Before we begin: I got a nice e-mail from a fellow by the name of Richard Marcej (of comics like Action Figure, reviewed here by Greg Burgas), so I thought I’d link to his neat blog. It features, among other things, daily comic recollections via the “iCover;” a Dick Tracy sketchbook; and reviews of WKRP in Cincinatti. Simply put, all those things are awesome. Visit it. And buy stuff from Baboon Books.
Onwards! There are a plethora of fantastic letterers in comics. Today’s featured star is no exception. He’s one of my absolute favorites, always thinking outside the bubble. Sort of. (Archive.)
233. John Workman (Jr.)
John Workman’s lettering work is anything but workmanlike. He’s probably my favorite letterer in the business, thanks to his unique style. Honestly, the entirety of this post could easily be “he’s great! The end!”
His style is easy to spot; there’s no one else out there who letters a comic like John Workman. The wide, bold letters; the open, airy balloons; the calculated disappearance of panel borders; and the way the words threaten to float out of the panels. Workman’s speech balloons traverse great distances and seem to give everything that’s said an added importance. I also dig the fact that he’s one of the few letterers in the business who will still work by hand, though he also uses a computer when he feels like it. The hand-lettering, however, gives everything a more artistic look, in my opinion.
Mr. Workman’s lettered a ton of comics, but his best work comes when he’s paired with the great writer/artist that is Walt Simonson. John’s letters always manage to enhance the raw fury and power of the epic, godly things Simonson draws. Their efforts together on Thor are amazing, with Workman’s letters appearing almost like Nordic runes. Everything he letters seems to have some kind of majesty unparalleled by other comics.
On Orion, he brought the magic again, giving his mythologically-inclined lettering a slight sci-fi sheen. Combined with Simonson’s art once more, he turned up the Kirby intensity. It’s great stuff. As Elvis once said, “Simonson and Workman’s styles go together like peanut butter and bananas. Mmm.” The two have worked together on quite a few other projects, including the Fantastic Four, Elric, and more.
Recently, he’s been paired with the mind-shatteringly genius artist Tommy Lee Edwards on books like The Question and Bullet Points. Workman’s letters really mesh with the art, here. Note how he opens things up even more by not putting points on the balloon tails, letting them end in unbounded white. His balloons are also more inflated than ever, yet it works. The bigger and bolder an artist’s work is, the better Workman’s lettering becomes.
John’s also an artist and writer. I quite like his smooth, fine-lined art style. Most of the comics he’s drawn have been in the “good girl/bad girl/adults only” camp, for things like Heavy Metal, and in books like “Sindy” and “XXX Women.” He’s drawn some stuff for Dark Horse Presents, as well.
This Sindy cover is suitably zany:
Nowadays, I think John’s mostly working on comics like Sonic the Hedgehog, though I see that he will reunite with Walt Simonson on tomorrow’s Superman #666. Can’t wait for that one!
Why, John Workman? He’s great! The end.