Disunity #2 — Let’s Talk Lettering




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.02.12

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.

Until then, I welcome everybody to check out disunity #2 on comiXology!


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Rem Fields
About Rem Fields (25 Articles)
Rem Fields (Managing Editor) aims to tell stories. As an IT professional he should be writing code or administrating systems, yet the only scripting that seems to get done is for his comic books. In between bouts of worldbuilding Rem fights the good fight as a freelance author operating out of St. Petersburg, Florida. His interests range from ukuleles to cryptocurrencies, though really he just can’t fall asleep until reminding his word processor who’s in charge.

Follow along at remfields.com as he tries to bring his own brand of storytelling to the interwebs.

3 Comments on Disunity #2 — Let’s Talk Lettering

  1. Try Manga Studio EX5 next time Rem. The amount of time you will save with it will more than pay for itself. One software, all comic disciplines… Priceless… It kicks all other graphic software’s butts for pennies.

    Even using an old EX4 version (for $20-30 on ebay) will save you just as much time and another 100 bucks. I just finally stopped using EX4 after 8+ years of bliss.

    Both will allow you to letter in a 1/4 of the time spent on other programs. I lettered over 2,500 pages in 2013 with EX4.

    And the $700 you save by not purchasing software from the Big A, can be spent on much more comic enterprise productive things.

  2. Oh… Great job on your Lettering BTW. Fantastic SFX…!

    • Thanks, Michael — I must admit the FX were already integrated into the panels by Ron. The fact that he plans them out during the sketching phase has a lot to do with why they look so great!

      I’ve heard good things about Manga Studio. The only other visual-arts software I had used prior to picking up Illustrator was Photoshop, so I just kinda defaulted back to Adobe and subscribed to their Creative Cloud service. It looks like there is a 30-day trial for EX5; consider it downloaded.

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