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This past weekend, the Pittsburgh Comicon opened it's doors to fans and professionals alike, and one of the panels that the show sported was wrapped around your favorite book and mine. Featuring artist Pat Olliffe and inker Rob Stull – familiar names to us weekly issue junkies – both were in attendance at this year's convention and each participated in the panel called "52 Pick-Up."
One of the first items of interest during the session was a discussion of the book itself. Several fans were interested to know about the process behind the art of "52," and just how much work was involved in getting each issue out the door. Stull was the voice of experience at this point, as he began working on the series in its earliest stages, inking over the work of artist Eddy Barrows. During those early stages of development, the artists had had plenty of time to get the ball rolling and keep it going, as they were given something like six months advance time to get the issues out the door. With that much lead time, and the ability to hand off work to the next artist in line, Stull explained that the schedule wasn't as horrendous as you might expect, and it was really no different than working on a monthly book.
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It's interesting to note that, little by little, that early lead time Stull mentioned got eaten up, so at the end, the pace had to pick up. However, even with deadlines approaching rapidly, there weren't any panicked phone calls demanding pages or finished work, nor were there any big changes that needed to be made at the last minute. Instead, Olliffe joked that the editors just sounded "really tired."
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On the other hand, some fans wondered about the relationship with the editors and how it could affect the book. Particularly, the fan wondered if either of the professionals had ever offered up creative suggestions for the story itself or suggested any major changes. Olliffe explained that he never saw much of a need to offer up such suggestions. The work was so structured that everyone had a good sense of what was going on, so he felt no need to damage anything by suggesting something drastic that would affect everyone else around him.
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"I'd be able to hear my editor's head pop from my studio at home if I did that," joked Olliffe.
Instead, both professionals were able to make slight modifications to certain panels once the two were able to coordinate with their editors. Both men said they felt comfortable during the process and occasionally called the editors to discuss concerns, but even those calls became less and less as everyone fell into the groove of the series. Stull explained that, as an inker, he usually got the finished product, but his training as an artist helped him out on occasion, allowing him to change some details here and there during the course of his inking process. He particularly noted one issue where Animal Man was drawn with only his jacket and not his costume, which Stull added by freehand. It was this ability that Olliffe praised highly during the panel, as he credited Stull with being able to see where the artist is coming from, rather than just adding inks to the work.
Stull also shared one humorous story stemming from the day he received some pencils on issue #18. During his review of the pages, Stull noticed a particularly explicit sex scene between Renee Montoya and another woman, featuring some things that Stull looked at and thought, "That can't be right." As such, he called his editor up and asked what was going on, which led to the entire page eventually being scrapped, though that was, thankfully, the rarest kind of change ever needed.
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Artist Ron Frenz of Marvel's "Amazing Spider-Girl" joined in the panel near the close to heckle his good friend Olliffe. When Frenz asked the two professionals how "52" ends this week, adding jokes about Lois Lane's rumored death in childbirth and the like (all reportedly picked up "on the net") Olliffe answered him straight-faced.
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