Incoming: THE CREEPER Hardcover

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Images © DC Comics, Inc.

This arrived last week from DC with copies of work I’ve lettered, and I was surprised to see it. I don’t usually receive books like this unless I worked on them, and if you held a gun to my head, I’d have sworn I never worked on a Steve Ditko “Creeper” story, but when I checked the table of contents, sure enough I had. “Beware Mr. Wrinkles!” from WORLD’S FINEST COMICS 254, Feb.-March 1979. Cross-checking my own Lettering Archive page, it’s there all right, but only the story title, so I wouldn’t have known it was a Creeper story without more research. I knew I had lettered at least one Steve Ditko mystery story, but had completely forgotten this one! Being a Ditko fan, I’m sure I enjoyed doing it, though it was early in my lettering career, and the work isn’t anything I’d boast about. Frankly, Ditko’s own work on that story isn’t terrific, either, it’s much simpler and more cartoony than what he was doing on the original Creeper run.

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At any rate, this looks like a nice collection, and I think I’ll reread at least some of these stories, maybe all of them. Above is a nice page from issue 2 of 1968. Ditko was only two years away from his work on Marvel’s Spider-Man then, and his art skills were in top form. I don’t recall thinking much of the stories when I read them originally, so it’ll be interesting to see how they read now.

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The reproduction and coloring on this book is excellent. DC would have had the film negatives, and probably used the black line art from those to digitally create the black line art for the book, but it’s been recolored. The credit for that is to “Digikore Studios Limited” for color and selected art reconstruction. Looks like they followed the original coloring as closely as possible, but things like the soft edges of the blue and yellow colors in the panel above give it away as computer work. Another clue is the size of the dot screens in the colors, much smaller than they would have been in 1968.  An excellent job by Digikore, which seems to be in India.

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I shouldn’t look a gift horse in the mouth, as they say, but I can’t resist commenting on the comic book font usage on this title page. Whoever designed the page has made the most common mistake I see in the use of such fonts, and in such an obvious way it’s hard to miss. The “I” with crossbars is supposed to only be used for the personal pronoun I and contractions like I’m and I’ll, not as it is here, in the middle of other words. There’s a version of the I without serifs for that purpose in the lower case i spot on the keyboard. Making every i the upper case one with serifs, as was done on this page, is a sure sign of ignorance about how comics lettering should look. I see it often when comic book fonts are used in places other than comics, but it’s surprising to see it at DC, where everyone should know better. I know the serif-less I exists in the font, because it was used on the table of contents and indicia pages at least some of the time. And, how does it not look wrong? Perhaps it’s the fault of the omnipresent Microsoft font Comic Sans, where there is no upper case I without serifs, making the error not only common but unavoidable, and one of the main reasons that, despite the name, it’s perhaps the worst possible font to use for lettering comics. Ah well, there you go. The book looks great, otherwise.

8 thoughts on “Incoming: THE CREEPER Hardcover

  1. L Jamal Walton

    The crossbar I is prevalent in similar reprint projects from DC especially the Jack Kirby’s Fourth World, Demon, Losers, and Sandman reprint projects. I cringe every time I look at those otherwise well designed books.

  2. Brian Pearce

    I’m sure this will seem surprising, but I wouldn’t expect anyone in DC’s Design Department (under whose auspices the book design would have been done) to be all that knowledgeable about the finer points of comic book lettering. Many people come into Design from outside of the field — but more to the point, it’s just not the sort of work that passes through Design. (I spent 11 years in the department.)

    Is the “I” without crossbars a lower-case “i”? That’s probably why it was inadvertantly (and inconsistently) used.

    I see your point — though I don’t think it looks all that objectionable as display type. (It doesn’t seem to work as well in smaller sizes, though.)

  3. Todd Post author

    Yes, as I said, the i without serifs is in the lower case position on the keyboard, the I with serifs is in the upper case position. The fact that it doesn’t look wrong to you after 11 years at DC says a lot, Brian. Did you ever read the comics? Simply looking carefully at the lettering at any comic produced by DC in the last 75 years would show what comics lettering should look like, and how the two versions of I are, and should be used. Yes, typing in all caps with a comic book font gives this horrible result, but I don’t see how anyone with any experience in type design can not be repelled by the look of one serifed letter in the middle of others all sans-serif.

  4. Bob Cosgrove

    Gee, the cover is disappointing. Ditko designed with the placement of lettering in mind. The original cover had a blurb on the right–without it, the composition looks barren. There was a villain up above, now missing. The Creeper’s trademark laugh has been eliminated. The coloring is more pedestrian–miss that cold pink/purple sky, now replaced with conventional blue. And what I’m surprised you didn’t comment on, Todd–what happened to the original Creeper logo? (But will I buy the book? In a heartbeat!)

  5. Bob

    I’m just trying to figure out why they credit both Dennis O’Neil and “Sergius O’Shaugnessy” as writers. Who’s getting Sergius’s reprint fee for the book?

    And yeah, they’ve used that same font for a lot of books, and always use it that way. I wish they’d just use a font that doesn’t try to look like comic book lettering, especially since this one doesn’t look at all good in smaller sizes, in addition to the “I” issue.

  6. Brian Pearce

    Todd, what I’m saying is that the crossed “I”s are less objectionable in the larger size, as display type, than they would be in balloon lettering.

    I don’t know that I would have done that, if I were designing the book (I probably would have used a different hand-drawn font, for a start), but at the same time, I don’t see this as something that makes me cringe in that way that people like us get when we see type gone horribly, horribly wrong! (Type can be a surprisingly personal thing!)

  7. Pat Brosseau

    The upper case I thing drives me crazy also, Todd. When I see it used in regular comic balloon lettering, it always strikes me as amateurish. A lot of the strips on the Zuda website are lettered this way–using the uppercase version of a font, and seeing it always makes me cringe.

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