Lettering! Fonts! Starkings!

Comic geekdom doesn’t get a lot more ephemeral than when it’s focused on what’s basically meant to remain unnoticed: the way balloons and captions are lettered. This short (all too short, actually) video covers the evolution of (American) comic book lettering from the Golden Age all the way up to Richard Starkings and other Blambots. I like how it explains why comics are in all caps, and how you can recognize the hand of certain letterers. In fact, that last part could have gone on forever as far as I’m concerned.

It’s quite interesting to see how paper quality forced letterers in a certain direction. When Tintin magazine was started, its founders wanted to offer a more quality-drive, and more reliable alternative for what was basically considered exploitative fodder. They used better paper and, coincidence or not, often used the now-famous Tintin cursive or similar fonts. It rendered the comics more acceptable — you didn’t need to hide them when your stuck-up aunt came to visit. Current incarnations of classic series, like Blake Et Mortimer, still use this technique.

As the comics market grew however, and its readers matured, the typical comics all-caps lettering also snuck in on the pages of the newer titles, such as Buddy Longway or Jonathan, contributing to their edgier nature.

Certain creators or studios have always retained their own lettering though, such as the semi-medieval script that’s used in Les Schtroumpfs.


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