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LETTERING, CONTINUED: THE 1990s

Freelancing fulltime opened up new opportunities for me to work for companies other than DC, and I lettered books for Marvel Comics, Disney Comics, Dark Horse, Image, and other companies in the 90s, but always kept DC as my main and most important client. In 1988, DC editor Karen Berger offered me two projects by a writing newcomer, Neil Gaiman, that were to shape my career in this decade and to the present day. BLACK ORCHID, a miniseries with painted art by Dave McKean was the first of these, the second was the monthly revamp/reimagining of THE SANDMAN. I loved Neil's quirky, entertaining and creative scripts from the start, and rose to the creative challenges he threw at me, such as calling for lots of unique lettering styles for his characters. I had done some of this in the past, notably on STARSTRUCK, with writer Elaine Lee and artist Michael Wm. Kaluta, but Neil challenged me as never before.

Sandman 15 sample

Sandman #15, ©DC Comics, Inc.

Work on SANDMAN, and other Gaiman projects like THE BOOKS OF MAGIC mini-series, and the two mini-series featuring Death, Sandman's sister, forced me to develop a large library of lettering styles that readers seemed to find appealing. In 1992 I won the Harvey Award for SANDMAN (for work in 1991), the first of many awards, something I found gratifying, if a bit puzzling. When I look at my own work, I tend to see the flaws, and things I wish I had done better, so I find applause for it surprising, if always welcome. I doubt I could have risen above the crowd without Neil's inspiration, though. For more about Neil and Sandman, click the sidebar topic.

The early to mid 1990s were a boom time for comics, as word was finally reaching the mass media that quality work was appearing in them, and reporters were writing about it. This fueled higher sales, but also a lot of speculation buying by people hoping to make money buying comics as investments. Some publishers fueled this with short-sighted gimmicks like multiple covers for the same comic. Independent small-press comics were also riding the wave, and the number of titles ballooned, then ultimately crashed in the later 90s, when the speculators realized they weren't making lots of money and moved on. I continued to be very busy through this period, lettering lots of exciting projects such as KINGDOM COME...

Kingdom Come page

Kingdom Come, ©DC Comics, Inc.

…which began a long-time working partnership with extraordinary painter Alex Ross that continues to this day. Another favorite project was working with writer/artist Don Rosa on his epic "The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck" for Gladstone Comics.

Computer lettering had begun appearing in comics in the late 1980s, and in the 90s was becoming more and more visible, with artist John Byrne and letterer Richard Starkings (founder of Comicraft) as two high-profile proponents. I saw that this was likely to be the way of the future in comics, since it coud provide time and cost savings for the publishers as they moved into desktop-style publishing methods, and I bought my first Mac computer in 1994. For more on this topic, which has had a huge effect on comics lettering, click the COMPUTER LETTERING sidebar topic above right.

As the industry entered a slump once again in the late 90s, I was always on the lookout for new and exciting projects, and was very happy to renew my working relationship with writer Alan Moore on his revamp of SUPREME for Rob Liefeld's Extreme Studios. Alan had a great time with this loving tribute to DC Comics of the 1960s, among other things, and I had an equally fine time lettering it. Unfortunately, the slump caught up with Liefeld's company, and the series came to a sudden end. But Alan, and some of those he worked with on SUPREME, like artists Rick Veitch and Chris Sprouse, were having too good a time to stop, and came up with a plan to return with a whole new line of Alan Moore comics that were soon to occupy a great deal of my time.

More about lettering, comics and me: LETTERING CONCLUDED.

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

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