Best way to organize a bilingual comic book
December 20, 2014 3:43 PM   Subscribe

I am trying to write a memoir comic book about my time in Cairo, Egypt. I'm in the very beginning planning stages, and am trying to figure out the best way to make both an English and Arabic version. I'm planning on drawing the comic by hand on paper and using water color (here is a preliminary version of the first page to give an idea of what the comic will look like), but I would appreciate advise on how to set myself up so that I can easily add the text in another language at a later stage. More questions inside?

What would be good software to use for adding Arabic text in digitally? I have access to quality scanners.

Would it be best to avoid ANY writing by hand, and to do both the English and Arabic writing digitally after scanning? How can I set the pages up in a natural looking way where it will be fairly simple to plug in text? My skills are rudimentary and I don't plan my pages out as much as I should, so this seems like a good opportunity to really set up the panels before hand so they can be worked with in a different language later.

I suppose this question boils down to: How do comics get translated into different languages without it looking like someone just took a bottle of white out over the text?

Hope that makes sense! Still trying to figure out what exactly I want.
posted by Corduroy to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: To be clear, I want to make an English and an Arabic version. The English one might have some Arabic in it as well (to clear up any confusion from the use of 'bilingual' in the title).
posted by Corduroy at 3:45 PM on December 20, 2014

Best answer: Technical specifics aside, one thing you would be wise to do is leave plenty of space in captions and word balloons. I'm not that familiar with Arabic but there will surely be times when the best translation would take up more space than the English, and you don't want your translators to have to choose a slightly worse translation just because the balloon is too small. (Good translators will of course handle this somehow, but it still makes their job harder and possibly makes the end result less close to the original than it would otherwise have been.) Sorry if this is obvious but a lot of people overlook it!
posted by No-sword at 4:21 PM on December 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Qahera is a good example of an Arabic/English comic. She does two things:

1. No speech bubbles, just white space with text near the speaker.

2. Because the languages flow in different directions, so do the panels (and in a book, the pages). English will flow like:
And Arabic like:
This may limit your layout options a bit more than usual.

Drop her a line, she's great with questions on her Tumblr.
posted by heatherann at 4:35 PM on December 20, 2014

Response by poster: True, I forgot about panel direction. It makes certain things very tricky, such as adding Arabic writing to street and business signs because, if I just flip the page, thr Arabic will also suddenly be backwards. Thanks heatherann, I will definitely reach out to the Qahira creator!
posted by Corduroy at 5:44 PM on December 20, 2014

Best answer: I take it the actual publishing will be done with computers? If so, I would recommend filling the page with art, and then having a separate layer that holds the text and blank space for the text. That way, you can move the text areas, change their size, and change the language much easier than if you were to do it at the drawing stage. Also, if you move the text around there won't be the problem of filling in any art after the fact.
posted by Gneisskate at 7:51 PM on December 20, 2014

Response by poster: Yes, Gneisskate, all just on computer. So you are suggesting just drawing the pages out fully with a general understanding that word boxes will be floating somewhere above the page eventually? That seems like the simplest solution, and maybe nice little background calligraphic store signs will have to be done some other way later...
posted by Corduroy at 10:22 PM on December 20, 2014

Exactly! And the store signs can be done in much the same way. Draw them in with the rest of the art, and then add the text via computer. I use Adobe Illustrator for this kind of thing, but there are many programs out there.
posted by Gneisskate at 10:37 PM on December 20, 2014

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