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COVER LETTERING

Cover lettering is a specialized subset of comic book lettering, usually assigned to a either a staff letterer or one of a few top freelancers. It may involve standard word balloons, as below:

Teen Titans 40 cover

©DC Comics, Inc.

but usually requires something extra — display lettering. This is lettering that gives an extra visual punch in some way to draw attention. Use of open lettering filled with a color is common. Display lettering is similar to the headlines in a newspaper or the subtitles on a magazine cover. It's intended to sell the content of the comic to a potential buyer, both visually and in what it says. On occasion, it can be so provocative it becomes the main selling point, as in this famous Flash cover:

Flash 163 cover

Flash #163, ©DC Comics, Inc.

The words, or cover copy, are usually written by the editor, sometimes with suggestions from the artist, and the cover image is based on what the editor considers the most exciting scene inside, though DC editor Julie Schwartz had a interesting alternative, especially for his science fiction anthology books, STRANGE ADVENTURES and MYSTERY IN SPACE. He'd have a brainstorming session with one of his artists, like Murphy Anderson, and they'd come up with a half dozen intriguing cover images, then Julie would pass them on to his writers, telling them to write a story around the picture. Presently many covers have no cover copy, just a hopefully enticing picture, putting the task of selling the book squarely on the artist's shoulders.

IRA SCHNAPP

Beginning in the 1940s, but becoming all-pervasive in the 1950s through 1960s, the cover lettering of Ira Schnapp (along with his logo designs) helped define the distinctive look of DC Comics covers. Schnapp was classically trained as a carver of stone inscriptions, and brought that sensibility to his work for comics. (You can read more about Ira Schapp HERE.) Below are some examples of Ira's work that will be instantly recognizable to longtime comics readers.

Ira Schnapp samples

Copyright © DC Comics, Inc.

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All text and images ©Todd Klein, except as noted. All rights reserved.

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