it take a while to notice them in practice. Now I eliminate all dangling I’s as a matter of course but back in the first couple of hundred strips I had quite a few of them.

Reading the early comic strips was quite a chore in itself. The strip has always been about conversation but the conversation didn’t flow in the beginning like it does now. It’s just different. It took me a while to catch on to that and not let it bother me. I did end up changing a word or two here and there but nothing too drastic. Sometimes I saw a clumsy turn of phrase that I couldn’t let stand but most of the time things were okay.

After I had all the corrections made I had to remake all the files that I had made lone ago. I needed a new gif file for the website. As long as I was making these corrections I may as well post them in place of the old ones. Then I needed a tif file for the book that is going to be turned into a digital book. That’s the main one that I make the vertical jpeg and gif files from. Making the tif file took the longest as that is the one I use the reformatting action on. The other two types I easily make with another action that re-saves them in the jpeg or gif format.

Here is a tip for you. A Zippo lighter is good for holding down the return key. My “Four Talking Boxes” strip is initially made in Illustrator but all the reformatting of size is done in Photoshop. So I drop the files on the Photoshop icon but before Photoshop opens them I have to make sure the parameters are correct and hit the return key. That means I have to hit the return key for every file. If I’m opening twenty five of them at once I place the lighter on the return key and it holds it down for me and therefor presses return each time. Some low-tech automation for you.

It took a remarkably long time to get these done. I’m up to the first two hundred strips so far but I want to do another fifty more for the first issue. It took all of Saturday morning, about four hours, to get the first hundred finished. I had changes on nearly every single one go them. I expected to have changes on maybe ten to twenty percent of them, after all I had proofread them many times, but it ended up being more like ninety percent. That’s a bit underestimation of time. Ah well, no one else if gonna do it.