25 January 2010

OMG, Are They Serious? The Twilight Lettering Disaster

Entertainment Weekly ran a preview of Twilight: The Graphic Novel, and it was ghastly to read. Not the words in the dialogue or captions; those were mildly amusing for someone who hasn’t read the book or seen the movie. But the typography was painful.

The letterer appears to have chosen fonts from among all the options offered by Windows 97. Hey, I’m cheap about fonts myself, but I don’t have a Twilight budget. Nate Peikos’s Blambot site and Comic Book Fonts from Comicraft offer lots of character-filled fonts for reasonable prices. Last year Colorburned offered a look at “20 Insanely Cool Manga Fonts.” If the budget is really tight, most of Dafont’s stuff is free.

And then there are the balloons themselves. Former Marvel editor John Barber tweeted:

The lettering in the Twilight comic is the worst lettering I've ever seen in a professional comic.

The balloons are giant awkward shapes that seem to emulate the awkwardness of translated manga, but not the actual style.

The text is in, I think, Times New Roman--bad enough--but most of the balloons are semi-transparent and the text is given a white stroke.

Other times the balloons are opaque white. This is done based on where the balloons are placed, not based on any aural context.

And the placement is terrible--they're awkwardly over the figures, overlapping panels randomly.
Most of the balloons are so perfectly elliptical and symmetric that they have no character. On the other hand, this sample page shows one with the text squeezed in off center, as if someone’s mouse had slipped. And those balloon tails? They look like they’ve been added with a felt-tip marker at the last minute. In panels like those at the top, the tails get swallowed up in the artwork so you can’t tell who’s speaking.

Barber added:
I could go on, there's more, but the reason this bothers me is a LOT of people will be buying Twilight as their first comic--

--a lot of them are going to come away thinking they don't have the facility to read comics because they found this one difficult to parse.

They won't know it's Twilight being poorly lettered that was interfering with their ability to read words and images together.
Of course, Twilight fans have shown themselves to be willing to put up with a lot.


david elzey said...

oh, i don't see a problem. the book gets the comic adaptation it deserves.

Jules said...

I have to agree with the author. The point isn't that it got a comic adaptation, it's that the lettering and the placements are a terrible choice for a comic. It almost looks like a bad scanlation in that second picture.