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Talking to Kathryn Symes, ‘2000AD’s’ ‘Reprographics Droid’

Prog 44, now with pin-sharp Kev O'Neill art

Prog 44, now with pin-sharp Kev O’Neill art

In comics, just as in television or film, there are countless unsung production staff tirelessly toiling to keep us entertained. To use a sporting analogy, working in the reprographics department of a comic publisher is the goalkeeper’s job: You rarely get the praise for keeping a clean sheet, but you’re the first one to get the blame if it all goes wrong. Meanwhile, the writers and the artists are at the other end, scoring all the goals, and getting all the glory.

Doing this often-thankless task in the skeleton crew that produces 2000AD is Kathryn “Kat” Symes. One thing the small backroom staff at their Oxford, England, base are known to do very well these days is manage the amazing back-catalog of material the title has accrued during its 35 years of continuous publication. If you’re a seasoned 2000AD spotter, you’ll have noticed how they’ve been reprinting a lot of strips from the early 1990s recently, a time sometimes known as “2000AD‘s brown period.” It was an era when a post-Bisley trend for painted artwork coincided with too-absorbent paper stock, and a steep learning curve for the staff as it settled in to being a full-color magazine after years of primarily black and white, which led to an awful lot of muddy-looking comics.

Symes seems to be on a single-handed quest to redeem an era of neglected comics through her work. In this interview with ROBOT 6, she gives a tremendous insight into what now goes on behind the scenes in bringing a comic to print, and provides some great examples of how her nuts-and-bolts work with scanners and image manipulation software can breath new life into the old, the faded and the damaged material in 2000AD‘s archives.

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