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  • Dennis DeRobertis

Using Comic Book Lettering in Picture Books

Alt Title: Improving My Comic Book Lettering Abilities So I Don't Muck Up the Art

Mixing Storytelling Devices

As a long time comic book collector and fan, I've wanted to combine standard comic book storytelling devices with picture books. I've done it a little with The Little Brown Spider books, but, if you're not a comic book fan, you probably wouldn't notice.

With an upcoming book, this will change. A story for a decidedly older audience than our previous books, this one lends itself nicely to a more traditional comic book lettering style. For most of it, anyway.

From Prototyping to Publishing

When I sketched this story out, I used Microsoft Word. Being a word processor, it's a great tool to quickly get ideas down. It also works very well with digital pens, especially the Surface pen. And it's a product I'm intimately familiar with having spent many hours as a Microsoft Office developer.

The thing with prototyping, however, is just that. It's prototyping. I was under no illusion that Word would be the final stopping point before submitting to the printers. However, when I started putting everything together in my publishing software - and after lettering the whole thing similar to how I did it in Word - I realized it wasn't going to be good enough.

Back to the Drawing, er, Lettering Board

Back in 2007, I purchased "Comic Book Lettering: The Comicraft Way." I was working on a graphic novel, and this was really the only book at the time that went into the art of comic book lettering. I dusted it off and then went searching for other material. I ended up finding and purchasing an excellent book called "The Essential Guide to Comic Book Lettering" by Nate Piekos. If anybody out there wants to learn about the mechanics of comic book lettering as well as its history, this is the book to get!

With material in hand, objectives set, and lots of coffee, I sequestered myself and went to work. There's still more work to do, but I'm pleased with the progress. (Note: That's filler text you see in the images below.)

Lettering Examples

Word balloons, balloon connectors, and a caption.

A nighttime scene from "The Boy Who Saved the Moon"

Standard word balloons and a classic blast balloon. I wanted a more modern blast balloon, but my graphics program doesn't seem to have the tools to make that happen. I'll go with the classic!

A daytime scene from "The Boy Who Saved the Moon"
Blast that CRAS!!

A sound effect modeled after an overprint example from "The Essential Guide to Comic Book Lettering." Ironically, I was looking for exactly this word in sound effect form. Will keep experimenting to see if I can make it work. My first few attempts have been...uh...less than optimal!

A sound effect for "crunch."
Might need to create a clipping mask for this one or a hollow version

Hey, Get Your Comic Book Out of My Picture Book!

I won't know how this book will turn out until it's completely done, but it's been interesting and fun amalgamating the two different storytelling styles!

- DennisD.


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