I like to talk to letterers. Part of it is my day job: I work with fonts a lot, and am responsible for implementing (as opposed to designing) text layouts for a variety of correspondence. But it’s also because—in spite of my job—it’s easy for me to take a letterer’s work for granted.
Pat Brosseau is one of my favorite letterers in the business, and not just because he lettered The Omega Men, my favorite book ever. A veteran of the industry, his work has been seen all over the place. He’s got great sensibilities and style, and his hand-drawn effects are pure comics fun.
I reached out to Pat this week to see if he could walk us through one of his latest releases: the main story in Suicide Squad #7. He was happy to oblige, and I’m happy to share this inside look at “Going Sane Part Three: Beat on the Brat.” If you haven’t read it yet, be warned—there are some spoilers ahead.
All artwork below is pencilled by Jim Lee and colored by Jeremiah Skipper. Inks are provided by either Scott Williams, Jonathan Glapion, Sandra Hope, or Richard Friend.
Brian Warshaw: I’m looking at page one. What’s your strategy for the box layout here? How much is Rob, how much is you? Did you decide how to split up the text and how many boxes to use?
Pat Brosseau: Usually a script is split up by panels, and in each panel the captions or balloons are numbered from one to ten, for example. So panel one has three captions which are numbered one through three. I then place all the text from the script for that panel in each caption and so on to the following panels until I get to the end of that page’s script. I place all the balloons, captions and SFX on this book myself, trying not to cover anything important in the art, and trying to lead the reader’s eye along each page.
BW: How about the inset box by Zod’s hand? What were you thinking there?
PB: Just trying to lead the reader’s eye along the panel to the figure of Zod.
BW: Who came up with that nifty Grim Reaper badge?
PB: The Grim Reaper badge, or caption, was created by the brilliant Nate Piekos, who was the original letterer on this book.
BW: You pride yourself in providing hand-drawn letters when it makes sense. Is the “Beat on the Brat” subtitle hand-drawn?
PB: I do like doing hand-drawn SFX and titles when they apply, and I did do part of a hand-drawn title on the first part of this Suicide Squad story, but this issue’s subtitle, “Beat on the Brat,” is actually a font from House Industries named Outhouse, which has a nice, hand-scrawled look to it.
BW: How did you approach creating the credits? How do you decide what fonts to go with, which colors to use?
PB: Usually, when creating credits, using a font that is really legible is your best bet. With these credits, I wanted something big and bold that matches the aesthetic of this book. Most times when I color credits and titles, I’ll stick to warm, primary colors and nothing too dark.
BW: On the next page, the guy in the containment suit has a much more squared-off balloon than Harley or Katana—what’s the reason for that?
PB: The shape of that balloon is like that to match the overall shape of the text.
BW: Are the sliccceee and the fzzzsshh hand-drawn? Do you do the hand-drawn stuff on paper or use a Cintiq?
PB: The slicceeee is a font, but the fzzzssshh is hand-drawn by me in Manga Studio, and then imported into Illustrator, where I do most of my lettering. I do all my hand-drawn SFX on a Wacom Tablet, usually freehand, but every now and then I’ll draw a quick idea on paper of what I want, and then just copy that.
BW: On the next two pages, you have consecutive balloons for a single character butted up against each other, but on the flame-filled Diablo and Deadshot page, Harley has a connecting tail (I forget the technical term) between “hey El Diablo” and her next line. What pushes you toward one approach over the other?
PB: Usually, a connecting tail like that is added by a letterer to indicate a pause or beat when the character is speaking. When balloons are connected without one, it’s more to indicate a character speaking quickly with no pauses.
BW: Quite a few effects on the sprinkler page—how long do you spend on each effect?
PB: The first two SFX are the same SFX that I drew in Manga Studio, and then I futzed around with them in Illustrator to make them look a little different than each other. And the bottom SFX was also done in Manga Studio, but using a different brush. All totaled, it probably took me ten minutes or so to do all three.
BW: Croc strangling Harley—how much of his speech and balloons are hand-drawn, if any?
PB: All of Killer Croc’s balloons and pointers are hand drawn by me each time in Illustrator.
BW: I praised your letters for Doc and Tigorr on Omega Men, because you managed to find fonts that were appropriately stylized, but still very readable. You’ve done it again with Boomerang’s text at the end. To be frank, a lot of books fail at this. How do you balance mood and readability for things like this?
PB: Well, Boomerang’s balloons and type were meant to imply that it was a digital version of him. So as far as the font goes, I chose something that looks both mechanical and digital, and of course, is easy to read, because sometimes you can go all out on a character’s typeface, but if it isn’t legible, then you’ve failed at what you’re doing.
That wraps up our special look at the nuts and bolts of the letters for Suicide Squad #7. Special thanks to Pat for taking the time to answer my questions, and for doing such a great job on the book. You can follow Pat @droog811 on Twitter, and you can see a fairly comprehensive list of his huge body of work over at Comicvine. You can also see his letters and more great, hand-drawn effects in the current run of Aquaman, or in one of my favorite new books, Skybound’s Green Valley.