Images © Rob Liefeld.
When I was lettering the Alan Moore issues of SUPREME, whenever I did some hand-lettering I thought I might want to use again, or at least refer to, I made a photocopy. My copier wasn’t the best, and sometimes, as above, the copies were dodgy, but good enough for reference.
This one I copied in case I had further use for this style for Squeak the Supremouse. The sound effect was a bonus. Leave it to Alan to sum up what I loved about super-animals like Mighty Mouse as a kid in one choice panel!
Images © DC Comics, Inc.
Here’s something I didn’t know I had until I uncovered it this week, the original title lettering for The Kindly Ones storyline in SANDMAN, running from issues 57 to 69 of the series.
When I used it, I assembled a reduced photocopy of the hand-lettering onto a frame, as seen here, adding the appropriate chapter number each time. I don’t recall how much of the art by Marc Hempel was sent to me for lettering, but it’s likely some pages were lettered on vellum overlays atop xerox copies of the art. In either case, I would have put the title block together first and pasted it onto either the penciled art or the overlay.
Here’s a larger scan with the words stacked so you can see it more clearly. It was penciled on DC art paper with a smooth or plate finish, probably a cover board, then inked with a technical drawing pen, I think probably a number 2.5 or 0.70mm size. When it was dry, I would have pointed the corners with a size 0 (.035mm) pen. The intent is to contrast the very euphemistic words with a style suggesting something creepy and dangerous, the characters themselves. I think it works well, if I do say so myself.
Images © Rob Liefeld.
I did lots of extra design work for the issues of SUPREME I worked on with Alan Moore writing for various artists. One assignment was to create a letter-column header similar to ones seen in most comics until the internet and email cut way back on actual fan letters. I’m not sure how many letters were coming to the editor of SUPREME, possibly the letter column was partly or completely written by Alan, but in any case, the idea was to give it a retro look, as with much of the SUPREME design work. I started by hand-lettering the column title and “Faithful Reader” as a return address, using Speedball dip-pens and a Faber-Castell TG-1 technical pen for the open lettering.
I scanned that and assembled this “letter” on my computer using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. “Via Suprememail” is one of my fonts with distressing to make it look rubber-stamped.
Finally I put the letter into a rectangular design containing a stream of letters flying toward Supreme’s flying headquarters, his “Citadel.” I indicated where to pick up the art for that from a previous issue, and that it would need art extension on the clouds. I don’t have a copy of the printed letter column, but it would have been colored and dropped onto the top of the letters page layout. In the old days on staff at DC, assembling letter columns was one of my production duties, this time I was able to pass that part on to someone else!
Image © Todd Klein.
I don’t take many commissions, but this one from Walt Parrish was easy to say yes to. Three by three inches, anything I wanted to do. Walt has quite a fine collection of these on his website. I’m honored to be among them.
Images © DC Comics, Inc., except as noted.
I’ve written about balloon placement in my book, The DC Comics Guide to Coloring and Lettering Comics and also on my website. When I started in comics, lettering was laid out on the art by the penciller, at least at DC Comics. Artists like Curt Swan would pencil in all the dialogue so he and the letterer would both know where everything should go, and that it would fit. The Marvel style of comics creation spearheaded by Stan Lee started to change that. Marvel artists like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko would lay out an entire story from a plot, and Stan would write the dialogue afterward. This was fine with experienced artists, but later ones using the plot-first system didn’t always have a good handle on how much space to leave for lettering, and the situation has only gotten worse since then. Today many letterers are expected to do their own lettering placements, and often have a tough time of it. Newer comics writers and artists who don’t really understand the medium and how it tells stories both contribute to the problem. The writer will try to do too much in one panel: multiple actions, back and forth dialogue. Artists struggle with that, and also make basic storytelling mistakes like having the first character speaking on the right side of the panel instead of the left, or filling the panel with large close views of character heads, leaving no room for dialogue balloons.
I have to say I’ve often been lucky enough to work with writers and artists who understand comics, and what I need to do my part of the job. Here are a few examples. Above, two panels from DC’s DEAD BOY DETECTIVES. Artist Mark Buckingham does layouts in pencil, and often lightly indicates where lettering should go. Either the editor or assistant editor marks up a copy of the pencils with clear marker indications for placement, usually following Mark’s lead. The storytelling is clear, so when I get the finished art by Ryan Kelley I rarely have trouble fitting the lettering in where requested, though I will move it around if I need to, as in the second panel above. Continue reading