When comics are drawn, at least these days, the word balloons aren’t drawn with them. They’re a completely separate part of the process, overlaid on the art, often as a last step. In the olden days, the artist would hand draw the balloons and hand-letter them – sometimes there would be a separate letterer, but the point is that every letter in every balloon was done by hand.
These days, like everything else, it’s all computers. Most letterers I know set up the balloons and text in Adobe Illustrator, and composite that layer with the art in Photoshop. I lettered Strongman Volume 1 myself, and that’s how I did it. It’s not a bad method, but I really learned as I went. I think I lettered the entire book, start to finish, three times. Many, many many hours were spent fiddling around with balloon placement, fixing typos, editing text, etc. I think it’s a valuable skill to have, and I don’t regret learning it, but I have decided that my time can be better spent writing and shepherding projects along. So, on Strongman 2 and 27, I have acquired the valuable skills of one Shawn DePasquale as letterer.
I’ve known Shawn for a while – he’s not just a great letterer, he’s a very solid writer as well (watch for his series Space, MN coming from Arcana comics later this year.) Shawn takes my scripts and does a first pass (and often a second, after I have comments and realize that my original script wasn’t right). Then, I might make some last-minute tweaks on my own, if necessary. It really saves me time, and frankly, Shawn has ideas on lettering that I either wouldn’t, or wouldn’t be able to properly execute. For example, I asked him on a passage he’s lettering for 27 to make a character’s balloons “ghostly,” and he didn’t blink an eye. I, on the other hand, would try 50 different approaches before choosing one that sort of, maybe, worked.
So, to celebrate Shawn’s work, I have decided to attach two versions of a single panel in 27, where he had to fit an awkwardly large amount of text into a relatively small space.
His first attempt, which I think was mostly just to lay out the words and see what he was dealing with:
And a more advanced version. Note the way a big blob of ungainly words has been given a nice flow. It almost makes sense now!
And in the second one, you can see a few teases of additional snippets of dialogue, if you’re interested. This project is really coming together fast, and I think you’re going to like it.