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Want to know a lost art?

Lettering.

Just spent an hour and a half going over the lettered copy of Week #48 of 52. The issue is of particular importance to me for obvious reasons if you’ve seen the cover. If you haven’t, you’ll know it when you read it.

An hour and a half compiling detailed notes and making extensive corrections to 18 out of 20 pages. Nearly 50 separate mistakes, from missing punctuation to mixing up captions with spoken lines, right down to giving the lines to the wrong characters.

A fucking hour and a half.

I miss Todd Klein.

Instead of artists like him, we get this instead.

11 Responses to Want to know a lost art?

  1. comicraft

    Raiders of the Lost Art

    Greg

    Just for the record, Comicraft did not letter Week #48 of 52.

    A couple or three years ago, DC purchased multiple licenses of pretty much every font in our catalogue and, you may be happy to know, edged us out of the business of lettering DC comics. That’s fine by me — Business is Business — All’s Fair in Love and War. But in so doing, they also pretty much edged Todd out of the same business too. Todd is not only the most celebrated letterer in the business, he is also — deservedly — the highest paid letterer on DC’s books.

    Even so, Todd does enjoy some degree of protection on certain projects — SANDMAN, the ABC line, LOST GIRLS, CASTLE WAITING — as there are a number of creators who still insist on his involvement in their work, as they have taken the time and energy to develop long and strong creative relationships with him that has made his contribution essential.

    And that’s the key — when a writer or an artist takes the time and trouble to show respect for your work, when they involve you in the creative process and ask for the very best you have to offer, when they become your friends and your allies — and they insist that you are well compensated — how can you possibly give anything less than your best? Like Todd, I have enjoyed the friendship and support of a number of key creators who insist on the involvement of Comicraft in their projects for various publishers. We work closely with Kurt Busiek on ASTRO CITY, J Scott Campbell on DANGER GIRL and SPIDER-MAN, Tim Sale on his projects, Joe Casey on GØDLAND, Jeph Loeb on all his books, and we’re always ready, willing and able to give our very best to any number of books and creators… Like Todd, given the right circumstances, we’ve also been rewarded with numerous awards for our work.

    Nevertheless, most letterers, graphic designers and colorists work in a vacuum — with little or no feedback from writers, artists or even editors. Even the lettering staff at DC probably only hear good things from editorial when something’s needed overnight — and they deliver. I’ve looked over their work and I can guarantee you they’re working very hard — but with shorter hours and way less pay than freelance letterers used to enjoy. Kenny Lopez told me he took a considerable cut when he quit freelancing and took charge of DC’s lettering department (he’s since moved on to the position of cover editor at DC). Why has the money been taken away from the letterers? Well, because way more money is being thrown at the writers and artists on the books, and, let’s face it, that money has to come from somewhere. They’re not going to ask Todd to take a 75% paycut to letter 52 — they’re going to find someone much cheaper.

    Even so, if you want better lettering on your books, Greg, pick up the phone and speak to the guy in DC’s lettering department and TALK to him about your frustration. Get to know that guy — take him to lunch next time you’re in New York. Become a patron of that Lost Art.

    Show some respect. Usually, when a man touches the brim of his hat, he’s doing exactly that.

    Cheers
    Rich!

  2. jbabcock

    Re: Raiders of the Lost Art

    Sadly, Greg, what you miss isn’t Todd Klein.
    (Well, I suppose you COULD miss Todd, but he doesn’t get out much!)
    What you miss is a particular care that just isn’t given to Comics anymore for number of reasons, many of which are stated by Richard in the last comment.

    I look at a lot of Comics. A LOT. And I just can’t bring myself to even read Computer-Font based ones anymore. I miss even those bad Diana Albers jobs that were hacked out in the middle of the night because that’s what my eye is looking for. I want to see the black plate filled with actual linework instead of type, even if the linework is trying hard to look just like type. When I first turned in a Computer-Lettered Job, it was the WORST- ABSOLUTE WORST thing I’d ever done. It was one of Joe Casey’s first jobs at Marvel and he LOVED IT. It might as well have been done with Helvetica. I think I typed out the blocks of copy in Quark Xpress, printed them onto vellum and did the balloons with a B6 and we pasted it up overnight and the whole boards had to go to the printer to be scanned and lith cut for the coloring…

    Today, very little of the page sees actual paper. After the inks are scanned, it’s virtual publishing.
    It’s likely that 10 people will letter all the pages of a single book based on a template, and few onlookers will know the difference. It’s also more and more likely that no one will catch the mistakes you caught, since the rates demand that much more product passes by ones hands in a single day…

    (be those persons editors, letterers, whatever)

    I’ve tried to avoid working for people who rewrite the book after I’ve lettered it and tell me that I have to re-letter it for free, and preferably overnight. But those people give out all the work. Competency does not a job get you. Cheap, fast, with no complaining used to get it done. Not any more. Today it is about not even dealing with the people who actually letter the the thing, but about dealing with the group manager. And Today’s Business is more overnight than it ever was, with most of the money being filtered even higher up than the writers and artists, so I’m always amazed when I meet more people going into Comics. They can’t ALL live with their parents, can they?

