Comicon’s Best Letterers Of 2020

by Erik Amaya

Welcome to Comicon.com’s Best of the Year Awards, gathering the best comics and comics talent of the strange year that was 2020. This year we will be awarding in the following categories: Best Original Graphic Novels, Best Comic Series, Best Single Comic Issues, Best Writers, Best Artists, Best Cover Artists, Best Colorists, Best Letterers, Best Digital/Webcomics, and Most Progressive Comics.

Contributors to Comicon’s Best of the Year Awards this year include: James Ferguson, Oliver MacNamee, Cesareo Garasa, Rachel BellwoarScott Redmond, Tito James, Gary Catig, Tony Thornley, Richard Bruton, and Erik Amaya.

The following are Comicon’s Best Letterers of 2020.

6. Shawn Lee for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (IDW), et al

Line art and coloring can showcase so much, from revealing emotions to creating tension or levity within a scene, and that is always complimented and enhanced with great lettering like that of Shawn Lee. Making sure to throw in bold words or slightly bigger text when tempers flare or a tense moment happens while keeping text more neutral in more sedate scenes, or even emphasizing text in other ways can help set the mood for a reader in so many ways. While IDW Publishing’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles world is a place that Lee calls home, his talents crossed through numerous books this year proving just what a range he has.

— Scott Redmond

5. Joe Carmagna for X-Factor, The Amazing Spider Spider-Man, X-Force, et al (Marvel Comics)

Anyone who read any number of Marvel Comics this year undoubtedly at some point found themselves reading the word art of Joe Caramanga. Despite that large amount of work, he makes certain to avoid repetition while fitting the tone of the book and its line art. The almost fantastical art of X-Factor leads to wording that is more light and airy seeming while the more horror aligned Kindred issues of Amazing Spider-Man take on a more scratchy tone to them. Then there is the sharpness to the words within the dire and hard pages of X-Force. The versatility speaks volumes and explains why he has so much work on his plate.

— Scott Redmond

4. Jim Campbell for Alienated (Boom! Studios)

Campbell’s work on Alienated was as animated, emotive, and as expressive as Chris Wildgoose’s art, especially in issue #5 — where a rash catastrophic event occurs altering the lives of every character in a truly horrific way. In a particularly memorable moment, Campbell’s lettering effectively conveys the crushing realization a main character comes to after seeing the nightmarish destruction they created. The horror of it almost inspires vertigo. Campbell used skillful nuance throughout the series to imply the correct timbre and tone in a story about teenagers imbued with vast, dangerous cosmic power and deep personal trauma. It was a tricky feat pulled with deft precision. Writer Simon Spurrier is Alienated’s voice, but Campbell is its tone.

— Cesareo Garasa

3. Ariana Maher for Empyre, X of Swords tie-ins (Marvel Comics), et al

With the pandemic slowdowns this year, a lot of event titles were pushed closer together than expected at Marvel and DC. When it comes to the House of Ideas’ events, the lettering fingerprints of Ariana Maher could be found across both Empyre and X of Swords — and among other books —  throughout the year. Maher’s lettering achieves the wonderful feat of being able to shift according to style but also shift in slight ways according to the character. There is a sharpness to the words coming from the Skrull Empress in Empyre while there is a lighter, yet still strong quality to those of her grandson, the heroic Hulkling, within the same scene. This is kicked to another level with her elevated work within the beautiful debut issue of SWORD, standing proudly alongside the artistic contributions of Al Ewing, Valerio Schiti, Marte Garcia, and Tom Muller.

— Scott Redmond

2. Clayton Cowles for Jimmy Olsen (DC Comics), Loki, X-Men (Marvel Comics), et al

Cowles is one of the most prolific letterers working in comics today, and it’s not hard to see why. From using sound effects to paint a picture in Daredevil, to evoking David Bowie in both Jimmy Olsen and Loki, to powerful proclamations of love in X-Men, Cowles makes his mark on every title he works on. And he does it all with a finesse that keeps his work from sticking out from the rest of the package until you really sit down and think about what you just read.

— Tony Thornley

1. Aditya Bidikar for Home Sick PilotsThe Department of Truth (Image Comics), et al

A versatile and experimental letterer, Bidikar continues to amaze me with his old-school lettering — all done by hand — most recently on critically acclaimed new Image comics, Home Sick Pilots and The Department of Truth. Stylish, varied and highly creative. A letterer who always adds a special something to each new project.

— Olly MacNamee

Erik Amaya

Host of Tread Perilously and a Film/TV Writer at Comicon.com and Rotten Tomatoes. A former staff writer at CBR and Bleeding Cool, and a contributing writer at Fanbase Press and Monkeys Fighting Robots. Voice of Puppet Tommy on The Room Responds. A seeker of the Seastone Chair and the owner of a Legion Flight Ring. Sorted into Gryffindor, which came as some surprise.

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