All images © DC Comics, Inc.
This weekend I’m working on relettering the DEATH: THE HIGH COST OF LIVING mini-series for it’s inclusion in the ABSOLUTE DEATH oversized hardcover, which I think has already been solicited in Previews. Normally not something DC or I would do, but Neil and the DC staffers involved felt the lettering on these issues reproduced so badly when enlarged it was worth having me redo it. Once DC agreed to the rate I wanted for that, I was happy to comply.
So, DC sends me art images in which the lettering has been removed, and I letter over them on the computer. The lettering won’t be exactly the same as the original, but I think will read much better. As my primary source, I’m using Neil’s original scripts. It’s not that simple, though. Editorial changes were made when I originally lettered them, such as changing British spellings to American ones, and decisions will have to be made about things like that: do we follow the printed book or the script? Other things have come to light as I work; small changes either the editor or I made to the script, mainly punctuation, to help reading flow, and also a few mistakes I made when lettering the first time that were never caught. And, I get to correct some of the wonkiest bits in the original lettering. Here are some examples.
Here’s a section of issue 2 page 7 as printed in the trade paperback. The two balloons in the upper panel were originally meant to be in the panel below, but they were covering so much of Death herself that DC Production moved them up to their present place. The balloon shape of the second balloon became distorted in the process, though, so I fixed it:
I also reworked some of the line breaks to make them fit the shape better, something I’ve been doing as I go where needed.
This section as printed from issue 2 page 6 shows some of the most problematic lettering, for a character called The Eremite. In his script, Neil directed: “The Eremite’s lettering style should be just a little smaller and skinnier than normal: try and give the impression that he always talks very, very quietly.” To get that, I made the letterforms very narrow, with thin strokes. Unfortunately, some of them were just beyond the limits of the printing process, and not helped by poor pencil clean-ups before being photostatted by DC.
Now, the rest of the issues used standard Klein lettering, for which I’ve long had computer fonts, but this style is one I’ve never needed to do on the computer until now. So, yesterday I spent about eight hours making new fonts: TKondensed in Roman, Italic and Bold Italic faces. I cut corners by only making characters I knew I needed: one alphabet instead of the two I usually do (so I can alternate for double letters, for instance), and just the punctuation Neil used. No numbers, no additional characters or punctuation. About 30 characters or glyphs for each of the three fonts. It still took me that long because I needed to kern all the combinations, a tedious process of comparing each glyph pair and adjusting the spacing between them. Each character added to a font increases the kerning time. For a full font, I probably spend about 12 hours on just that, so these three would have taken 36 hours. Makes 8 hours sound better, doesn’t it? I doubt I’ll ever use this font again, but if I do, I only need to add additional glyphs. The ones there now are correctly done.
Here’s a relettered section. Compare the first Eremite balloon, for instance, to the printed version. And, in the book itself, the lettering will all be much crisper than in these scans, where I have to downsample for the web.
Oh, and compare the boy’s speech in the last balloon. When lettering originally, I missed the first word, “Sure,” and it was never caught. Now it’ll be right. And, hopefully, Neil and the DC staff will proofread carefully to make sure any new errors I might have introduced will get fixed before I send in the final lettering files.
Back to work. (I was considering titling this post “Death warmed over.”)