Saturday, March 15, 2008

Workman-like behavior

I'm happy we're doing this FX book for a lot of reasons--Wayne Osborne has created a comic that reminds me of superhero comics I read when I was a kid; he has John Byrne doing the art, which always wins me over; and the reason for citing the book right now (as well as to show off some new pages I just received), John Workman on letters. Outside of Todd Klein or Richard Starkings, letterers don't seem to get enough due lately. But back in the day, folks like Tom Orzechowski and Janice Chang were doing great, noticeably impressive hand-lettering in comics.

And then along came John Workman.

I think most people really noticed John in Walt Simonson's THOR run, but his work on Grant Morrison's DOOM PATROL and so many other comics in the '80s and '90s really stood out. It takes special skill for lettering to really impress and not distract from a comic's story or art, which is why only a handful of people ever really get acclaim for their letters. John's one of them that deserves every bit of praise he gets. I can't exactly put a handle on what it is about his stuff, since it's everything, from the style he uses to the way the letters fill the balloons to the sound effects. All these things take on a distinctive feel when John's on a book.

In these days of computer lettering, where we letter every book in-house, having John do the hand-lettering on this comic not only gives it even more of a distinctive look but it also reminds me that much more of comics I loved when I was a kid. So I know Todd Klein (deservedly) wins Eisners and gets the most attention for his lettering, but nothing gives me quite the same feeling as seeing Workman's stuff in an issue. Happy to have him along on this one.


GR said...

Love the standard Flat-comic-coloring!
And hand made lettering by John Workman!!!
This is a jewel!
Congratulations IDW, keep publishing stuff like this!

Anonymous said...

And here I was, honestly, thinking hand-lettering had gone the way of the dinosaurs and Commodore 64.

I always UNDERSTOOD why computer lettering became more popular, from a business/cost-effective perspective.

I guess I just think it'd be nice if more people lettered by hand still, to keep "the digital" from taking over the industry as it ever increasingly seems to be doing.

Chris Ryall said...

Like with any computer advancements, it's a time- and cost-saving device. But unlike computer coloring, which can do so much more than the older coloring techniques, computer lettering just can't hold a candle to what guys like Workman and Klein can do when they have time to do it.

Anonymous said...

Y'know, this may seem like a really stupid question, but how DID people colour for comics before computers? I mean, obviously by hand, but I never understood how one could get certain techniques to look the way they ended up looking.

Shaynne said...

Copies of the inked artwork were painted, with a brush, and a watercolor dye. A photographic process using colored filters was used to separate the art into the 4 colors used for print, cyan magenta yellow and black. There wasn’t a lot of emphasis placed on technique but once in a while you’d find some amazing rendering, as good as any watercolor paintings. The real limitation wasn’t the technology, it was that comics were printed on very cheap newsprint. Too much color (density) would have resulted in bleeding. The rendering you see today on the glossy stock would have been impossible on the old newsprint.

Anonymous said...

Love John Workman. Yes, I started to notice him on Thor, and then followed him almost as much as some artists during my collecting heydey. I definitely bought a few books just for his lettering.

As an aside: Booster Gold vs. Skeletor? Cool!