Comicraft, the comic-book industry’s leading lettering and design company for over 20 years, is launching a Kickstarter to fund the creation of the first comic book-style lettering font for the Japanese writing system.
What started as Wildwords Manga, a limited font to letter a few short comic strips to promote Blizzard Entertainment’s Overwatch video game, has grown to nearly 2,500 characters over the past year, as more strips were added for World of Warcraft and Hearthstone. The Kickstarter aims to raise the funds to see this massive font to completion, so that other comic-book artists and publishers can use it to letter comics in Japanese.
“Even though comic books are incredibly popular in Japan, they’re lettered with mechanical typefaces dating back to the 1960s,” notes John Roshell, Comicraft’s “Mr. Fontastic”, who, with Richard, pioneered many of the the computer techniques that are widely used to letter comic books today. He’s responsible for the creation of the hundreds of typefaces that Comicraft currently use to letter many best-selling comics.
“No one has ever created a font that mimics pen lettering like we have here in the United States,” he continues, “probably because it’s such a huge undertaking.”
He’s not kidding. The letters, numbers and punctuation for a typical English-language font comprise about 100 characters. Accents for Western European languages add another hundred, and even with Central European accents and Russian Cyrillic alphabets, the typical Roman-based font tops out at 500 characters. Comicraft creates at least a dozen of these font families a year.
But Asian fonts contain thousands of characters, so they are usually created by teams of people working for large companies, and take years.
But Comicraft – a small studio of three – are, unsurprisingly, undaunted by the challenge. After all, its designers are used to pushing boundaries.
In the early 1990s, founder Richard Starkings, whose career as a professional letterer began at 2000AD and Marvel UK, was one of the first comic book pen letterers to convert his handwriting to the computer. In 1992, he hired a small team with the goal of providing high-quality digital lettering under tight deadlines.
Comicraft pioneered the methods and techniques that became industry standards, while pushing comic lettering to new artistic heights with their pioneering work on X-Men, Avengers, Superman, Batman and Spider-Man.
They have designed custom fonts for many of the top artists in comics, like Dave Gibbons, J. Scott Campbell and Scott McCloud, and recently created a family of fonts to help brand the Angry Birds movie, video games and licensed merchandise.
“Someone’s eventually going to create a Japanese comic-book font. Since we’ve created more comic fonts than anyone, I think we can do it the best,” says Roshell.
“Plus, it’s just fun!” he adds. “The Japanese writing system is beautiful. Each character is like a little story unto itself. I’ve really enjoyed learning about the character shapes and how they fit together. I’m really looking forward to seeing this font come to completion.”
• Comicraft’s Japanese font Kickstarter launches on Saturday 19th November 19th at www.kickstarter.com
• More about them at www.comicraft.com
The founder of downthetubes, which he established in 1998. John works as a comics and magazine editor, writer, and on promotional work for the Lakes International Comic Art Festival. He is currently editor of Star Trek Explorer, published by Titan – his third tour of duty on the title originally titled Star Trek Magazine.
Working in British comics publishing since the 1980s, his credits include editor of titles such as Doctor Who Magazine, Babylon 5 Magazine, and more. He also edited the comics anthology STRIP Magazine and edited several audio comics for ROK Comics. He has also edited several comic collections, including volumes of “Charley’s War” and “Dan Dare”.
He’s the writer of “Pilgrim: Secrets and Lies” for B7 Comics; “Crucible”, a creator-owned project with 2000AD artist Smuzz; and “Death Duty” and “Skow Dogs” with Dave Hailwood.