The most thankless job in comics is probably that of the letterer. Do your job right, and no one will notice you. I, however, have an eye for lettering– it’s a hidden art. So for the next two or three days, we’ll look at some of comics’ best letterers. Up first: the man himself. (A-r-c-h-i-v-e.)
232. Todd Klein
Todd Klein is the world’s foremost comic book letterer. I’m pretty sure he’s won every single Eisner Award for Lettering except one. They should just change it to the “Eisner Award for Todd Klein” and mail it to him every year, that’s how great he is. In terms of other comics awards for lettering, he’s won a good 90 to 95 percent of them. Ever.
Mr. Klein became entrenched in the comics industry thirty years ago, working in DC’s production department, and eventually landed a job as a letterer, honing his craft along the way. He’s been involved with everything from Firestorm to Detective Comics to Sandman to Kingdom Come to Promethea to, well, just about everything ever. He’s worked with all the best writers and artists, folks like Alan Moore, Don Rosa, J.H. Williams, Neil Gaiman, and Alex Ross.
The scope of his work is hard to describe, considering he’s lettered everything. What I find most interesting about Todd Klein’s work is his sense of aesthetics, and his mastery of fonts. He’ll utilize a variety of typesets, usually within the same page, when each characters has their own distinctive font. When computer lettering became the name of the game, Klein leapt into it with everything he had and came out with almost godlike abilities.
My absolute favorite lettering job he ever did was fairly recently, on Desolation Jones. The lettering was done in the style of old ’50s hand drawn word bubbles, only painstakingly structured on the computer. Yes, I said word “bubbles,” not “balloons,” because these babies burble up with multiple swoops and protrusions. The effect is gorgeous.
I love how Todd seemingly invents a new way to letter a comic with every new project. His “default font” is great enough, but he never limits himself. From his font choice and creation to the way he creates page flow with balloon placement– everything he does adds to the magic of the page. He’s a wizard at an invisible art. He revolutionized and revitalized the lettering craft.
He’s also worked on roughly a million title logos, designing the “spikey” Spider-Man logo, the famed New Teen Titans headline, and many, many more. He designed the trade dress for the ABC line, and lettered all the books, as well.
Todd Klein’s written the book on lettering– literally. He’s a true master of the art. For more, visit his website, which goes into massive detail about his history in comics, the craft of lettering, and all his other projects. It includes endless examples of his work. Check ’em out!
Also, according to his blog, he just recently celebrated his wedding anniversary. Happy anniversary, Mr. Klein!
Thoughts on Todd Klein’s work? And for the record, who are your favorite letterers?