Four Questions with John Layman

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Four Questions with John Layman
1. Please tell us a little about yourself.

Hi, My name is John Layman. I am from the West Coast in the US. Over the last few years I have been all around... California, Washington. I am currently based in Phoenix, Arizona. I broke into the comic book industry in 1995-96. I first worked as an assistant editor, then an editor for Wildstorm, a branch of DC Comics. 2002 onwards I have been working as a writer first for Marvel and now for DC Comics.

2. In the nearly two decades since you have been working, how has technology in the comic book business changed?

In the olden days of being a comic book editor, things were done on film. We had to print out four sheets of film - CMYK. Then we had to output the film and save the sheets on a Mac. The process is called trapping and it took 20 minutes to do a page. We would get all the films together, put it in a box and then race against time to find a FedEx to overnight it to a printer.

Now it's all done at the press of a button or the click of a mouse. Like back then, artists would first send the pages and then we would scan them and save them, now it is all done via email. Now we don't even trap a page any more. Technology has gotten better so we can just upload the pages directly to the printer. You can work with a colourist in Ireland, an artist in England and a letterer in Canada, and then put together a comic book without even seeing everyone except of course staying in touch through email and instant messaging and its all done through the Internet.

Now, it still takes an artist a day to do a page. I mean that hasn't changed. It depends on tuning and fine tuning the artwork, but what has changed is the printing and the production time. Ideally now a comic is done in less than a month's time. It's much more faster and easier now. Just that you are not racing to FedEx sending boxes full of prints and films to the printers but now it's become all digital. It is easier on all the parties involved.

3. What is the technology setup that you use now, and how much have the tools impacted your work and helped improve your performance?

Well, I not only write and letter, but also do the production of the books I use Microsoft Word (Office For Mac) - the 2010 edition. I use a 17" MacBook Pro from 2012. I use Adobe Photoshop CC, Adobe Illustrator CC, and InDesign CS3. I use them because they are cheaper. Newer versions tend to get more expensive and also it takes a long time to get familiarised with [them]. You really don't need the most current equipment and software to even do comic books. You can do your animation on the Mac or PC and it is really cheap and easy. I don't use an iPad to do my work but my artists use a lot of digital equipment. For instance my Batman artist works completely on Wacom tablets and doesn't work with pencil or inks. My artist who works on Chew (Layman's own comic) uses pencils and inks, because he can then even sell the individual prints as art. I also use an iPhone 4, which I recently upgraded to iOS 7. I use it usually for my instant messages and emails.

4. What would be your next upgrade, and on a similar note, what is your dream setup?

Artists need stronger stuff for big files. Because I do production I don't really need heavy duty hardware. But for me now the [next] upgrade will be the latest Mac, whichever one, comes out into the market. On a completely different note, I know it is time to really upgrade the old devices to a newer setup, but [that] is still sometime away. The current setup is serving my needs pretty well so I will change devices in a couple of months, perhaps. A dream setup would involve me having a new souped up 17-inch MacBook Pro, completely loaded with the tools of my trade, every year. I mean every year in January, a brand new MacBook Pro.

Software wise I am good right now with [what] I have. I don't really want new software because if I do get new software, I have to learn them and that takes a long time.

Four Questions is a NDTV Gadgets feature that takes a look at technology and it's impact on professionals from all walks of life.


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