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 March 2018’s Letterer of the Month, we chose Dave Sharpe.
Dave Sharpe graduated the Joe Kubert school in 1990, and immediately went to work at Marvel comics as an in-house letterer. Over the years, Dave has lettered hundreds of Marvel comics such as Spider-Girl, Exiles, She-Hulk, Ms. Marvel and The Defenders, and in the late 90’s & early 00’s helped run the lettering department at Marvel. Dave has also been lettering for DC on a number of titles such as Green Lantern, Harley Quinn, Sinestro and Batgirl. Dave has also lettered X-O Manowar, Faith, and Quantum and Woody! for Valiant Entertainment. Dave also plays metal bass guitar and is way more approachable than he looks.
With nearly 30 years in the industry, and countless titles to his name, the letterer has covered issues from a wide array of publishers. We’re only presenting a sampling of the top-name titles with which Sharpe has been associated. Incredibly talented and an overall great guy, we had the true privilege in speaking with Dave about his beginnings in the comic book industry, the incredible amount of projects he takes on, and we learn that Stan “The Man” Lee actually gave Dave a nickname!
PopCultHQ Spotlight Interview
Letterer of the Month – March 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?
Dave Sharpe: I bought my first comic (Black Panther!) at 6 or 7 at the local candy store. I fell in love immediately with the medium. After High School, I was blessed to have parents who let me go to this little school in Dover, New Jersey – The Joe Kubert School. While the school taught lettering, I had no aspirations of being a letterer. However I soon realized that while I can draw fairly well, there was no way I could make a living drawing comic books, I’m just not that fast or solid enough to make rent, etc. Upon graduation, Marvel Comics (via my good friend and Kubert alumni Darren Auck) called the school looking for letterers. I said YES! My way in! I created a portfolio in a couple of days and went and got the job as an on-staff letterer. That’s when destiny revealed itself to me: I was to letter comics!
PopCultHQ: Your work has been published by Marvel, DC, IDW Publishing, Valiant Entertainment, AfterShock Comics, and more. You’ve had the opportunity to work with a massive list of talented writers, and a ton of artists with which you’ve teamed. What do you enjoy most about collaborating with other creators? Which creator would you love the opportunity to work with on a project?
Sharpe: That’s a hard one. Because I have been blessed to work with almost EVERYONE. I’d love to work with Michael Golden. The Marvel Micronauts comic inhabit a section of my heart, forever. I got to work alongside Michael for a few years when he was on staff at Marvel (and am honored to call him friend). But never got to letter any of his work. These days I don’t think he’s doing any sequential work, so, that might not happen any time soon. As far as collaborating with people, I do enjoy getting on the same page with the creator(s) for font selection, balloon styles, sfx styles and logos. We letterers ARE a major part of any project, whether we get credit or not.
PopCultHQ: As a letterer, not only are you the final piece in bringing the comic together, you also must have to establish some unique relationships with both the writer and the artists on the title. With the number of titles you take on in a given month, how do you find time to immerse yourself into each story/script, provide the lettering on each title, and maintain those relationships to help both writers and artists (and publishers, for that matter) carry out their vision?
Sharpe: Well, it helps that I am on the same titles month to month (for the most part). That way I can establish certain styles like captions boxes, transition captions, even sfx so that they retain style from issue to issue. Otherwise I have a personal mantra: ALWAYS do your best job. ALWAYS. I was taught in school, that you’re only as good as your WORST piece. ie: on Harley Quinn I do my best to outdo myself every issue. It’s challenging, but rewarding to turn in a book and actually hear from the editor: ‘nice job’…or ‘nice title treatment!’
PopCultHQ: What is the biggest challenge you face with lettering or in this business?
Sharpe: Everyday I’m hustling. EVERY day. I ask for more work almost daily. Even when I am full to capacity. I’ve been doing this long enough (since 1990) to know that tide rolls in, tide rolls out. When the work rolls in: You work HARD. When it rolls out: You BEG for more work. It’s the worst part of my job. And it never stops. Hustle Hustle Hustle.
PopCultHQ: What has been the most important and/or valuable piece of advice you’ve received as a letterer in the comic book industry?
Sharpe: Always, always, always be pleasant, nice and easy to work with. You think it’s hard to break into comics (and it is. Ridiculously so. I think it’s easier to be a rock star but STAYING in the industry for 30 years? Insane. And NEVER fire off an angry email. Type your rant up in a word document (so you can’t hit send) and then delete it. Unless, of course, you want to quit working.
Bottom line: Shut up, smile, be nice and work. <–and don’t argue with your editor about things like oxford commas.
PopCultHQ: On top of your current ongoings with Valiant and DC Comics, what’s on tap in 2018 for Dave Sharpe? Any conventions and signing appearances lined up (I know about Williamsport Comic Con on April 22nd)? Projects you can discuss?
Sharpe: SO far I have only booked Williamsport, PA on April 22nd. GREAT small con. In an old haunted hotel. One of the things I do on the side is artwork for my friend’s indy comic Arch-Roomates. I have done covers for issues 1 and 2 and am working on a multi-part story that will appear in the back of each issue. At the Williamsport con, we will debuting issue #3 and I’m excited about that. (Facebook: @Arch.Roomates)
Looking into going to Baltimore this year (I hope)
And I should be at NYCC walking around getting into adventures.
Otherwise I have a LOT of titles that I am really excited about: Harley Quinn, Green Lanterns and Hanna Barbara stuff from DC. X-O Manowar, Quantum and Woody!, and more from Valiant. And I just got a new title called CLANKILLERS from AfterShock that I can’t talk about yet, but it will be great. I’m also happy to be working on the BLACK(AF) titles. On the indy scene: Dennis Fallon’s PLAGUE. Jason Lenox’s Lords of the Cosmos (self-published) is awesome. And I freaking love Bobby Torres’ OBLIVIOUS (Insane Comics), a great idea and such a cool character design. And one of my best logos ever. LOL
Lotsa stuff. As well as being happily married with 2 amazing adult children, can you believe I also play in 2 bands in my spare time? One on Sunday morning in church and one on occasional Saturday nights in clubs (deadcowboyband on facebook)
PopCultHQ: If you had the power or ability to make one change in the comic book community or industry, what would it be?
Sharpe: Job security. LOL. Seriously though: There seems to be a new trend to read and edit the comic AFTER it gets lettered. And then rewrite half the comic. And then NOT pay the letterer for the extra work. The people I work for are awesome, it does not happen much to me, but the horror stories I hear from my peers are shocking.
PopCultHQ: What has been your proudest achievement in this business?
I am ecstatic that I am the Harley Quinn letterer and am proud to have lettered Green Lantern for like 7 years now? (my next tat will probably be a green power ring) And have been lettering X-O Manowar for 5 years now. I also am proud of lettering a TON of Marvel Age books a few years ago. They constantly get reprinted in all kinds of formats. Walking into Universal Studios Florida and going to the various comic book stores and seeing my name in Marvel and DC books makes me smile. A lot.
Also last year this website started tallying the most prolific creators: http://www.mikesamazingworld.com/mikes/features/creator.php?page=topcreators. I’m number 4 on the list. I was shocked to see that. And humbled!
Special thanks to Dave for making time to speak with PopCultHQ.
Be sure to follow Dave Sharpe online for all the latest from the talented creator!
Letterer: Dave Sharpe