WSJ: Typeface Inspired by Comic Books Has Become a Font of Ill Will


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A look at the prevailing enmity for the typeface Comic Sans. Interesting factoid: its designer, Vincent Connare, drew inspiration for this least serious of all fonts from two of the most serious comics ever printed. “Mr. Connare says he pulled out the two comic books he had in his office, ‘The Dark Knight Returns’ and ‘Watchmen,’ and got to work, inspired by the lettering and using his mouse to draw on a computer screen. Within a week, he had designed his legacy.” That probably says something about either comics or typography taking themselves too seriously, I’m not sure which.

  1. That’s a great irony, from the most hated font in the world. Although I still use Trebuchet MS for some of my newsletter, I’m not sympathetic with Connare. And that’s thanks to the solely contribution of Comic Sans.

  2. That article contains perhaps my new favorite design geek trivia question: What is the only letter in Comic Sans with a serif?

    Will be whipping that out at parties… or not.

  3. I had the pleasure of meeting Connare when he came as the keynote speaker for one of our events (ROFLThing NYC 09). It’s funny, because he seems haunted by his creation, a major part of his final presentation was approximately 7 slides of pictures where he’d encountered Comic Sans “in the wild” in the last 24 hours.

  4. I found this hard to believe. He seems to be using the two most respected superhero comic books to give Comic Sans some kind of street cred. When I read this, I immediately opened my copies of each and saw no resemblance to Comic Sans.

    Someone else thought the same thing, too: link

    He may be telling the truth, I suppose — perhaps those are the only two comics he owned. Because Comic Sans no more resembles the lettering in those comics than it does in any other comic book. But the link above makes a compelling case that he just did it without paying any special attention to any particular influences at all.

  5. That “someone” you linked to is legendary comic book letterer (they call them letterers, which I think is a terrifically modest and wonderful appellation) Todd Klein. Naturally I agree with you and him that Comic Sans is not a particularly faithful or competent reproduction of the kind of professional lettering that Connare may have seen in “The Dark Knight” and “Watchmen.”

    Still, I think it’s possible to be influenced by these comics and still create something not terribly great — and Comic Sans is for sure, not terribly great at all. Much as someone who was heavily influenced by the art of Frank Miller or Dave Gibbons in those comics isn’t necessarily going to draw in a style that’s reminiscent of theirs. In fact, it’s perfectly natural that someone who studies a given comics illustrator winds up with a style that doesn’t look like the source material. Can’t the same variation result when we’re talking about comic book lettering, too?

  6. Er… no.

    There are digitised typefaces that look almost identical to the kind of lettering Todd Klein and his contemporaries produce by hand and that style of lettering isn’t that different from letterer to letterer (or as pronounced as an illustrator’s style can be). So it is possible to look at the lettering of Dave Gibbons (Watchmen) or John Costanza (The Dark Knight Returns) and copy it faithfully.

  7. I agree that influence and inspiration often don’t produce similarity. But this appears more like an attempt to rescue this font from ignominy by placing it in the conceptual vicinity of much superior work.

    I also bristle at the idea that this anecdote is going to make people who’ve never read these comics think that the lettering in The Dark Knight and/or Watchmen actually resembles Comic Sans, besmirching the fine reputation of these books and the fine letterers who worked on them.

  8. Another interesting fact – the font is supposedly dyslexia-proof because none of the letters look like letters when flipped backwards. Found that out in a disability-centric web design conference.

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