THE LETTERER OF THE DAY IS…LETTERSQUIDS
COMIC BOOK YETI: Thank you so much for joining me here in the Yeti Cave! If you have any other jobs other than lettering, what is it you do?
LETTERSQUIDS: I’ve worked as a professional designer/con artist for print and web for about seven years. I stole all the furniture I needed for a home office from my employers so I’m freelance now. I also have a useless art degree, but it’s a B.S. so I consider myself a scientist more than anything.
CBY: Makes sense to me. What are the comics that influenced you and made you want to work in comics?
LS: I started reading comics through weird alt/underground fringe stuff, since I have permanent 4 a.m. brain (Koyama, Fantagraphics, Kelloggs boxes, etc.). Lettering was really just background noise and something done by the artist as far as I could see.
I was in the library one day and thumbed through a TPB of All New Superman and saw you could get PAID to make a bunch of goofy sound effects. I needed money for a squat rack so I figured I’d give it a shot. 5000 DOOMs later, I’m a slightly more famous nobody and I’m loving it.
The one comic that completely overhauled my view on lettering was Daniel Warren Johnson’s Murder Falcon. When I saw the SFX I realized I’d been doing things completely wrong. I treat every sound effect like a living creature now.
CBY: I love that answer. I also love Murder Falcon. What do you enjoy most about lettering?
LS: I don’t have a lot of contact with sentient living organisms because of the nature of my work. Lettering puts me in a collaborative sphere of people that keep life interesting. I have a lurker personality and they’ve been too kind and supportive of me.
CBY: What is something you wish the average comics reader (however you want to define that) understood about the art of lettering?
LS: 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.
CBY: What do you think is the biggest misconception about what you do as a letterer?
LS: I seriously get 10-15 emails a week from weird foreign game devs and people asking me to draw them their comic. I 100% no BS got an email from Activision for an interview and I didn’t meet a single credential other than being a U.S. citizen.
CBY: Hand-lettering or digital, what tools do you use to letter comics?
LS: I used to letter on a LeapFrog but now I use Illustrator on a laptop I found on the side of the road. I’ve blown more money on font licenses than food. The Comicraft/Blambot lifestyle doesn't satisfy a junkie like me anymore.
Hand-lettering is a lost art. That '90s Image stuff is sublime at times.
The only thing I hand-letter is all the weird ideas for SFX and balloons on Post-Its around my workspace. It looks like a prank but it’s more like something from Memento.
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?
LS: My approach to balloons and SFX is “What would it look like if the artist had my ‘ability’ and did it?” Lettering should feel like a natural extension of the world and art style.
I’m really particular about a balloon’s outline or a font choice. I loathe the one-size-fits-all style that Marvel/DC/Whatever use, even though it’s more sensible in that context. Drawing a balloon all crooked with the Pencil tool doesn’t make it look more “hand-drawn” in my opinion.
CBY: From a letterer’s perspective, which qualities do you most want to see in your collaborators to lead to a successful collaboration?
LS: I work mostly on “indie” stuff. (the “We’re All Nobodies” indie and not the “Marvel/DC Won’t Employ Me Anymore” indie.) I’ve always believed it to be its own weird ecosystem free of professional market constraints.
I think the best people to work with are the ones that want to swing for the fences with me. We can do ANYTHING, so we don’t need to treat our project like it’s a crappier version of a “real comic.”
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?
LS: You will get every known form of RSI if you don’t take breaks, stretching and fitness seriously. I did more damage to my forearms and hands in three months of lettering than 10 years of design throughout school and my career. I could write a medical textbook about why my body feels 80 years older than it actually is.
I’m not a doctor, so you’ll have to experiment on yourself like a lab rat to find what works for you. Physical therapy is generally a waste of money for this kind of thing if it’s not distinct nerve damage or something. It’s an infant science.
I’d save the 12 free sessions from your insurance for when you get hit by a bus or have your head transplanted to a cyborg body.
My friend Fell Hound likens the lifestyle to a “shrimp body.” If you’re getting shrimp vibes in the mirror then I’d probably buy a yoga mat.
CBY: I want to know more about "shrimp vibes" but I'm afraid to ask. 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?
LS: Dead letterers? I guess Thomas Jefferson. I read a book on how to do that old style of penmanship and it broke me. He had a pretty good run on Captain America, I think.
CBY: Ha! 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?
LS: I think artists that do their own lettering are underappreciated, so I’m going to hijack the question. I feel some artists have a sense of letters as “forms” like a type designer would. Now that lettering is digital you can enter the field with basically no knowledge of typography and hand drawing skills.
I think Daniel Warren Johnson and James Stokoe do inspiring work in that regard. I feel like all my influences are artists since they often ignore the “rules” letterers get overly absorbed in.
Aditya Bidikar does cool stuff.
CBY: Which of the comics that you lettered are you most proud of or means the most to you and why?
LS: I think for currently available full-length projects: Sh*tshow and Commander Rao through Scout Comics. I don’t know what I’ve worked on that has the best story or art, but the lettering on these is probably most representative of the “LetterSquids Style.”
I worked on 200+ projects in 2020 so the cool ideas are kind of peppered all over the place...I did an anthology Quarantine with about 30 lettering styles in one book...Tough question to answer without leaving projects out and pissing people off.
CBY: That's fair. Your work on Sh*tshow was a favorite of mine. 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?
LS: Louder, more annoying. Hopefully, I have a voice of some kind. Lettering is still background noise since the shelves are flooded with generic lettering.
CBY: If you were the curator for a comics museum, which 3 books do you want to make absolutely sure are included?
LS: Something from each major sphere:
Western Comics: Jim Lee
Manga: Takehiko Inoue
If museums are basically looking at pretty pictures intensely to impress strangers, then these three are good picks, I think. I don’t know if they’re the best but I think they embody the values of each of their respective fields. Very boring answer.
CBY: I don't think it's boring at all. What current projects are you working on that CBY readers should pick up?
LS: Fixing my body, so if you want to “pick up” the bill for all the imaging radiation they blast me with or princess-carry me to the car, let me know.
I’m usually riding off the coattails of talented people on Kickstarter so look for the vomit-covered balloons.
CBY: I'll princess-carry you to the car. It's a trek from the Yeti Cave to the parking lot. What’s your favorite comfort food?
LS: Pacing around the room with a Pringles can and wondering if I should change the font or not.
CBY: Thank you very much! You can follow LetterSquids on Twitter at @LetterSquids and head to his website HERE.