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Stinty
04-17-2015, 02:54 AM
Hey guys,

A quick question:

I'm struggling to find the right answer (if there is one). I have a panel which shows an abandoned warehouse surrounded by a chain link fence. On that fence is a sign saying 'Condemned - keep out' or similar.

The question is, do I just describe the writing on the sign in the panel description and leave it at that, or do I need to label the sign as:

CAP (sign hanging on fence): CONDEMNED: KEEP OUT

Who holds the responsibility for putting writing like this on the page, the artist or the letterer? I'm guessing the letter, and if this is the case, I would also assume the wording on the sign would require a CAP entry.

Any help would be appreciated.

Regards
Travis

Steven Forbes
04-17-2015, 04:47 AM
Good question!

Let's see who's been paying attention and can answer it.

No letterers allowed! (I'm lookin' at you, PDB!) ;)

paul brian deberry
04-17-2015, 12:20 PM
d'oh!

Schuyler
04-17-2015, 12:25 PM
Who's responsibility?

The letterer. They will take care of all your balloons, captions, signs, logos, etc. If there are words, they will handle it.

Where to put it?

I would put it both places, and I have an argument for this redundancy.

The artist is focused mainly on the panel description and may not notice directions for a sign that is posted in the lettering section. Yet, they still need to know that there is a sign, because they will have to leave space for it.

Then, I would write it again in the lettering section, but not as a caption. I would write,

SIGN:
Condemned: Keep out

I don't know if Steven agrees with all this, but I'm sure he will let us know.

Stewart Vernon
04-17-2015, 04:32 PM
This opens a can of worms I had never thought about...

I always knew letterers handled the dialog (obvious) and "meanwhile" captions and thought balloons and of course the sound effects.

But signage too? That makes me wonder out loud.

A sign in a window is a simple thing... but what about a big neon sign? OR, how about I write a script that calls for a big Las Vegas at night scene... does the artist only draw the buildings? and then the letterer comes back and draws the signs?

I've read where sometimes the letterer is working at the same time as the colorist and even the inker in a deadline pinch... but how would that work if the letterer has a bunch of the art chores to do in a sign-heavy page?

Prior to this thread, I would have thought the artist handled all the signage as part of the characters/background... I mean, the letterer doesn't draw the "S" on Superman's chest in every panel, right? The artist does that... even though lettering and logo design are typically a letterer task.

Schuyler
04-17-2015, 05:00 PM
I think it all depends on the project and the team.

I would say that the letterer does indeed draw the signs. Maybe not the signs but at least does the lettering for the signs.

I would say that the letterer does not draw the 'S' on Superman.

I am only speculating, and do not claim to be an authority on this subject.

crognus
04-17-2015, 10:02 PM
Where you put it, either the dialogue or in the panel description, changes who is in charge of writing it. Sometimes, if you want a more organic look, you will want the artist to write words directly into the art. In that case, put it in the panel description. Sometimes you'll want the letterer to do it by laying it digitally on top of the art. In that case, put it into the dialogue.

MattTriano
04-17-2015, 11:11 PM
Letterers don't do design work, so if anything needs to be written in a panel it's almost always up to the artist. Do you need the sign designed or can it appear facing the reader without perspective and printed in a standard font? If you need it designed, then communicate that in the panel description. If it's copy, communicate that to the letterer under the panel description. I would write it as:

1.1
Panel description. Sign clearly visible, leave blank for letterer.

1 SIGN: CONDEMNED

That said I wouldn't leave that stuff up to a letterer that I didn't know and trust. I'd have the artist design the sign; if it had to look like a specific kind of sign I'd say 'like a STOP sign, biohazard sign or yield sign, etc.' or send an email with the reference picture attached, even if it's something you sketched out yourself.

Does that make sense?

M

Stewart Vernon
04-18-2015, 12:41 AM
Matt... that sums up what my thoughts were. About the only scenario (prior to this thread) where I thought a letterer might handle text on a sign... would be something like the Wile E Coyote scenario where he is in mid-air off the cliff before the fall, and he has the sign that says "Help"... or perhaps the Joker firing a gun that puts out a flag that says "Bang".

Those are scenarios where I could see having the artist draw the blank flag/sign and asking the letterer to work the text... just about anything else I could think of seemed like the artist would be the one to do the work.

Schuyler
04-18-2015, 10:40 AM
Nice! Thanks, Matt!

Steven Forbes
04-18-2015, 11:18 AM
So, to answer the question myself (and to disagree with Matt somewhat)...

The correct element term is "signage", and it should usually be left to the letterer. A competent letterer should be something of a graphic designer, so designing signs shouldn't be too far out of their skillset.

