An Interview With Andrew Thomas

Interviewer: Anthony Andujar Jr Interviewee: Andrew Thomas Q1. What started your love for comics? What was your first comic, and how did it shape your path in comics? AT:  As […]

Interviewer: Anthony Andujar Jr

Interviewee: Andrew Thomas

Q1. What started your love for comics? What was your first comic, and how did it shape your path in comics?

AT:  As a kid, I sometimes read comics like Archie, but I didn’t really get into them until I was in high school. The school library had a good number of graphic novels, most of which were classic Batman books like Dark Knight Returns, Long Halloween, Year One, etc. You know, the essentials. So I read one after the other. I didn’t start collecting until DC’s New 52, which is when I encountered Snyder and Capullo. Their run on Batman is probably my all-time favorite. I hung off of every panel and every word. I absolutely adore Greg Capullo, and his style was a big reason why I decided I wanted to create comics. Rob Guillory was also a huge inspiration, but more on him later. 

Q2.  What led you to become a comics letterer? How did that particular path in the comics field catch your attention?

AT: I never wanted to be primarily a letterer at first. I’ve always wanted to be an illustrator and publish my own comics, which I did in 2014.  When I was getting ready to self-publish, one of the best pieces of advice I got was that I needed to learn how to letter properly. Even if I had the most beautiful, eye-catching art, bad lettering can take the reader right out of the experience.  Lettering is just as important to the comics-making process as drawing, inking, and coloring (writing too, of course). So I taught myself using the tools that Comicraft and Blambot provided. After I had self-published a few books, a publisher approached me and asked if I knew how to letter. I had shown them my portfolio thus far, and that was my big break into major comics publishing. Lettering was opening doors for me, so I took every chance I could. 

Q3. You’ve worked on different titles for different publishers, what was the journey as a comics letterer like for you? 

AT: I was not at all ready for my career to go the way it did. Many of the projects I’ve worked on came to me through word of mouth, and soon I was getting emails from Archie Comics to work on a few projects and another from a smaller publisher who held the comics rights to Disney Princess. It moves so fast that I barely had time to realize I was working on big-name titles. I still get a kick out of seeing my name printed on a book. When I felt like I had a good amount of work in my portfolio, I decided to swing for the fences, which led to a lot of opportunities. For example, I got to meet Kevin Smith in person last year, right after he announced that he was writing comics again under his new imprint at Dark Horse, called Secret Stash Press. I was in his online fan club and had “met” him virtually, so he knew a little bit about my work. He asked me if I did lettering for a living. I told him that I did, and he gave me the lettering gig right on the spot. A big part of the journey is the connections you make along the way. I’ve met so many talented creators and it was a real treat to talk with them and learn from their experiences. 

Q4. What are the challenges that come with lettering comics that readers and up-and-comers don’t consider?

AT: I think some people will realize right away that it is an aspect of comic book production that doesn’t get enough attention. A casual reader might think that Lettering is just putting text in a bubble and calling it a day. Lettering is an art, and it should be treated as such. It’s more than just putting the words of the writer on the page; it must complement the art. When working with a creative team, it’s important to understand their vision and try to include that in the lettering. There are many things to think about, like how quickly the story moves and how the characters feel. The text should exhibit that and enhance it. As a letterer, I’ve been able to advocate for the art form and share what I’ve learned and experienced. 

Q5.  You’re currently lettering the cyberpunk comic, Mosely. This series focuses on two different generations and perspectives that are connected through technology and corporate overlords that dictate the flow of mankind. How did you get involved in this project?

AT: This is another example of me swinging for the fences. I’ve been a big fan of Rob’s for years. I first heard of him when I read CHEW, which is my personal favorite indie book, and his style, like that of Capullo, was a big influence on mine. He showed me that breaking the rules was okay when making comics. One day, I was scrolling through Facebook and saw that he had posted about a new series he was writing that hadn’t been announced yet. I decided to comment and ask, “Are you looking for a letterer on this project?” To my surprise, he sent me a private message saying that he might be and that I should send him my portfolio. Well, we know the rest of the story, but I’m still really thrilled to be working with someone I really look up to, and really proud that I’m able to contribute to his vision. 

Q6.  When reviewing scripts for lettering, what is the process like? Do you make various font types to match the different voices of the characters, items, and environments? How much coordination occurs with the rest of the art team to ensure that the lettering services the story while being its own entity?

AT: I approach each book differently, and most of the time it has to do with the art style. If it looks more like an animated cartoon, I might use loose, hand-drawn balloons with a fun, messy font. If it’s science fiction, like Mosely, I’ll make some futuristic, techno balloons with a robotic font. I’ll make a few samples early on to show the creative team and get their feedback — there’s a lot of back and forth. The process isn’t always easy, though. There have been quite a few times I was lettering, there were many times when I couldn’t fit all the letters into a panel, which can be frustrating. Most of the time, I’ll try to split one balloon into multiple ones and move them around. If that doesn’t work, I’ll tell the editor, and most of the time, they’ll have to rewrite it and make it fit. 

Q7. Are there any particular characters that you tend to enjoy lettering for? And do you stick to one software program for lettering, or do you use multiple?

AT:  I like coming up with balloon and font styles for monsters and demons because it gives me a chance to use my imagination. It’s about making it as unnatural as possible while still being capable of reading it. It’s a very delicate balance. I also like big action sets where I can be creative with the sound effects. One of my favorite examples was in Kevin Smith’s Maskerade.  The main character kicked a bad guy in the middle of their sentence, and I threaded the balloon’s tail through the “O” in the “TWOK” sound effect. I think that the fun little creative liberties I take make the experience better. When it comes to software, I mostly use Illustrator.

Q8. Mosely is your current comic book project amongst a few others, what have you learned thus far in regards to your process? How often does your approach to lettering change?

AT: I think that every time I work on a project, I try to find a way to improve efficiency.  Nate Piekos of Blambot just put out a book called The Essential Guide to Comic Book Lettering. In it, he talks about the keyboard shortcuts he uses in Illustrator. I try to learn and use a new one in every project I do. It takes a lot of practice because of how comfortable I already had become with my process. Muscle memory does come into play because of all the repeated keyboard shortcuts I already have implemented. 

Q9. Are there any projects in the pipeline for readers to keep an eye out for? 

AT: The second book I’m working on with Kevin Smith at Secret Stash Press is Quick Stops, based on his film universe. The last issue of the first season is wrapping up in early February. I also have another historical fiction book coming out from Image called Dead Romans by Fred Kennedy and Nick Marinkovich.

Q10. Where can readers find you to keep up with your work? 

AT: You can find me on Instagram @thefatmanwholetters and Twitter @fatmanscomics

Anthony Andujar Jr.

About Anthony Andujar Jr.

Anthony Andujar Jr. is an NYC cartoonist and lover of comics and music. So much so that it led him to writing comic book reviews in between it all.