Comic Book typography

Ville Salervo's picture

I'm going to do my Graphic Design master thesis on comic book typography. The small amount of googling and digging around I've done so far (I just started) in libraries and online databases hasn't resulted in a lot of information. Most how-to books have a chapter on hand lettering but I haven' t been able to find books exclusively dedicated to the subject.

Any hints on literature, comic book artists who do their own digital typefaces or are especially creative with use of type (Chris Ware and Will Eisner come to mind - who else?) would be greatly appreciated. Name your favorites!

jasonc's picture

are you looking for artists who hand letter, or digital letterers? Or both?
Have you contacted Blambot or comiccraft?

Jason C

processcamera's picture

I suggest "The Adventures of Tintin" by Herge (Georges Remi):

Mark Simonson's picture

Comicraft published a pretty good book on the subject a few years ago. It's still available:

http://www.comicbookfonts.com/book/

cuttlefish's picture

The one thing I know is that, since word bubbles are often lettered in all caps, the capital I with serifs is to be used only for the personal pronoun. I know I read that rule somewhere. I'll try to get back to you with a source.

I think an I with serifs might be OK in Roman numerals too, but you'd have to ask your editor about that.

Mark Simonson's picture

The Comicraft book covers that sort of thing, plus how to make your own comic book fonts. Since the book is from 2003, the software discussed in the book is no longer current, but most of the "how to" is still valid.

blank's picture

DC comics has a book Dc Comics Guide to Coloring and Lettering Comics. At least some of the text is by Todd Klein, who is one of the best and most respected comic lettering artists ever. His work on The Sandman and much of the run of Lucifer is one of the pinnacle of comic lettering.

Rian Hughes is a type designer, lettering artist, comic letterer, comic artist, and writer. Research Rian.

Another pinnacle of comic lettering is just about anything by P. Craig Russell. When he gets hired to do a comic it's usually something special.

riccard0's picture

Here's a piece on some of the conventions of (american) comic books lettering:
http://www.blambot.com/grammar.shtml

Another lettering artist to study is http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Orzechowski

Justin_Ch's picture

Two of my favourites for lettering:

Charles Schulz

George Herriman

I realise these might not count if you are making a strict difference between comic books and newspaper comic strips.
In the British comics I read in the '70s, which were mainly collections of single page stories, the artists nearly always did their own lettering. Leo Baxendale, Reg Parlett and Ken Reid were particularly good for titles of monster and horror strips. There are lots of examples of these in Rian Hughes' Custom Lettering of the '60s & '70s.

Ville Salervo's picture

Thanks for the replies, very good references! I haven't quite yet defined how wide the subject would be but I'm interested in both digital typography (which I have done myself to some extent) and hand lettering (which would be useful to learn well).

I'll definitely purchase the comiccraft book. I'd really like to create my own digital typeface for use on the production part of the thesis (which will be an actual comic book).

When thinking of the classic handwritten comic book style, do you know of any digital fonts that use opentype features such as alternating characters (when you have two same glyphs after one another) in order to crete a truly handwritten feel? I'll contact blambot and comiccraft as suggested by jasonc on this but it would be nice to hear user comments on such typefaces also.

etl's picture

Ville,

Yearly, the Will Eisner Awards (sort of the Oscars for the comics industry) offer an award for best lettering.

Here are the nominees for 2011:

Best Lettering

- Darwyn Cooke, Richard Stark's Parker: The Outfit (IDW)
- Dan Clowes, Wilson (Drawn & Quarterly)
- Jimmy Gownley, Amelia Rules!: True Things (Adults Don't Want Kids to Know), Amelia Rules!: The Tweenage Guide to Not Being Unpopular, by Jimmy Gownley (Atheneum/Simon & Schuster)
- Todd Klein, Fables, The Unwritten, Joe the Barbarian, iZombie (Vertigo/DC); Tom Strong and the Robots of Doom (WildStorm/DC); SHIELD (Marvel); Driver for the Dead (Radical)
- Doug TenNapel, Ghostopolis (Scholastic Graphix)
- Chris Ware, Acme Novelty Library 20: Lint (Drawn & Quarterly)

I suspect digging around to find the past 20 years of nominees and winners would be a good place to start. Many of the artists you could approach directly through personal web sites and blogs.

best of luck and let us know your results.

fritsjonker's picture

Hello Ville,
i am a Dutch comic letterer. If i can help you out in any way, you can find me on FaceBook. The situation in Holland for letterers is different than for letterers in the States.
Greetings from Holland!
f

Chris Dean's picture

A reference from a friend, Ben Jeddrie, who works for a local comic book shop: DC Comics Guide to Coloring and Lettering Comics.

BrettR's picture

Comic Sans MS...
I am totally messing with you guys, Comic Sans doesn't even belong in a comic book. (Well non that are well made)

Here is a suitable typeface for comics, it is used in Calvin and Hobbes, can't tell you exactly what typeface it is, but I'm sure others on this forum will be able to sleuth out its identity.

Mark Simonson's picture

That's a fake. Watterson never used fonts, and he never copied and reused his artwork (except once to make fun of the practice). Clever, though, whoever did it.

Mark Simonson's picture

FWIW, the font in the fake C&H comic appears to be Jack Armstrong, by Blambot.

BrettR's picture

I stand corrected, I was in a bit of a rush, so I just googled Calvin and Hobbes and that was i think #3 choice in images, so I just went with it.

Mark Simonson's picture

That's okay. Nerd that I am, I couldn't help but point it out.

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