Hire This Woman: Letterer Saida Temofonte
In the overwhelmingly male comic book industry, it has been a challenge for some editors and readers to see the ever growing number of talented women currently trying to make a name for themselves. With that in mind, ComicsAlliance offers Hire This Woman, a recurring feature designed for comics readers as well as editors and other professionals, where we shine the spotlight on a female comics pro on the ascendance. Some of these women will be at the very beginning of their careers, while others will be more experienced but not yet “household names.”
Letterer Saida Temofonte has been working in comics for almost 20 years for a variety of companies including Wildstorm, DC Comics, and Marvel. She is currently lettering many projects from DC’s digital division, including the much-beloved Lil Gotham series. She is also a storyboard artist for film.
ComicsAlliance: What is your preferred form of creative output?
Saida Temofonte: Economically speaking, lettering has been a relevant form of income. I can do it fast and I do it quite well, so I have designated it as my primary artistic output in that regard. Drawing is a passion of mine that I cultivate joyously without the pressure of needing to make money out of it.
CA: Do you work on paper or digitally? Why?
ST: It just so happens I began my career creating lettering for comics digitally. I will honestly say I haven’t had a chance to develop an appreciation for hand-drawn lettering. Digital lettering and font manipulation on the computer are so much fun.
I’m also a traditional self-taught artist. I used to resist digital painting, but I eventually saw the potential of the digital media and have been working to master eye/ hand coordination on the tablet.
CA: What’s your background/training?
ST: I have a classical education in my country of origin with a focus in foreign languages. Art is something I pursued on my own later in life.
CA: How would you describe your creative style?
ST: Without false modesty I would describe my lettering capabilities as extremely versatile. I can work quantity and volume or creative custom styles. I’m very comfortable with design programs such as Illustrator and Photoshop. More so in Photoshop as I have been doing my own art. And so I’m naturally very responsive to the needs of the art I’m doing lettering for. I can easily detect what the artist/writer team care about in their creative effort and apply the letters appropriately without compromising the editorial need of narrative flow.
CA: What projects have you worked on in the past? What are you currently working on?
ST: I have been lettering since late 1997 and at some point or another I have worked for every major comic book company including of course Marvel, DC and their affiliations, plus a few smaller companies, most of which are not even in business anymore. Right now I’m getting most of my work from DC and DC Entertainment, which used to be Wildstorm. The industry has been directing their energies into the new form of digital comics, and currently I take care of a sizable portion of it.
I often get projects directly from DC in New York. I’m not exclusive by contract. Time permitting, I can take on extra work from other sources. At the moment I’m also carrying on a project for Madefire.
CA: Approximately how long does it take you to complete a 20-page issue?
ST: Depending on how heavy the dialogue is and/or how complex the lettering style is, less than eight hours. Also depending on when I start on the project in the day, which is not usually as early as I should!!
CA: What is your dream project?
ST: Oh, I dont have a dream project for lettering! I’m curious and open enough to see and appreciate what comes my way. I would love to letter for a few of my favorite artists… Sometimes it happens just by chance. It is a very small industry, people move around a lot.
CA: Who are some comic creators that inspire you?
ST: Favorite artists, mostly. I’m one that looks at art before story, its just the way my mind operates. I don’t have a favorite writer. I can be swept off by a good storyline independently of who wrote it. Three artists that had a huge impact on me and taught me a lot about narrative sequencing were the late Jim Holdaway on Modesty Blaise, Michael Lark and his run on Daredevil, and Sean Phillips on whatever he happens to do, lately on Criminal. I also enjoyed tremendously the dry humor and the raw creative approach of From Hell, the graphic novel.
CA: What are some other comics that have inspired you either growing up or as an adult?
ST: Frank Quitely’s run on New X-Men, which I used to letter. Wolverine: Origin, most of which I lettered. I recently discovered the art of Arthur Ranson and his Mazeworld. I also rediscovered Marc Silvestri in the Essential X-Men paperbacks, beautiful black and white publications. I loved the recent take on Conan by Kurt Busiek and artist Greg Ruth which explored Conan’s childhood. There was a time I was configuring English text and translation on popular manga with DC’s CMX [manga line] to be made more accessible to an English-speaking audience and I developed a fascination for Tenjho Tenge — martial arts and high school heartbreak, you can’t go wrong with that — and fantastic art! Oh and I can’t recommend enough 2001 Nights with story and art by Yukinobo Hoshino, I believe it is comprised of three paperback volumes, a science-fictiony homage to the dystopian atmospheres of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Being originally from Italy I’ve also been brought up on overseas comics some of which are unknown here. The horror mysteries of London-based detective Dylan Dog published by Bonelli need no introduction, I’m sure. The recent movie based on the comic sadly didn’t live up to the original material expectations, the subject matter has been too distorted by the studio to make it more palatable to a US audiences, but they did less than a good job so it’s not surprising it fell on its face. I can’t leave out the edgy art of Milo Manara, the erotism and his women. Then obviously Hugo Pratt and his Corto Maltese for whom I developed. alas, a late appreciation.
The last I can think of is Tex Willer Texas Ranger, an American western inspired hero – not a “super” hero — whose stories have run for decades. Most Italian comics are not superhero-ish, there is a weak appreciation for that type of culture. Most are published in black and white not out of a desire to economize, it is just an excellent format for enjoying the comic art at maximum impact, I think.
CA: What’s your ideal professional environment?
ST: Oh, the one I have right now! I started out in an office but now I’m working remotely and maintaining great relationships with my editors. It can get a little lonely sometimes… In that case I just move my setup to a coffee shop. Starbucks has been getting a lot of my money!
CA: What do you most want our readers and industry professionals to know about your work?
ST: I have been doing this type of work for so long that I dont believe I need much of an introduction because my work is out there and circulating. My credits are all over Google and comic book sites. Mostly I’ll say I can fit almost any need for comic book lettering that’s out there. I have had a wide range of work experiences. It’s just a fact. But the best lettering is the one that remains invisible without taking from being efficient, and that means serving its purpose in full. Of course there will be those instances in which it needs to be flashy and grab the readers attention, but just momentarily.
CA: How can editors and readers keep up with your work and find your contact information?
ST: I’m honestly not one of those people who trumpets projects in a blog or on Facebook. Besides, aren’t people in entertainment supposed to work in secret? Nondisclosure agreements and all that! I’d suggest potential clients to contact me directly and we can go from there. My contact info is on IMDB and I can be reached at SAIDA501-at-aol-dot-com.
If there is a woman you’d like to recommend or if you’d like to be included in a future installment of this feature, drop us a line at comicsalliance-at-gmail-dot-com with “Hire This Woman” in the subject line.