INTERVIEWS WITH 22 TOP COMIC BOOK LETTERERS (Who Had A Minute to Let Us Interview Them)

Review copies and press releases come into the Yeti Cave all the time, and sometimes they ask if we'd like to interview the writer, fewer ask if we'd like to interview the writer and artist, maybe a handful will mention interviewing the colorist, but none ever ask if we'd like to interview the letterer. To me, before I conducted the below interviews, lettering was a mystifying art form that seemed simplistic, easy almost, but I knew it had to be more complex, and indeed it is. So I set out to talk to and spotlight letterers at the end of 2021. I'm still not sure I could provide an adequate definition of "Great Lettering" other than to point to the work of any of the below individuals.

 

What's the Furthest Place From Here?, Image, issue #1, p. 3, Rosenberg/Boss/Otsmane-Elhaou

1. THE LETTERER OF THE DAY IS…HASSAN OTSMANE-ELHAOU


“There’s something about the additive nature of comics that I think is really fascinating. Like, the artist gets a script, which tells a story. They draw the pages, which tells a story, using the script as a basis. The colorist then tells a story over the inks, and as a letterer, you come in and tell a story over that, too. Just the actual idea of what it is becomes really interesting in that regard, because you’re putting your personality on the page, but you also have the vibe with the personality of the work and the creators that have come before you.”


Shanghai Red, What's the Furthest Place From Here?







Sidequest, issue #3, p. 16, Stoye/Racicot/Bonanni/Racicot
Sidequest, issue #3, p. 16, Stoye/Racicot/Bonanni/Racicot

2. THE LETTERER OF THE DAY IS…TOBEN RACICOT


“I feel like a lot of other letterers would answer this question about how lettering is an art, an invisible art to harken back to Scott McCloud, and that’s true, but I would say that lettering should always be complementary. I like to say that you don’t need four drummers in a band, just one. So if everyone on the team is doing their part and complementing and collaborating with each other, then you end up with a stellar comic. But if everyone wants to be the drummer, it’s gonna end up resulting in a very lopsided product.”


Sidequest, Crown & Anchor





Peerless, Morron/Macari/Peppino/Quintana/Jones

3. THE LETTERER OF THE DAY IS…ROB JONES


“Trust is a major part. Them having the trust in me to be able to do the work, use my expertise and knowledge, me having trust in them to deliver pages to me on time and on schedule. Honesty is another major quality. Saying when they really don’t like something, being forthright with me. Good communication is also key.”


Killtopia, Peerless











Baby Barbarian and the Player's Throne, issue #1, Gosline/Wolski/Fauzi/Gattoni
Baby Barbarian and the Player's Throne, issue #1, Gosline/Wolski/Fauzi/Gattoni

4. THE LETTERER OF THE DAY IS…LUCAS GATTONI


“Everything I’ve read has influenced me (and keeps doing so), but regarding those that made me want to get into the business, I’d have to say the late '90s Superboy, Generation X, Astro City and all those titles beautifully lettered by Richard Starkings and Comicraft.”


Killer Queens, Baby Barbarian and the Player's Throne











Midnight Western Theatre, Scout Comics, issue #4, p. 10, Southard/Hahn/Cody/Beaudoin
Midnight Western Theatre, Scout Comics, issue #4, p. 10, Southard/Hahn/Cody/Beaudoin

5. THE LETTERER OF THE DAY IS…BUDDY BEAUDOIN


“The collaborative nature of it. I get to read scripts from all sorts of talented folks and look at incredible art by people who are just as, if not more, passionate than myself about comics. Being able to be a part of that storytelling process, being trusted with someone else’s words, the artist’s characters and settings, being [trusted] with the emotion of each panel… It's pretty damn cool.”


Midnight Western Theatre, Villains Seeking Hero








Grass Kings, BOOM!, issue #9, Kindt/Jenkins/Jenkins/Campbell
Grass Kings, BOOM!, issue #9, Kindt/Jenkins/Jenkins/Campbell

6. THE LETTERER OF THE DAY IS…JIM CAMPBELL


“Everything I’ve done with Michael Moreci has a special place in my affections. One of my earliest lettering jobs was on one of his earliest projects, and we’ve worked together on and off ever since. There’s a comforting familiarity to that, a level of trust that only comes from a decade-long association. Plus, Mike’s one of the nicest guys inside comics, or out. We’ve just wrapped the final issue (#25) of Wasted Space, for Vault, which has been such a wild ride that I genuinely teared up when we reached the finale. If you haven’t been reading it, go and get the trades ASAP!”


