Letterer

Letterer

A letterer is a member of a team of comic book creators responsible for drawing the comic book's text. The letterer crafts the comic's "display lettering": the story title lettering and other special captions and credits that usually appear on a story's first page. The letterer also writes the letters in the word balloons and draws in sound effects. The letterer's use of typefaces, calligraphy, letter size, and layout all contribute to the impact of the comic. Many letterers also design logos for the comic book company's various titles.

Origins

By the time comic books came of age in the 1940s, the huge volume of work demanded by publishers had encouraged an assembly-line process, dividing the creative process into distinct tasks: writer, penciller, letterer, inker, and colorist. By the late 1940s, it became possible to make a living just lettering comic strips and comic books for artists, studios, and companies that didn't have the time or desire to do it in-house. The career of freelance letterer was born, and by the 1950s, letterers such as Gaspar Saladino, Sam Rosen, and Ben Oda were crafting full-time careers as letterers for DC Comics, Marvel Comics, and King Features. [Klein, Todd. [http://kleinletters.com/LetteringTop.html "How it all began," Todd Klein: Lettering - Logos - Design.] Retrieved July 22, 2008.]

Tools

The traditional comics book letterer needs little more than a lettering guide, a pen or brush, India ink, and white paint for corrections.

Computer lettering

While many comics (especially alternative and underground comics) are still hand-lettered, most Marvel and DC books are now lettered using a graphics program such as Adobe Illustrator or Adobe PhotoShop, and a font that resembles hand lettering. Computer lettering provides a lot of technical shortcuts, especially by combining the lettering work directly with digital art files, eliminating the tedious physical paste-up stage altogether. Many cartoonists who formerly lettered by hand now use a computer font made to match their handwriting.

Letterer Chris Eliopoulos designed the fonts for Marvel's in-house lettering unit, and Ken Lopez did the same at DC.Contino, Jennifer. [http://www.comicon.com/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic&f=36&t=001693 "ABCs with Orzechowski," Comicon.com: The Pulse (Dec. 30, 2003). Retrieved July 17, 2008.] ]

Critics of computer lettering feel that it lacks the freshness, roughness, and variety of letterforms made up on the spot. There are also still comics artists and inkers who prefer to have the lettering directly on their pages. First, it saves drawing time (not having to draw where a big caption will be); and second, comics tell a story, and a page of comics art without the lettering is only half the story. For these reasons, there are still some hand-lettering holdouts, such as John Workman, [Rosenberg, Aaron. [http://www.comicmix.com/news/2008/06/20/happy-birthday-john-workman/ "Happy Birthday, John Workman, the King of Letterers," ComixMix (June 20, 2008).] Retrieved July 22, 2008.] but they're dwindling fast against the rising tide of digital convenience.

(Writer Mark Evanier has posted a detailed essay on the pros-and-cons of computer lettering on his POV Online website.) [http://www.povonline.com/cols/COL117.htm]

; History of computer letteringThe evolution of desktop publishing powered by computers, especially those made by Apple, began in the 1980s, and started having a gradual impact on comics lettering soon after. One of the first users of computer-generated lettering was writer/artist John Byrne, who made fonts from existing lettering. Unfortunately, Byrne made the mistake of using existing lettering by other people (such as artist Dave Gibbons) without always getting their permission first.Klein, Todd. [http://kleinletters.com/ComputerLettering.html "Computer lettering," Todd Klein: Lettering - Logos - Design.] Retrieved July 23, 2008.] Another early user of computer lettering was David Cody Weiss.

Computer lettering really started making an impact with the availability of the first commercial comic book font, "Whizbang" (created by Studio Daedalus) around 1990. (Whizbang is still available, though for a time it was so prevalent that readers complained about many books having the same look.)

In the early 1990s letterer Richard Starkings and his partner John Gaushell began created comic book fonts and started Comicraft, which has since become the major source of comics fonts (though they have competition from others such as Blambot). Starkings was the first to not only promote his fonts by lettering with them himself, but also selling fonts commercially on his company's website.

At first computer lettering was printed out and pasted onto the comics artwork, but after a few years, as comics coloring moved into desktop publishing, digital lettering files began to be used in a more effective way by combining them directly with digital art files, eliminating the physical paste-up stage altogether. Wildstorm Comics was ahead of the curve, Marvel came around a few years later, and DC held to traditional production methods the longest, but now nearly all lettering is digitally applied. Then, in the early years of the 21st Century, the mainstream American comics companies moved almost exclusively to in-house computer lettering, effectively ending the era of the freelance letterer.

Awards

Both the Eisner Awards and the Harvey Awards have a “best letterer” category. (The Shazam Awards also had a "best letterer" category until the Awards' demise in 1975.)

Notable letterers

*Diana Albers
*Ken Bruzenak
*L. Lois Buhalis
*Janice Chiang
*John Costanza
*Albert DeGuzman
*Ellie de Ville
*Chris Eliopoulos
*Phil Felix
*Jared K. Fletcher
*Tom Frame
*Kurt Hathaway
*David Jackson
*Todd Klein
*Dave Lanphear
*Bob Lappan
*Ken Lopez
*Jim Massara
*Jack Morelli
*Jim Novak
*Bill Oakley
*Ben Oda
*Tom Orzechowski
*Annie Parkhouse
*Bill Pearson
*Troy Peteri
*Nate Piekos
*Bob Pinaha
*Joe Rosen
*Sam Rosen
*Gaspar Saladino
*Willie Schubert
*Henry Shikuma
*Artie Simek
*Richard Starkings
*John Workman
*Jim Wroten
*Margaret Wroten
*Bill Yoshida

Artist-letterers

Cartoonists known for the lettering on their own comics:

*Jim Aparo
*John Byrne
*Eddie Campbell
*Daniel Clowes
*Dave Gibbons
*Rian Hughes
*Walt Kelly
*Frank Miller
*Stan Sakai
*Dave Sim
*Ty Templeton
*Chris Ware

Companies

Companies that provide computer lettering:

*Artmonkeys
*Blambot
*Comicraft
*Studio Daedalus

References

External links

* Evanier, Mark. [http://www.povonline.com/cols/COL116.htm "Lettering part 1," POV Online (Jan. 10, 1997)] and [http://www.povonline.com/cols/COL117.htm "Lettering part 2," POV Online (Jan. 17, 1997).]
* Klein, Todd. [http://kleinletters.com Todd Klein: Lettering - Logos - Design.]
* Thomas, Michael. [http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=188 "The Invisible Art in Plain Sight: A Look at the Art of Lettering," Comic Book Resources (June 9, 2000).]


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