COMIC BOOK YETI: Thank you so much for joining me in the Yeti Cave, Nate. If you have any other jobs other than lettering, what is it you do?
NATE PIEKOS: I run Blambot.com and create all the typefaces there. That, and lettering, have been my full-time job since about 2003 or so.
CBY: What are the comics that influenced you and made you want to work in comics?
NP: I grew up a “Marvel kid”, but in my late teens, I branched out to DC, Dark Horse, Image, etc., as well. The heyday of my readership landed in that sweet spot of the mid to late '80s…Dark Knight Returns, Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men, Simonson’s Thor…all were coming out when I was obsessed with comics. Helluva time to be a kid.
CBY: What do you enjoy most about lettering?
NP: The graphic design involved. It’s all really about graphic design. My BA is in design, and I was a corporate designer before working in comics.
CBY: What is something you wish the average comics reader (however you want to define that) understood about the art of lettering?
NP: That their reading experience can hinge on how skilled the letterer was. Most of the time, they don’t even realize how the letterer is guiding their eye, or making decisions that impact the emotional takeaway of any given page.
CBY: What do you think is the biggest misconception about what you do as a letterer?
NP: That anyone can do our job; that it takes no talent or effort.
CBY: Hand-lettering or digital, what tools do you use to letter comics?
NP: Everything I can get my hands on. I still hand-letter to create fonts, and digitally hand-letter lots of sound effects. I create a lot of typography from scratch. Professional mainstream letterers use Adobe Illustrator to letter your favorite comics from companies like DC, Image, Dark Horse, etc.
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?
NP: It’s all about meshing with the art and asking myself a lot of questions before I begin. Did they use a brush or a tech pen? How can my choices marry to the artist’s choices? What genre is this book? What can I borrow from those influences?
CBY: From a letterer’s perspective, which qualities do you most want to see in your collaborators to lead to a successful collaboration?
NP: Some minor grasp of the lettering process. We should all crosstrain. Everyone needs to spend some time coloring, editing, writing, etc.
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?
NP: This is a list too long to address here. But yeah. We’re full of overuse injuries. Tendonitis, spine curvature, arthritis… I adopted ergonomics too late to save myself completely. This led to a massively expensive change in work habits and environment. Not to mention medical, physical therapy, and chiropractic bills. I have extensive stretching routines that I do every day now. But the industry is full of young people who don’t care…yet. It’s somehow okay to work yourself to death in our business. When they hit their 40s, and the physical toll comes due, they’ll have some regrets.
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?
NP: Not really. The letterers of yesteryear are getting more recognition today then they probably ever did in their own era.
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?
NP: Tons. Letterers don’t get enough recognition in general, but Aditya Bidikar, Simon Bowland, Sara Linsley, Jared Fletcher, Jim Campbell, and logo designer Darran Robinson are just the tip of the iceberg.
CBY: Which of the comics that you lettered are you most proud of or means the most to you and why?
NP: Umbrella Academy, Shaolin Cowboy, Green Arrow, Fight Club 2, I Hate Fairyland, Middlewest…any series where I really went outside my comfort zone. My year on Green Arrow saw me digitally hand-lettering all the sound effects and titles, for instance.
CBY: It’s stunning work. 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?
NP: My graphic design skills have matured. I’m more decisive and confident. Letterers are getting slightly more recognition. Sometimes we’re even getting cover credit, which is nice. I’m hoping my new book, The Essential Guide to Comic Book Lettering helps move things in the right direction as well.
CBY: If you were the curator for a comics museum, which 3 books do you want to make absolutely sure are included?
NP: Not books, but series: The Dark Knight Returns, Usagi Yojimbo, and Tales from the Crypt.
CBY: What current projects are you working on that CBY readers should pick up?
NP: Stranger Things, Black Hammer, Elfquest, The Me You Love in the Dark…and lots of stuff I can’t talk about yet; it’s the nature of our job.
CBY: What’s your favorite comfort food?
NP: I was a carb junkie. But in my late 20s I lost 75lbs, so I don’t eat them as much as I’d like. But every once in a while, I still need that steaming bowl of pasta. Other than that, dark chocolate and wine are the only treats I have on a regular basis.
CBY: Thank you very much, Nate!
NP: Thanks for having me!