28 December 2008

Not “Not Goofing Off!”

Last December I posted this image, taken from an online preview of the first issue of the comic-book miniseries Teen Titans Year One. The script is by Amy Wolfram, the art by Karl Kerschl.
That issue and the five that followed have now been collected in a paperback. But not every detail made it into that edition.

Robin's agitated speech balloon in the picture disappeared between the preview and the paperback. Twenty years ago, the likely explanation would have been that a balloon pasted onto the artwork at the last minute had fallen off on the way to the printer. But with the technology of that time, there was also no easy way to make one of Robin's words to appear in red.

These days, comics are assembled on computers. That makes lettering and coloring much more flexible. It also turns editing, moving, or removing an element inserted by the letterer a simple matter of finding the right level in the Photoshop file. So this was a deliberate change.

What could have been the reason? Kerschl's art makes clear that Robin is startled by Batman's comment, so a red-letter speech isn't necessary to show his emotional state. Still, he does have his mouth open. I suspect the explanation lies in how Robin doesn't talk back to Batman like this in the rest of the miniseries (more's the pity). Wolfram and her editors may have decided that even though there was enough space on the page for this balloon, it no longer fit the story.

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