Career Timeline: 1989 - Silver Surfer: Parable 2

When Moebius accepted the job, he had insisted on lettering it himself. In the original hardcover collection, he writes an afterward where he elaborates on his stern ideas about allowing someone other than the primary artist to letter a comic book page:

“To me, the lettering is a form graphology. It reflects your own style and personality. A page of comics without text has its own personality. But when you add the balloons, it suddenly takes up a whole, new different look. For example, I was quite disappointed about the look of my pages The Silver Surfer at first. Without the balloons, I thought they looked too dull, too drab. Then, I lettered them and they changed completely. It became something complete, dynamic. The lettering brought it together.

That’s why I don’t really understand how an artist can entrust something that is important to a hired hand, no matter how good he may be. A letterer may a professional, but he’s very likely someone who has stopped to see lettering as something amusing, but just as another job. To me, it’s monstrous to have an important part of the look of a page determined by an outsider.

If an artist’s lettering style is truly not legible, then he should learn. I learned my own lettering from Jije, who himself was very influenced by the American masters, like Caniff. I do the best I can. My letter is alive, it dances on the paper. It reflects my personality. To me, the only rule is that lettering should be consistent within its style, that is, all your “s“‘s should look the same, etc.

In the case of The Silver Surfer, my lettering on some of the pages is not always as good as I’d like it to be. Some days, I felt tired, less able to concentrate. Also, I was a little bit handicapped by the fact that English isn’t my mother tongue, and maybe I rushed a little too much in places. But, in spite of all these problems, I’d still rather have my own letters than the intrusion of someone else’s style on my page. I really fail to understand how artists can tolerate this.

The excuse of legibility is, I think, a very poor one. It is something that must be done away with. The reader can be educated to read any style of lettering. Comic strips prove it every day. The Underground proved it years ago. Some of those people’s lettering was terrible — barely legible — but the readers followed it. We got rid of this attitude in Europe in the early nineteen-seventies. Now, every artist does his own lettering, which is coherent with the art, and it looks much better”


Issue 2 came out in January of 1989. The two issues were pretty well-praised, and won an Eisner Award for “Best Finite/Limited Series” later that year.

P.S. Moebius’ views on lettering were not posted here to ridicule the role and talent of comic book letterers. I find it interesting, but I know some letterers personally, and they both do remarkable work.

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