Lettering Hot Seat: Rival Angels
I think lettering is a crucial skill to master in comics — and there’s no shortcut to getting good lettering. Digital lettering comes with a plethora of pitfalls, and hand-lettering is a skill that takes a long time to master. That’s why I like to do one of these Lettering Hot Seat critiques every year.
As with all Hot Seat Critiques, my comments are only the beginning of the discussion. Members are encouraged to add their perspectives and opinions to the mix.
You’ve got the basics of lettering down pat. You’ve chosen a professional font, and you’re using it at an appropriate size. You’re leaving an adequate interior margin. Your word-balloon tails clearly point towards the speaker.
However, there are two aspects of your lettering that lead to some very interesting discussions.
You establish that each speaker has a color-coded word balloon…
And then you continue the conversation without showing the speakers.
In general, I would advise against this practice. I think it leads to a lot of confusion. In my own work, I try to address the inherent confusion by adding the character’s faces (and their facial expressions) to the word balloon (or narration box).
(And that’s a big “however” — literally and figuratively)
I would not suggest you change it for this particular instance. And I’ll tell you why.
- The number of speakers is two. And I can easily track two. More than that, and you risk breaking my concentration on the story. And that takes me out of your storytelling.
- It really doesn’t matter who is saying what. These are two wrestling commentators. And — to the best of my knowledge — the WHO isn’t nearly as important as the narration they provide to the action.
- If you tried my approach in your panels, you would take away from the action, and the storytelling is mainly in the action. The narration is strictly commenting on the action — not conveying it.
I can’t think of many instances in which I’d feel comfortable with a color-coded word balloon set-up. But this is definitely one of them.
Do sound effects need exclamation points?
I’ve spoken with many letterers who are adamant that they don’t. They say that the extra-large letters and the boffo colors are exclamation point enough. I tend to agree. But — again — this is far from a “right or wrong” issue. It’s just something I want you to consider.
You do a pretty good job of balancing the words inside your balloons, but every now and then you hit a clunker. Here’s one that leaves a huge chunk of ungainly white space along the bottom.
In a situation like that, I would reconfigure my lines to strand a word — in this case, “match” at the bottom of the balloon to fill out that space. Here’s another example…
This is another instance where I think you can bed a “cardinal rule” of lettering. In this case, the rule is about hyphenation. We’re always told not to hyphenate in a word balloon — and 99% of the time, that’s good advice.
In a word like Ultradragon, however, hyphenation would actually make the word easier to read AND it would push that second part (dragon) into the bottom of the word balloon. In short, I have no problem injecting hyphenation into a compound word when it solves a word-balloon issue.
That being said, pay careful attention to phrasing when you’re deciding where to break your line. Here’s what I mean…
That reads like this:
When it ought to read: “COMING UP NEXT”
Since you’ve got a more horizontal oval, I think you could keep the phrase intact, and round out the rest of the balloon accordingly.
In general, when you’re planning the line breaks of your word balloons, you should keep an eye out for phrases. I try not to keep those phrases intact, line after line, whenever possible.
Your lettering is terrific. You’re doing a great job. Paying attention to minute details like these will help push you towards the next level.