Category Archives: Creating Comics

Ray Alma and the DC Production Dept., 1986

DCReleases8-86Images © DC Comics, Inc.

Recently on Facebook this group caricature surfaced. It’s from DC RELEASES, a promotional flyer put out by the company, the August 1986 issue, and the caricature is by Ray Alma. I’m in there at the far right, though I had completely forgotten about the image. Artist Ray Alma was contacted, and he kindly gave me more information about this picture and others he did for the flyer. Ray wrote,

“Joe Orlando was my teacher at the School of Visual Arts and initially set me up with this (my very first professional gig). I was still in SVA, only in my third year, and it went a long way toward infusing me with confidence to keep at it and pursue my dream. I did illustrations for maybe ten or so of these DC RELEASES.

“In regard to getting the gig, Joe had set up a meeting to show Dick Giordano and Linda Robak my portfolio so they could make the final call on using me or not. So Joe tells me to bring my portfolio (to the DC offices) at 666 5th Avenue and we’ll all have lunch and discuss it. I was still a student, had never had an interview before, so I assumed that I was supposed to buy lunch for everyone. My plan was to take us to a nearby diner. It was all I could afford

“I get there, and Joe says he’s made reservations for us at the “Top of the Sixes,” (the posh restaurant at the building’s top floor). I almost fainted! I was a mess all through lunch. I had the cheapest thing on the menu. It wasn’t until Joe took out his corporate credit card at the end of the meal that I could relax. And then I was like, ‘Damn — I could’a had a GREAT meal if I’d known!’ I loved Joe, he was such a great teacher.

“For my caricature reference, I remember everyone being really nice as I came in to take polaroids. I tried looking for my polaroid reference shots from that time, but I don’t think I have them anymore.”

Thanks for the insight and great stories, Ray! Ray Alma has gone on to a long and successful career as an artist. You can read about him and see lots of his work on his website. Continue reading

The Rise of Digital Lettering, Part 7

LettSampKleinA Lettering Sampler © Todd Klein, 1993.

I arrived at my first San Diego Comic-Con in July of 1993 with this print to sell. It’s something of a diatribe in favor of hand lettering over type, but despite what the print says, I had been using computers for some time, just not for lettering. I’d worked with very primitive computers in a non-comics job in the early 1970s, and in 1984 bought a KayPro II primarily for writing. It had no graphics capability at all, but when I needed lettering that looked just like typing, I could print out and paste down type from it. I considered getting the first Apple Mac computer instead, but at the time didn’t think I would use it for graphics, and the KayPro was cheaper. Like other letterers, in the early 90s I’d been watching the development of comics fonts by David Cody Weiss, John Byrne and Richard Starkings with interest, and came to believe it was the wave of the future, and one I should be surfing myself. I met JG and Rich of Comicraft at that 1993 San DIego con, as well as other letterers like Bill Oakley, and discussions of computer fonts for lettering were rampant and sometimes heated. More on that later. Continue reading

The Rise of Digital Lettering, Part 6

ChrisEliopoulosMikeHeislerJonBabcockChris Eliopoulos, Michael Heisler and Jon Babcock, recent photos found online.

The gradually increasing presence of digital fonts on comics from many publishers was catching the attention of those who made their living hand lettering for the medium, and some responded by making fonts of their own. Image comics, particularly their WildStorm studio led by Jim Lee, were encouraging letterers to use fonts for their all-digital workflow by 1994. Marvel Comics, at first resistant to that idea, began following suit a few years later. In recent correspondence, Chris Eliopolous remembered:

My first font was made by someone else. My father knew this guy and he used Fontographer and made up a font based on my hand lettering. This was around 1991. I wasn’t totally happy with it, so I bought Fontographer and started playing with it myself. I eventually tweaked the font to something I could work with. Looking back now, it was absolutely horrible, but it worked well-enough. I think the first work I did on the computer was with WildStorm. Continue reading

The Rise of Digital Lettering, Part 5

Jeff_Smith_1991Jeff Smith, 1991, photo from Wikimedia Commons.

Writer/artist Jeff Smith began creating BONE, his self-published comic in 1991. The art style was reminiscent of Walt Kelly’s POGO comic strip, but while the writing had lots of humor, it unfolded in a vast fantasy world more like that of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Bone1From BONE #1 cover dated July 1991, BONE © Jeff Smith.

Smith did everything on the comic including the lettering, which again was roughly in the style of Walt Kelly with lots of large display lettering for emphasis. Smith began falling behind his publishing deadlines, and one way he found to save a little time was to create fonts from his own hand lettering. Continue reading

The Rise of Digital Lettering, Part 4

JohnByrneTwiceJohn Byrne from 1992 and more recently, photos from Wikipedia Commons.

In 1990, writer/artist John Byrne added computer lettering to his tool set. Rather than use his own hand lettering to create fonts, Byrne worked with lettering by others. In a 2000 interview for Comic Book Resources, John said:

Getting a hand-lettering font for my computer was what really turned me into a letterer, full time. I’d lettered my work at Charlton, laboriously, the old fashioned way. By using a font and pasting in the lettering, I got not only better lettering than I could do, but an extra layer of control over the design of the panel and page. “Control” is the wrong word, really, as it has emotional baggage not applicable here, but it’s also the only word that seems to fit.

In recent correspondence, John said:

I think I used the lettering for the first time in NAMOR.  The software I used was more antique than Fontographer, though.  Fontastic was the name, if I recall correctly.  Don’t recall there was a whole lot of process in front of actually using the fonts.  I was eager to try them out as quickly as I could!  I remember it took me a while to get the scale right! Continue reading