Hassler defends <i>Twilight</i> lettering

Kurt Hassler pretty much invented the notion of selling comics to girls when he was the head buyer at Borders, so it's not surprising that he has continued that trend as publishing director of Yen Press. And indeed, Yen's graphic novel adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight sold 66,000 copies in its first week of release, which is a pretty good indication that Hassler knows what he is doing, regardless of what the rest of us may think. While most comics folk grudgingly admitted that the book itself wasn't bad, the lettering got a lot of criticism online. So naturally, the subject came up when CBR's Kiel Phegley interviewed Hassler earlier this week. Hassler parried the question, essentially saying that the critics didn't understand what the artist was doing:

When you're working in American comics, yes, it is standard to go out and assign a letterer to letter a book, but that is not what you generally see in Asian markets. It's not what you see in Japan and in Korea. So for the original books that we work on, we ask the artists to do the book themselves. This was not a book that was lettered by a letterer...this was lettered by the artist.

And as far as the balloon work goes, a lot of what I heard was "Oh, these are just randomly placed." That is absolutely not the case. When you're talking about a professional letterer working in comics, the role of the letterer is to stay out of the way of the art. You would absolutely never see a case where the letterer is allowed to place a balloon over a character's face. When the artist is doing the balloon work and she's selecting where that lettering is, if she places a balloon over a character's face, there's a reason for it. I've seen one panel held up time and again as "How was this done?" Well, it was done because the artist had a very specific reason for putting it there. [Laughs]

Professional manga letterer Susie Lee begs to differ:

That's like saying (for example, but not necessarily in this case), "She's the artist and she planned on drawing the buildings to look like shredded wheat." when maybe the reason is that she doesn't draw them very well. Sometimes artists don't know the best way to place copy. It could also be that she's under deadline and doesn't want to draw a face.

And then she links to Rich Johnston's fix: Have Dave Sim do the lettering.

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