What I’m Working On

Image © Bill Willingham and DC Comics, Inc.

While we do get to the beach occasionally in the summer, much of the time I’m working hard, as usual. I’ve just finished lettering two large projects this week. Above is a sample from FABLES: WOLVES OF THE HEARTLAND, with terrific pencils by Jim Fern. This is a stand-alone FABLES graphic novel that has been slowly in process for about three years. Jim is not the fastest guy, but his work is really fine. I’m still waiting for inks on some pages, but the lettering is in place, and the last batch was sent in for proofreading Friday.

This and next image © Renegade Arts Entertainment.

This past February I finished lettering a fine historical graphic novel, THE LOXLEYS AND THE WAR OF 1812, and it was published in hardcover by Renegade Arts. (Look for it online at their site.) A few months ago the Canadian Film Board decided to license the project for their website (I think), and did a lot of work to turn it into a motion comic. I was asked to make some lettering changes for this, which amounted to about ten pages of lettering work. I did that, and I thought that would be the end of the project. Then about six weeks ago they contacted me with another request. Since they’re a Canadian government agency, they needed to also produce a French language version of the story (Canada is officially bilingual). Would I be willing to reletter everything in French?

I really wasn’t keen on the idea. I’d lettered the original 101 page story gradually over six months. The motion comic version is shorter, about 85 pages, but that was still a ton of lettering work, and they needed it by the end of August. I tried to get them to hire someone else, but in the end they talked me into it.

I’m happy to say I’ve just finished the entire thing in about three weeks. It wasn’t quite as labor intensive as the first round, since I was able to copy and paste the lettering text from their script into my existing English pages. This avoided the extra work of typing in all those diacritical marks, the accents over many of the letters. Of course, I still had to make the new text work, which often meant redoing the balloon and caption borders. There were some challenges: places where the English barely fit, and usually the French text was longer. I’m not sure why that is, either the translation is not as terse, or the language just has longer words and phrases on average. I had to make a few style changes from my usual work. Note the first word in the second caption above: IL. The style I follow doesn’t use the serif I for anything other than the personal pronoun I and contractions like I’m and I’ll, but if I’d done that for IL it would have looked like II, since my sans-serif capital I and my lower case L are identical. Some punctuation is different, too, like the quote marks. But I’m really glad now that, when I created this and the other fonts used in the book, I gave them full international character sets, so all the diacritical marks and other non-English punctuation and characters are there when I need them. I rarely do, but jobs like this would be a nightmare without them!

Also today I lettered two more “Prince Valiant” Sunday pages for Gary Gianni, or actually, for the buyer of those pages, who paid my lettering fee to replace the computer lettering done by the syndicate with hand-lettering. They’re similar to the one shown in this post.

Now my in-box is cleared of extra projects, and I’m ready to begin the two hot DC books coming next week: UNWRITTEN 41 and FABLES 121. And I’m sure there will be rounds of corrections on those and the other work I’ve just finished, so it will be a busy week. Hoping to have an easier following week, when Ellen’s family will be visiting. It should be, but the freelance life is always uncertain as to when you might get some time off…

3 thoughts on “What I’m Working On

  1. David Goldfarb

    As a rule, translations tend to be less terse than the original simply because there will be things that can be expressed economically in the source language that can’t in the target. And also I think French in general tends to be a bit wordier than English is.

  2. Floris from Holland

    Hello Todd,
    Compliments on the work attitude and for finishing another deadline on time! The pleasure in doing your job is seeping through the text. Could it be that French word have more -eux, -ble extensions? Anyway, great job and I hope the will be some time to relax soon. Enjoying the blog, keep up the great work! Greetings to Ellen from a suncooked Holland.

  3. Allen

    Generally what I do when I do a French version of a project up here in the Great White North is to use a smaller font size to keep the work to a minimum. I find French is about 10 – 15% more then English.

    Regards.

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