22 May 2009

The High Cost of Relettering

Like movie studios and music companies, comic-book publishers reissue their most popular material in "boxed sets" with a little extra material and a much bigger price. DC Comics has a series it calls Absolute, as in Watchmen: The Absolute Edition and the Absolute Sandman series. The comics' pages are reproduced larger than originally printed, on better paper, with extras.

The reissue process required extra work for one spin-off from Neil Gaiman's Sandman, Absolute Death. (Death is the Sandman's sister, and just the cutest thing.) As letterer Todd Klein explained on his blog: "Neil and the DC staffers involved felt the lettering on these issues reproduced so badly when enlarged it was worth having me redo it."

So like a movie being remastered or an album being remixed, the Death: The High Cost of Living miniseries is being spruced up with the latest technology. While relettering the whole story on his computer, Klein has improved line breaks, reshaped a balloon that had been rendered asymmetric, and made other small changes.

This project also required Klein to create a new variant font:

In his script, Neil directed: “The Eremite’s lettering style should be just a little smaller and skinnier than normal: try and give the impression that he always talks very, very quietly.” To get that, I made the letterforms very narrow, with thin strokes. Unfortunately, some of them were just beyond the limits of the printing process, and not helped by poor pencil clean-ups before being photostatted by DC.

Now, the rest of the issues used standard Klein lettering, for which I’ve long had computer fonts, but this style is one I’ve never needed to do on the computer until now. So, yesterday I spent about eight hours making new fonts: TKondensed in Roman, Italic and Bold Italic faces.
The result is supposed to be an improved book--but at the same time unnoticeably so.

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