Deron Bennett is an Eisner nominated letterer and graphic designer who has worked for Marvel, Tokyopop Archaia and Boom! Studios and Comixology. Deron recently began writing an original comic, Quixote now available through Comixology. Deron also runs his own design studio, Andworld Design that is looking for experienced Manga letterers for upcoming projects. Deron was kind enough to give us a few minutes of his time via Skype to talk about lettering in general and his work on Cyborg 009 and other manga titles by Shotaro Ishinomori.
Gabe Canada: I am actually a big fan of Ishinomori and his creations because he is the most prolific comic creator of all time. Obviously dealing with the language barrier this is a bit different than going back into the Henson archives and hunting down Jim Henson’s handwriting for a font (as you did on A Tale of Sand) How much research did you do in terms of just the manga layouts or any particular style he may have integrated into the sound effects or action shots that may translate the most to the graphic novel adaptation of Cyborg 009?
Deron Bennett: The thing about that is that I actually started working in the comics industry as a letterer for Tokyopop. Cyborg 009 was first brought in first through them. The actual english adaptation was brought in via Tokyopop. So I got my first shot there I was a production artist slash letterer there. I got to see the first round of everything coming through there. Later on when they were bringing them in digitally in Japan I was actually brought on as the letterer of that series where we incorporated sound effects and and things like that. I had a bigger experience through that but we also did some other Ishinomori books. We did Kamen Rider, Skull Man and there were a couple of others that we did. We did those for digital distribution out there.
Gabe Canada: Are those the ones available through comixology?
Deron Bennett: Yes. Those are the ones that we updated and that you will still find me lettering in, which is pretty cool! So when Archaia approached me about doing the new adaptation I was like yeah, the third time's the charm. Lets do this! I had a greater affinity towards it and I just wanted to do stuff that would harken back to that. You talked about the sound effects. I wanted to use what they were doing in the manga. They are all hand drawn sound effects and it really blends better with the art and tells the action a bit more. I hand drew every sound effect in the book and all the word balloons were hand drawn. It is those sort of things that I just wanted to keep intact and keep them as much geared towards what they were originally doing as possible.
Gabe Canada: It was the 1960’s and 1970’s so they didn’t really have any other options other than hand drawn did they?
Deron Bennett: Yes but it comes out so much better. It is a cohesive thing. We are doing things a lot quicker now. Everything is digital now just to keep up with the speed of things now of putting out a comic after comic after comic. There are times though where you want to keep it traditional and do things old school. I did learn why its not done that way. It took forever to do those sound effects! Online I have an interview where I pulled a screenshot of how a digital sound effect looks versus a hand drawn sound effect. You can really see the different. It is a lot more fluid and it helps the narrative a lot better. I think it is a lost art. We get to see something really special in this book because it is a special book. Marcus To and Ian really did a bang up job on the art and colors and I wanted to do my part as well.
Gabe Canada: So you have done these adaptations now for the third time including your work at Tokyopop, Comixology and Archaia. So as you say your are are now pretty familiar with Ishinomori’s work. Why do you think that so little of his work has been translated? I mean despite being the most prolific manga-ka of all time the only titles of his that I can name are Kamen Rider, Skull Man, Cyborg 009, and maybe his work on Astro Boy with Tezuka and I am an anime fan?! So why do you think so little of his work has made that transition over to the states or into english despite the success of what you have done?
Deron Bennett: I kind of think that there is a thought that we won’t appreciate it as much in the U.S. or U.K. We have all of these cons and all of these fests and all of that but I think there is a disconnect as to what will resonate with the readers. You see the same thing in video games now. A lot of the cool products being made overseas in the east we don’t get in the west. Its a shame. I am sure you or myself are those people who are going to appreciate a lot of those things we are not able to get. And not just because we can not get it but because they are really well done stories and games. I think there is a disconnect as to what is marketable and what is not. I hope that books like Cyborg 009 from Archaia will open eyes as to what can be appreciated by western readers. Again the market is there but the disconnect remains between the market that is there and the way things are being marketed.
Gabe Canada: I think the way you sell it is that this is the guy who made power rangers. I mean kids don’t like power rangers???
Deron Bennett: Ha! Yeah. I mean keep it simple. People are trying to sell it in some way that just doesn’t click. If you do it that way of course it will work better. Kids love power rangers! I mean we all grew up on that stuff. On Power Ranger on Voltron. If you bring it we will come.
Gabe Canada: I think that’s a good way to end the interview. If you build the giant robots we will come. But we wish you the best success with your new book Quixote as well.
Deron Bennett: Thanks for having me! I really appreciate it. It is really fun to talk about my craft because it is sort of the unsung art of comics. It has its highlights that need to be addressed. If I can leave new creators reading this any advice it would be to not overlook the lettering. Many first time creators or self publishers out there have no idea how much hiring a professional letterer can set them apart from other work out there. It makes a huge difference.