America’s Kingdom – IN STEREO!

Woo – is it September already? It’s probably about time I did that blog thing, then!

For this month’s blog update, I thought I’d post a few pages from a new book I’m working on for Skinnyboy Studios, which goes by the title ‘America’s Kingdom.’

Written by Brian Hawkins and with art by Aris Gonzales, This is an ambitious little project, delving into ‘what if?’ territory. Itpresents an alternate history in which the USA is a monarchy, instead of a democracy, focusing (in issue #1, at least) on the troubles of a soon to be crowned king, as he faces down civil unrest and an impending marriage.

Here are the pages. As usual, I’ll say a bit underneath them about how I approached them.

AK#1 page 1-01

AK#1 page 2-01

AK#1 page 3-01

Starting on a new book is always exciting for me, because it means I have an opportunity to use all the new lettering ideas and knowledge that I’ve amassed up to that point. Sometimes, I’ll learn a new trick, or have an idea halfway through the run of a book – and by then, I can’t really use it without upsetting the visual continuity of that book. So those ideas get held onto and saved for the next project. In short, this means that each new project benefits from things I learned on the last.

The first thing I noticed on reading the script for America’s Kingdom #1 was that the first few pages were very SFX heavy. This was a happy coincidence, as I’d been thinking before then that my SFX work needed a bit more life and variety. So it was that, for this #1 issue, I took the unusual step of budgeting a single night’s work to designing the SFX for the first scene of the book.

It’s sometimes said that SFX can show the measure of a letterer’s skill. It’s with this thought in mind that I’m always seeking to do something dynamic or interesting with them.

Taking a look at page 1, we’ve got an interesting mix of things to play with. There’s a motorcycle engine, police sirens and a neighing horse. I’ve tried to keep the font choices varied, so that different sounds are easily identifiable as coming from different sources.

Here’s how I approached the rendering of these sounds:

The font choices need to be varied, to make it clear that these different sounds are coming from different sources. So, with this in mind, I trawl through my font library and start looking for likely candidates. What adds to the challenge here is that America’s Kingdom is published in black and white, so I can’t use colour to differentiate things.

The font I’ve used for the motorcycle, the ‘vroooooooo’s that dominate these pages, is one that lends itself very well to altering the point size of different letters. This helps to sell the idea of a sound that isn’t at a constant level all the time – important for the sound of an engine that’s either zooming out of the panel toward us, or barrelling away from us. Notice how the letters get larger the closer they are to us, and smaller as they recede. This is my attempt to add a little ‘motion’ to the SFX, to accent the motion that Aris has so capably drawn in the panels.

For the police sirens, I was thinking of a more electronic, artificial sound. I’ve used a font that has a little more of a precision – rendered feel here, and changed up the point size of individual letters again – but this time, I’m doing it slightly differently. Notice that the point size rises and falls quite regularly, as opposed to the random resizing I used before for the motorcycle. This is all an attempt to create a different ‘sound’ on the page.

The horse was a real challenge, and it’s perhaps the one part of this page I feel could be better. I didn’t really want to use a speech balloon here, as the panel composition would have necessitated using a long tail which, however I drew it, was going to make things look cluttered. Hence, I opted for a floating SFX. My choice this time was a font with that ‘drawn with a brush’ look… but  really wish there was a little more variety to it. I’ve helped it a bit with some bumping of the baseline and varied point sizes again. This, again, is the challenge – sometimes a font requires a lot of creative thinking to really get the best from it.

Elsewhere on these pages, I’ve had to add in some extra SFX – a screeching motorcycle tyre and the ‘THWAKK’ in the last panel on page 3. There’s a certain amount of ‘dealer’s choice’ when it comes to things like these SFX. I had to obviously make them stand apart from the more regulated SFX used everywhere else, so I fell back on a couple of typefaces that are favourites of mine. Blambot FX Pro does a LOT of this sort of heavy lifting in my work.

Page 3, I’m really proud of. I had a hard copy of this in my folio folder at the ICE 2014 convention, and it garnered a lot of praise. Several folks who saw it asked if I had hand lettered the first few panels! This to me is a HUGE compliment, as I’m always looking for ways to introduce a little more of the organic feel of pen and ink work into my pages. But that might be a topic for another entry!