That being said...there are a lot of new letterers about, who don't know the first thing about their job and are just looking for money. While not necessarily a bad thing because everyone wants to get paid for their services, it often leads to a dilution of the understanding of what someone's job is supposed to be. Just as tight pencils have come to render an inker's job to be largely tracing (largely, nowhere near wholly), most comics don't call for the need of signage.

As an editor, I don't like seeing artists doing the signage in the art itself. If it's wrong, it either has to stay, or it takes a lot of effort to fix--especially if using traditional methods. I'd rather see the signage done by a competent letterer, or a new letterer who's trying to expand their repertoire and knows they're going to get corrections and are willing to learn. This is my personal bias, after seeing a lot of indy comics that needed correction in the signage done by artists.

Also, signage done by artists has a different look and feel when done next to a letterer's efforts. You can easily tell who has done what, and in doing so, the reader gets taken out of the story a bit.

That's my take.

MattTriano
04-18-2015, 06:11 PM
Steven:

It's interesting to hear your perspective on this. I don't disagree that the letterer should be handling signs in-panel in a perfect world, but most letterers are not trained as graphic designers. Letterers place balloons, captions, sound effects and title page accreditation; one cannot expect a letterer to do more.

I always draw signs and sound effects; I can't leave those storytelling decisions to someone who can't read my mind, who isn't 100% informed. Some artists agree with you that none of it is their responsibility, but in my experience any visual specificity is best handled by the party or parties who have the greatest investment of care, time and money in the work, who have the most to lose if it's not good. Letterers just aren't paid to care; the great letterers of old worked on the physical boards between penciling and inking, they worked closely with editorial and they were expected to solve routine design problems because there were no ready-made fonts, no Photoshop. Today the skill has gone out of the job because comics can be made well enough without that effort, and because coordinating letterers and artists is very difficult via email. I think one has to be very specific when creating a piece of art, and very often the artist is the only member of the team being paid to care; if you leave signage up to the letterer you will probably get something that looks a little out of place, a font that feels too clean for the art, with letters seemingly floating atop the sign instead of reading as part of it. And one cannot ever expect a letterer in 2015 to draw copy on a sign that's in perspective; I've learned that the hard way.

Emails get lost, intent gets muddled, schedules get tight. Streamline the workflow as much as you can, provide reference, talk to everyone in the team; if your letterer is trusted and knows what you're going for than maybe leave it up to him. But I wouldn't :)

SamRoads
04-18-2015, 07:59 PM
My taste is to ask the artist. I strongly dislike lettered signs amidst art, they always jump out at me.

In my current project, the artist drew over a letterer created sign to generate a quick solution which remained all the artist's style.

Steven Forbes
04-18-2015, 09:15 PM
Steven:

It's interesting to hear your perspective on this. I don't disagree that the letterer should be handling signs in-panel in a perfect world, but most letterers are not trained as graphic designers. Letterers place balloons, captions, sound effects and title page accreditation; one cannot expect a letterer to do more.

Tell me about it. Although I do ask for more. The letterer should also be able to make a logo. I expect that. If they can't, I won't work with them. (Luckily, I've got a letterer I go to who can do anything I ask of them. I try to get him on every project I work on, where the creator doesn't have a letterer onboard.)

But it goes back to my lament about new creators diluting the knowledge base of their job. Hurts me to my heart, really.



I always draw signs and sound effects; I can't leave those storytelling decisions to someone who can't read my mind, who isn't 100% informed.

Sure you can, depending on the type of signage. Protest signs and such? I leave that to you as the artist. A tavern sign or building logo? I look to the letterer for that.


Letterers just aren't paid to care; the great letterers of old worked on the physical boards between penciling and inking, they worked closely with editorial and they were expected to solve routine design problems because there were no ready-made fonts, no Photoshop.

I disagree with the first part of that sentence. At $15/pg, they may not be paid much to care, but they are paid, so they should care. It's their name on the comic. When I'm hired, I'm paid to care. It's my name on the comic.

And while I've never worked with physical boards, I miss the sense of it. The physicality. I honestly feel like I've missed out on something, and I have some sense of what was lost, even though I've never experienced it. I'm envious of Erik Larsen working with Tom O on Savage Dragon, because they work on physical boards. (Imagine physically holding lettered pages of Watchmen in your hands!)


Today the skill has gone out of the job because comics can be made well enough without that effort, and because coordinating letterers and artists is very difficult via email.

Untrue. It really depends on the amount of effort the team puts in to communicate. If the artist takes the lettering into account (as they should--new ones don't, much to the detriment of the page), then why not share the roughs with the letterer, showing where you think the lettering would go? How difficult is that via email?


