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Erfworld Turns 4, and a Relettering Demo

Today is December 7, 2010. It's Pearl Harbor Day, Parson Gotti's birthday, and Erfworld's anniversary. On this date in 2006, we debuted at Rich Burlew's legendary Giant in the Playground Games with a chunk of the opening six pages of Erfworld Book 1, The Battle for Gobwin Knob.

Now it's 4 years later. Erfworld is here at its own site, with 300,000 or so readers, and more than a thousand supporters in the Toolbox. Jamie has moved on, but Xin is carrying the story forward with epic talent. And we are finally, finally getting Book 1 to print. (There's just about a week left to take advantage of the pre-order price of $20 and get your holiday gift card, and/or to become a Tool and get $50 store credit.)

I just want to mark the day by thanking everyone who has read and supported Erfworld so far. Maybe this isn't exactly where I expected we'd be on our 4th anniversary, but in a lot of ways it's better than I had hoped. Erfworld has an amazingly thoughtful and classy readership, and I would put you guys up against the audience of any other webcomic. Maybe in a pie fight or something. Key lime, of course.

And I thought you might be interested in seeing why the book has taken so long. I've mentioned a few times that I have had to reletter the entire 150 pages, plus the 5 bonus pages. The reason is that Erfworld was originally lettered for web. You might remember what it did to the servers when there were two comics running there. The image files needed to be as small as possible, so we lettered for legibility at web resolution.

This created two problems. One was that the balloons blocked out a lot of Jamie's art. Lettering Book 1 originally was full of heartbreaks and compromises, in terms of what I had to cover up with words. It's one of the reasons I made it so you can see the Book 2 archives without speech balloons on

The other problem was that when you blow up an original Book 1 page to print resolution at 8 1/2 by 11 inches, it looks like it has elephantiasis of the speech bubbles.

Relettering these pages has been an absolute grind. There are thousands and thousands of decisions that have to be made on every page, and it's painful. Pixels matter, in the width and position of every balloon. Try it there, read the panel, pull back and read the page...then move it 9 pixels down and 6 to the left and do the same...

I can only do so much of it at one time before I start losing my mind. I had Team Erfworld stars Kiki and Mal help me as much as they could, and they both did excellent work with crude resizing and balloon replacement. But lettering the comic is part of the writing process. Only the author can really judge the timing and composition of the words in the panel, to see if they're working. I couldn't hand this off to anyone, for the same reason nobody else could write Erfworld. It has to flow, to work with the art, to be just so. I can't live with it otherwise, so it was on me.

But I'd like to show you the work. Here is a web-lettered page and a book-lettered page, at 1200 px wide (click to blow them up). The resolution in the print format will actually be about three times these. I wanted the book to be beautiful, better than the webcomic version. I really think it will be, and that this has been worth 300 pretty painful hours of my time. Hope you think so too.

Original lettering:

Extra crispy:

Anyway, thanks everybody. Thank you for staying with us and spending some of your life with Erfworld. The best stuff and many more anniversaries are still to come.

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