The real task there was to keep that sense of motion from the first couple of pages, when the panels are drawn either from the side or head on. The idea of having a long SFX at the top of panel 1 seemed to add a nice degree of visual diversity here – important when you’re lettering essentially the same things across three pages.

Anyhow – there it is. A mini master class in SFX, and a peek at a very cool book! Please do go and check out the work that Brian and Aris have done. I can honestly say I’ve never worked on a comic like it.

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Heroic! Salvagers! Oh, my!

Another month, another blog update!

This month, I figured a quickie peek at a couple of indie books I’ve been working on might be in order. Both have been creating a bit of a stir in the online community, and, knowing firsthand how much care and effort goes into both, it sort of behooves me to wave the banner for them.

First up is Issue #2 of ‘Salvagers’, published by Hound Comics. The first issue was the subject of my recent ‘before and after’ article. Issue #2 is the first one I was slated to work on properly – and I’m glad I’d had a chance to tinker beforehand!

Here are the first few pages. As usual, click and click again to see the pages at their best.

Salvagers issue #1 page 21
Salvagers issue #1 page 21
Salvagers issue #1 page 21
Salvagers issue #1 page 21

The story focuses on Brigby this time around, a move which already seems to have made fans of the series rather happy. Quite a few folks have taken the time to message me privately and tell me how excited they are about the book, which is genuinely heartening. Gawd bless ya!

Issue #2, written by Bob Salley, with art by George Acevedo and colours by DeSiKa, is available here:
http://amusedom.com/index2.php?option=com_amusedom&view=browser&Itemid=53&task=info&popup=0&submission_id=2308

Now onto ‘Heroic’ #1, by Zenith comics.

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‘Heroic’, the brainchild of writer Andrew Collas, is something of a first for me. Would you believe, in almost five years of freelance lettering, it’s the first full colour superhero book I’ve worked on? What was I doing wrong?!

The first chapter of the book was released a few months back to some wild acclaim. I’ll not say too much, but 8 pages in you’ll find a pretty awesome twist that turns things on their head. Now you can purchase and savour the full length issue.

‘Heroic’ #1, by Andrew Collas, featuring the art of Alex Williamson, Luca, Cicchitti and Oliver Castaneda, with colours by Gary Scott Beatty, is available digitally here – with ‘pay what you want’ pricing!

http://comics.drivethrustuff.com/product/129683/Zenith-Comics-Presents-Heroic–First-Issue

I had a ton of fun lettering both books – the sci-fi setting of Salvagers and the lively art of Heroic make great canvasses to do my own little bit of the work on.

Please do check ’em out!

PREVIOUSLY, on Letterpunk…

I decided it might be a good idea to collect all the samples of my work from within the blog in a single post. I quite often refer clients here to review pages, so this might save them trawling through all my updates.

Hopefully, these samples show some versatility on my part, I’m always looking for new things to try.

Remember to click and zoom in on the samples to see them at their best.

Salvagers issue #1 page 21Salvagers issue #5 page 7Salvagers issue #1 page 21HitGirl pg3-01

A Star Falls Page 1-01
A Star Falls Page 2-01
A Star Falls Page 3-01
Salvagers issue #1 page 4-01 Salvagers issue #1 page 5-01 Salvagers issue #1 page 6-01 Salvagers issue #1 page 7-01
Shahrazad_03_01 CMYK Shahrazad_03_01 CMYK Shahrazad_03_01 CMYK Shahrazad_03_01 CMYK
Serusis #5 page 4-01 Serusis #5 page 5-01 Serusis #5 page 6-01 Serusis #5 page 7-01
TBS Page 1 TBS Page 2 TBS Page 3
Change for web (2) Oz #11 page 7 Oz #11 page 7 UM 1 pg 3 UM 1 pg 3
MLP pg1 for blog MLP pg2 for blog wickedwest-1-page-16 wickedwest-1-page-17 wickedwest-1-page-18 wickedwest-1-page-19 HOMECOMING DOWN AND OUT IN DOWNTOWN KAON
A Modem Of Value TFM Forgive And Forget
Pietas-redux-page-1 Pietas-redux-page-2 Pietas-redux-page-3 Pietas-redux-page-4 Pietas-redux-page-5

 

The Letterer Also Writes, Part 2 – ‘A Star Falls’.

