I found some more examples of production proofs. Since proofs are rarely made anymore, they are becoming collectors items. And they may have details about the creation of books of interest to collectors. If you are a collector, you want to know what you are buying. Here are some details to look for.

A DISTANT SOIL black and white comics and graphic novels received blue line proofs like the one at top left, ending with all works published after 2003. No more than a few of these were made for any of my comics or graphic novels. A couple of the graphic novels had one or two sets made per printing. The publisher and I both got copies. I sold a number of them, some of them I gave as gifts. I still have others. Some are available on the open market. There are no A Distant Soil proofs of my black and white comics that do not look like this (EDIT: to be precise, A DISTANT SOIL 1-35 all look like this. I double checked my files and we began getting digital files and other forms of proofs after issue 35. I believe my last couple of issues and the previous GN’s had only digital proofs. So, you’re looking at the twilight of the blueline there in that pic. I can’t believe it, I haven’t gotten a blueline in over ten years. Wow, seems like only yesterday…)

On the top right, the final printed work. The blue line and the final printed work would be about the same size, though the proof might be slightly larger before final crop. As you can see in the lower right cover of the blue line, the job number is clearly marked.

On the bottom tier, you see the full color press proofs for the graphic novel ORBITER written by Warren Ellis and published by Vertigo, with art by me and colors by Dave Stewart. I have the complete proof for this book.

Pages are unbound (they are also unbound in the blue line proofs) and printed so that page numbers (pictured on the proof but cropped out in the final print run) will fall correctly when the signatures of the book are folded and bound in half. If you actually have a proof in your hand, many of the pages will appear out of order, but would be in order in the final binding process.

In the margins you see color bar, registration marks, and light blue crop marks as well as the job number printed down the middle of this page. This job number does not appear on all pages.

Proofs vary, but these are the kind of production details to look for to see if you are buying an actual proof. This proof was printed on the paper the publisher used for the final work. Some proofs are not. Some are printed on heavy photo paper.

If pages had actually been used in the production process, proofs might be marked for corrections. These marks might be in grease pencil or marker. Mistakes on the negatives, such as hairs, blotches, and fingerprints would be noted and sent back to press for redo. If it was sent back to the publisher, it was rare for the proof to get back to the artist before computer communication. So, many artists don’t have their proofs. The final, corrected proof is what most artists might have on hand.

You are more likely to find these marks on older books: books published after 2000 would be less likely to get marked up this way. They’d be corrected digitally. My Orbiter proof has no corrections on the pages. If I had any, I probably made them by slapping a post it note on the page, and then emailing my comments to the editor.

Remember, the definition of proof is PROOF. The pages are PROOF of the quality of the work. PROOF of the work made ready to go to final press. The whole point of a proof is to prove to the client the printer is doing their job, to prove to the creator the publisher is doing their job, to catch mistakes before the work is printed.

Proofing was an expensive and time-consuming process. In the days of lithography, it was an essential step. Many works printed today never get a press proof.

Hope this helps.