Releasing the first issue of your indie comic is an emotional rollercoaster. On one hand, it marks the actualization of creating something from nothing. That’s exciting. Though, on the other hand, it means you’ve got to go back and start all over again for the followup issue. That’s terrifying.
It is a lesson I’ve learned over these last few months while working on disunity, a series I’m creating in collaboration with Ron Batchelor. Our debut issue officially launched back in September — which we’ve made available as a free .pdf download — and I am pleased to announce our followup effort released via comiXology Submit last Wednesday.
Not only is disunity #2 my first sophomore issue, it additionally marks my first full-length lettering endeavor. Being able to arrange how my own words hit the page has been an immensely rewarding (albeit time-consuming) experience. It also makes it a breeze to adjust the final copy; no more back-and-forth emails as I handle my last pass of edits.
Lettering is a deceptively complex craft, one I didn’t appreciate until participating in, and learning to do so has made my scriptwriting much more deliberate. Prior to, my word choices were approximations. I followed guidelines, such as the 25-words-per-ballon maximum and the 210-words-per-page limit, but it still felt like guesswork until I actually saw the finished panels.
When you’re the one responsible for putting the words on the page, however, you get to see what fits and what doesn’t. It requires an attention to detail that is not really possible when the text exists in an artless void. To my fellow storytellers out there, I cannot emphasize enough how valuable it is to be able to handle your books’ textual elements in their entirety (from script to panel).
Even if you eventually have a dedicated letterer, you’ll be able to be a more-active participant in the process thanks to your savvy. Scott McCloud has an excellent primer, focusing on how he works within Adobe Illustrator. (For better or worse Illustrator is the best tool for the job.) I’m sure it isn’t the only approach out there though it did get me lettering sooner rather than later.
Once you’ve learned how to create balloons and boxes, and have studied the nuances of placing them, there’s still one key component left to figure out: Fonts. The logic behind their creation is a discipline in and of itself, one that I am only beginning to delve into, so for now I’m mostly focused on making informed decisions. There are a few sites out there offering a plethora of styles — I’ve frequented Blambot the most (disunity uses their Jack Armstrong font for the most part).
As I strive to improve my technique, I intend to learn from the best. My next read is going to be Comicraft’s lettering guide, a book that came highly recommended from the /r/comicbookcollabs community. Taking a hands-on approach to the treatment of my comics writing has reinvigorated my passion to create. As I now sit down to script out disunity #3 it isn’t terrifying. Sure, it is still a bit daunting, but more than anything I am eager to master the latest addition to my utility belt.