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Thomas Moudry
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Posted: 13 June 2013 at 9:13pm | IP Logged | 1  

I'm not sure why I've never asked this, but as I was reading a comic book
today, I thought, Who draws/letters the sound effects in comic books--the
penciller or the letterer?
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John Byrne
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Posted: 14 June 2013 at 5:25am | IP Logged | 2  

As usual, there is no one answer to that question.

The finished sound effects are usually laid in by the letterer, but they can be indicated by the writer or the artist, or both.

If the book is done plot-pencils-script, the penciler might indicate sound effects. The writer may or may not pick up on this when doing balloon placement.*

If the book is done full script, the writer will include the SFX in the script, and, again, indicate them in the balloon placement.

The Computer Age has brought its own variants. Recently I have started using SFX again, and add them to the scanned art in Photoshop.

_____

* Some writers leave it for the editor to do balloon placement. Usually, tho not always, I prefer to do my own.

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J W Campbell
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Posted: 14 June 2013 at 6:28am | IP Logged | 3  

 John Byrne wrote:
Some writers leave it for the editor to do balloon placement. Usually, tho not always, I prefer to do my own.


I can't say definitively, but I think placement guides are becoming steadily rarer.

I've lettered somewhere north of 15,000 pages professionally, and I think I've only had three jobs where placements were supplied. The first two were done by the artists: one was so poor as to be entirely useless*; the other was by an artist who used to letter their own work and, whilst the placement guides were perfect, the panels were so nicely composed that the placements were obvious from the areas of dead space. The last set came from the editor, who I told was indicating placements exactly where I was going to put the balloons anyway. We agreed to do a few pages without placements, after which she concurred and we stopped using them…

*No. Really. Entirely, hilariously useless. They would habitually draw page-wide panels and put the first speaker hard right and second hard left. Often they would put a non-speaking character in the middle to fill the dead space and then cheerfully decapitate them with a great long balloon tail. In a couple of panels, they didn't seem to understand why I protested that they'd crossed the balloon tails…
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John Byrne
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Posted: 14 June 2013 at 7:31am | IP Logged | 4  

I can't say definitively, but I think placement guides are becoming steadily rarer.

••

Chris Ryall ran one of my guides on his blog, and a wannabe basher immediately accused me of being a "control freak".

Generally, I try to make the layouts of my panels such that the placement of balloons is pretty much intuitive for the letterer -- but, alas, many "letterers" in the Biz these days are half a step beyond being typists, and have little or no artistic sense. (Several years ago, I sent in my usual balloon placements with a job, and somehow missed one page. It was a splash, with a single balloon on it -- which the letterer put in the wrong place!)

A problem for letterers these days comes from something that is also a problem for the artists: since the lettering is done as an overlay, the penciler has to fill up all the "empty" space, since s/he does not know just how much space the balloons may end up taking, and the inker, obviously, is not going to be able to "fill in" around the balloons as in days of yore. This leaves the letterer confronted with lots of artwork s/he has to cover up, and without really knowing what's "okay" and what isn't. My balloon guides are a way of saying "Yes, you can cover this!" *

(I include detail I know will be covered by balloons and captions, and even SFX, mostly for the after-market. Art collectors get what I consider "unfinished" pages, these days, without lettering or SFX, sometimes without even portions of the art, so I try to make up for that where I can.)

_______

* A big problem with the typists is that they don't know how (or are simply too lazy) to wrap the balloons behind figures. So we end up with characters wearing balloons for hats.

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Andrew Bitner
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Posted: 14 June 2013 at 8:05am | IP Logged | 5  

when i was an assistant editor at wildstorm, part of my job was doing balloon placement. sometimes it's intuitive, sometimes it isn't, depending on the artist and on how much wordage the writer has put on the page. it's tough to squeeze 50 words into a panel that's 2"x2" and leave any room for art.

if i'd been working with someone like JB, i would have very much appreciated his attention to this detail. it's not an element most readers notice, except when it distracts or has been done badly, but it's an important one. if the balloons, and therefore the words, don't flow, you'll have a jumbled, incoherent or aggravating time trying to read the story.

there are lots of ways to do it. as writer AND artist, JB has an uncommon capability to shape how the words and art mesh. editors and letterers would be fools not to make maximum use of what he gives them to work with.

