COMIC BOOK YETI: DC, thank you for joining me here in the Yeti Cave. If you have any other jobs other than lettering, what is it you do?
DC HOPKINS: No other jobs! Unless you count stay-at-home dad as a job, in which case I do that at the same time :)
CBY: Yeah, that’s definitely full-time job too. What are the comics that influenced you and made you want to work in comics?
DC: I was never really interested in making comics growing up, even though they were a presence in my life as far back as I can remember. Once I started realizing I had an interest in lettering and design, the main titles that made me take note of their unique lettering were HELLBOY (Clem Robins), TALE OF SAND (Deron Bennett), INVINCIBLE (Rus Wooton), and TURF (John Workman).
CBY: What do you enjoy most about lettering?
DC: Being the final piece in the comics-making puzzle, probably. I like putting the final touches on a page and seeing the final product that a reader is going to see (assuming I’m lettering over the colors).
CBY: What is something you wish the average comics reader (however you want to define that) understood about the art of lettering?
DC: Fancy tails and flashy effects do not equal good lettering.
CBY: What do you think is the biggest misconception about what you do as a letterer?
DC: That it should be “invisible.” Good lettering should make you take note of how the artistry is at play in conjunction with the rest of the page.
CBY: Hand-lettering or digital, what tools do you use to letter comics?
DC: I’ve yet to hand-letter a comic, though I’d like to someday. Otherwise, I letter in Illustrator (the absolute best and most efficient application for the task) with some support from Photoshop and InDesign depending on the job. I use a MacBook Pro and a Cintiq, hardware-wise.
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?
DC: The number one thing I envision when making these decisions is what the final lettering result would look like if the artist could letter on a professional level. If the artist uses thick strokes, then I want to start looking at fonts that would match that aesthetic and potential energy. Likewise, if more organic balloons are a better fit for their style and tone, then I’ll start building those and making sure that the balloon strokes are copacetic with their art. Too many letterers (and I was guilty of this too, back when I first started) are overly concerned with making their mark with their own “style” when they should be focusing on how they can adapt their lettering to feel cohesive on the page with all of the other elements. Personal style quirks will come naturally with time, but it should never be a “one-style-fits-all” approach.
CBY: From a letterer’s perspective, which qualities do you most want to see in your collaborators to lead to a successful collaboration?
DC: First speaker should go on the left whenever possible (exceptions exist, of course), make sure to leave room for the dialogue, and the writer should update their scripts once they’ve seen the art and BEFORE they hand it to the letterer. We don’t get paid for the extra time and work spent re-lettering pages when the writer decides to rewrite the dialogue. Beyond that, just including us as a part of the team is so vital...whether it’s a social media post, an interview, or a podcast appearance, leaving the letterer out of the creative team line-up hurts.
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?
DC: I do get blasts of carpal tunnel syndrome now and again. I can usually feel it coming on and wear a brace when that happens. Usually after keeping that going for a couple days, it goes away. I’ve read and learned a lot from Kriota Willberg’s book DRAW STRONGER, which I recommend to everyone.
CBY: 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?
DC: I don’t have a great answer for this one! Both because my knowledge of the older generations of letterers is somewhat lacking beyond the most popular folks, and also because the letterers I DO have in mind come with caveats. My first thought was Mœbius (likely stemming from my love of his work as an artist), but while I do have an affinity for his lettering, I’m not sure that I’d tell people to go seek it out just for that.
CBY: 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?
DC: This one is easier. I think Rus Wooton’s work is incredible and absolutely taken for granted by most readers and letterers in the industry. Rus approaches each project with a fresh eye and melds the artist’s work with his lettering in a way that always makes me jealous (in a good way!). Check out his work on WONDER WOMAN: DEAD EARTH, ULTRAMEGA, and OUTCAST.
CBY: Which of the comics that you lettered are you most proud of or means the most to you and why?
DC: This is kind of a cop-out answer, but I’ve dabbled in writing my own memoir comics with friends on the art duties, and I’ve always ended up loving the final results. I think part of this comes with being a letterer first and writer second – I know what tweaks to the writing would make the lettering even stronger and more impactful, so I can make those changes if needed. If I have to pick something outside of that, I’d probably point to my work on DARKWING DUCK or STAR WARS. I’m proud of the work I’ve done on those titles, but really it’s that they mean a lot to me because of the full circle being closed from loving the franchises growing up. If I have to pick a title that I’m working on currently, I’d probably go with NOCTERRA. Scott, Tony, and Tomeu provide so many opportunities in every issue to try out cool stuff in the lettering. It’s a lot of fun.
Oh! And Sweeney Boo’s newest book, OVER MY DEAD BODY! I can’t wait for people to see that one. She’s an incredible talent and I’m always honored to work with her. I’m excited for it to hit the shelves next year.
CBY: Alright. Let’s get dangerous! Great answers, DC. 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?
DC: Great question! In terms of my own personal growth...the first thing that comes to mind is how I’ve developed better habits when it comes to not comparing myself to others or gauging others’ success as a lack of my own. I think it’s easy in a creative field to let your own sense of self-worth be determined by what other people are doing, and odds are that most (if not all) of those other people are dealing with the exact same sorts of feelings. Imposter syndrome is something I’ve always battled with, and I still get hit with it from time to time. But I’ve gotten better (with the help of my studio boss/mentor, Deron Bennett) at focusing on making my own work better without it being dependent on any other external factors.
In terms of the industry’s perception of letterers...maybe a tiny bit better? I’ve only been in the industry as a professional since 2013 (although I guess that’s almost ten years now, yikes!) and so much of those early years was focused on getting my name out there and picking up higher-profile jobs. Now that I’ve been able to carve out my spot and things are more stable, my attention has shifted more and more to ways that I can hopefully improve these conditions and perceptions for the lettering community.
CBY: If you were the curator for a comics museum, which 3 books do you want to make absolutely sure are included?
DC: AKIRA, WATCHMEN, and either ACME NOVELTY LIBRARY or OPTIC NERVE.
CBY: What current projects are you working on that CBY readers should pick up?
DC: NIGHT OF THE GHOUL, THE O.Z., TALES OF THE NIGHT WATCHMAN, JUSTICE LEAGUE INFINITY, NOCTERRA, PENNYWORTH, SECOND CHANCES, HUMAN REMAINS, and WYND!
CBY: SO many excellent choices. Personally, I’m a big fan of The O.Z., Nocterra, Human Remains, and WYND. What’s your favorite comfort food?
DC: I grew up in Recife, Brazil, so anytime I’m able to have some legit Brazilian food it always warms my heart :) Pão de queijo, churrasco, Guarana (the soda), rice/beans, and brigadeiros!