Creator Confessions: A Problem Of Page Counts

by Frank Martin

As a writer of both novels and comics, Comicon contributor Frank Martin has a lot to say about the process of making fiction a reality. In Creator Confessions, he offers some of the discoveries he’s made in bring a story from initial idea to a complete, published reality.

It’s weird the things comic creators have to concern themselves with that the average comic reader might not even know about. One example is the amount of thought that goes into how long a comic should be. Not the story, mind you. I’m talking about the actual book itself.

One of those weird quirks of printing floppy comics: the interior pages have to be divisible by four. The reason for this is that the four comic pages you’re reading in a book are actually one single sheet of paper. When the paper is bent into the number of “pages” in the finished book, you always get a multiple of four.
That doesn’t mean the pages of actual story have to be divisible by four. A story can be however many pages you want it to be. But the remaining pages have to be made up of something else. This is where back matter comes in. It could take the form of additional story content like character bios and maps or a pinup/cover gallery. Some creators use this as an opportunity to sell ad space.
This might sound simple, but it requires a fair amount of planning. I’ll give you an example: Let’s say your story is exactly twenty pages long. Great. It’s divisible by four. But that means the final page of story will be opposite the back inside cover. And that’s it. Book’s over. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of that. I like to include a sort of buffer at the end of my books; a cool down page or two that the reader has to go through before flipping the back cover.
Now, let’s say my book is twenty-three pages. That means the story ends on a right-sided page. The reader will flip it over and have one interior page before the inside back cover. Now, it’s just a question of what to put on that extra interior page. In this particular case, I have some extra story material I want to include. But there’s too much of it; it actually takes up two pages rather than just one. Now I have twenty five pages of total content. But that’s not divisible by four. So I have to find some other way to include three more pages.
Is this some big time-consuming problem creators have? No. Not really. And coming up with creative ways to take advantage of those extra pages is part of the fun of creating comics. But it is just one more thing creators have to worry about when their plate is already full with everything else.

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