On break for Christmas, see you next week.
Fantastic Adventures

128 issues ~ May/1939-March/1953
1st nine issues bed-sheet the rest of the run pulp size

These are the front & back covers to the
nine bed-sheet sized issues.
Artwork by Frank R. Paul, H.W. McCauley and others.

This week: Printed Lettering Guides

Many folks can get away with unruled, freehand lettering in their comics, and have it looks fine, or even good. My all-time-favorite-cartoonist Lewis Trondheim doesn't rule out his lettering, and I have great affection for it. But I am not one of these people, and most people who think they are really aren't. Unruly lettering looks cheap and lazy, and it's rediculous how drastic the improvement would be in many people's work would be if they just used some straight lines to help tidy things up.

The tried-and true tool for ruling out lettering is the Ames lettering guide. The Ames guide is fantastic- it rules 3 lines of text without you having to move your ruler. It's adjustable, so you can letter as large or small as you care to. It rules upper and lower case letters. The spacing the Ames guide uses will garauntee that if you follow it at all, your writing will be at least somewhat typographically tasteful. And it rules letters with 4 distinct kinds of line spacing. Plus, it makes a great right angle for small corners. It's a fantastic little tool, but I'm not going to teach you how to use it for two reasons: first, Jessica Abel and Matt Madden wrote a textbook called "Drawing Words and Writing Pictures," and they have a detailed, fully-illustrated four page section covering nothing but it's proper use:
Their book is fantastic, a resource every cartoonist should have around, along with Scott McCloud's "Making Comics" and David Chelsea's "Perspective for Comic Book Artists." Secondly, the Ames has a few drawbacks that have made me move away from it as I've become more finnicky.

First off, you can only rule 3 lines at a time with it. More than 3 lines of text? You have to match the thing up with your bottom line to draw more. Pain in the neck. You have to pencil the text lines onto the page, which I hate, because I like being able to move text around up until I ink it, sometimes very minutely. Redrawing lettering is bad enough, but having to re-pencil guidelines? Somebody shoot me. And the Ames guide can only rule lettering with the proportions of it's letter spacings. Let's say my lettering doesn't quite match the Ames proportions. Let's say I have a lettering style that looks good, is well balanced, but doesn't fit. I'm out of luck, then.

So a couple years back I heard this tip from...someone. I wish I could remember who, so I could give them credit. They said that they did a bunch of freehand lettering, picked out some they liked, and printed out a page of lines that were ruled to match that lettering. They stick the lines behind the page on a light box, letter away, and boom! they're done, no lines to erase. If they don't like where the lettering is, or they want to change the text, they don't have to re-draw any lines.

I tried it and I've been doing it this way ever since. Here's how I do it now:

First, I take some lettering I think looks pretty good, like this, which I just drew freehand with a marker.
I scan it and pop it into Photoshop. I pull down a couple guides and then rotate the text to match up straight with those guides.
Now that everything is straight, I pull down one more guide, which shows how far down the next line is.

Then I make those guides actual lines.

Then I just multiply those lines, like this:
I remove the text layer and print the lines out, like so:
Here's how it looks on the light box:
And here it is finished:
As you can see, it has the same spacing and character of the lettering I did freehand, and now I can guarantee it will be consistent.

By the way, I did all this lettering with this marker:
It's a Copic Multiliner. I LOVE Copic markers. I just bought one recently, and it writes better on my rough vellum bristol than any other marker period. In fact I'd say that it's the only marker that gives me acceptable results on vellum. Even my pricey Deleters don't to as well. It's a sexy, well built marker, too. It's made of VERY solid metal. The thing feels like a Japanese beer can. (If you've ever handles a Japanese beer can you know a good way to kill a frat boy would be to dare him to crush one against his head. It would go right in.) The cap seals tighter than any marker I've ever used, and it also holds into the back nice and securely. And the tips are REPLACABLE! The ink is waterproof and marker proof, though I don't see anything that says it's archival. But it is pigment-based, so it won't separate chemically into different-colored bleeds over time like the evil Sharpie will.

Fred and Ryan in Tales from the Crypt #9!

Tales from the Crypt #9 Tales from the Crypt interior

For those of you looking for your Fred and Ryan comic book fix during the far-too-long wait between issues Comic Book Comics - check out Papercutz's Tales from the Crypt #9 - available at your local comic store right now! The second feature "Glass Heads" is written by Fred with full-color art by Ryan. The lead feature "Chicken Man" is really cool and creepy - it captures the sprit of the original "Tales" comics really well while putting a modern spin on the storytelling. 48 full-color pages with no ads for only $3.99, and if you know anything about modern comics prices you'll know that's a good deal!
Hi everyone,

I was up till seven in the morning last night and it's four o'clock now (I've been under Linksome deadline pressure lately), so I'm gonna tuck into bed and assemble this week's entry tomorrow. I have the photos readied, they just need assembling.