    Heh.

    ;-)

    When your work is as important to you as you say, it really comes down to the $. When you are writing 12 books/month, you have to watch as some get butchered, but if you keep your output reasonable, you can always get the kind of care you want, but you can never get it from an underpaid team.

    But I have to say I agree with your Header. Lettering is indeed a lost art. But my point is that Comics are a Lost Art as well. But they are really just a Business where artists were allowed to work and to pretend that it was all about art. The REAL art of comics now, is up to you, the Writer. Even tough everything you write, be it full script or plot/script, gets interpreted by everyone pulling the book together, YOU get to put forth your ideas and have them brought to publication and on the stands in record time. Even with the internet blog-o-sphere allowing instantaneous transmission of thoughts like this, you just can’t match Comics for getting Storytelling out of the mouths of writers and into the heads of Readers in an astonishingly short time.

    But it is still a business to the publishers, and the best thing to remember is this, one of the oldest sayings in the Print Industry:

    You can have it: GOOD – FAST – CHEAP
    Pick any two of the above.

    Happy Listening,

    j

  3. admin

    Re: Raiders of the Lost Art

    Post in rage, regret at leisure.

    Richard, you are right, and I owe you an apology for the implication in my post that Comicraft was responsible for my frustration with the lettering in the issue. My frustration, rather, was with an industry that, like all businesses, seeks to massage the bottom line, and in so doing has deemed lettering to be a layman’s skill, rather than an artistic or professional one.

    Truth be told, my frustration can’t really reside with the letterer on the issue itself, either, and for that record, I hold the DC Production Department in incredibly high regard. As J posted after you, you can get it one of two ways, and when the book has to come out weekly, fast is always going to be one of them. Haste makes for mistakes, and when 52 issues are coming as fast and furiously as they have been over the past year, it’s a wonder more errors haven’t made it to print.

    Thanks for the consideration in your response, and once again, you have my apologies for throwing you (and Comicraft) under the bus in such a careless fashion.

  4. comicraft

    Re: Raiders of the Lost Art

    No real need to apologize — although it is appreciated nevertheless — I think more people have been thinking about and discussing lettering this week than they have for a long time, and maybe more people are now aware of the pressures and economics than they might have been previously.

    I letter my own book (ELEPHANTMEN — issue #8 on sale now!) precisely so that I can have the same kind of control you desire… but I still made a typo in the first issue. Of all things, I spelt BRITANNIA wrong. BRITANNIA, the pub in Santa Monica. What kind of Englishman am I?

    Hey, by the way, Greg, do you STILL have my copy of CHANDLER: RED TIDE? : )

  5. incogvito

    It’s for that reason that I employ my own letterer on my own creator owned projects (Jeff Powell, btw). Jeff and I have known each other for years, and I trust him implicitly. Granted, I don’t give him much in the way of a style that I am looking for, but when I do, he always always ALWAYS comes through. And he can letter on the board if necessary. Sure, he letters with his computer, but he creates his own fonts…I think those two factors (having the ability to letter by hand and to create your own fonts) are two things a lot of letterers are missing today. A lot of guys think that the Comic font that most computers come loaded with is what is needed in comics, but judging by your post and Richard’s response, it’s a helluva lot more than that.

    We should all (writers, artists, letterers, colorists, editors, etc) strive for an art that we don’t see every day. How else can you get ahead?

  6. micahwright

    Re: Raiders of the Lost Art

    I miss Todd Klein, too… but I miss Ken Bruzenak even more… the way that his lettering was integrated with the inks was an art unto itself, reaching its zenith with his awesome work on Howard Chaykin’s THE SHADOW & Blackhawk series for DC back in the ’80′s.
    http://www.art4comics.com/hc_shnn3.jpg
    http://www.art4comics.com/hc_bh4.jpg
    http://www.art4comics.com/hc_bh210.jpg
    http://www.art4comics.com/hc_bh236.jpg
    http://www.art4comics.com/hc_bh237.jpg

  7. dewline

    Bruzenak

    Isn’t he working on Blade with Chaykin again?

  8. dewline

    Ian Gould and I have likewise recruited our own letterer and colour/VFX specialist for Local Hero. I think we’re going to have a good work relationship with them, and they certainly have that Fire in the Belly to better their arts.

  9. comicraft

    Re: Raiders of the Lost Art

    The guys at aroundcomics.com gave me a good grilling on the origins of Comicraft and the transition from pen lettering to digital lettering in episode 89 of their podcast.

  10. comicraft

    Re: Raiders of the Lost Art

    Oops — here’s the link

    http://aroundcomics.com/

  11. admin

    Re: Raiders of the Lost Art

    AGH! I was sure I’d returned it to you; then I was sure I’d acquired another copy to replace the one that I apparently never returned.

    So I still owe you a copy of RED TIDE, do I? I’ll have it for you at San Diego, delivered with yet another mea culpa and a drink or three.

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