Wasted Space, Giant Days, Grass Kings





Titans: Burning Rage, DC Comics, issue #5, Jurgens/Eaton/Faucher/Hi-Fi/Hopkins
Titans: Burning Rage, DC Comics, issue #5, Jurgens/Eaton/Faucher/Hi-Fi/Hopkins

7. THE LETTERER OF THE DAY IS…DC HOPKINS


“Fancy tails and flashy effects do not equal good lettering. Good lettering should make you take note of how the artistry is at play in conjunction with the rest of the page.”


Trve Kvlt, Titans: Burning Rage














Black Hammer Reborn, Dark Horse Comics, issue #2, Lemire/Yarsky/Stewart/Piekos
Black Hammer Reborn, Dark Horse Comics, issue #2, Lemire/Yarsky/Stewart/Piekos

8. THE LETTERER OF THE DAY IS…NATE PIEKOS


“Some minor grasp of the lettering process. We should all crosstrain. Everyone needs to spend some time coloring, editing, writing, etc.”


Middlewest, Black Hammer Reborn














Crush & Lobo, DC Comics, issue #1, Tamaki/Nahuelpan/Bonvillain/Maher

9. THE LETTERER OF THE DAY IS…ARIANA MAHER


“It’s not an invisible art. It can be quite subtle, or quite attention-grabbing, but the lettering is always there in front of you, displaying the mind of the writer as it guides you through the world of the artist. Although not ill-intentioned, calling lettering “invisible” seems to devalue the work.”


Crush & Lobo, Demon Days, Hellions












Clear, Best Jackett Press/ComiXology, issue #2, Snyder/Manapul/AndWorld
Clear, Best Jackett Press/ComiXology, issue #2, Snyder/Manapul/AndWorld

10. THE LETTERER OF THE DAY IS…NATHAN KEMPF


“Being able to visually “play” with words and dialogues is amazing to me. When lettering, you are not just placing the lines where they should be, you are also visually giving the words tone. I also love having to adapt my lettering style to the art and the story as a whole. In the end, lettering is just one piece of a puzzle, but that’s also what makes the craft so interesting.”


Deadbox, MechaTon, Clear










Red Hood and the Outlaws, DC Comics, issue #13, Lobdell/Soy/Gandini/Esposito

11. THE LETTERER OF THE DAY IS…TAYLOR ESPOSITO


“Being on time and following specs correctly. And with artists, also layout pages with lettering in mind, so there is space. I could also do with writing Marvel-style disappearing forever. If you do that for me, I’m a happy camper.”


Heavy, Bi-Visibility Anthology, Red Hood and the Outlaws











Blue In Green, Image Comics, Ram V/Anand RK/Pearson/Bidikar/Muller

12. THE LETTERER OF THE DAY IS…ADITYA BIDIKAR


“I love collaborators that throw in ideas without making a strict separation between disciplines – some of the coolest suggestions in my career have come from colourists and designers just because they were involved in the conversation. That generosity also needs to be paired with the humility to be okay with being vetoed.”


Little Bird, Blue in Green











DIE, Image Comics, issue #15, Gillen/Hans/Cowles

13. THE LETTERER OF THE DAY IS…CLAYTON COWLES


“After giving the art and script a thorough look, I dive into my arsenal of fonts and balloons. I choose three to six fonts that both match the mood of the writing and the texture of the art, and pair them with different balloons and strokes. I letter one or two panels (or sometimes an entire page) with the chosen balloons and fonts, and send the samples to the rest of the team for analysis. Sometimes the team has design ideas of their own (like they want specific fonts or caption styles), and I’ll incorporate those too.”


Human Target, The Wicked + The Divine, Eternals





Lost Falls, ComiXology, issue #1, Pires/Fuso/Minotti/Loughridge/Myers

14. THE LETTERER OF THE DAY IS…MICAH MYERS


“I was part of the lettering team for the Eisner Winning Anthology, Puerto Rico Strong. It is amazing to be a part of a book that won one of the biggest [awards] in comics but also it was a book that benefitted Puerto Rico after all the damage from the storms a few years back. There was also a series of comics about a bunch of real-life luchador wrestlers. As a huge pro wrestling fan, I was very excited to work on it. Plus it turned out really well. One of my first big honors was being asked by Ryan Ferrier to fill in for an issue of Rat Queens. For him not only to know who I am but also trust in me to be able to do a good job filling his shoes. It was a huge highlight of my career.”


Grit, Lost Falls



It's Your Funeral, Iron Circus Comics, Riesbeck/Kramer/Krotzer

15. THE LETTERER OF THE DAY IS…MATT KROTZER


“The problem-solving aspect of it is a lot of fun. Figuring out the best way to place the balloons to suit the flow of the story, emphasize impactful moments and dialogue, and not intrude on the art can be a beautiful balancing act, and when you get it just right, it’s amazing. I also like being the first person to see the finished comic, even before the writer and artist.”


