PopCultHQ is kicking off 2018 in a new way. Each month, we’ll be selecting Comic Book Creators of the Month and interview them for a spotlight article. For June 2018’s Letterer of the Month, we chose Nate Piekos of Blambot.
NATE PIEKOS graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Design from Rhode Island College in 1998. Since founding Blambot, he has lettered comic books for Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Oni Press and Dark Horse Comics as well as dozens of independent publishers. In 2001 he became type designer to Harvey Award Winner, Mike “Madman” Allred, and has had his designs licensed by such companies as Microsoft, Six Flags Amusement Parks, New Yorker Magazine, The Gap, and many more. Nate’s work has not only been utilized in comics, but on television and in feature films as well.
Between 1999 and 2007, Nate lost 70lbs through a complete change in diet and a strict, daily regimen of cardio and weight training.
When not designing, Nate is a voracious reader, a published writer and illustrator, and a dedicated musician. He lives in New England with his wife.
*** src: ComicBookDB.com
If you’ve picked up an issue of any title from Dark Horse Comics over the last 15 years, chances are you’ve seen the work of our Letterer of the Month. Nate Piekos has been the go-to source for so many lettering needs at the publisher, including (are you ready for this?): Alabaster: The Good, the Bad and the Bird, Aliens: Fire and Stone, Alien vs. Predator: Fire and Stone, The Black Beetle, Blood Brothers, Bounty, Brain Boy, Breath of Bones: A Tale of the Golem, Briggs Land, Buzzard, Captain Midnight, Chimichanga: The Sorrow of the World’s Worst Face!, Clown Fatale, Colder, Creepy, Cryptocracy, Dead Vengeance, Deep Gravity, Doctor Star & The Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows, Dollhouse, Dragon Age: Knight Errant, Eerie, ElfQuest: The Final Quest, Empowered and the Soldier of Love, Exile to Babylon, Eye of Newt, Falling Skies, Fight Club 2, Furious, The Goon, The Guild, Halo: Blood Line, House of Night, House of Penance, Husbands, Juice Squeezers, Masters of the Universe: The Powers of Grayskull, Mulan: Revelations, Neverboy, The Nail, The Occultist, Orchid, Predator: Fire and Stone, Predators, Prometheus: Fire and Stone, Ragemoor, Rat God, Resurrectionists, The Rook, The Shadow Glass, Shaolin Cowboy: Who’ll Stop The Reign?, Skyman, Sword Daughter, The Terminator, To Hell You Ride, The Umbrella Academy, Veil, and Weird Detective. Phew! And that’s just most of them!
Nate Piekos’ Dark Horse Comics Cover Gallery (sampling)
In addition to other DHC titles, Nate has been a part of a number of series’ runs at Marvel Comics, such as Agents of Atlas, Amazing Spider-Man Family, Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter, Black Widow, Emma, Fear Itself: Fearsome Four, Howard the Duck, The Immortal Iron Fist, Immortal Weapons, Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers, Marvel Two-in-One, Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, Super-Villain Team-Up/MODOK’s 11, Uncanny X-Men: First Class, Wolverine: Agent of Atlas, Wolverine/Doop, World War Hulk Aftersmash: Damage Control, X-Force, X-Men Noir, X-Men: First Class, and X-Statix. You may have caught his lettering over at DC Comics in Bug! The Adventures of Forager, New Suicide Squad, Green Arrow, Suicide Squad, or perhaps hot Image Comics properties, like Huck, I Hate Fairyland, or Reborn.
Regardless of where you may have seen his skills, the fact is Nate Piekos is a letterer/designer that has made an impact in the industry and cemented his place in comic book history. Aside from working on well-known and popular comic books, or working alongside some of the top creators in the business today, Nate also manages Blambot, his lettering/font/design company. Nate happens to also be featured in videos on his YouTube channel (links below) offering tips and tricks for fonts and lettering.
Nate Piekos Teaches How to Create Thought Balloons!
Let’s get to it! Sit back, relax, and hear from the man himself as Nate discusses what keeps him fresh and motivated, the importance of good self-care, and how comic books kinda fell into his lap as a kid.
PopCultHQ Spotlight Interview
Letterer of the Month – June 2018:
PopCultHQ: How did comic books influence your childhood? What was the defining moment in your life that you knew, from then on, that you wanted to letter comic books for a living?
NP: I accidentally ended up with a hell of a comic book collection without even trying…My parents were divorced when I was three and my mother had a string of boyfriends who all tried to impress her by trying to win over her kid. One guy had the first hundred issues of the original Spectacular Spider-Man that he let me borrow…and then she dumped him. Another guy let me borrow the first 50 issues of Wein and Wrightson’s Swamp Thing…and then she dumped him… a third guy had the English translations of Akira…seeing a pattern here? I still have all of them. But there was also a good family friend who introduced me to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when the original b/w issues had just hit stands. Also Groo; which remains one of my favorite comics to this day.
But I didn’t realize I wanted to letter comics until I was an adult. I’ve always drawn comics, but when I was in design college, I couldn’t find affordable lettering fonts for indie creators; I was making my own little xeroxed ashcan books to entertain my friends. So I started making my own fonts. A few years later a friend insisted I learn HTML and put my fonts online. It took off. Mike Allred found me and asked if I’d letter his run on X-Force/X-Statix for Marvel, and by 28, I quit my corporate design job, and have been successfully working as a font designer and a comics freelancer ever since. I’ll be 43 this year.
PopCultHQ: What has been your proudest achievement in this business?
