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Tom Brevoort interview, from Comic Book Marketplace #86, October 2001, concerning the Masterworks production process:

In terms of challenges, these days the biggest challenge is finding the materials! As Marvel went through lean times in the middle 90's, upkeep on our reproduction warehouse wasn't always a high priority. So, you get stories that were sent out overseas to be reprinted in foreign editions...that never make made their way back. Or stories would make their way back and they wouldn't be filed back into their appropriate slot in the warehouse, they'd just be in a stack somewhere. That was always a problem (doing) the Masterworks to a degree, but now even more so. So really, the biggest challenge is finding workable copies of these stories to be able to print in this form.

One of the first choices you've got to make is what book you are going to do. And that's usually determined by weighing a number of factors: What material is the best? What stories are the best? What's been collected in another format any time recently? What characters are more popular? What media projects might there come about that might give a boost to a particular volume? All of these various factors come into play as you're figuring this stuff out, and then you settle on whatever you think is the best choice.

So for the sake of argument, let's go with...FF #51-60 and Annual 4. At that point, I contact Marvel's reproduction department in Yuma, Arizona, and I say "OK, I need black and white stats for (these books.) With Masterworks, everything gets recolored. We don't use existing old film, or the old dot screens. We recolor and re-sep everything. These days, I use the original book as the guide. So we try to match the original coloring, just with better separations and a slightly wider ranging palette.

So I put in my request to the repro department and they go through the warehouse and they find whatever they can find. And sometimes they find everything, and sometimes they find assorted bits and pieces, and sometimes, they find nothing. I also have lists of reprints. I'm pretty good, off the top of my head, at being able to say "If you can't find FF#51, it was reprinted in Marvel's Greatest Comics #35, so see if you can find me that. It was also reprinted in the Marvel: Five Fabulous Decades book, so let's see if we got stuff on that. And it was also reprinted in The Very Best Of Marvel Comics in 1991, so let's see if we have that." I'm looking to find- where it is possible- good, strong, crisp copies in black and white of all these pages.

So we get the materials in, and then, if there are pages that either we still have nothing on, which has been the case a couple of times, or that are just not very good because- particularly in reprint books- the stats that were shot in the 60's and 70's to reprint this stuff were often pretty muddy, and lettering closed up, and they were just kind of ugly. The other place I avail myself of is actually the fan and original art community..... I put the word out through a couple of places- the Jack Kirby mailing list, and some folks, like Richard Howell, that I know- and say, "I'm looking for pages in black and white of this. So if you either own any of the art and want to donate copies, or you have black and white foreign reprints in English, I need copies of this stuff. And you'll get special thanks in the book." And, usually, a bunch of people will step up if they've got stuff, and get me good, crisp copies of any of those pages.

If I'm still missing stuff at that stage, then you get into the toughest aspect, which is taking printed copies of the original books and scanning them, and filtering out the color to the point where you can get a good, crisp black and white (image to work with.) Sort of the electronic version of what Greg Theakston does. And depending on the circumstances, I might call Greg to help with some of this stuff so, again, you get the best possible black and white plate that you can of any of these given stories. In most cases, it doesn't require going that far. The very first time I've ever had to electroically restore anything was the Thor volume this year (#111-120.) Otherwise, there was some stuff I had to do back in the early 90's volumes, but everything else has been availbale in one form or another.

From that point, with a good copy of the black plate of any given story, I pick the best version. So if I have a copy of the page from the stats of FF#51, and the stats of Marvel's Greatest #35, and somebody happened to send me in a copy from the original art, I pick the best version. Usually, if I've got a copy from the original art, that's the best one. If not, usually it's the first printing. At that point, it's scanned and set up as a computer template, and that file, along with a color copy from the original book, goes out to a separator to be separated. We get the color separations in as a proof, and I go over it, comparing it to the original page, and making corrections, and fixing mistakes and so forth.

At the same time, I'm usually calling Stan or somebody else to do an introduction, if there are enough pages for it. And, depending on the amount of pages I have, versus the amount of pages in the signatures-because, as with all books, we're required to print in signatures of 16 pages-so, every once in a while, I have a couple pages left over in the end. I look around for any odds and end that would make good supplemental material, whether it's covers that were unused, or design sheets, or pin-ups, or whatever it is that would provide some additional added value to the package. And I get my hands on those, and those get scanned.

Finally, once everything is colored, and sepped, and we've dropped in the appropriate covers to the cover template, and changed the type and proofread everything, and so forth, it all goes out to Hong Kong to be printed, and bound, and shipped. And then it arrives at a store near you.

And that's pretty much the process in a nutshell....it's not that difficult if you can keep track of this stuff, and if you've got a working knowledge of where a given story will be found.

---from Comic Book Marketplace #86, October 2001

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