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John Byrne
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Posted: 14 June 2013 at 8:10am | IP Logged | 6  

there are lots of ways to do it. as writer AND artist, JB has an uncommon capability to shape how the words and art mesh. editors and letterers would be fools not to make maximum use of what he gives them to work with.

••

Thanks! Took me a long time to get there! I look at some of my early writing and lettering jobs, and I cringe! The flow is simply not there.

One of my greater failings, in days gone by, was to have two balloons at the top of panel A, and two balloons at the top of panel B, right next door -- but a third balloon down in the lower left of A that was supposed to be read before B. Makes me CRAZY when I see that, now!*

(There's also an early FF that I scripted with one panel in which, with an acre of space all around, Johnny Storm has a balloon on his FOOT! GRAHH!!!)

________

* Extra frustration: I still do it sometimes!!

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Simon Bowland
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Posted: 14 June 2013 at 8:54am | IP Logged | 7  

I still letter pages using placement guides, from time to time. It was common practice at Marvel, and Valiant are also supplying them. I never use them as a hard and fast rule though, they're just a guide - almost a suggestion, really. Because if I'm properly trained as a letterer, deciding on placement is something I should be capable of doing of my own accord! Although try telling that to one major publisher's in-house lettering staff...

Kurt Busiek always supplies his own placement guides for whomever letters his projects, which in the case of Kirby Genesis happened to be me. After a couple of issues, however, he entrusted me with my own placements, which I took as a massive compliment. We'd then just discuss occasional panels which he thought could work better in a different way, and invariably he was always right. We both learned a few tips and tricks from one another, and it's that type of project which is most satisfying for me - where it's a true collaboration.

I'm really enjoying seeing JB's SFX in his recent projects. There are a few artists out there right now who draw in their own SFX, and if it's done right then it can look really effective. Chris Samnee and Fran Francavilla are two who spring immediately to mind.


Edited by Simon Bowland on 14 June 2013 at 8:57am
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J W Campbell
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Posted: 14 June 2013 at 9:07am | IP Logged | 8  

 Simon Bowland wrote:
There are a few artists out there right now who draw in their own SFX, and if it's done right then it can look really effective. Chris Samnee and Fran Francavilla are two who spring immediately to mind.


Yes. Absolutely. Fantastic work by both of those.

Of course, the flipside of this that some artists and colorists should never be allowed to add their own text to a page in a hundred years. I've actually opened up pages in Photoshop and removed ham-fisted signage so I can I re-do it!

Before. After.
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John Byrne
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Posted: 14 June 2013 at 9:27am | IP Logged | 9  

I'm really enjoying seeing JB's SFX in his recent projects. There are a few artists out there right now who draw in their own SFX, and if it's done right then it can look really effective.

••

I spent about a week poring over old issues of FANTASTIC FOUR, studying and even copying the SFX of greats like Artie Simek and Sam Rosen. Same way I taught myself to draw, basically! Ultimately I created for myself a page o' sound effects, from which I clip the ones I use, using Photoshop to tweak them so that the same sounds don't look the same every single time (unless I want them to!).

Once I had the basic shapes of the display lettering laid out, I was also able to build new SFX using pieces from others.

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J W Campbell
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Posted: 14 June 2013 at 1:08pm | IP Logged | 10  

 John Byrne wrote:
so that the same sounds don't look the same every single time (unless I want them to!).


Oh, this drives me insane -- so many letterers just copy and paste the same damn sound effect through a whole book. Every single BLAM looks the same, which is fine if every single BLAM is meant to be an identical sound, but if it's not…
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Thomas Moudry
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Posted: 14 June 2013 at 2:38pm | IP Logged | 11  

Thanks for the info--and the give-and-take, guys! Just terrific!
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Stephen Churay
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Posted: 15 June 2013 at 9:54am | IP Logged | 12  

JB, have you ever thought about creating various fonts for sound
effects?
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John Byrne
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Posted: 15 June 2013 at 10:54am | IP Logged | 13  

There are SFX fonts, and most of them do nothing for me.
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Eric Smearman
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Posted: 15 June 2013 at 12:14pm | IP Logged | 14  

Does Walt Simonson design his own SFX or is that done by John
Worman?
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