In a slight change of pace, I’m udpating this month with a sneak peek at a short story I wrote and lettered for this year’s newly launched Metaverse anthology. This is the third short story of mine that’s seen print, after ‘Oil And Water’ and ‘The Biggest Stick’, both of which appeared in the Paragon anthology.

Without further ado, here are the first three pages. Click and enlarge to enjoy them at full size.

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‘A Star Falls’ was drawn by my buddy (and Lou Scannon artpunk extraordinaire) Dan Harris. Originally conceived as submision for 2000 AD’s ‘Future Shocks’, the idea proved too unwieldy for the comic’s specified 4 page limit, so it got shunted into my notes and saved for a rainy day. Whe  the call for submissions to Metaverse went out, I found myself dusting it off and re-writing it quite drastically. The original story had been a deadly serious (quite po-faced, when I look back on it) swords and sorcery adventure. For the re-write, I found myself pushing things more and more in a spoof-y direction, and adding a lot of humour. Dan even made a few suggestions that made it into the final pages, with a bit of tweaking and re-writing. The effort seems to have paid off, as our 10 page opus was described as ‘the funniest story in Metaverse’, and has been responded to with quite some praise. Nothing beats the feeling of knowing people like what you’ve created!

As far as the lettering goes, ‘A Star Falls’ gave me an opportunity to experiment with some ideas I had been tinkering with for a while. I was due to letter a new issue of Lou Scannon soon after, and had been given the go-ahead to make some stylistic changes there. So I now had a golden opportunity to see how my ideas would mesh with Dan’s art style on a fresh piece before transplanting it there.

Something I did on this pages, which I think injects extra life into the reading experience, was to boost the point size of the lettering at certain points. Where characters are shouting or the narration describes something important, I bolded the text and made it larger, sometimes having to adjust the baseline values of the adjacent text. This may sound like a faff, but I feel it gives the story a certain extra something, and contributes to the energy of Dan’s artwork. It’s an approach I’ve been taking to other projects recently as well, most notably ‘Shahrazad’ for Big Dog Ink and ‘Salvagers’ for Hound Comics.

I have to say that this is a comic I’m really proud of. In fact, I’ve not had many projects that were as much pure, unadulterated FUN as this one. A lot of hard work was involved, and a lot of communication between myself and Dan – a key to any successful comics project. But I lettered these pages with a big grin on my face from start to finish. I’d work with Dan like this again in a hot minute, and I feel like we became firmer friends during the course of it.

Distribution for print copies of the Metaverse anthology is still being finalised. As soon as I know where and how you can buy a copy, I’ll be sure to update the blog with them. In the meantime special thanks must go to Paul Ridgon, who was originally slated to draw the story. Sadly, he had to pull out due to previous obligations. But his willingness and interest in my script  was – and still is – very much appreciated.

Salvagers #1 – Re-lettered and remastered!

Hey-ho space cadets, starship troopers, wookies and facehuggers!

Here’s a peek at  ‘Salvagers’, currently available from Hound Comics. This book is the combined effort of Bob Salley, George Acevedo and colourist DeSiKa, with a smattering of lettersauce from yours truly. It’s a sci-fi adventure following a salty crew of space brigands as they go about their adventures, ripping off space derelicts and getting into scrapes. Fun stuff!

The gig came about after Bob Sally and I communicated for a while on Facebook. A preview of the finished #1 issue had already been posted online, and I cheekily suggested that the lettering could be improved. Bob asked me some very intelligent questions about the practicalities and costs of having the book lettered professionally. Long story short, the question was popped to me “would you be willing and able to do it for us?” Naturally, being a starving freelancer, I said yes in a shot.

Bob and the team were interested in seeing how issue #1 would look with my lettering replacing the DIY job they’d done, partly for the sake of ensuring design consistency between that and issue #2, which was the first I had been properly slated to work on. This meant I had a golden opportunity to revamp the book’s lettering design from the ground up, and add something extra to the book.

After getting permission from the team, I thought it might be an eye opener to show the difference hiring an experienced letterer can make to a comic book. I’ve been waiting for an opportunity to do this for a few years now, as I’ve encountered a number of indie comics creators and hobbyists who seem to be of the opinion that quality lettering somehow isn’t an important. You just need to be able to read what’s in the balloons, right? Well, that approach will get you so far. But if you go the extra mile, you’ll add a whole extra level of polish to your product, and you’ll open up a lot of possibilities as regards communicating your story.

