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Old 08-20-2006, 03:24 PM   #21
Clem Robins
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house styles

marvel has always had a house style. it's called Artie Simek. when i began working for them thirty years ago, they gave me a xerox of one of his pages and told me this was what they always wanted. and they meant it. this eased up a bit in the late 70s, when Jim Novak and John Costanza were doing pages by the carload for them. both guys were just so damn good, their work began to redefine the house style. but the Simek look remains associated with Marvel to some degree. it's not a coincidence that they were the first big company to really embrace digital lettering. the sterility of early Comicraft is a lot like the sterility of Artie Simek. DC, standing in the shadows of Gaspar and Costanza, resisted digital lettering as long as their editors could manage.

DC's house style has always been the preferences of their editors, particularly their senior editors. this goes back decades. in the 1960s, when there were a few people getting work from a few editors there, a lot of who worked on what had to do with the forcefulness and clout of whoever sat in the editor's chair. very powerful people, like Julie Schwartz and Bob Kanigher, monopolized Gaspar, their letterer of choice. one of the only shortcomings of the original Doom Patrol book arguably the best superhero comic ever done by anybody is that Gaspar only lettered one issue of it. (there's a lesson in that, as well. DP's editor, the wonderful Murray Boltinoff, was not a micromanager: he believed in hiring good people, and letting them do their thing. the downside of this is that he didn't fight for the people he wanted in the support categories, like lettering. DP had the weakest letterer in DC's stable.)

the difference between DC and Marvel's look also has to do with procedure. or at least it used to. DC's pencillers worked from full scripts, and designed their pages with lettering in mind. Marvel's artists worked from a plot outline, and the writers composed dialogue around what the pencillers gave them. as a result, lettering at Marvel always had a more generic quality about it thus the presence for a dependable and not terribly interesting letterer like Artie Simek. i don't do a lot of work for Marvel lately, so i don't know if this sort of thing still prevails there.

different people want different things. if you do any work for Scott Allie at Darkhorse, listen him out very carefully. he knows exactly what he wants, and as much as i differ from many of his opinions, his instincts and his visual sense are excellent. if you get a placement guide from Scott or one of his assistants, think twice before deviating from it.

and then there are the powerful artists. Mike Mignola, Steve Rude and a few others call the shots on any book they're associated with. give them exactly what they want. they have earned your respect.
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