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LETTERING, CONTINUED: THE 2000s

In 1998 Alan Moore put together a proposal for a new line of comics that he would write and shopped it around to various publishers. I had talked to him and artist Rick Veitch about this, and was glad to receive a call from editor Scott Dunbier at WildStorm Productions asking if I'd like to letter the books, as they'd bought the concept. What I didn't expect, though, was that Alan also wanted me to be involved in designing the covers and look of the line. After a bit of convincing from Alan, I agreed, and began work on what became America's Best Comics, all written by Alan Moore, with four premiere titles: TOM STRONG, PROMETHEA, TOP 10, and TOMORROW STORIES. THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN was developed separately and added to the line, with other titles following in later years.

Tom Strong 1 cover

©America's Best Comics, LLC

The ABC books were great fun, and enjoyed working with Alan, and artists Chris Sprouse, J.H. Williams III, Gene Ha and Zander Cannon, Rick Veitch, Jim Baikie, Melinda Gebbie, Hilary Barta, Art Adams, and many others, including cover artist on the first four issues (as above) and ABC symbol designer Alex Ross. J.H. Williams III and I developed a particularly close working partnership and friendship on PROMETHEA, which I think showcases some of his and Alan's finest work.

At DC, I signed on to letter a new book written by Bill Willingham called FABLES. After reading the proposal, I told editor Shelly Bond that I thought it had terrific potential to become as successful for DC's Vertigo line as SANDMAN had been, and it seems to be heading that way. I look forward to getting the script and art for each issue. Other recent DC projects of note were the return of Frank Miller to Batman with THE DARK KNIGHT STRIKES BACK, a run on WONDER WOMAN, a number of well-crafted graphic novels, like Brian K. Vaughan's PRIDE OF BAGHDAD, and the 12-issue series JUSTICE with Alex Ross.

For Marvel I lettered CAPTAIN AMERICA, written by Mark Waid, the EARTH X trilogy, and more recently joined Neil Gaiman on his popular historical re-envisioning of the Marvel Universe, 1602.

1602 1 cover

©Marvel Entertainment Group, Inc.

There's plenty more. For a list of what I'm working on now, click CURRENT PROJECTS in the sidebar above right. I feel very fortunate to be as busy as I am, as the career path of a freelance comics letterer has become a difficult one. Availability of well-designed computer fonts for lettering comics, such as those from Comicraft, have led the large companies like DC and Marvel to bring the lettering for most of their books in-house, and at the smaller companies, many of the artists are using them to do their own lettering, cutting costs. Freelance lettering jobs are becoming scarce, and it's doubtful that anyone trying to follow my career path now would succeed. Unless, perhaps, the pendulum swings back again, and companies find it cost effective once more to have lettering work done freelance, as staff-lettering salaries and benefit costs rise. Only time will tell.

Meanwhile, as I prepare to enter my fourth decade in the business, I look forward to new challenges, and hope there will continue to be a market for my work as long as I am capable of doing it. I can't imagine a more rewarding way for me to make a living.

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

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SANDMAN / NEIL GAIMAN

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MICHAEL WM. KALUTA

DON ROSA

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J.H. WILLIAMS III

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