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NEIL GAIMAN / SANDMAN continued

Backtracking a bit, while working on SANDMAN issues 20-30 or so I was also working with Neil on his BOOKS OF MAGIC miniseries. This was another case of oversized painted art making the lettering come out smaller in most cases, though Scott Hampton did his chapter close to regular comics size, so on that one the lettering appears larger. I had many chances to experiment with new styles on this series, some of which worked better than others, but at the time I felt it was my best work to that date. I have one sad anecdote. I did the Zatara page captions in an Art Deco style similar to that used on Hal Foster's Prince Valiant, very time-consuming, as it involved using rulers and circle templates to get everything very even. When the mini-series was collected a few years later, I got a call from the editor...they needed to reshoot the Zatara lettering, as it hadn't reproduced well on the original printing, but they couldn't find my original lettering overlay. Could I do it again? I bitched and moaned for days, but in the end I had to do it again, gritting my teeth all the way.

Books of Magic 1 sample

Books of Magic #1 ©DC Comics, Inc.

Then, while working on the "Brief Lives" storyline in SANDMAN, I also lettered Neil's first Death miniseries, DEATH: THE HIGH COST OF LIVING. I enjoyed this spinoff of sorts, where we learn more about Dream's sister and other supporting characters. The main lettering challenge on this one was getting all of Neil's words into Chris Bachalo and Mark Buckingham's beautiful but busy pages. I thought this was a rather interesting solution for one of them:

Death sample

Death: The High Cost of Living #2 ©DC Comics, Inc.

I've recently completed relettering this entire mini-series for it's inclusion in the deluxe ABSOLUTE DEATH hardcover. The original art files didn't reproduce the lettering well, making it hard to read in some places, and Neil and DC thought it was worth the expense of redoing it, which I accomplished using my fonts on the computer. Neil, DC and I all think it will greatly improve the end product.

Back to Sandman, we did the "World's End" storyline, mostly straightforward lettering, then moved into "The Kindly Ones", the longest of the epic storylines, and my favorite. I thought Neil's writing was top notch throughout, and I found Marc Hempel's somewhat iconic art very appealing. Somehow he brought out the essence of the characters for me. This was the big climax to all that had come before, drawing together many previous storylines, and ending...well, if you haven't read it yet, I won't say how, but very dramatically. Everyone had their moment in the spotlight, and I had lots of styles to do, but I was really quite into it now, and thought it was a lot of fun. In chapter 3 I rethought the Angel style for Remiel, and I prefer the newer version to what I had done in "Season of Mists." I got my own moment in the spotlight lettering the Charles Vess section of chapter 6 in my best calligraphic style, with plenty of room to make it look good.

Sandman Vess sample

Sandman #62 ©DC Comics, Inc.

The final long storyline was "The Wake", with Michael Zulli's elegant artwork reproduced from his pencils. I lettered this on vellum overlays to avoid messing up those pencils, and DC did a great job of melding the two. Danny Vozzo's delicate colors really worked beautifully as well.

The last two Sandman issues each have interesting stories from my perspective. Issue 74, "Exiles" required an oriental caption style. I had begun lettering on the computer not long before, and found a computer font that I thought would work really well for that, but created a new, separate font for the decorative initial caps from my own brush lettering. This was the only time I used computer lettering on the main run of SANDMAN (though it was used for much of the recent original hardcover SANDMAN: ENDLESS NIGHTS).

Issue 75, the final issue, proved to be quite emotional for me. I found myself getting choked up, lettering it. It seemed like the end of an era, a golden age, and perhaps it was. This return to Shakespeare's world also called for a caption style meant to be Shakespeare's own handwriting. I did a lot of research (probably the most of any book up to that time in my career), to come up with this. The main problem was that, except for the signature on his will, there is no certified handwriting known for the playwright. It was a matter of finding documents from the right time period that I could crib from, and then adapt to make the text readable, as some of the letterforms then in use are no longer familiar to us. I was happy with the result, and very happy with the entire issue: a grand sendoff, with excellent writing and art.

Sandman 75 sample

Sandman #75 ©DC Comics, Inc.

Well, I could go on and talk about other projects Neil and I have collaborated on, like 1602 and The Eternals for Marvel Comics, The Sandman: Endless Nights for DC, and adaptations of his short stories for Dark Horse, but I think I'll leave it here, except to mention our recent collaboration on an exclusive signed print, Before You Read This, available on my BUY STUFF page, for which Neil wrote a new, mysterious poem that I illustrated. Thanks for all the wonderful words, Neil. May there be many more.

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