NP: It’s three-fold: 1) Being my own boss. That was my goal all along. My dad is a freelance architect, and I knew from the time I was a little kid, drawing comics with his Prismacolor markers on the floor near his drafting board (which is in my studio now), that was the only kind of career I wanted. 2) The fact that now I can leave the house and see my fonts everywhere I go: on magazines, in movies, book covers, video games, you name it. My wife and I went to Italy in 2008, and we got off the plane, and there was one of my fonts being used in the airport. I can’t escape my creations. I love that. 3) As far as comics go, it’s that I get to work with my heroes every day: both the ones whose work I grew up reading, and the ones making a name for themselves today. That’s amazing. I’m very lucky.
PopCultHQ: Your work has spanned across numerous publishers, including for both Marvel and DC, Image Comics, and a whole smorgasbord of projects at Dark Horse. Looking over your massive list of credits, it looks like you tackle many projects at one time. How many titles do you prefer to, or can you, work on at one time comfortably?
NP: Two or three books a week is fine for me. Also take into consideration that unlike most letterers, I’m also designing fonts for Blambot, designing logos, etc. I like a nice balance of everything. I don’t like all my eggs in one basket. Switching up keeps me fresh and motivated.
Nate Piekos’ Marvel Comics Cover Gallery (sampling)
PopCultHQ: What is the most challenging aspect for you when it comes to lettering a comic book?
NP: Trying to balance what works best with the art, what the artist/writer may want, and predicting what will be best for the series as a whole when coming up with the lettering style guide for the first issue of a new series. What you start with locks you into that “look” for the whole thing going forward. A lot of it depends on what works best with the art, though. If you can nail that, the other things mostly fall into place; for instance: Was the book inked with a brush or a pen? You want to make sure your balloons have outlines that also follow that style. Is the script light or heavy? If it’s light maybe you can do “airy” balloons, or a more European approach…etc. I can afford to give the books I work on this kind of attention since most of them are creator owned, or limited-series at Dark Horse or Image. DC and Marvel have had house styles that are uniform no matter what the art looks like. I guess I can understand that given how many books they’re cranking out with all different artists on a title. But DC let me totally tailor the style guide for GREEN ARROW when I was on the Rebirth launch. That was really great of the editors.
PopCultHQ: What has been the most important and/or valuable piece of advice you’ve received as a writer in the comic book industry?
NP: As a letterer you mean? Can I refer you to a YouTube clip? There was an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation called, “Relics” where Scotty ends up in the future, with the crew of the Enterprise-D. He’s in engineering, and gives some advice to Geordi LaForge about what a Captain actually needs, and how to make a reputation as a miracle worker. That advice was true when I was working as a corporate designer, and it’s true in comics, too. Here it is:
PopCultHQ: On top of Doctor Star & The Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows, The Quantum Age (this is going to be dope!), and Sword Daughter (and I have no doubt others), what’s on tap for the rest of 2018 for Nate Piekos? Any conventions and signing appearances lined up? Anything coming up with Blambot?
NP: There’s always something cooking at Blambot. I try to get a new font out every month or two. Lately I’ve been doing some how-to videos on my YouTube channel (link below). I have lots of lettering projects coming up. Some new stuff with Skottie Young. A lot of it is still under wraps, so there are a few big projects I can’t talk about yet. I’m not interested in traveling long distances for cons anymore, so I do a few on the east coast. I’m usually at NYCC, a couple in Connecticut and Massachusetts, and at Rhode Island Comic Con in my home state. I don’t really exhibit anymore. I just walk around and catch up with my editors, or fellow creators. I do signings when asked by publishers, and I’m happy to meet up, one-on-one, with fans to chat.
PopCultHQ: If you had the power or ability to make one change in the comic book community or industry, what would it be?
NP: The notion that working yourself to death is somehow heroic. You see comic creators on Twitter proclaiming that they’re working all weekend, or all night as if it’s a badge of honor. You know what that gets you? Physical burnout before you’re 50. There’s not enough emphasis on the repetitive stress injuries we’re giving ourselves. And when it finally hits, the career you’ve strived to build and maintain becomes a nightmare of daily pain. I’m not being dramatic. I’ve been dealing with these issues for two years now, and the more I talk about it, the more pro comic creators quietly tell me they’re dealing with it, too.
Nate Piekos’ Various Works Cover Gallery (sampling)
PopCultHQ: Which comics are you reading right now? If given the opportunity, is there a creator currently producing comic books that you’d like to work with (in any capacity)?
NP: I was reading the Black Hammer books before I was ever asked to come on board as the letterer for the spin off series. Batman: White Knight was really great. But the number one comic that to me, exemplifies storytelling, art, and longevity in this industry is Stan Sakai’s USAGI YOJIMBO. I can’t think of a better model for comics. It’s the only comic I *have* to read every month. And while we’re on the subject, there is no more gracious person working in comics than Stan. We should all aspire to be that kind of professional. I’ve drawn a pinup for an issue of USAGI, but I’d love to letter a project by Stan someday…but it’s unlikely seeing that he’s an award-winning letterer himself!
PopCultHQ: What advice would you give to someone considering getting into lettering?
NP: The best letterers are graphic designers. Period. They may or may not have professional training as designers, and they may not even think of themselves as such, but what sets apart the truly amazing letterer from the mediocre, is their design ability. Get as much exposure to the art of graphic design as possible.
Special thanks to Nate for making time to speak with PopCultHQ. You can see Nate’s work on the racks now
in Dark Horse Comics’ Doctor Star & The Kingdom of Lost Tomorrows, The Quantum Age #1 (out 7/4), and Sword Daughter #1.
Be sure to follow Nate Piekos and Blambot online for all the latest
from our Letterer of the Month for June 2018!
Letterer – Nate Piekos