I think one has to be very specific when creating a piece of art, and very often the artist is the only member of the team being paid to care; if you leave signage up to the letterer you will probably get something that looks a little out of place, a font that feels too clean for the art, with letters seemingly floating atop the sign instead of reading as part of it. And one cannot ever expect a letterer in 2015 to draw copy on a sign that's in perspective; I've learned that the hard way.

Again, if you're getting paid, then caring is part of that package. That's my view, anyway. Pollyanna? Quite possibly. But when I help a client find a team, caring is part of the package with me. They don't have to be desperately passionate about the work, but they should at least care about the work they're producing.


Emails get lost, intent gets muddled, schedules get tight. Streamline the workflow as much as you can, provide reference, talk to everyone in the team; if your letterer is trusted and knows what you're going for than maybe leave it up to him. But I wouldn't :)

Looks to me like we're going to have to work together one day. We need to find a way to make that happen.

Stewart Vernon
04-19-2015, 02:05 AM
I'll just add... that I agree a letterer should be capable of all-things lettering from basic dialog text and balloons to sound effects and at least title-logo design. I can even agree with not wanting to work with a letterer who isn't multi-talented.

I still wouldn't have thought/expected the letterer to handle signage that was part of the background. Like signs on buildings and such... I assumed they would be like the logos on super-hero chests, and the artist would handle that.

Especially factoring in how it seems a lot of modern companies are asking letterers to do their work at the same time the inking or coloring is happening... I don't know how a letterer could do signage work that fits into the background without running into conflicts with what the inker and colorist are doing even with good communication.

It just seems like it would be cleaner to have the artist do as much of that as possible... then clearly point out which special-case signage needs the letterer to handle.

I don't pretend to be any kind of expert in this... but I have put together many a technical document with multiple people working on different parts of it... and the more you can let the artists do the art and the writers handle the text, the smoother the process usually goes.

Stinty
04-19-2015, 11:52 PM
Wow. Thanks for the responses. A lot of information to digest there.

Looks like it would depend on the team as to which way it goes. All that is required in the panel is block letters stating condemned - keep out. As there is currently no-one else attached to this, no decision has to be made at this time. I was just curious about the formatting and responsibilities.

Thanks again to everyone. Answers like these are the reason I lurk about these forums so often!

Steven Forbes
04-20-2015, 12:11 AM
Come into the light! We don't bite...

(Well, I do, but never without purpose.)

You'll learn a lot more from interacting with us than just lurking.

(And if that Steve Forbes guy gets too rough, just let me know. I have ways of dealing with that jerk.)

Scribbly
04-21-2015, 06:37 AM
Not knowing who will be the letterer assigned, is the artist's job to get the signage done.
Being the signage an integrated part of the artwork style and mood is the artist's job to get it done.
To leave blind these to the "whoever" letterer is to leave the door open for a bad surprise.
If the letterer want to use the artist's work as reference and is able to improve over it, perfectly fine.
If the letterer was previously assigned to work LOGOS design and put these inside the panels following the correct perspective and POV of the sign in panel, then is the letterer's job to get it done and the artist should be previously notified.

RoboTwin
04-23-2015, 12:47 PM
It's interesting how lettering has evolved from being an artist's apprentice to this separate profession. Now letterers don't know how to draw and artists don't know how to letter? A travesty. It's like the Morlocks and the Eloi all over again.

Stewart Vernon
04-23-2015, 02:13 PM
Letterers kidnap young artists and eat them for dinner?

;)

I gather on some level, the letterer as an artist's apprentice was borne out of a desire for an artist to not bog down on the monotony of lettering after doing all the art chores on a page... classic case of one man's trash is another man's treasure as quality letterers took the ball and ran with it and made it a skill all their own.

RoboTwin
04-24-2015, 02:58 PM
I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about this question. Let me know if someone like Scott McCloud already hashed this out:

Hypothetically, let's say two virtual reality sensory inputs are presented in comics. One is the plane of vision, the domain of the artist. Two is the plane of hearing, the dialog and sound effects, the domain of the letterer.

Now, entering into the comic's virtual world, the reader will receive the visual input of a sign post, but hear nothing. Therefore, the sign must be in the visual domain of the artist.

Stewart Vernon
04-24-2015, 04:44 PM
That's a good way of putting it that is more in sync with what I've always thought.

Scribbly
04-25-2015, 01:49 PM
I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about this question. Let me know if someone like Scott McCloud already hashed this out:

Hypothetically, let's say two virtual reality sensory inputs are presented in comics. One is the plane of vision, the domain of the artist. Two is the plane of hearing, the dialog and sound effects, the domain of the letterer.

Now, entering into the comic's virtual world, the reader will receive the visual input of a sign post, but hear nothing. Therefore, the sign must be in the visual domain of the artist.
I like this take. :thumbs: