In the Limelight

As Gemstone Publishing has recently announced which artists will be gracing the cover of The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide #49 with their work, we thought it was a great time for a deep dive into the processes behind the book. Gemstone Creative Director Mark Huesman is one of the most important driving forces behind the Guide, so we sat down with him to discuss how his career working on the book has evolved over the years.

Scoop: First, tell our readers what you do for the Price Guide.
Mark Huesman (MH): My duties for the Guide are numerous. I’m the Creative Director, Pricing Coordinator, and Production Coordinator. I’m the custodian of the layout files, so all the content changes from year to year go through my computer. Throughout the year, I order from Diamond the new comics that will end up in the listings. When they arrive, I scan the interesting covers (750-850 per year) to help fill the three cover spaces atop the pricing pages. I add the information of the new comics to the listings and update any information on first appearances or notable creators that have suddenly become relevant. I type in all the price changes from Bob Overstreet and replace the 2,000-plus cover images atop the pages. Aside from the pricing sections, I also edit and reformat the market reports, Hall of Fame sections, and design and format the article text and design the cover logos and interior graphics. I compile the Top 100/Top 10 lists, Key Sales. I place all the ads into the book’s layout files as well. I design new ads if needed, or update older ads. I prepare the pages and covers into the proper format for the printer and handle all of the uploads to the printer’s website. I do the final proofread on every page and I’m the last person to inspect and sign off on every page of the Guide before it’s printed. The upcoming 49th edition will be my 22nd total and 10th as creative director/designer/production guy.

Scoop: What is your favorite aspect of this edition of the Guide?
MH: With any Guide, the best part will be the dinner after the last keystroke has been made and after 11 months of work, the Guide is in the printers hands. Following a few vacation days, I’ll convert files to Big, Big Guide format (a four-day process), then I start preparing layout files for the next edition (the monumental 50th) and the cycle begins again.

Scoop: With the volume of new comics that release every year, have you had to adapt or change your process over the years to accommodate?
MH: The new comics add about 16-17 pages to the listings each year. It helps that the Guide doesn’t include all the variant covers. The Guide would grow by 100-plus pages yearly if that was the case. It would be nice if Marvel stopped with the constant #1 relaunches and renumbering… and don’t get me started on the 20-plus recent Cerebus one-shots, each with different titles.

Scoop: The Guide is such an immense book, so from a design standpoint, how do you keep it reader-friendly?
MH: Short and simple answer. I avoid outlandish fonts and make the type size larger rather than smaller. It would be nice to make every article page as elaborate as a Jimi Hendrix concert poster, but I can't spend that much time considering all the other tasks I handle on this book.

Scoop: Besides the pricing, what other worthwhile material can readers expect to find in this year’s edition?
MH: There’s a nice selection of articles marking some notable anniversaries. 1939 and 1959 were near the beginnings of the Gold and Silver Ages, respectively, so some prominent characters debuted, characters well known today.

Scoop: Did anything surprise you with regards to this yearcs market reports?
MH: There were lots of comments about the contents of Batman: Damned #1, with plenty of puns about the exposure of Batman’s “little crime-fighter.” There was plenty of commentary about the successful movies like Black Panther and Wonder Woman driving the market. Buyers weren’t showing the same enthusiasm for the Shazam! titles, but now that the movie is out and it’s really well done, perhaps those old Whiz issues will start generating some heat. Finally, there were lots of tributes to Stan Lee, and how he meant more to these Overstreet advisors than you’d expect.

Scoop: Each year, creators are added to the Overstreet Hall of Fame. What are some factors that determine induction?
MH: We all lobby for our personal favorites and those go on the short list. When we read through old comics, we may notice that a creator has been unfairly overlooked. We also take requests from our readers. With a little deliberation, the inductees are selected.

Scoop: What is your favorite thing about working on the Guide?
The most interesting part of working on the Guide is the process of receiving the cover art and designing the cover logos. I’ve kept the emails from those favorite artists of mine who have provided Guide covers, artists like Adam Hughes, Amanda Conner, Terry Moore, Walt Simonson, and Joe Jusko, as they asked about image sizes and bleed and due dates. I like to say I have “collaborated” with these talented folks...and I like to say “collaborated” out loud, expressively with exaggerated elocution. Once I have their work, I have to decide how to put those words “The Overstreet Comic Book Price Guide” and the edition number in a style that mimics a familiar title logo of the cover subject without being too obvious (like this year’s Firefly cover using the dreaded Papyrus font), but sometimes the font-mimicry is blatantly obvious, like for Rob Liefeld’s recent Deadpool cover. I hope I’ve struck a good balance over the 30-plus covers I’ve designed from the 40th edition to this year’s crop.