Underrated: Comic Book Contributors – Letterers
This week’s Underrated originally ran on Ramblings Of A Comics Fan in October 2015
This is a column that focuses on something or some things from the comic book sphere of influence that may not get the credit and recognition it deserves. Whether that’s a list of comic book movies, ongoing comics, or a set of stories featuring a certain character. The columns may take the form of a bullet pointed list, or a slightly longer thinkpiece – there’s really no formula for this other than whether the things being covered are Underrated in some way. This week: Letterers.
When it comes to the names attached to comics usually you know who the writer and artist is, whether that’s because of previews, or even just general talk around the Internets water cooler or your local comic shop. Recently I’ve noticed that there are some very good comic book contributors that don’t get the same level of attention as those who write or draw the comics, such as the letterers.
A few things before we start; firstly, there is no way I’ll ever be able to list every talented letterer out there. Just no way. Secondly, if you take nothing else from this post, at least be aware of just how much these contributors add to a comic when we barely notice them. Thirdly this post will only contain a select few examples of some great work from comics released within the not too distant past, or stories that should be easy to find in trade format. It is not meant to be an exhaustive, or complete, list of great lettering, and there will only be a select few examples here (and even then, only covers).
Because, frankly, if I tried to do that I would miss too many.
DC‘s Batman #44, was probably the best comic featuring Batman I’ve read that was released this year, the art was provided by guest artist Jock (with Lee Loughbridge providing the colours). Batman #44 is an example of the creative team firing on all cylinders, which is especially evident by the stellar work of Deron Bennett. It is the lettering that pulls in elements of the story, merging with the art and colours to give readers one of the best Batman comics, at least visually, in the last two years. I mentioned this comic last week when talking about colourists, but it also fits so well as an example of great lettering that I couldn’t avoid reusing it as an example. Not only does the lettering highlight the story, but it guides you eye effortlessly along when reading the comic.
And that brings us to another point.
Letterers are often overlooked because their work can be so integral to a comic that you often don’t even notice how effective it is. Indeed, when a letterer does their job well you don’t notice how easy it is to read along with the comic. A good letterer is able to place the speech and thought bubbles in a way that guides the eye through the art, using narration text to really highlight certain areas with careful placement. We spend just as much time looking at the text as we do the art, but (and I’m just as guilty of this as anybody else) we don’t usually give as much care when it comes to who placed it there, as opposed to who originally wrote the words.
Next time you read a comic, pay attention to just how different the pages would be if the text had been placed over a different area of the artwork, or the words are in an almost unreadable font. A comic may have some top notch art and a great story, but if you can’t read that story very well then you can’t really enjoy it.
There we have it – an all too brief homage to an underrated art form that can sometimes make, or break, a comic. Are there other contributors to comic that are also underrated and under-appreciated?
For that reason expect a third or fourth part to this post in the future. In the meantime, Underrated will probably return next week to highlight more comic book related stuff that either gets ignored despite it’s high quality, or maybe isn’t quite as bad as we tend to think it is.
Until next time!