Graphic Design In the Wild – Day 22: Comic Book Lettering, DC Edition

Alright. This is the DC comics edition. As I was looking these over, I thought what’s the purpose of comics lettering?

My theory is comic book cover lettering needs to “anchor” the cover. It will be the one piece of comic book graphic design that remains the same issue after issue.

The cover art will change, but the title lettering (typically) stays consistent. Comic covers are displayed cover out on spinner racks (R.I.P.) and comic book stores. Good title lettering should immediately reveal who the hero(s) are and what type of adventure you’re in for.

Let’s take a closer look.

Tales of the Teen Titans #63, 1986

Before they were a hit cartoon, The Teen Titans were a superhero group with an ongoing series. Think the mini version of the Justice League.

DC kept their wordmark recognizable for this special Tales of the Teen Titans series by keeping the same font from their 80’s title The New Teen Titans. They did switch the color from red to blue. But it remains a font that coveys strength of the team as a group.

All Star Squadron #28, 1983

The whack Justice League deserves it’s due. It follows a common trend of comic book title lettering, using red and 3D block letters. But it works in three pieces of contrast as well.

  1. ALL is flat and lifted forward with the a white star behind it.
  2. STAR is the largest of the font sizes and has the thickest stroke around the letters.
  3. SQUADRON is slightly smaller and has a star inside the A. Also, the stroke thins out.
Batman The 10 Cent Adventure, 2002

There’s hundreds of variations of Batman covering lettering. The lettering for the one-off, 10 cent adventure has tall, blood red, san-serif font. The design foreshadows the story of Bruce Wayne being framed for murder.

Starman #13, 1989

One of the cheesiest superheros of all time. Has the name your friend’s little brother would think up on the playground. The lettering follows a similar trend. Red, 3D block letters. Tight kearning. And replacing a letter with a shape. In this case, a star for the A.

Graphic Design In the Wild – Day 21: Comic Book Lettering, Marvel Edition

This post was inspired by web designer Regan Ray‘s Marvel Superhero Lettering blog post (h/t Austin Kleon). It had me wondering, what awesome lettering was in my long box?

These are well executed examples of lettering. But it’s the feelings they evoke about the characters that makes them special.

Let’s take a closer look.

X-Men Grand Design #1, 2017

For Ed Piskor’s Grand Design, you can see the 90s influence of the X-Men cartoon show. Even though it’s paper, you can almost see the volt of electricity flowing through the letters.

Hawkeye #6, 1988

With Hawkeye’s lettering you get the feeling that this is a hero who’s all about one thing: hitting the target.

Excalibur #3, 1988

The British X-men? Probably too many swords on this one. But it does express a royal, knights of the round table feel.

Fantastic Four #356, 1991

Slapstick. Zany. Funny. Heroic.

The Fantastic Four lettering captures all the energy of what makes the Fantastic Four adventures so well, fantastic!

Four Panel Friday: Neil Gaiman’s Four Panel Comic to Steve Bissette


Neil Gaiman’s script work on Sandman is well known. But he also drew comics for fun. Inspired by Steve Bissette’s 24-hour comic day shenanigans, Neil drew a four panel comic about his shades.

From – Art of Neil Gaiman: The Story of a Writer with Handwritten Notes, Drawings, Manuscripts, and Personal Photographs

By – Hayley Campbell

Pencils – Neil Gaiman

Cartoonists and Copywork

Ivan Brunetti offers up the cartoonist’s version of copywork in his masterclass book – Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice

Homework Assignment 8 reads:

To the absolute best of your ability, create an exact replica of your favorite page. Do not trace. Any deviation from the original should be unintentional on you part; ineptitude and sloppiness are charmless when deliberate.

Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice, pg 60. Brunetti, Ivan

Brunetti then urges his students to pay close attention to each element of their comics page:

Pay close attention to what you are copying. Think about the artist’s decisions regarding page layout, panel compositions, design, characterization, dialogue, gesture, captions, balloons, word placement, sound effects, line, shape, texture, etc. Hopefully you will gain some appreciation of their working and thinking process… and the difficulty of creating a comics page.

Cartooning: Philosophy and Practice, pg 60. Brunetti, Ivan

Brunetti practiced this version of copywork in his own career.

He took on the Nancy strip for a time. The pressure from the syndicate to copy Ernie Bushmiller‘s style precisely, further developed his cartooning technique.

I can tell exactly the time period in my work when I was doing these-the syndicate were such nitpickers about me copying Bushmiller’s style exactly that my approach to cartooning got much more precise as a result. I went from doing strips just to amuse myself, without a grand plan, to focusing on formal aspects of cartooning much more: where to place a word balloon, the composition of every panel, and the flow of panels.