So, to illustrate – and I emphasize, I have Bob and George’s permission to do this – I’ve yanked a few pages from the first run of Salvagers #1 and placed them alongside my re-lettered pages as they appear in the remastered edition.

Here are four pages with Bob and George’s lettering applied. Alongside them are my relettered pages. You’ll hve to click on the image below and zoom in to view them at readable size. I think you’ll be surprised at how different the two versions are!

before and after 40%Now, what Bob and George did is serviceable. It does the job of communicating the story, and I applaud anybody with the determination to get their project realised this far. I’ve certainly seen less elegant jobs on small press and indie books – and, it’s worth noting, the prevalence of poor lettering at that end of the market is what made me take the plunge and start lettering freelance.

What I appreciate far more, however, and it’s something that makes the Salvagers team a pleasure to work with, is that they see where this aspect of the book can be improved, and are willing to go the extra mile with it. For them, it meant entrusting their book’s lettering to an outsider. I know as much as anybody how this can fill a creator with trepidation!

So, the pressure was on to make sure I turned in a lettering job that was of higher quality, but also gave the guys what I firmly believe my clients deserve – value for money. I started looking for ways to add to the book’s aestehtic with the lettering, without over-egging it. This was a challenge, but it was also a lot of fun!

Mostly, the re-lettering of Salvagers #1 saw me correcting balloon placements and conventions. Certain balloons would benefit from being more clearly re-designed to look like radio balloons, for example, and I was able to give the ship’s computer, A.V.R.I., and the alien character Brigby their own unique ‘voices’. As soon as I start doing this sort of thing, theres a risk of diverting attention from the story and art onto the lettering, so a lot of careful judgement is required to prevent that from happening. Thankfully, the book lends itself well to cutting loose with more expressive lettering. It really is a joy to work on.

The rest of the team were (to my relief) happy with the re-design, so… mission accomplished! I hope you’ll make the effort to check out the finished product. I’m presently lettering issue #2, and it’s certainly shaping up to be a fun ride.

Big Dog Ink previews: Serusis #5, Shahrazad #3

Okay – hands up who likes getting advance previews of new comics?

Well, okie dokie! I am nothing if not obliging. So, here’s a peek at two books I recently wrapped up the lettering for. Starting off, here’s a look at ‘Serusis’. This is Big Dog Ink’s  love-letter to Saturday morning cartoon shows of old, and has a real sense of fun about it. It also represents a concerted effort to put an all-ages appropriate comic book onto store shelves, and that’s something I personally feel is a laudable feat – especially as the book doesn’t ‘write down’ to its readership at all. Anyone can enjoy this book – I’m really proud to have contributed to this one.

Script by Tom Hutchison, art by Owen Gieni, letters by yours truly.
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Next up is ‘Shahrazad’, which is a different kettle of fish altogether. Billed by Big Dog Ink as an ‘exercise in creativity’, it’s already clear that this is shaping up to be a real epic. Check out that eye-popping artwork!
This one’s written by Kim Hutchison and Kari Castor,  with  Mike Krome on art and  colours by Nei Ruffino. Letters by me.

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Both should be available to buy very soon, and you should still be able to pre-order these at your LCS.

Enjoy!

The Letterer Also Writes!

Lawks! Here’s a surprise!

Besides my adventures in comic book lettering, who knew, I also occasionally write them. And you can occasionally buy them, too!

I’m proud to announce that next month will see the publication of ‘The Biggest Stick’, an 11 page story that will be featured in the UK small press anthology ‘Paragon’, ably edited and compiled by Mr. Davey Candlish.

Dave tied my script to a brick and threw it through the window of talented cartoonist Jim Cameron, and the result is a little burst of sci-fi buffoonery with a soupcon of arms trading thrown in. And here, for your edification, is a 3 page preview! For best results, click on the pages and click again to zoom in.

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This will be the second strip I’ve had published in Paragon, and should appear in issue #15, on sale sometime in December.

If you want to find out more about Paragon, you can find them on Facebook here:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/PARAGONcomic/191826520902258

Enjoy!