Retcon, It's Your Funeral












Aquaman: The Becoming, DC Comics, issue #1, Thomas/Orlotegui/Von Grawbadger/Lucas/AndWorld Design

16. THE LETTERER OF THE DAY IS…DERON BENNETT


“The books that absolutely changed the trajectory of my career were Milestone Comics. Before releasing that line, I was really only interested in becoming an animator. However, when I discovered books like Static, Icon, Blood Syndicate, and Hardware, I realized the power of telling stories through comics. These were books featuring characters that looked like me in an accessible format. Accessible in terms of monetary cost; accessible in terms of translating complex plots into pictures and words; accessible in terms of availability. It did for me artistically what hip hop did for me musically. Comics instantly became something I could identify with and use to express myself to the world. Flash forward to today, and I’m working in the very same medium on the very same titles that inspired me.”

Resonant, Aquaman: The Becoming


Broken Gargoyles, Source Point Press, issue #3, Salley/Yak/Nugent/Birch

17. THE LETTERER OF THE DAY IS…JUSTIN BIRCH

“I read the script, then stare at the art for a really long time. If something doesn’t come to me, I’ll take the dog for a walk. I’ll try out a few different balloon styles and fonts and then stare at it some more. And after I’ve stared at it longer I’ll send it off to the writer and artist for their opinion and approval.”

Dry Foot, Road of Bones, Broken Gargoyles








Infinite Frontier, DC Comics, issue #1, Williamson/Xermanico/Fajardo Jr/Napolitano

18. THE LETTERER OF THE DAY IS…TOM NAPOLITANO

“This is probably more of a wish to critics rather than a reader, but, a lot of the time when lettering is mentioned it’s at the end and treated separately as the other talents are and sometimes get boiled down to “they had nice bolds.” My wish is that lettering and writing would be critiqued together. There is so much opinion on writing that it’s surprising that the vehicle used to communicate much of the writing isn’t factored into it. The writer and letterer work very closely, or through editors, to marry the dialogue with the art. For example, a dialogue heavy book can be a smooth read or a slog to get through based on how well a letterer can pace and place it.”

We Have Demons, Infinite Frontier

Leap M, Wood/Battaglia/LetterSquids

19. THE LETTERER OF THE DAY IS…LETTERSQUIDS

“I’m going to assume that everyone else answered this how you’d expect. About nuance, the skill, being underappreciated, awful deadlines, blood sacrifices, whatever. I want lettering to be seen as a living thing that’s not just “in the way.” Why is something covering 40% of your panel being treated like a parasite? I’m always looking for louder, more playful and inventive ways to show the ideas everyone’s seen 100,000 times before. All letterers have that responsibility if comics is bleeding writers' pockets dry and sending artists to the guillotine for drawing weird feet. I want my balloons to drip with blood and vomit, and my SFX to feel like their own character and jump at you. I don’t want readers to be content with a self-similar and disposable approach to lettering. I’ve lost track of the number of people that say they’ve never noticed lettering before.”

Sh*tshow, Commander Rao, Leap M

The Sandman, Vertigo, issue #48, Gaiman/Thompson/Locke/Vozzo/Klein

20. THE LETTERER OF THE DAY IS…TODD KLEIN

“My run on The Sandman is a favorite. Working with Neil Gaiman was perhaps the best experience in my career. We liked many of the same themes and I think he brought out the best in me. We did fine things on stories I still like revisiting. Other projects with Neil were fun too. I also greatly enjoyed working with Alan Moore on America’s Best Comics and other series, and my run on Fables with Bill Willingham for DC is perhaps the longest and best of the continuing series after that. Early on, working on Starstruck with Michael Wm. Kaluta and Elaine Lee was a fine experience that pushed me to do my best work. There have been many comics jobs I liked and am happy with, as well as some I didn’t like so much, but in 45 years that’s bound to be the case.”

Sandman, Fables, Black Hammer

Read Only Memories, IDW, Grace/Simeone/Miesner

21. THE LETTERER OF THE DAY IS…CHRISTA MIESNER

“I think the biggest misconception is the amount of work that can go into lettering a comic. There is a lot of prep work that is involved, especially on a first issue, like picking and making sure a style works throughout. There is also file management and making sure everything is sized the same. A bunch of little things that also aren't the most exciting thing to talk about when making comics.”

Napoleon Dynamite, Glow







Thor: God of Thunder, Marvel, vol. 1, issue #1, Aaron/Ribic/White/Sabino

22. THE LETTERER OF THE DAY IS...JOE SABINO


"As letterers, we’re starting to get cover credits which is cool. I didn’t care about stuff like that when I was younger, but now it’s pretty neat. I’ve seen my name with production and editorial credits instead of with the creative team from time to time. That’s a bit of a bummer. We are part of the creative team. It’s just if we’re doing our job correctly, you shouldn’t be noticing us..."


Thor: God of Thunder, Deadpool

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