Whizbang Font Sample

The Problem with Whizbang: The Font that Sparked an Industry

The problem is just that it’s not a very attractive font.  But, for its time, it was a revolution.

 

Whizbang’s Rise

A large number of translated comics, particularly in the early 2000s, used the Whizbang font. It’s the first commercially available computer lettering font dating back to 1993.  I remember seeing ads for it in The Comics Buyer’s Guide in the 1990s.

Todd Klein one-ups my memory and has a scan of the ad on his blog.  That’s the one I remember seeing week after week, burned now into my memory for all of time.

It was better than bad hand lettering, but it still wasn’t that good. It sticks out like a sore thumb on top of the hand-crafted art. It’s something about the way strokes on the letters are never squared up to one another. There’s always a rounded edge, like inside the three arms sticking out of the tall vertical line on the “E”.

I suppose that better mimics how a real letter would be drawn with an ink pen, making thicker strokes where the lines begin and end, but it’s ugly and distracting to my eye.

Companies that translated comics in the late 90s and early 2000s loved to use it. I think it went from being the only one available to being The House Style because nobody noticed all the other fonts popping up.

It’s a step up from Comic Sans, but I’m not sure it’s a complete step.  Also, that’s a really low bar to set.

In 1993, it was an impressive achievement just to create such a font.  Then the font’s maker, Studio Daedalus, never released a second font.

 

Whizbang on the Web

I wrote the first draft of this post four or five months ago.  At that time, you could still purchase the font from the studio. Here’s the Internet Archive link to prove it.

The Whizbang web page is a dead redirect

You have to visit the Whizbang website via the Internet Archive now, I’m afraid.  Its home page has disappeared.  It redirects you to nowhere.

If you desperately need the font to completely your late-90s nostalgia comic, it’s available for free through multiple on-line font site.  Whether it’s supposed to be freely available or not, I don’t know.  Studio Daedalus, disappeared. That doesn’t automically mean the font is in the public domain, though.
 

Whizbang Begets Comicraft

Whizbang proved a market.  And so Richard Starkings and John Gaushell entered the business of selling fonts at ComicBookFonts.com.

When asked in 2006 what Comicraft’s most popular font being used is, Starkings answered:

Our cheapest — WildandCrazy! Ten years ago the font Whizbang was everywhere, and JG and I consciously marketed a font which we felt was cleaner, tighter and of a higher quality… at a better price. I think we succeeded!

That link takes you to the “Wild and Crazy Zap pack”, which includes some sound effects and word balloon shapes to use.  It’s a real good beginner’s pack, and costs only $29.95. That’s $5 cheaper than Whizbang today.

Comicraft Wild and Crazy font sample

The font now known as HedgeBackwards was Starkings’ first.  You’ve seen that one everywhere from “Marvels” to “Generation X”.  Starkings based the font on his own hand lettering style. That’s why it might remind you so much of his hand drawn work, such as on “The Killing Joke.”

 

Whizbang Did Not Die Quickly Enough

When SAF Comics was a thing 15 years ago, it was their house font.  Fantagraphics used it on two of their three “The Hollow Grounds” books (by Luc and Francois Schuiten). Manga used it a lot, including “Dragonball Z.”

Unfortunately, too many European comics translations still use the dated and ugly Whizbang font.  Boom!/Archaia’s “The Killer” has it.

The Killer used Whizbang, too. Here is a sample of it.

From “The Killer,” an otherwise excellent series.

Wizard Magazine fell in love with the font for a short time.  Check out this interview headline with Rob Liefeld from 1994, in the font’s earliest days:

Wizard Rob Liefeld interview from Wizard Magazine in Whizbang headlines

Around the same time, as Marvel Comics discovered the glories of computer production, they too fell prey to the font in lots of their advertising:

Clandestine Marvel ad from 1994 with Whizbang font

It seems to be falling out of favor, at last, but it’s taking way too long and bringing down too many good books in the meantime.

 

But Who Is Studio Daedalus?

Now, here’s where things get interesting for me.

At the bottom of the “Buy Whizbang” page is this footer:

WhizBang is a registered trademark of Studio Daedalus. WhizBang font software, extras, packaging and docs ©1993, 1997 Andre Kuzniarek. All rights reserved.

So, naturally, I looked up the name “Andre Kuzniarek” in Google and found his LinkedIn profile.

He’s the Director of Document and Media Systems at Wolfram Research, going all the way back to 1990, even before the Whizbang font.  Yes, Wolfram Research as in Stephen Wolfram as in Wolfram Alpha which, amongst its many credits, powers a bunch of Siri’s answers.

Andre Kuzniarek LinkedIn pic

He does graphic design and UX type work centered on information consumption there.  He helped developed fonts for Mathematica, which is an insanely hardcore tech program for doing high end math.

It’s a natural fit that he created a font, but — a comic book font?!?

I think I’m even more curious about Whizbang now than when I started writing this article…

 

Related Links (i.e. Resources)

ComicFoundry.com “Font Savant” gives a brief history of the early days of computer lettering.

Richard Starkings posted his full answers to the questions he was asked for that article in “Origins of Digital Lettering” at his site.

Todd Klein wrote the ultimate guide to the history of digital lettering.  Part 5 includes Whizbang, which Klein notes looks a lot like the work of John Costanza.

Then there’s this story on ComicBeat. “Whizbang is A-Okay,” which has nothing to do with the font (remember Rick Olney?), but which one commenter after the post makes the link.  (Spoiler: it’s me.)  Google remembers everything, folks.

 

Support Pipeline through Patreon to bring the podcast back.

3 Comments

  • JC LEBOURDAIS September 5, 2017 at 12:07 pm

    Lettering is a strange obsession of yours. I see nothing wrong with that font really. First I heard of Comics fonts is when John Byrne revealed that he was using one designed on his own handwriting. I believe it was in the early days of JB’s Next Men. I wondered how someone could tell the difference.

    Reply
    • Augie September 8, 2017 at 12:45 am

      Yes, Byrne had a very early computer font that was heavily influenced by another letterer’s style, and I’m blanking on whose that was now. Spotting the difference between computer and hand lettering is easy — just look at the letterforms and look for differences. Hand letterers are amazing, but still imperfect. They’ll have the occasional short line, or thin line, or crooked line. Not every “E” will be exactly the same. With the computer font, you might get two variations of a letter, but that’s it.

      And, yeah, I’m obsessed. I’m an odd duck. I’ve grown into that. 😉

      Reply
  • JC LEBOURDAIS September 8, 2017 at 10:59 am

    Well, it does makes sense sometimes when the letterer produces something that stands out and enhances the comics reading experience, like Bob Lappan in the Giffen era JLI or Dave Sim in Cerebus, or John Workman in Simonson’s Thor; other than that, my feeling is that a letterer should simply aim for ‘readable’ which is why I really hated Batman Year One, with that painful cursive narration, coupled with that awful newsprint, that was a total disaster. Sadly, that took, and shortly afterwards you were seeing flocks of books mimicking that technique, so much that it was painful to go through. So my conclusion is, unless there is a point to it, less is more.

    Reply

What do YOU think?

%d bloggers like this: