Channel the entity "Jeff Parker" from beyond the Ether

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Spirited Lettering 

I've been asked to say something, anything about comic books in this blog since I haven't yet. Very well. I'll begin with a brief anecdote about showing your work, if that will make you happy.

I met Will Eisner back around '88 or so at one of the legendary ACME shows in North Carolina. I was really nervous about showing him my pages (and rightfully so, they sucked! But they sucked in a totally different way than most newbie's pages did, I like to think), but finally I bolstered myself. How many times was I going to get to meet with the man who literally wrote the book on how to tell stories in this medium? --plenty, it turned out. I've seen him at Comicon San Diego for the past 12 years in a row-- As a kid I read most of the Warren-era Spirits in my dad's grocery store, and loved them. I'd often poke my cheek with my tongue because Eisner always drew The Spirit doing that, I didn't get the tongue-in-cheek reference until years later. Anyway, I idolized Will, as many cartoonists do. Yet, I knew he knew Comics from every possible angle, and none of my tricks or excessive noodling was going to hide my weaknesses from him. I finally handed him some pages and mumbled something. At least I was showing adventure samples, not superheroes. Maybe that would buy me some extra points.

I was braced and ready for him to lay down the law about storytelling and life drawing, etc., and all he talked about was my lettering. He stressed that I should keep the distances the same and so on. I walked away confused, still having no idea what Will thought of my drawing. I think the lesson there was that everything about the art can look like a choice of style, but the lettering is the first cue as to whether this is a professional job or not. I like the fact that he expected me to fix it rather than get someone else to do it, though it was another six or seven years before I finally sat down and really practiced at the craft. You often hear artists exclaim "Oh no, I can't letter! It'd look horrible," but the truth is, if you can learn to draw you can learn to letter. Often even if you can't draw, it's all practice. I'm of the opinion that lettering your own work gives it the proper voice, but I'd rather see a typical font than bad lettering.

Now I'm more nervous than ever to show Will Eisner my work.


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