My entire life I’ve been captivated with fonts; I know that sounds like an odd thing to say. But from the time I first began reading comics and still to this day, my eyes always read the script first; art second. Letters are the expressive force of an idea. They give shape to everything we hold locked away, deep in our imagination. I wanted to learn more about what goes into designing letters and lettering in comics, so I reached out to Steve Wands.
If his name sounds familiar, it should. Steve Wands is written into the fabrics of the DC Multiverse and beyond. Everything from Batman to Lucifer; Descender to Family Tree. For this segment of “Behind the Curtain“, Steve and I discuss his own creative process, his favorite craft beers, as well as some kick-ass comics along the way.
How Do You Choose a Font?
WOTN: What is your determining process for selecting a font? Can you walk us through your creative approach?
Steve Wands: “To boil it down, it just needs to look right to me. If the book is going to be an OGN with one artist I will tailor to that specific artist with consideration to how much text will be on any given page. If it’s something for let’s say The Flash, where creative teams are alternating storylines and there are few different art styles, then I need to approach it in a way that the lettering will look good across multiple styles.”
Can You Pair Craft Beer with Comics?
WOTN: Match these craft beers with your work; which one most accurately represents the book? Which is your favorite (beer)?
Joker: Killer Smile/Lucifer/The Flash
a) American Pale Ale b) Sour c) Stout
d) IPA e) Amber f) Wheat
SW: “Love this! Haha, let’s see…Killer Smile is a serious book, deep and dark. A sipper for sure. Something a little higher in ABV. Grab an imperial stout when you sit down with this one. Lucifer can be similar in tone, certainly a dark book, hell and demons, and whatnot, but there’s quite a bit of humor too. Literary leaning. Maybe you want to grab an APA and a few fingers of some small-batch bourbon. The Flash is just a good time and Barry can burn off anything with that metabolism so why not crush some juicy IPA and zoom zoom back and forth to the beer fridge.”
WOTN: Can you please explain to everyone what “Lo-Fi Fonts” is and your motivations behind starting the company?
SW: “It’s kind of a tough question for me cause I’m still trying to figure that out. I’ve neglected Lo-Fi so much this year that I’ve found myself asking those same questions. In part, it’s my fledgling font foundry where I can make my own fonts and offer them for sale. Some of the motivation came from wanting more out of myself as a letterer. I wanted to be able to letter a book without having to head over to Comicraft and Blambot and see what I could afford. I love so many of those fonts, but I wanted to be able to make and use my own. It just seemed like the next progression for me.”
WOTN: It says on the “About” section on “Lo-Fi Fonts” that it’s about a mindset: punk rock and hardcore. If you had the opportunity to letter an upcoming album for your favorite musical artist who would it be? What classic album would you want to re-write the liner notes? What would it look like?
SW: “So, going in a slightly different direction than the punk rock and hardcore mindset that has inspired me along the way I’d love to letter an Iron Maiden cover. The album artwork with Eddie is always so larger-than-life. It would just be so much fun. I’m generally opposed to remakes, and re-writes, and re-anything, but if we’re going classic albums give me The Doors L.A. Woman. and I would definitely keep the burgundy and yellow color scheme.“
WOTN: You’ve been cranking out some incredible logos lately. What are some of the challenges with logo design compared to lettering? How do you tell the story in a single image?
SW:“Thank you! I think one of the major challenges in logo design is conveying story, genre, and tone via the logo. With lettering, you can already assume the reader knows what they’re getting into by the time they are sitting down to read. The logo design needs to get them in the door and the lettering needs to not lose them along the way. Then the writer and artist need to keep them coming back month in and month out. Telling the story with a single image is a matter of boiling it down. What really matters to the story? Where’s the heart of it? Poke it with a stick a little and see what moves. Once you’ve done that now you need to find a way to make it a new again ’cause so many of the hearts of these things are the same.”
What Should Readers Know About Lettering?
WOTN: What is something that the majority of comic book readers DON’T know but SHOULD know about lettering?
SW:“Hopefully they don’t think about it much at all. When I go out to eat I don’t really want to see the kitchen or meet the chef. Just bring me my dinner cause the kids only behave for so long, smile when you do, and dammit it better be good. But maybe they should know that lettering is not writing cause when I tell someone that I letter comics and they respond with “oh, so you write the words?” it’s heartbreaking to explain.”
WOTN: Is The Nightmare Before Christmas a “Christmas Movie” or is it a “Halloween Movie”?
WOTN: I know you ask this question when you’re interviewing people, so I’ll flip the table: if YOU could only give one piece of advice, be it for lettering or life—what would it be?
SW: “Well played, Jordan, well played. Trust your instincts. I’m a firm believer that if something doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Whether it’s a short cut in crime alley or lettering for a new publisher. If you’re one of those rare breeds without instinct than follow your heart. I know this is kind of a short answer, considering some of the ones I get, but the best advice I’ve taken has always been stripped down and to the point.”