by Kevin Czap
After I had talked about sound effects last week, my mind kept racing back to one example. By the time my train of thought had gotten around to typography in comics, seemingly there’s no one who does it better than Joe Lambert.
There are a lot of things that Lambert does spectacularly in comics, but let’s just focus on his lettering and typography for now. Most of these images are from his sketchbook, but what they really drive home is how much consideration he pays to this aspect of comics making. It’s certainly a big incentive for me to step my game up, looking at these examples.
I really wish I had the book on hand to get scans from Joe’s one story in the phenomenal collection, I Will Bite You. In “After School Snacks,” a couple of dog-like creatures go around swallowing people whole. Each of these creatures speaks in a garbled mess of shapes if I remember correctly, but what was really fascinating was how Lambert handled the consumed children. Still alive and in one piece, the children yell out for help through the creature’s mouths, loud and clear. When these cries are heard by mom in the other room, the creature takes the actual letters in the word balloon and rearranges them, altering the message to one that tells mom that everything is “just fine.”
What’s amazing about this is not just the interaction with the word balloon. It’s something more complex and exciting, where the function of the balloon for us, the reader, is shared somehow by the characters in the story. That Lambert is able to use the metaphor so consistently is one of those things that is so apparent that it takes the truly visionary to uncover it. What also interests me about this specific example is how it treats the word balloon’s existence in time. Rather than fade like sound waves do, the distress call hangs around in the air, able to be understood both before and after the message is altered. It’s ambiguous but the beauty of visual media is that they’re beholden to a different set of physics. This short story, as well as the rest of the book, is beautiful and distinctly comics.
I think I was operating under the impression that Joe was an old hand at this comics game, but he’s only a year older than I am (and I’m young, people [age is relative]). What this means to me is that we have a lot of amazing work to expect from Mr. Lambert in the future. I hope a whole school of cartooning follows in his wake.