Friday, January 27, 2012

The "I"s have it?

I know, I know…the weekly blog thing has fallen off the tracks already. 

“Didn’t Hansel say he’d do this once a week?”

Yes…yes he did.  However, when he made that commitment, he didn’t anticipate the upper respiratory infection that knocked him on his butt.

Sorry about that.

No more talk of sickness and no more excuses, let’s blather about…well…let’s just blather.

This past week, I entered into an online “discussion” with some folks about lettering.  A comic strip I like to read on a daily basis contained a lettering error and I pointed it out, since I did not wish the  creative team of said strip to be thought of a amateurs.  (The mistake they made was an amateur lettering mistake).  The error was basically this: The letter “I” had the serifs (those little bars at the top and bottom of the letter) present in the middle of a word.  Any professional comic book person, especially if they are an editor or a letterer, will tell you that those serifs are ONLY present in the letter “I” when “I” is the pronoun “I”, or, in certain cases, begins a word such as “I’LL”.  Otherwise, loose the serifs.

This caused many people, including the letterer, to jump on me and say it was an expression of artistic intent to do the lettering incorrectly.  They demanded that I show them “proof” that this was a lettering rule, because NONE of the dozen or so people that post there had ever heard of such a thing.

I directed them to Todd Klein’s excellent website and the Comicraft website (all of which have excellent information about lettering) and I also recommended the DC COMICS GUIDE TO LETTERING AND COLORING.  The masses would not have it.  They dismissed the “DC” book as being a house guide and useless (which is interesting since none of them had read it).  Again, I was told that they had a “RIGHT” to do the lettering anyway they wanted to and that there are no rules.

It was an interesting argument.  Almost 90 years of comic strip publishing history tells us that serifs are NOT used.  Hundreds, thousands?, of comic strips have been lettered this way.  I’m fairly certain that “reading” studies have been done to establish those rules (this is one of the ways that ALL CAPS lettering came to be the standard for comics—its easier to READ it).

I’m all for change when it makes sense, or change to fix something that is wrong.  It seems to me that nothing was “wrong” here and that nothing logically needed to change.  I’m also not a huge fan of following a rule just because it has been in place for a long time, HOWEVER, certain rules do have a purpose and should be observed and followed.

I’ve been told more than once that if lettering (or coloring for that matter) call attention to themselves, then the letterer/colorist is NOT doing their job, because those are the “invisible” part of the creative team.  They are critically important, don’t get me wrong.  They usually are called upon to save the day with regard to deadlines and turn work around virtually overnight, but theirs is a quiet art.



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