Taylor Esposito is a graphic designer and letterer. He started working in comics in 2007. He’s worked for Marvel, Random House, Bottled Lightning, Valiant, and DC Comics. He’s currently working on Reanimator/Vampirella, Red Sonja, and Army of Darkness/Bubba Ho-Tep.
Taylor, you started working in comics in 2007 at the Marvel bullpen. Can you tell us what led up to that, and what was it like to work there.
Honestly, it was a bit of happenstance. I was out of college about 8 months, and had just left my seasonal job at the end of the year, when a good friend from college who was working in the bullpen called me to tell me about a temp job with Marvel for a few days/a week. The job was digitizing the comics for what ultimately became Marvel Digital Unlimited. I was there for a few months, learning bullpen responsibilities during that time. I eventually transferred to the bullpen proper and worked my way up to assistant to the production manager. It was a great experience, as I ended up learning how comics are put together from the end of the line. That job started my interest in lettering, which I picked up after I was laid off in 2011.
You’ve worked for most publishers already and have a massive amount of credits to your name. What’s the secret sauce to you being so prolific?
Hard work. I come from a very blue collar family, and the old world work ethic was instilled in me at a very young age. I just applied that work ethic to my career in comics. I also try to be as good to my collaborators as possible, as well as being as fast as I can. I never thought of myself as one of the best letterers, but I always try to make up for that with my professionalism and speed. The rest is that folks seem to want to work with me, for some reason I’ll never understand. Haha.
Being the horror hound I am, I’m a little jealous of some of the titles you’re working on. Do you look for horror projects in specific, or did your current line up converge on it’s own?
Haha, likewise, bud, some of the stuff you work on I’d kill to work on. I don’t look for them in particular, it kind of just falls into place that way. A lot of my friends and collaborators are horror folks as well, so when they request me, it just happens to be horror books. I guess my love of Halloween and the spooky doesn’t hurt my cause either.
Do you approach lettering a horror comic differently than say a superhero comic?
I try to approach every book as it’s own thing. Obviously, there are staples of super books that we use on those that we don’t use on horror, for example, but I start every book by looking at the art and reading the script to get a feel for the story, mood, etc., and then building a style guide from there. I try to give every project as individual attention as I can. Sometimes, we are given a basis from editorial to start with, but even with those, I try to put my spin on the projects as much as possible. The way I see it, I’m on this project for my skills, viewpoint, and taste, and as much as I can, I will put that into the book.
Have you ever had any conflict with what you wanted to bring to a book and what an editor/creator had in mind?
Fortunately, this hasn’t happened often. I’ve been very lucky to work with wonderful editors who also want the best for the projects, so their suggestions have usually been for the better. As we all know, sometimes we are too close to a project, and need a set of fresh eyes to see things properly. Even the few times it hasn’t worked out that way, it usually opens up a dialogue and a compromise is found. The wonderful thing about comics is that it is a team coming together to achieve a unified vision. I thrive on the collaborative process, and love to help bring a teams vision to life/completion.
Can you tell us about Ghost Glyph Studios?
Ghost Glyph Studios is my lettering/design studio. I started it in 2015 when I left the DC staff (due to the move to California) to keep working on comics and expand to other fields. I’m a graphic designer by trade/education, so I want to keep doing that as much as I can. It’s be an incredible ride watching the studio grow and the kind of projects I’ve gotten to work on as a result of it. Since starting the studio, I’ve begun training interns and even bringing Dezi (Sienty) to work with me on occasion. It was named for my love of Halloween/horror and spookiness, and incorporates a reference to lettering, as glyphs are what each letter/number/symbol are called.
(Dezi is awesome. Great call there!) What are the benefits of creating a studio and what goes on in the background to maintain it?
The benefits to a studio, at least as far as I’ve found, is a bit of insane baseball. With a studio, you definitely have business and tax help that keeps work and personal life separate, which as many freelancers know, can be a logistical nightmare at times. The behind the scenes is a lot of rigid work scheduling. Emails and bookkeeping are first thing in the morning, make sure the machine is running smoothly, followed by assigning work to those that need it. Once all the business side is done, the fun begins. I keep things separated like this to make sure there are few interruptions to the creative process. Another useful aspect to the studio is when you are looking to start business with companies, or hire interns, etc., is that the studio adds a bit of legitimacy to your business. When I freelanced the first time around, it was just under my name, and it always felt a bit like a college student just looking for a random project. It also allows for branding, which many of my clients seem to be attracted to. Having the studio has allowed me to branch into merchandise like t-shirts and enamel pins. I’ve been lucky that I had an example to learn from from my father’s business. I’ve just switched out automotive for comics/design.
Being that Halloween is tomorrow, it’s time for some serious questions…
Favorite horror movie, novel, and comic?
Hmm, Evil Dead 2, The Shining, (cheating) Babyteeth.
You have the chance to pin Ash against any opponent, who, and why?
Myers. Of all the 80s horror monsters, Myers is probably the scariest, as he just doesn’t stop, and isn’t really fueled by any magic, like Freddy or Jason. If Ash can’t taunt him, how can he possibly beat him. If not, Ash teams with the Monster Squad as adults versus the all the Universal Monsters.
I ask everyone I interview…If you could only give one piece of advice, be it for lettering, or life, what would it be?
Specifically for lettering, but it does apply to life: It’s hard work with a long road ahead, and lots of amazing, well-trained, and respected colleagues working on 15-20 books each and every month. If you really want to be a letterer, you’ve gotta be as good and indispensable as possible. Lettering isn’t an easy way into comics. In fact, it might be one of the hardest.
Thanks to Taylor for talking shop with us this month. Be sure to check out his Ghost Glyph Studios: http://www.ghostglyphstudios.com/