In the Studio: Visits with Contemporary Cartoonists, pg 279. Hignite, Tom

Brunetti enjoyed the project while in the learning phase, but admitted it was an unpleasant way to work:

When you’re copying someone else’s style exactly, you can theorize about it, and actually break it down into a set of rules. So they way I was working by imitating him had almost nothing to do with the way he was working…I also realized that working this way was totally unpleasant, because there are very strict parameters you have to follow, rather than discovering the rules that work. The project was fun while I was discovering all of the rules; I would notice that he would never put certain kind of marks next to one another because they’d look wrong. I became very aware of every penstroke, where he used a ruler, where it was freehand. He had an intuitive sense of what looked good, so for me it was trying to codify this into a set of rules, which made me realize the importance of the consistency of your cartooning vocabulary.

In the Studio: Visits with Contemporary Cartoonists, pg 279. Hignite, Tom

Could Brunetti’s copywork exercise translate into other disciplines as well?

If you’re an aspiring graphic designer you could recreate your favorite logos, stroke by stroke, in illustrator?

Or if you’re a programmer, instead of cutting and pasting, you typed out lines of code, line by line, character by character?

With thought and imagination, copywork exercises can be applied to every discipline.

Four Panel Friday: Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson


I heard a theory once that the best superhero movies are the ones where the hero is on screen, in full costume, the least amount of time.

The idea being that it’s what’s happening behind the mask that is the most meaningful.

I wonder if this theory holds true on the comics page.

Bendis’ run on Ultimate Spiderman was filled with these un-cowled moments. Moments where Peter Parker experiences the power of being Spider-Man, but also the vulnerability of being human.

From: Ultimate Spiderman, Issue #5: Life Lessons

By: Brian Michael Bendis

Pencils: Mark Bagley

Inks: Art Thibert

Four Panel Friday (On Saturday): George Herriman’s Krazy Kat


A Krazy Kat Strip from January 22, 1926

Krazy Kat & the Art of George Herriman: A Celebration contains a number of Herriman’s original art pieces.

The Krazy Kat strip above, is “cut and stacked”. A layout method used to fit strips into different newspapers.

Krazy Kat & the Art of George Herriman: A Celebration is the best kind of book. It’s the kind of book you lose an afternoon to. You open a few pages to “have a look”, and an hour later you wonder where the time went.

From: Krazy Kat & the Art of George Herriman: A Celebration

By: Craig Yoe

Four Panel Friday: Wonder Woman pays Superman a Visit


Happy New Year!

In the last 10 years, comics have become more literary. They’ve explored deeper aspects of the human condition, similar to the great novels.

It’s been a wonderful progression for the form, but its made super hero comics easy to dismiss as frivolous.

Sure, super hero books can be shallow fist fight melees. But they can also be meaningful.

Alex Ross and Mark Waid demonstrate this well as Wonder Woman calls out a graybeard Superman for being a scared, shiftless, ….you get the idea.

From: Kingdom Come

By: Alex Ross, Mark Waid

Four Panel Friday: Seth. Winter’s Cartoonist.


Merry Christmas!

In my mind each season has a specific cartoonist assigned to it.

John Porcellino is fall. None better than John at depicting a walk on a chilly fall day.

Bill Watterson is summer. Watterson is an all season cartoonist, but his panels of Calvin and Hobbes’ summer break hi-jinks are unforgettable.

We’ll go Charles Schultz for spring. Charlie Brown is a baseball player, no question.

Winter? Which cartoonist leads us into winter best?

SETH.

The drawings in Seth’s classic winter tome – It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken. depict a frigid, contemplative, Canadian winter in a variety of settings:

A packed, pre-Christmas main street.

A government building taking in a snow storm.

A lonely house sitting in silence.

And a windy walk home.

World building at its finest.

See you next week.

From: It’s a Good Life, If You Don’t Weaken: A Picture Novella

By: Seth

Four Panel Friday: SpongeBob Comics – The Paul Karasik and R. Sikoryak team up!



Our SpongeBob theme continues…

The joy of the SpongeBob Comics Treasure Chest is in the variety of writers and artists telling SpongeBob stories in their own style.

Like other “best of” collections it opens up the possibilities of discovering artists and writers you weren’t familiar with.

That said, Paul Karasik and R.Sikoryak’s cartooning skills are SIK!

Both have published notable works – Paul Karasik of How to Read Nancy, and R. Sikorayak’s Terms and Conditions.

But as we know, the pinnacle of any cartoonist’s career is drawing SpongeBob stories.

Note: I’m not sure which of Paul or R.Sikorayak wrote or drew the story, but R.Sikorayak’s homages of old super hero comics appear in every panel.

From: SpongeBob Comics: Treasure Chest , I Shall Destroy All the Civilized Planktons!

By: Paul Karasik and R.Sikoryak

Four Panel Friday: SpongeBob Comics, James Kochalka edition



Tolstoy.

Melville.

Dumas.

Kolchalka.

Yes, the classics should be read, must be read. But in-between reading the classics, SpongeBob Squarepants comics have their place.

Especially SpongeBob Comics written and drawn by James Kochalka.

Sidenote. SpongeBob the show first dropped in 1999!

From: SpongeBob Comics: Treasure Chest

By: James Kochalka