Category Archives: Creating Comics


This and all images © Marvel.

Continuing my ongoing series about the cover lettering of Danny Crespi at Marvel Comics, mostly from 1974-1978. Photocopies of saved cover lettering from Danny’s files were compiled into a collection by letterer and friend Phil Felix during the 1980s when he worked with Danny on staff at Marvel, and Phil sent me copies. This time I’ll look at pages 37 (above) to 40. On page 37, one item is not like the others. It has a much narrower panel border, the open lettering outlines are also narrower, and the textures are more delicate and perhaps a bit more artful. If you spotted it as “INFERNO,” you’re correct. That’s the work of Gaspar Saladino, clinched by his particular style of open R where the break in the right edge is below the center of the middle stroke, as if it was a P with the right leg added. Here are the sources I’ve found. Continue reading

Old Tools

Did some cleaning in my studio today on and around my drawing board, which doesn’t get much use these days. I reorganized a drawer and some containers to put like things together. Here are some lettering tools that I will probably never use again, but I’m keeping them just in case. Speedball nibs and pen holders, and technical drawing pens, all but one my favorite Castell TG-1. I have newer tech pens, these are the “retired” ones kept for parts, the points are probably all shot. The nibs are a mix of ones I used and probably some I never even tried.

Lots of other things reorganized: brushes, pencils, markers, and so on. Here are lettering tools at the top, extra pencils, X-Acto blades, ballpoint pens, regular markers, calligraphy markers and pencil leads (they go in a lead holder, which I like for drawing).

I even found the cover for an outlet in the floor I used to use for my drawing table lamp. I haven’t used it in years, and now I can finally put the cover on it again. I knew it was in there somewhere…

New Computer Follow-up Notes

As I began work with the new computer and software, here are some things that caught my attention. First up I did some corrections and final files on a previously lettered book for DC.

In Illustrator CC I had all my palettes and tools set up the way I wanted them and it was working great. Then, out of curiosity, I clicked on the pull-down menu at upper right to see what it would do, and I think chose Layout. All my setup was gone! I was horrified, it took me at least an hour to set up. Then I tried a few more items, and when I hit Essentials, my setup was back. Whew! I get it now, different setups for different types of jobs, but I will stick with my familiar layout. I made it a custom layout by saving and naming it Todd’s Layout.

One thing I had to do (and often do) is delete the layout or pencils and replace with inked art, once that’s given to me. About half the pages on this job needed that. The new Place command protocol made it much easier and quicker. You get a tiny thumbnail of the art attached to your cursor, you drag it to the anchor point where you want the upper left corner of the art to be placed, and click. Hit the mark exactly every time. (This only works if you have a template with guides set up at original art size and the art matches it.) Later I found the placement was slightly off on occasion, so I do still have to check it, but the new Place protocol is definitely better.

In Creative Suite 5, when I saved a file, the icon in the tab changed from grayed back to full colors, an easy way to know I had saved the file. (Sometimes I get distracted and am not sure…) At first I thought there was no corresponding change in CC, but there is, only it’s very tiny. An asterisk is in the title after “ai” in an unsaved file, when you save it, the asterisk vanishes. Okay, at least there’s something, but that’s going to be hard on my old eyes. I will see if the same thing happens when I use the Action I have to save final files, it should. (And it did.)

One thing you always notice with a new computer is how fast things open and save, and it’s true here. Much faster. A good thing! Just starting up in the morning is extremely fast, about 10 seconds to the password screen, as opposed to several minutes on the old machine.

Not sure if I like the “Recent Files” layout coming up between each page opened. Kind of distracting, but perhaps when I’m used to it, it will be helpful. I know you can turn it off, but instead of making the pasteboard vanish, as in CS5, it simply goes to gray. I’d rather it vanished, but I don’t see an option for that. I’ll see how this goes as I use it. Later: I am getting used to this, and will keep using it.

Suitcase activated fonts for me as it should, but in a few cases it took a long moment. Better than having to manually activate them and perhaps reopen the page or restart. On a tip from another letterer, I opened Preferences and under Plug-ins found Suitcase options that should make this work better for me: once a font is auto-activated, it will stay open permanently until I decide to close it.

The work went pretty smoothly in general. The next test will be lettering new pages.


The first new lettering work on the new iMac and Illustrator CC turned out to be BLACK HAMMER #7 for Dark Horse. Finished the first page, went fine. There are changes in CC I need to adjust to, things in different places, but that will smooth out with repetition. Nothing too annoying so far. Thought balloon above drawn freehand with my small Wacom tablet.


I’ve now lettered a book and a half with the new setup (two more jobs came in right after the first one) and am settling into it, but wanted to mention a few things. I really have no major issues with Illustrator CC at this point, I’ve gotten used to the mostly minor changes, and am even finding myself using more keyboard tool shortcuts than I used to. My biggest problems are with the new small Apple wireless keyboard. I like it and want to keep using it, but the rearranged keys at lower right are still defying my ingrained muscle memory and habits. Most annoying is their making the up and down arrow keys each a half-key. For years I’ve made moves around the arrow keys without looking. Now, every time I go from right or left arrow to up arrow I hit the shift key instead. This is maddening, but at least it does no harm. I’m determined to master this, and will keep at it. The other one that gets me is the key combination of Option and semicolon, which gives me the ellipsis in most of my fonts (three dots). If I’m not looking I hit the left arrow and semicolon, which drops a semicolon to the LEFT of the last character I typed, and takes a moment to fix. The only solution to this is a different keyboard, but I’m going to stick with this one for a while because I do like it in every other way.


This and all images © DC Comics.

In some 1940s National (DC) titles I’ve found Ira Schnapp story lettering beginning as early as 1945, but in ACTION COMICS I don’t see any until 1947. Many of the mid-40s stories are instead lettered by an unknown person I’m calling Proto-Schnapp for convenience, example above from ACTION #110, July 1947. Proto-Schnapp shares style similarities with Ira, and at first glance this could be Ira’s work. Notice the very regular and classic lettering and the balloon shapes with large scallops that sometimes overlap the panel above. My theory is this was an older letterer who Ira used as a model for his own work, but that’s just a guess. Continue reading