In the meantime, here are some tools I came across on a neat blog called "Cool Tools", and I thought some people might find them helpful:

This is a mechanical pencil that has a mechanism that rotates the lead a tiny bit with every stroke, preventing it from developing that chisel profile mechanical pencil leads ten to get as you draw. I personally strive for that chisel shape and can't draw with a lead that doesn't have it, (by using the blunt side I can keep my lines indistinct enough for inking and also not dig into my paper as much), but I know many people actually rotate their pencil by hand to prevent it, and according to the review this pencil is solidly built and long-lasting.

I don't use the kind of lead pencils that need sharpening, but if you do, I can concur with the review that this is the best lead pointer available. And here is their review of the sort of pencil you'd use with the lead pointer, if you've never heard of a lead holder pencil as opposed to a wood pencil.

Here's my favorite tool that I saw on the blog: a Japanese paper drill, which is a punch that rotates as you press, putting a neat hole through up to 15 pages of paper in one press, anywhere you want it. I bet you could do some fun things making minicomics with this thing. Off the top of my weary head, you could do a comic where someone had shot holes all the way through the book. Or you could bind the book with paracord, since the holes would be just large enough. Or you could do a comic about facial piercings, draw a face on the cover, and pierce it according to people's requests when they bought it. Or, you know, it doesn't need to be a face on the cover. You could get crazy. This thing just looks like an amazingly fun little toy.

Okay, so I'm gonna go to bed, and I'll post my tutorial tomorrow. Good night!
This Week: FortitudeThis is where you live now.
A two page spread of the thumbnails I'm working on. After roughing in a figure I liked alot, I realized I'd not left enough room to the right for the other characters.
Tracing is great for saving detailed work, but it's more trouble and time than it's worth for roughs. So instead, I leave a ghost of the previous image when I erase, so I have it there to refer to when I re-draw it.
Here's the re-drawn panel. The space feels more real, nothing is cramped, I didn't lose my pose from before, and I feel good lust looking at the page. And the best part is, even though it took me several minutes to get that pose the first time, it took me less than a minute to draw it again, and do it right this time. Time well spent if you ask me.
I use pre-printed word balloons so I know how much room the text will take up and what shape it will be, but sometimes I notice that I could have done a better job, so I utter a few curses and then cut it up and assemble it right.

Most careers that involve doing something you love require that you adapt to some harsh conditions that most people would consider too much to handle. Cooks have to adapt to standing long hours and heat. Standup comics have to overcome fear of judgement and public failure. I think the reason being able to do what you love is so rare is because the cost of doing it is so high.

In cartooning, that cost is in hours and toil. Cartoonists work longer than people probably suspect we do for much less pay than people probably think we get. There is no boundary between our work life and our personal life. Every moment you're not doing work, you're thinking about it, and more precisely, you're thinking about how you ought to be doing it. Days of your life will pass with no memories, no social interaction, nothing but you and the work. But a cartoonist's days leave behind pages, and the creation of these pages is worth trading our lives for, day by day.

The roughest times aren't the ones where you're grinding along, working insane hours, and kicking ass, though. It's the times where you have to work but you don't feel like it. This is when the lack of seperation between personal life and private life can really start to get on your nerves.

For the last week I've been cranking away to meet a deadline, working until five in the morning the last 3 nights, never going to bed before four. I also developed a sinus infection earlier this week, and every morning until today I woke up and immediately started hacking up blood and infection. Want to wake up feeling lousy? Go to bed with the sun coming up and wake up coughing out what looks like a mashed beetle. And then work another 14 hour day. And the next day.

I feel good about the work I'm doing, but I'm not working this hard because I want to, I'm doing it because I have to. The way I stay balanced is by making sure that nothing leaves my table that I'm ashamed of. But it's SO hard not to get lazy. It's so hard, when you're ready to move on to the next page, and you see that a panel could be re-shot from another angle to be a little better. It's so hard not to say "It's good enough, no one will care," and move on to an earlier bedtime.

But what I know is, when I buckle down and do it, I'm always proud and I sleep soundly, and when I don't do it I sleep with a thief's conscience. When I do it, people look at those panels and compliment me, and the memory of that praise obliterates the memory of the labor, but when I don't do it, I know what I did and the work feels wasted and pointless.

Nest week really will be about Printed Lettering Guides.
Edgar Rice Burroughs
1875 ~ 1950

The Misc Stories

Artwork by J. Allen St John, P.J. Monohan, Studley Burroughs,
Roy Krenkel, John Coleman Burroughs, Gil Kane & Jeff Jones