Allen: Welcome Jaymes Reed to www.jazmaonline.com for this interview. Tell me about yourself.
Jaymes: I'm a work-a-holic comics lover from Dallas, TX who currently resides in South Carolina. I run my lettering studio, Digital-CAPS (http://www.digital-caps.com), I write my new review column, "Digital-CAPtionS," for ComicNews.info (http://ComicNews.info) and when those two things aren't keeping my time occupied, I have numerous other things to do, none of which tops being a dad to my two boys, Shade and Sam. Being an influential and dedicated parent is very important to me and is one of the few genuine joys to be had in life.
Allen: What sort of comics did you read as kid? What was it about local comic book store that helped get you interested in reading comic books?
Jaymes: I'm from the "Super Friends" generation, so naturally I was always drawn to DC Comics. I never even gave Marvel a chance and other than watching them at the movies, haven't to this day. I've also always been a fan of black and white comics for as long as I can recall. There's something mysterious there when the colors aren't present. As a kid, I either bought comics at a newsstand, or I read my neighbors books second hand. I neither had a store nearby nor the means to buy much in one anyway. My parents weren't much on money, so my resources were limited.
Allen: What inspired you to become a letterer?
Jaymes: Like many, I got into comics thinking I had the next big thing. During the evolution of some of my own first comics, I realized how hard it was to find a good letterer. I just knew I could letter better than those guys who were doing it for me, so I set out to letter myself. By today's standards (and this was just 6 years ago), my letters weren't great, but they were the start of what I hoped would end up a cool journey through the comics biz before it's over.
Allen: Who are some of your lettering role models?
Jaymes: Once upon a time, it was Todd Klein, but when I finally got around to sending him an email to hound him for advise about something, he wrote back pretty much telling me I should give up, that there's no work for me out there. That only fired me up more. I don't know if that still qualifies him as a role model, but his work is inspiring none the less.
Allen: Tell me how you managed to get your first jobs in the comic book industry? How old were you?
Jaymes: I was 24 or so when I was asked to form an art team and write a 4-part story that would be included in an anthology from Out of the Cellar Comics called "Best Cellars." The series never made it to two issues, much less four, and my story kind of sucked, but it was a start. My character, "Krystal," was on the cover, which happened to highlight an early creation of Eric Powell's! I believe it was his first interpretation of "The Goon," which at the time he called "Monster Boy." That was a very special entrance into the biz for me. That was 1995. It wasn't lettering, but it was my first job.
Allen: Tell me all about your lettering studio, Digital-CAPS.
Jaymes: I offer digital comic book lettering and logo services. I do other design work, but lettering comic books is my favorite part of what I do. I'm capable of churning out several books per month while retaining high quality standards and somehow still managing to meet deadlines. I'd love to work freelance for any of the big companies on a regular basis... just waiting on the email, ha ha. I just love comics, and I hope it shows in the work I use to represent Digital-CAPS.
Allen: Break down for me tasks you have to do as letterer. Also, enlighten me on how you do lettering. Is it by computer or hand lettered?
Jaymes: I letter on the computer, although I AM spending some spare time teaching myself how to do it by hand. It's progressing slowing but surely. So I open the artwork in Adobe Illustrator CS3, choose the font or fonts I'll be using, balloon and caption box styles and then I'm well on my way to turning out a complete story for someone. A more detailed breakdown of all that would be far more detail than I can provide here. It took me a long time to get used to all the techniques, rules and chores that go along with each process, so that's the simplest way I know to explain it all.
Allen: How do you fit text into small caption areas?
Jaymes: If the writer provides too much text for an area it won't fit in, I either tell them so and they crank out an overnight edit, or I'll take liberties where my own writing intuitions tell me I should and then run it past the writer/editor. Otherwise, I have to come up with some creative ways to make it work. Too much text from a writer has always been an issue... but nothing like an artist who has obviously not read the script and provides little to no room for what is expected to be there! That's something that can't be changed. I hope that's what you meant.
Allen: I am curious how long it takes to letter a standard size comic book? Also, what stage is lettering in creation of comic book?
Jaymes: The standard 22-page book can sometimes be done in a few hours, but if dialogue is on the heavy side, it could take 2 days. I've been known to take longer if I want to spend more time constructing better sound effects and the like. Lettering can begin as soon as scans of pencils are sent to me at proper print size, but normally I don't see them until the colors are done (or inks in the case of a black and white comic). As fast as digital lettering can be, there's really no need to do them sooner unless the publisher needs them yesterday. In the case of "Epoch," a book I am lettering for Arcana, the colorist also happens to be the publisher, so I do work on Kris Carter's pencils in this instance.
Allen: How much freedom are you given for text style and fonts?
Jaymes: Lots! It's rare when someone knows exactly which fonts and styles they want ahead of time. Sometimes they'll refer me to another book they liked the letters in and say "letter it kind of like that." Clients hire me for several reasons and one part of it is knowing what looks good and when. I'm not saying I'm an expert at it quite yet, but they complain very little, so I must be ok at it.
Other books I letter:
"Return to Point Pleasant" by Ape Entertainment (In Stores Now! http://www.ape-entertainment.com/)
"Elemental Fources" by New Baby Productions (Out now! http://www.elementalfources.com)
"Epoch" & "Yin Yang" for Arcana Studios (COMING SOON - http://www.arcanacomics.com)