San Diego ComicCon

San Diego Comic-Con, image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Growing up in Sioux City, Iowa, Jeff Twohig was a fan of comic books. Years later, in his mid forties, he revisited his youthful passion, attending the 2008 Comic-Con comic books convention in San Diego.

“I was very interested in the creators, and I talked to a lot of them about their projects,” Twohig said. Several expressed frustration that they weren’t displaying their latest works because the printing took too long. Twohig, a digital print specialist at Lithexcel Marketing Services Provider, Albuquerque, N.M., told them, much to their surprise, “We could turn it in two to three days.” It turns out most comic creators weren’t aware of the powers of their own local printers.

Recognizing a disconnect, Twohig sent an email to the conference organizers—and they invited him to submit a proposal for a panel discussion at the next year’s conference. He’d never given a public presentation before, but he pursued it, earned a spot and pulled together a panel from contacts he made in San Diego, including luminaries such as Glyph Award winner, Robert Roach.

Jeff Twohig Comic-Con

Twohig, second from right, during panel session

“When I got there, a big line stretched down the hallway and around the corner, and I figured it was for the presentation next door,” Twohig said. “So I asked some people to step aside because I had to get into the Small Print 101 panel discussion, and they said, ‘This is the line for Small Print 101.’”

Three hundred eager listeners filled the room for that first panel. Since then, Twohig has led dozens of panels at comics and sci-fi conventions across the United States, for audiences that often reach 500 and 600. “Print customers are not really up on everything going on in the industry and the technology and how much headway has been made,” he said. “We can make the creators’ jobs so much easier.”

Building Digital Print Awareness

Twohig was equally unaware of the advances in print technology when he left his career running a restaurant and bar in 1998 to become a digital press operator at House of Graphics in South Sioux City, Neb. “They sent me to Boston for a month of training on Indigo presses with all the engineers and R&D there in the building,” Twohig said. “It was mind-blowing.”

In 2004, he moved to Albuquerque to be closer to family members and soon landed a position with Lithexcel, first running Indigo presses, then Xerox® iGen3® Digital Production Presses (since upgraded to a Xerox® iGen® 5 Press and a Xerox® iGen® 150 Press).

His comics conventions evangelism is not part of his job, but something he enjoys doing, blending avocation and vocation. “The best thing about conventions is I always come back energized,” he said. “The fandom and amount of energy at conventions is amazing.”

That fandom feeds attendance at his panels, which usually include well-known artists. Twohig’s part is to explain the benefits of on-demand printing. “When most people hear ‘print on demand’ they think, ‘Oh, I can print that on my desktop printer,’” he said. “But when you go to a professional printer, the quality is going to be mind-blowing. We get amazing colors, especially with the iGen 5 and its gamut extension colors.”

At his conference presentations, Twohig offers tips on file preparation, calibrating monitors for accurate color, and testing files by running them at a copy shop before submitting them. And while he has landed work for Lithexcel through the panels, he takes an evangelical stance, encouraging artists to use their local printers—and for convention host city printers to promote their services to creators at conventions.

Twohig sees plenty of opportunities for local printers to get involved. When asked for recommendations on what his fellow printers should be doing, he suggests:

  • Go to shows and local events. “Visit a small show nearby and see what they are producing. Remember, the exhibitors are your demand specifiers. By talking with them and understanding their goals and challenges, you might come up with ideas for their marketing plan.”
  • Have fun and relish the opportunity. “There are no “gatekeepers”, so take full advantage of the opportunity. You are talking to business owners from the time you are at their table.”
  • Consider an open house. “We have hosted open houses and offered invites to folks we’ve met at these events. It’s a great mutual opportunity for both parties. They have a chance to see what our shop offers and get answers to any questions they may have. It’s through this networking that strong relationships have blossomed.”
  • Preach how print is not dead. “Print is evolving, just like all technologies we use. As providers of printing services, we need to re-imagine the role print can play and the projects we provide.”

Many Ways to Tell a Story

Twohig is involved in a number of related projects and volunteer activities, as well. They include the 7000 BC Group, which supports comic book artists and writers; and The Project Pinball Charity, which places pinball machines in children’s hospitals. He’s also an active podcaster and has dabbled in video.

“I love the idea of people getting the chance to create,” Twohig said. “We live in a crazy world, and everybody has a story to tell. People need to know that there are options out there to spread their message and share their work. One way is on-demand printing, and it’s not going to break the bank.”