Monday, January 25, 2010

The Fantasti-Font Lives On!

Back in 1995, I picked up a copy of a program called Fontographer. It was a vector-based illustration program that was specifically designed for making your own fonts! You drew the letterforms in a template, hit "convert" and you were all set with your own custom font!

The first font I made, Ergime, was really easy. I took a standard serif font (I can't remember now if it was Times or Garamond) and ran it through Aldus Freehand's trace feature. The program worked fairly poorly, so after doing that two or three successive times, I wound up with this funky-looking Emigre-style grunge font, which were rather popular at the time. I think I sold my cheap knockoff version to a small publisher for $50.

I eventually got it into my head to create a font based off the original Fantastic Four logo. I knew there must be a font available, since it was by then being used on the computer-typeset letters pages. But it wasn't available outside the Marvel offices. So I started by tracing the original letterforms from a scanned logo. I also pulled out copies of Fantastic Four Annual and Fantastic Four Roast which had a few more letters, and included those as well. I moved on to letters that had similar forms as what I had already started. The capital "E" was just the "F" with a baseline, the "m" was a doubled-up "n", etc. After a little while, I got the 'rhythm' of the font and outlying characters like capital "G" and capital "N" weren't that difficult to extrapolate. Soon enough, I had a set of 221 characters that I could easily convert into a bona fide font.

One deliberate deviation I made was the lower-case "g". There was one being used on "The Fantastic Four Fan Page" at the top of the letters column, but I couldn't stand it. It looked something like this...
That was just WAAAAY too ugly for me. Especially since there's a much better lower-case "g" design available. Hence, my version...
They look mostly the same, but the "g" is a stand-out difference. You can also note that mine has a lower x-height to better distinguish the upper and lower cases. I was never terribly happy with my kerning job on the Fantasti-Font, but it was meant as a display font anyway, so I figured I would almost always be able to adjust things as needed.

So I uploaded the font to the Fantastic Four website I was running at the time, and made it available to everyone for free. I figured that A) not many people would be interested in it and B) they certainly wouldn't be interested enough to pay for it. The website has since come down, but my Fantasti-Font still crops up from time to time. Notably when comics folks are trying to illicit the impression of 1960s-era Marvel comics. It was used for Monkey Man Unleashed #2 which sported an FF cover homage. Wiz Kids used it for subtitles on their HeroClix "Clobberin' Time" packaging and ads. And now I see that it's been used on the cover and main splash page of Comic Book Comics #4, which I gather was published towards the tail end of 2009. As clunky and awkward as the font itself is -- even given the clunky and awkward basic design I started from -- I always get a warm-fuzzy when I see that it still gets used on occasion.

I believe Fantasti-Font was the last font I ever tried designing, as Fontographer wasn't maintained with ongoing OS updates. But it remains available for download here, and possibly other places online, if you have any interest in getting your own copy.

2 comments:

Jeff said...

I think I downloaded this, like, ten years ago. I had no idea you created it. That is awesome.

I've also never used it. But I appreciate it just the same.

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