COMIC BOOK YETI: Ariana! Thank you for joining me in the Yeti Cave. If you have any other jobs other than lettering, what is it you do?
ARIANA MAHER: I used to work as an interpreter in Kawasaki City and then a little later in the States as a software tester at Nintendo. I quit my day job and fully dedicated myself to being a freelance letterer in 2020.
CBY: What are the comics that influenced you and made you want to work in comics?
AM: The comics produced by Little Foolery – particularly Sfeer Theory. When I started out lettering for fun, I soon began collaborating with them on their comics. They showed me how much fun it can be to be a part of a creative team and that encouraged me to find more work in comics.
CBY: What do you enjoy most about lettering?
AM: The process and the puzzle-solving. I enjoy feeling confident in performing the process, but I also love the excitement of puzzling out particularly tricky sequences to make the script and the art connect.
CBY: What is something you wish the average comics reader (however you want to define that) understood about the art of lettering?
AM: 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.
CBY: What do you think is the biggest misconception about what you do as a letterer?
AM: I’m the person that puts the words on the page, so often I’m asked if I write them as well.
CBY: Hand-lettering or digital, what tools do you use to letter comics?
AM: Mainly digital. I use Adobe CC. I wish I could pull away from Illustrator and try non-Adobe products, but even the best alternatives are not yet on the level I need [them] to be for efficient workflows.
CBY: Can you take me through the process of how you go about choosing a font/lettering style once you become involved in a project?
AM: The style is determined by the art and the genre. I start experimenting with ideas based on what the art is trying to say and any requests from the creative team.
CBY: From a letterer’s perspective, which qualities do you most want to see in your collaborators to lead to a successful collaboration?
AM: Clear and consistent communication. It can be difficult for anyone to keep up with emails, but collaborators tend to be scattered throughout the world, so doing that for good communication is essential.
CBY: Are there any typical hand/wrist injuries letterers are prone to and do you have methods to combat injuries due to repetitive tasks/overuse?
AM: Ergonomic standing desk and chair (an expensive but necessary investment), wrist exercises, breaks, and stretching. Every letterer should read Draw Stronger by Kriota Willberg to avoid repetitive stress injuries.
CBY: I believe you’re at least the second letterer to mention Draw Stronger.
Is there a letterer, no longer working today, that you think never got the credit/recognition they deserved and which of their comics should CBY readers check out?
AM: Most letterers receive very little credit/recognition, so everyone. I’m not even being snarky – I’m just saying that the pool is vast and yet so little attention is given. I would love it if non-male letterers from the history of comics could be showcased in an article. I’d love to learn more about those who came before me.
CBY: I think that sounds like an excellent idea for an article! Is there a letterer that is still lettering today that you think doesn’t get enough credit/recognition and which of their comics should CBY readers check out?
AM: Tess Stone isn’t primarily a letterer, but his lettering needs to be showcased because it is amazing.
CBY: Which of the comics that you lettered are you most proud of or means the most to you and why?
AM: Hard to say, as there is a lot of my work that is special to me in different ways. I suppose my most recent proud accomplishments are Peach Momoko’s Demon Days series, my run on Hellions, and Crush & Lobo. Last year, I lettered both a few stories in DC Pride and the full Marvel Voices’ Pride anthologies, so I’m especially proud of that. I never imagined getting to work on queer stories for a mainstream audience, so that was a blessing.
CBY: Both of those anthologies were amazing and I loved your work on Crush & Lobo. From when you first started lettering comics to today, how would you describe your growth as an artist and, in that time, has the comic industry’s perception of lettering changed?
AM: Growth as a letterer doesn’t just pertain to improved design, but also greater efficiency. My workload and output has increased significantly once I’ve figured out methods to make my tasks quicker. The publishers and process in the industry may not have changed much in the past decade, but the community within the industry certainly has. Through social media, particularly Discord and Twitter, I’ve been able to meet fellow letterers and discuss our rather unique artform. I feel a lot less alone now.
CBY: If you were the curator for a comics museum, which 3 books do you want to make absolutely sure are included?
AM: The Less than Epic Adventures of TJ & Amal, Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, and The Essential Guide to Comic Book Lettering.
CBY: Nice! Shout-out to Nate Piekos. What current projects are you working on that CBY readers should pick up?
AM: Demon Days, Detective Comics, Crush & Lobo, and Star Wars: The High Republic.
CBY: What’s your favorite comfort food?
AM: Takoyaki, but I feel bad about eating octopus, so I tend to substitute the filling with something else.
CBY: I feel bad about eating octopus too, so I get that. Thank you very much!