Mining Horror Comics for Font Ideas

I’m always mining the great graphic legacy of past eras for cool resources to use as the basis for fonts, and while I more typically go to antique sources, there’s a lot of great material to be found in the relatively recent past in vintage products of popular art like the covers and artistic content of pop novels and comic books.

With Halloween approaching, my attention was focused on sources for horrific fonts and so I went wandering the web looking for lettering from classic horror comics. They were a big element of the comics market when I was growing up in the 1960s and 1970s. As a teen I was particularly taken with the large-format black and white comics like Eerie and Creepy which defied the comic code, but there was also a lot of good material in the more crudely produced color horror comics of the 50s and 60s which were more conventional but still featured creative lettering and quality art.

My big disappointment in this quest was my inability to find good examples of interior lettering on the internet, requiring me to go rummaging in the garage for actual physical printed comics (see more on this later), but I did find excellent sources from examples of cover art and lettering, including coverbrowser.com which I previously used as a source for pulp novel covers, and some nice higher quality images at samuelsdesign.com.

With a lot of great source material to consider, what I was ultimately drawn to was the original title lettering from the first five issues of Vampirella, the most provocative and sexually charged comic from the publishers of Eerie and Creepy. Vampirella‘s concept and stories don’t always bear close examination, though they are better than the terrible movie based on them which was released in the 1990s. But Vampirella did feature some excellent art, including some of the best work of Frank Frazetta, and although I’m not so fond of the title design which was used for most of its run, the original title design was powerful and striking and would make a good basis for a font.

The Vampirella lettering is an interesting example of lettering with an outline which conforms to the countours of the letters, a style particularly popular in horror comics and psychedelic era poster design. I’ve done similar fonts like Hendrix and the effect is excellent for titles where you want characters to overlap and nest with each other. It also has characters offset at different levels relative to the baseline, something which is easy to do when hand lettering, but more challenging in a font. It’s best addressed by having multiple different versions of each character in different positions and kerned and hinted to fit with other likely characters in two-letter combinations.

Work has only just started on the Vampirella font and I’m also looking at some other vintage comic fonts, but it should be finished in time to be a special feature for Halloween.

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