Nominations for the 2010 Eisner Awards (the Oscars of the comics business) were announced this afternoon and, well, it looks like I'm up for two of them. After I just got done posting about how I didn't foresee getting back to the San Diego ComicCon anytime soon, they figured out a way to pull me back in. Brilliant.
Whatever Happened to the World of Tomorrow? is nominated in two categories: Best Lettering, and Best Publication Design (with Abrams designer Neil Egan). I heard about this a few days ago but had to keep mum until the announcement. It's a genuine surprise, and I mean that with all the sincerity I can muster. I didn't know I was in the running. This is one of those times when it truly is an honor just to be nominated.
I imagine some people reading the list will get to my name and say, "Huh?" They might even shout it so loudly they startle their neighbor's napping shih-tzu. I sympathize.
I think the Best Publication Design nomination recognizes the work Designer Neil, Editor Charlie Kochman and I did to make WHTTWOT not just the best book we could but a special physical object: the die-cut jacket, the different textures and glosses on the cover treatments, the different types of paper used for the four internal "comic book" inserts. That's the kind of detail Abrams prides itself on and a big reason I'm happy they're my publisher.
Front to back, from placement of page numbers to layout to incidental art and photography, we worked hard to give the book a thoughtful, interesting look that most importantly supported the story. I'm especially happy to see Neil earn this notice; he's a life-long comics fan who put a lot of heart, care and effort into getting WHTTWOT right. To have the results of his work vying for comics' highest award must be pretty sweet icing on the cake.
Lettering is an important aspect of the heart, care and effort that I put into the book. I'm especially surprised by the Best Lettering nomination because I honestly had no idea anyone noticed.
Most of the lettering in WHTTWOT is my own hand-printed font, sampled from the lettering I did for Mom's Cancer. I've never pretended my own lettering is professional-grade but it is very personal, which is why I chose it (and why I think it works) for that purpose. A person's handwriting is intimate. The reader and I are having a conversation. The lettering in the "Space Age Adventures" comic books within WHTTWOT is a very different commercial font deliberately cleaner and slicker, and it gets more sophisticated through the decades. For example, in the earlier comics, emphasis is indicated via bold face; in later years, it's indicated via bold italics. I hoped to suggest--through the lettering as well as the writing, artwork, characterizations, "print quality," etc.--that my pretend "Space Age Adventures" series was published by a small off-brand publisher whose little corps of anonymous creators gradually got better at their craft.
Yet a third font is used in the final chapter: not as classically "comic-booky" as the second (e.g., it employs lower-case letters), meant to suggest a progressive melding of the two earlier fonts and, perhaps, a different reality than the others. Still more fonts were used throughout the book to provide era-appropriate comic book indicia and mock advertisements. I put a lot of thought into how lettering could convey meaning--not just through the words the letters spelled, but the very form of the letters themselves.
At best, I hoped the reader might pick up some of that detail subliminally--good lettering, like good special effects, does it best work unnoticed. I'm not claiming it all worked like I wanted, but I was thinking about it.
I imagine I'll have some more thoughts on the Eisner Awards in weeks to come and will leave it at that for now. What a great, gratifying treat! All my thanks to Abrams and the Eisner judging panel. This acknowledgement means a lot.