Thursday, January 20, 2011

Thanks to Letterers; Spanish Edition of Customer

Recently, the letterer who helped me tell the story of The Customer Is Always Right, Haas Kage (, really did me a solid; one that allowed me to go international and bilingual. How you ask? I’ll save that for later. But in backing me up, he reminded me of the collaborative nature of comics and about one the key roles that often goes unheralded: the comics letterer.

I recently had the priveledge of spending a little time learning the art (and it is an art!) from master letterer Dave Sharpe via the auspices of Comics Experience and the Introduction to Lettering and Production Class. A Kubert school alum and a former Marvel Comics full-timer now freelancer, Dave started his career at Marvel lettering comic books just before the digital age. Today, he now works on dozens of books from a variety of publishers. Recently, he's lettered everything from Iron Man: Legacy to Batman: The Return.

Dave is a true craftsman. He was a great teacher. Funny, patient, and passionate about comics, he opened up a whole new world of comics understanding for me. He taught me all about layered essence of comic book production. Literally.

You see, using Adobe Illustrator to letter your comics, you work with an art layer, a balloon layer, a tails layer, etc. I learned about balloon shape and page composition and the thickness of stroke for emotion--and how do do special effects.

I don't know that I'm ready to step out there and do lettering and production all on my own. That's my goal, but I took the class to get a better understanding of the comics-making process. I learned a great deal, but in some ways the intangible aspects of the class were the most rewarding.

Taking the class was a lot like visting the soundstages on the Warner Bros. lot during filming (which is a much more intimate and real experience, as compared to Universal Studios). You get to see how the magic really happens. Dave showed my class how much work is involved in just lettering a comic. There are all kinds of decisions a letterer makes--making him or her a true artisan. Their work has a huge impact on the final product. In fact, many letterers also act as the production department for a publisher. So the letterer may also be merging the colored final pages with their balloon work and performing the pre-press functions for the publisher.

Anyway, the next time you enjoy reading a comic. Stop and turn to the credits. Look up who the letterer was. They literally made reading the book possible.

So how did Haas do me a solid? Well, my collaborator, Tomás, recently contacted me about doing a Spanish version of our story for a book he and some pals are putitng together. I thought this was a great idea--and it's going to happen--but here's where I got stuck. To save time and money, Tomás needed the art from our story with the balloon layer. You see, they could then just put Spanish words in maintaining the same balloons as the English version. Instant story. Except . . .

Prior to taking the lettering class, I had no idea about this kind of thing. I was so green, I only asked Haas for the final art files needed for printing. And he obliged. But now, months later, I contacted him again and he had the files we needed. What a pro! Then, bim, baam, boom, they cross the Atlantic via the Internet and my story is international.

So the lesson here--besides getting your files in a variety of formats from your collaborators--is that your collaborators are important. They can save your butt. Besides, of course, making your story possible in the first place.

Haas, when my copies come in, I'll be sending you a few.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I Have My Very Own Comic ... Finally

Wow, I just ordered copies of a comic book I helped create. After lots of hard work and months of anticipation, my first story to make it to print is here. I now have a comic book of my very own!

Futuristic gunslingers, wisecrackin' midget cops, daring space adventurers, and monsters where you won't expect them--that's More Tales from the Comics Experience, available now from IndyPlanet!

More Tales from the Comics Experience, is a new anthology featuring 8 awesome stories workshopped under big-time IDW and former Marvel editor Andy Schmidt's guidance in his Comics Experience writing classes.

These solid tales are told in stunning black and white and are well worth your $4.00. That's right, just $4.00 for 52 pages of comic awesomeness! And--wait for it--that's not all. The book also features an interview with legendary writer Chuck Dixon.

When you go to IndyPlanet, be sure to check out the preview images by clicking the "Images" tab. You'll see that this is one beautiful book--not some stick figure Kinko's number we photocopied last night. No, sir, this is the best 4 buck book you're going to read in 2011!

From the book's clever marketing spiel: Eight aspiring comic book writers have come together, under the guidance of IDW Publishing Senior Editor Andy Schmidt, to collect this action packed anthology of 5-page stories not just for the average fanboy, but for other aspiring writers as well. With a foreword from Andy and words of wisdom about what it means to be a comic book writer from legend, Chuck Dixon (Batman, G.I. Joe, Green Arrow, Punisher), this anthology represents the next generation of writers' first step towards breaking into the business.

Drift follows the last humans in the universe as they attempt to escape a deadly attack through the mouth of a black hole!

Meet Fred. He's got a mystical glove and knows how to use it to cause some serious damage in Glove of Fred!

Guns, death, and more guns is the recipe for this apocalyptic Western where no one is safe in You Can Lead a Horse to Water.

The Customer Is Always Right features a hitman getting a very special request. Wait until you find who needs to die and why!

Days of Derring is a tale of espionage that finds our hero getting a little too close to his next assignment!

Savannah is the story of two animals in the African wild trying to buck the food chain!

Midget Cop is here to save the day in his own unique way...which usually involves insults and hijinx!

A man has a unique experience at the strip club in A Star in Sight.

Also included are excerpts from an interview with G.I. Joe and Batman writer Chuck Dixon talking about what it means to be a writer in the comic book business and how to do it the right way.

I want to thank Andy Schmidt for helping to hone my skills as a writer--esp. for giving me great tools for story structure. I also want to thank my fellow writers as well as the artists who helped bring this project to life: Jamie Iracleanos/Brad Green; Matt Merante/Josh C. Lyman; Brian L. Billo/Ian MacLean; Vaughn A. Summers/Krakken; Alex T. Randolph/Maia Kobabe; Jim Moore/Steven Janowicz; Gregory Brown/(A) Branko Jovanovic. Even bigger props go to Jamie and James for working so hard to get this thing together. And finally, thanks also to the great Tomás Morón, my artist on Customer. (I'll be sending those copies to you as soon as they come in!)