This month's AKIRA issue #14 released in the US by EPIC and collected in OORU KARAA KOKUSAI BAN AKIRA 5 (オールカラー国際版 AKIRA 5), includes a two page article on the making of the colored version of AKIRA.
THE MAKING OF AKIRA THE EPIC COMIC PART II - SCRIPTING
The scripting of the Epic version of Akira requires a detailed translation and westernization process involving approval by two separate companies and a number of individuals.
Epic Comics first receives the English translation of Akira in volumes, each of the five Japanese volumes is 280 to 400 pages each. Epic is sent the translations of the volumes one at a time, as each is completed. Kodansha's translators. Yoko Umezawa and Linda M. York translate the Japanese to literal, straightforward English. The Kodansha volumes have been divided into 64-page Epic editions by former Akira editor Archie Goodwin. Each edition's translation, a long with a copy of t he issue's artwork is then sent to Jo Duffy.
Jo Duffy then "Americanizes" the script. The direct literal translation is often stiff and the flow of the script , although fine in Japanese changes entirely when translated.
"An idea that takes three words in Japanese," says Duffy "may take 10 or 20 words in English.
"Also because of the length of the Epic issues characters must be re-introduced every 64 pages. American readers should be able to pick up any issue of t he series and identify the main characters within the first few pages.
Duffy completes the script with careful attention to the onomatopoeia of sound effects and an even flow of language. She tries to Americanize Akira without taking away from the Japanese elements.
Using her script, Duffy then marks the places on the artwork where the word balloons should go. The script is sent to the Epic offices where editor Margaret Clark checks it before sending to the staff of Kodansha in Tokyo for approval. Epic receives the Duffy script back from Kodansha, complete with changes and corrections. The complete script, along with the balloon placements is then sent to Michael Higgins for lettering. Higgins draws in new balloons according to the balloon placements he receives from Duffy, and then letters all of the balloons as indicated by the script. Akira is unlike most comics in that some word balloons already exist, and he must draw the new balloons to fit with those drawn by Otomo.
"lt's a question of balancing the American balloons with the Japanese," he says.
After Higgins returns the lettering to Epic, the lettering and the proofs of the original artwork (see article in Akira #13 on "mirror proofs") go into the Marvel "Bullpen" for production. The Bullpenners carefully cut out the word balloons and paste them to the artwork according to Jo Duffy's balloon placements. A copy of the finished artwork with word balloons is then sent once again, to Kodansha for corrections.
The copy is returned to Epic with corrections. Common problems include word balloon pointers that indicate that the wrong character is speaking, incorrect words or letters, and the occasional word balloon that should have been filled in with artwork before the proofs were made. Periodically, we encounter problems involving reversal, meaning that during the process of making "mirror proofs", a panel or part of a panel was reversed when it should not have been. Finally, when all of the corrections have been made and the staffs of Epic Comics and Kodansha, are satisfied, the black and white artwork is sent to Steve Oliff and Olyoptics for the coloring process.