The Making of Wondermark, Part III


The strip is complete, but before it goes out into the world, it must be approved by the Distribution Chief.  It’s Chief’s job to know how the strip will play in various markets.  Some strips are held back in various regions; others have alternate wording substituted to avoid (or correctly translate) regional slurs.

About 25% of all completed strips are outright rejected at this stage, whether due to Standards & Practices violations (the infamous “commythumpers” episode) or the fact that their moment has simply past (recently, an entire Yasser Arafat story arc was scrapped at the last moment at great expense to the company).

Once approved, the finished strip is taken to a studio and photographed with a medium-format lithography camera using Kodak 120 ISO high-resolution color film.  One print is sent to Marketing, while the negative is scanned at 9600 dpi with an Agfa scanner for archival purposes.  Dust on the scanner lens is our constant nemesis.

The original illustration board is now carefully antiqued.  A full three-sevenths of Wondermark’s charm is its ‘vintage’ look, and that’s thanks to a team of freelance antiquers who are brought in to age the illustration board.  Using authentic 19th-century engraving tools and patinas, they brush and carve the board to resemble a Victorian woodcut engraving.  The lettering, safe on the acetate overlay, is unaffected by the antiquing.

Detail: panel before antiquing

this was funnier back when the comics on the main page were all lo-res and pixely
Detail: panel after antiquing

This painstaking process normally takes around six weeks.


The antiquing process culminates in the board being allowed to age in a cool, dark cellar for up to six weeks.  Once completely cured, the piece undergoes digital compression that results in the carefully-modulated pixeling that is Wondermark’s unique stylistic fingerprint.

This comprehensive process coalesces into a final product that is surely the best in every respect.  The diversity of voices, each with their own insistence on meaningless revisions and belief in the inerrant supremacy of focus-grouped pabulum, combine to produce a comic strip that is equally appealing to everyone, everywhere:

see, bonus comics!  who loves ya
The final product, after testing-driven revisions (click for bigger)

This time-tested process is what produces all of the top-notch comic-strippery that fills two hilarious pages in the newspapers each day.  The only difference is that Wondermark’s creator is still alive.

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