Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Wanna Letter Comic Books, Kid?

Every now and then you see someone talking about lettering online. I came across and interesting conversation between a few big name writers and Richard Starkings (of Comicraft fame).

If there’s any doubt as to why I couldn’t keep lettering on a daily basis anymore, this might give you an idea.

From what I can see, this all started due to a post by Greg Rucka on his live journal page about going over the lettering he got back from a issue of “52”.

Want to know a lost art?

Just spent an hour and a half going over the lettered copy of Week #48 of 52. The issue is of particular importance to me for obvious reasons if you've seen the cover. If you haven't, you'll know it when you read it.

An hour and a half compiling detailed notes and making extensive corrections to 18 out of 20 pages. Nearly 50 separate mistakes, from missing punctuation to mixing up captions with spoken lines, right down to giving the lines to the wrong characters.

A fucking hour and a half.

I miss Todd Klein.

Instead of artists like him, we get [Comicraft] instead.

This prompted a thread over at another "Big Name" writer’s message board, Warren Ellis.

That was one of the biggest wrenches when I started working for America. "Where are your placements?" "Why aren't you numbering your copy fields?" The number of times I had to explain that lettering know how to both place and count...

Now, I’m not a huge fan of Comicraft but I’ll sure as hell stick up for them before I do a writer who makes more money on one page than then a bullpen letter makes on a book.

Why do these guys need placements? Because there’s a million different characters not named Spider-Man and Batman, that’s why. Talking heads of detectives in suits who look the friggin’ same… or my personal favorite from my time lettering: A scene in the United Nations… full shot of the entire room full of dozens of men in suits… no placements and I’m supposed to know who Joe Schmo is. And if you point to the wrong character (because how the hell would you know where the balloon is going) you get snide comments and cries of you being lazy from an Editor or a writer. Not to mention that placements speed up the lettering of a book that is likely late due to the artist and/or writer.

Does Rucka think this letter wanted to mess the book up? Did the letterer get placements to make sure it went more smoothly? Or was Rucka too busy? If he was, then maybe he ask himself if sitting down with a sharpie and doing the placements would take him an hour and a half. What script did the letterer get? I know from experience that you’re more likely to get struck by lightening while hitting the lottery than you are to get a script that was proofed by the editor. Hell, many times an editor gave me the wrong draft of a script. Imagine lettering the first draft of a script only to find out there have been 3 drafts after that one that you just spent 5 hours lettering. And guess how much the letterer gets paid for re-lettering that book? ZERO. Or how about the writer who won’t do his final draft until the letterer finishes the book with a script that he and everyone involved knows is going to change dramatically later on? And how much extra cash does the letterer get for lettering entire pages that will be completely scrapped and replaced with new dialogue? ZERO.

So the next time you’re a Big Name Writer. Making really good money to do a job you’re privileged to do… a job that is likely your dream job… a job that pays royalties for years to come. Remember that the letter is a guy who makes a flat rate that is a fraction of what you make. And remember that the letter is busting his ass to get that book out on time because nobody gives a shit how much time the letterer has to finish the book. Remember that the letterer probably finished that book overnight only to wake up a few hours later to reletter it. And remember that the letter takes a ton of pride in how his work looks on the page.

Reading that stuff gave me the old lettering feeling again. One of frustration and aggravation.



Jared said...

Listen to the letterer rant like he's an actual person! By the way the new bag I got is pretty cool. It'll fit your 11x17 comic pages and has a million pockets for things. Som of them are made just for holding brushes and such. I haven't actually carried it anywhere yet. Now I need some place to go.

RandyG said...

If people actually thought of the leterer as a real person, instead of a monkey that is supposed to bang out a book in a few hours then I'm willing to bet there'd be a significant change in the amount of corrections done.

Good news about that bag... I'm going to Italy for my honeymoon in a few weeks, so my shopping goal while there is to land a nice Italian Leather bag...we'll see.