Incoming: AMERICA’S BEST COMICS ARTIST’S EDITION

Images © IDW & DC.

What a cool thing arrived on this stormy day from my former editor Scott Dunbier! It was great fun revisiting some of the wonderful art I got to work with on the ABC books, and viewing some in versions I never saw. Unfortunately the Tom Strong art by Chris Sprouse and the Top 10 art by Gene Ha does not have my lettering, as in those cases it was done separately, but many of the other stories do. And then there’s the excellent work of Kevin Nowlan on Jack B. Quick that I never saw until it was printed because Kevin did his own lettering.

The complete art for PROMETHEA #10 is here, and looks wonderful.

Several hilarious and manic Splash Brannigan stories by Hilary Barta are here…

…as well as several Jonni Future stories by the amazing Arthur Adams. What a treat it was to letter all those! And let’s not forget the writers, Alan Moore and Steve Moore (on Jonni), who gave me the best words to work with.

This is a great thing. Thank you, Scott Dunbier!

New Computer Follow-up Notes

As I began work with the new computer and software, here are some things that caught my attention. First up I did some corrections and final files on a previously lettered book for DC.

In Illustrator CC I had all my palettes and tools set up the way I wanted them and it was working great. Then, out of curiosity, I clicked on the pull-down menu at upper right to see what it would do, and I think chose Layout. All my setup was gone! I was horrified, it took me at least an hour to set up. Then I tried a few more items, and when I hit Essentials, my setup was back. Whew! I get it now, different setups for different types of jobs, but I will stick with my familiar layout. I made it a custom layout by saving and naming it Todd’s Layout.

One thing I had to do (and often do) is delete the layout or pencils and replace with inked art, once that’s given to me. About half the pages on this job needed that. The new Place command protocol made it much easier and quicker. You get a tiny thumbnail of the art attached to your cursor, you drag it to the anchor point where you want the upper left corner of the art to be placed, and click. Hit the mark exactly every time. (This only works if you have a template with guides set up at original art size and the art matches it.) Later I found the placement was slightly off on occasion, so I do still have to check it, but the new Place protocol is definitely better.

In Creative Suite 5, when I saved a file, the icon in the tab changed from grayed back to full colors, an easy way to know I had saved the file. (Sometimes I get distracted and am not sure…) At first I thought there was no corresponding change in CC, but there is, only it’s very tiny. An asterisk is in the title after “ai” in an unsaved file, when you save it, the asterisk vanishes. Okay, at least there’s something, but that’s going to be hard on my old eyes. I will see if the same thing happens when I use the Action I have to save final files, it should. (And it did.)

One thing you always notice with a new computer is how fast things open and save, and it’s true here. Much faster. A good thing! Just starting up in the morning is extremely fast, about 10 seconds to the password screen, as opposed to several minutes on the old machine.

Not sure if I like the “Recent Files” layout coming up between each page opened. Kind of distracting, but perhaps when I’m used to it, it will be helpful. I know you can turn it off, but instead of making the pasteboard vanish, as in CS5, it simply goes to gray. I’d rather it vanished, but I don’t see an option for that. I’ll see how this goes as I use it. Later: I am getting used to this, and will keep using it.

Suitcase activated fonts for me as it should, but in a few cases it took a long moment. Better than having to manually activate them and perhaps reopen the page or restart. On a tip from another letterer, I opened Preferences and under Plug-ins found Suitcase options that should make this work better for me: once a font is auto-activated, it will stay open permanently until I decide to close it.

The work went pretty smoothly in general. The next test will be lettering new pages.

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The first new lettering work on the new iMac and Illustrator CC turned out to be BLACK HAMMER #7 for Dark Horse. Finished the first page, went fine. There are changes in CC I need to adjust to, things in different places, but that will smooth out with repetition. Nothing too annoying so far. Thought balloon above drawn freehand with my small Wacom tablet.

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I’ve now lettered a book and a half with the new setup (two more jobs came in right after the first one) and am settling into it, but wanted to mention a few things. I really have no major issues with Illustrator CC at this point, I’ve gotten used to the mostly minor changes, and am even finding myself using more keyboard tool shortcuts than I used to. My biggest problems are with the new small Apple wireless keyboard. I like it and want to keep using it, but the rearranged keys at lower right are still defying my ingrained muscle memory and habits. Most annoying is their making the up and down arrow keys each a half-key. For years I’ve made moves around the arrow keys without looking. Now, every time I go from right or left arrow to up arrow I hit the shift key instead. This is maddening, but at least it does no harm. I’m determined to master this, and will keep at it. The other one that gets me is the key combination of Option and semicolon, which gives me the ellipsis in most of my fonts (three dots). If I’m not looking I hit the left arrow and semicolon, which drops a semicolon to the LEFT of the last character I typed, and takes a moment to fix. The only solution to this is a different keyboard, but I’m going to stick with this one for a while because I do like it in every other way.

And Then I Read: GREEN LANTERNS 6

Image © DC Comics.

In the comics of my childhood, continued stories were rare. In fact there were usually at least two complete stories per issue. That began to change in the 1970s, and by the 1980s long serial stories with no particular beginning or end were appearing. I even wrote one or two myself. In the DCU comics I’ve been reading lately, and probably for some time, stories are most often six issues long, making for a good-sized trade paperback. This is not a bad thing, it’s plenty of room to develop a story, and yet it gives readers a feeling of closure when they get to Part 6, as happens here.

Earth’s rookie GL’s Simon and Jessica are battling the leader of the Red Lanterns, Atrocitus, who is trying to implement “Red Dawn” on Earth. It’s as bad as it sounds. Simon is fighting valiantly, but barely hanging on. Jessica is frozen with fear, a problem she’s had for some time. Something has to break for the heroes, and Jessica finds her way through her problems, emerging with more power than anyone might have expected, especially Atrocitus.

As the main threat fades, the personal storylines and plot threads are given room to find resolution nicely. Then a new storyline is teased for the next set of six issues. I hate Red Lanterns, but I like the writing of Sam Humphries on this series, and enjoyed the art of Will Conrad and Jack Herbert on this issue.

Recommended.

And Then I Read: HAL JORDAN & THE GL CORPS 7

Image © DC Comics.

You can tell from the cover that this is a mostly fighting issue, and it is, but writer Robert Venditti makes it more interesting than that by letting Hal Jordan and Sinestro battle in the foreground (verbally, ideologically and physically) while Guy Gardner and other GLs are being used as Sinestro’s power source elsewhere, and John Stewart and more GLs are approaching from space. It all weaves together nicely, even though the fighting doesn’t do a lot for me. Fine art by Sandoval and Tarragona.

Recommended.

Incoming: RED THORN Vol. 2

Image © David Baillie & Meghan Hetrick.

I’m sad this series only ran to 13 issues, I enjoyed it a great deal. The second collection has arrived, containing issues 8 to 13, and I highly recommend it, though I’d start with the first collection if you haven’t read it. The writing by Baillie and the art by Hetrick are both excellent, and the theme of Scottish gods and mythology in modern day Scotland is one I haven’t seen done elsewhere. It’s due out on Feb. 21st, but I’m sure you can order it now.