Having witnessed Marvel’s archaic method of production back in ’89 when I lived in New York and visited the Bullpen on a regular basis, I knew that Marvel would eventually switch over to digital lettering, not just because of the quality control it allowed, but also because of the tremendous cash savings for Marvel. One thing I didn’t expect was that editors and their assistants would stop proofreading scripts before sending them out for lettering. I’d say that 90% of comics today are proofread only after they’ve been lettered. I’d also say that many editors today are so pressed for time that they rely on writers to check copy, which pdfs and the speed of internet communication has made possible. Unfortunately, although I think it’s essential to keep the writer in the loop, he or she isn’t always the best person to double check scripts for typos and other errors. A couple of years ago we were sent the script for a fairly high profile mini series which featured a page of dialogue which completely obscured all the art on the page.
It is true that The Beat egged Starkings on to start such a thread. Lettering, ballooning and the art thereof are one of the little mysteries of comics–something you can never know too much about but which only a few truly understand. In a recent conversation with Starkings we were wondering if there was any validity to the idea that the Bill Jemas-mandated upper and lower case lettering that was the rule at Marvel for a while really was any more readable. We noted that we had always found it impossible to read, and it looked jarring and stupid. But maybe we were old fogeys and just weren’t used to change. Starkings noted that “It’s readable if its done well.”
Then we happened to pick up a book by Joann Sfar and Emmanuel Guibert and realized that they had been using upper and lower case all the time and we never even noticed. That’s what’s called doing it well.
[Art from THE PROFESSOR’S DAUGHTER published by First Second.]