Pulled From My Files #38: DC COVER LETTERING

DCCL_JLA103Images © DC Comics.

After looking at a lot of Danny Crespi cover lettering lately, I thought I’d show a few of my own hand-made ones. My lettering for this cover was very large and very long, so I’m showing it in two parts. The letters are made of brush-strokes, probably a size 3 brush dipped in india ink. The outline is made with a size 0 technical drawing pen.

JLA103As printed, the black letters are yellow on red-brown, and look pretty good that way to me. This issue of JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA is #103 dated Sept. 1995. So, after I started doing some cover lettering jobs on my first Apple computer, but for certain styles, I went back to hand-lettering.

DCCL_Impulse2This cover lettering was for IMPULSE #2 dated May 1995. It was a fun way to use Kirby Dots. I would have sketched out the letters in pencil, then made the dots with tech pens, probably several sizes.

DCCL_Impulse2DetailHere’s a section of it larger. The dots are pretty blobby, but that makes it more organic. And like the previous one, this is a technique that would have been a lot harder on the computer. Or at least more time consuming, and probably too precise.

Impulse2On the cover the black dots are held in dark red, with an orange fill in the letters. The Kirby Dot effect is lessened by this, but I think it looks fine.

DCCL_JLTF29This cover blurb for JUSTICE LEAGUE TASK FORCE #29, Nov. 1995, is also quite large. I had fun with the ragged letters of DEADLY, and the textures inside, another technique that would have taken much longer on the computer.

DCCL_JLTF29DetailA closer look at part of it. Notice the thin points sticking out of the corners, my way of making them appear sharp when reduced and printed. This was all done with tech pens of several sizes over pencilled letters.

JLTF29Sadly, much of my work was buried under too-dark purple coloring this time. That’s how it goes in comics, you can’t win them all. These examples are all from a time when I was scanning and emailing cover lettering to DC rather than giving them the original work, which is why I still have them. I was doing the same thing with early computer lettering. DC would print out what I sent, resized as needed, cut it out and paste it on the cover art. The all-digital workflow we have now is much simpler, but there’s no denying some of the organic flavor and feel is lost.

3 thoughts on “Pulled From My Files #38: DC COVER LETTERING

  1. Clem Robins

    i have never thought of that trick, of sticking a line out at the corners of your letters, to make them appear sharper when reproduced. it has never even entered my mind.

    much the opposite. today, when i design display or sfx type, i make their outlines inconsistent and wavering, to make them appear more handmade.

    fascinating post. i wish they’d have you hand letter covers today.

  2. Dave Hunt

    The comment about your work being buried under too-dark coloring reminded me of our time at Techno Comics. Their coloring over my inks there was so gawd-awfully overdone that it obscured any subtlety that I might have brought to the work. Did you have that problem with your display lettering as well? I truly feel that their consistently bad coloring contributed a lot to the demise of that line.

  3. Todd Post author

    I don’t recall it being a problem on the logos, but I don’t remember the covers that well. Interior lettering was probably okay for the most part, as it’s on white.

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