Category Archives: Lettering/Fonts

JOHN WORKMAN & TODD KLEIN Part 2

Todd Klein, Robert Greenberger and John Workman at our panel.

What follows is the second part of the transcription of a panel that John and I did at the 2017 Baltimore Comic-Con moderated by our friend and former co-worker at DC, Bob Greenberger. I recorded it on my phone and transcribed it later. The panel was held on Sept. 23rd. Both John and I have edited our comments to make them clearer and more correct and complete. (As John puts it, “to make sense of my incoherencies.”) This picks up about a quarter of the way through the slide show I put together for the panel. For these posts, I’ve reformatted the images to fit better here, and in some cases have links to larger versions. All images are © the respective companies and copyright holders.

HEAVY METAL staff, 1981, by Workman.

Todd Klein: This is a piece by John of the HEAVY METAL staff, and I thought this was interesting not only because John drew and lettered it, but also because of how small the staff is. They were putting out a monthly magazine?

John Workman: A monthly and specials. Also, I worked a lot for NATIONAL LAMPOON at the same time.

Bob Greenberger: Put out by the same company.

JW: Yeah.

TK: A lot of material for that size staff.

BG: The publisher Len Mogul who we talked about earlier is the top left head. Continue reading

JOHN WORKMAN & TODD KLEIN Part 1

Photo by Ron Jordan in my studio, June 2015.

What follows is a transcription of a panel that John and I did at the 2017 Baltimore Comic-Con moderated by our friend and former co-worker at DC, Bob Greenberger. I recorded it on my phone and transcribed it later. The panel was held on Sept. 23rd. Both John and I have edited our comments to make them clearer and more correct and complete. (As John puts it, “to make sense of my incoherencies.”) I created a slide show to accompany the panel, but technical difficulties between my laptop and the Con’s projector kept us from using it until almost halfway through. It worked out fine, though, we got to all the slides. For these posts, I’ve reformatted the images to fit better here, and in some cases have links to larger versions. I’ve added some additional images in this first of two parts. All images are © the respective companies and copyright holders.

Bob Greenberger: The gentlemen to my left and right have a wealth of material to talk about and Todd created a lovely slide show that should give everybody a better sense of it, so, today we’re talking about lettering. To my left is John Workman, who arrived at DC with Bob Smith hoping to become an artist and somehow became a letterer. He also became an accomplished art director at HEAVY METAL magazine and an artist of not enough work. To my right is Todd Klein who also got started in DC’s Production Department, lettered all sorts of lovely work, wrote some stuff, helped run the Production Dept., saved many an editor’s career, is best known today for his collaborations with Neil Gaiman and the artists on SANDMAN. So, gentlemen! What was it like in the 70s getting started, breaking into the field? Continue reading

Baltimore Comic-Con 2017 Friday

Friday morning I drove to Baltimore, about three hours with two stops, arriving around 11:15 AM. I checked into the hotel and then gathered my stuff and went to the Convention Center to set up my booth. John and Cathy Workman were already there and set up. I had thought we’d be next to each other, but they were behind me, through the curtain. I set up my new banner, put out my print samples, and was ready to meet the public by the time the con opened at 1 PM. Continue reading

Lettering Tips for Comics Writers

Image © Marvel.

This morning a writer I’m working with asked me if I had any tips for comics writers from a letterer’s point of view. This is something I’m rarely asked, but of course a few things did come to mind. I’m sure I could think of more, and probably will later, but this is what emerged in a half hour or so.

The big one is to write economically, and don’t describe what the art is already showing. Leave room for the art, this is not a novel.
Use of double dash (- -) and ellipsis (…): double dash (replacing an em-dash in regular type) is for an interruption of some kind, ellipsis is for a pause or unfinished sentence. Where one is at the end of a piece of dialogue that continues, it should also be at the beginning of the continuation.
Inner dialogue captions (where we used to employ thought balloons) do not need quotes. Quoted dialogue by someone off-camera does, but you only need an opening quote for multiple captions in a sequence until the final one, which gets a close quote. If such running captions are interrupted by dialogue, I close quote before that.
Spell out numbers up to twenty (thirty, forty, fifty, etc. is optional), use the actual numbers above twenty.
Symbols like % should generally be spelled out in dialogue if possible.
If you are going to emphasize words, make them Bold Italic. With emphasized words, less is more. Read dialogue out loud to find the correct emphasis points, but don’t overdo it. Some emphasis is recommended in large balloons or captions to help break up the large areas of lettering and make them easier to read.
Things to consider that will make your letterer happy: 
Don’t end a dialogue balloon with a very long word that can’t be hyphenated easily. Example: ecclesiastically.
Don’t write characters that repeat things a lot. Yes, there are people who do that, but it’s annoying. I say, it’s annoying, son, annoying, and it takes up too much space. This goes double for stuttering!
If you can, I recommend following in the footsteps of Alan Moore by doing thumbnail layouts with lettering placements of your comics pages yourself. You don’t have to be a great artist to do this, and it will help you understand visual storytelling and balloon placement. Of course, your artist and letterer may have other ideas, but it will give you a better concept of what works and what doesn’t. Remember that lettering is read left to right, then down and left to right again, generally, within a panel, across a row of panels, and over an entire page. Lettering should form a natural flow for the eye across the page. See my website article on balloon placement.
Finally, try to avoid calling for special lettering styles unless they are really needed to understand the story or express a unique characteristic of your cast. In some cases your letterer may decide to volunteer some special styles, but this is an area that is often overdone, and when it is it can make storytelling less clear and reading more difficult. (Yes, yes, I know, SANDMAN, but the exception proves the rule!)
ADDED: I forgot an important one brought to my attention by Chris Eliopolous. Writers should not treat the lettering as a first draft that will go through one or more rewrites, making extra unpaid work for the letterer. This is a growing problem from newer writers and editors who don’t understand the fact that letterers are generally only paid once. Respect that.

The Danny Crespi Files Part 13

This and all images © Marvel.

Continuing my ongoing series about the cover lettering of Danny Crespi at Marvel Comics, mostly from 1974-1979. 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 49 (above) through 52. Several of these are by Gaspar Saladino: “Brain Parasites,” “Raid on Samisdat’s Island” and “150th Anniversary Issue.” Possibly also “Danger Room Operational.” The rest are by Danny Crespi. Sources follow. Continue reading