John Workman

Last updated
John Workman
John Workman.JPG
Workman in front of a Li'l Abner page in his studio
BornJohn Elbert Workman Jr. [1]
(1950-06-20) June 20, 1950 (age 70) [1]
Beckley, West Virginia [1]
Area(s)Letterer, Writer, Artist, Designer
Pseudonym(s)E. L. Bert, W.H. Pratt, J. P. Patches, John-Boy Waltonman, Vertig
Notable works
Doom Patrol
Heavy Metal
Wild Things
Awards CBG Fan Award, 2005
Harvey Award for Lettering 2009, 2011, 2016
Society of Illustrators Certificates for Merit, Editorial 1980, 1982
Society for News Design, Magazines, Award for Excellence 2006

John Workman (born June 20, 1950) is an American editor, writer, artist, designer, colorist and letterer in the comic book industry. He is known for his frequent partnerships with writer/artist Walter Simonson and also for lettering the entire run of Grant Morrison/Rachel Pollack's Doom Patrol (DC Comics).


Born in Beckley, West Virginia, Workman spent the first eight years of his life in Glen Rogers, West Virginia and Darlington, Maryland. Inspired by the George Reeves Superman TV series, he began writing short stories and drawing pictures. Living in Aberdeen, Washington, he studied art and journalism at Grays Harbor College and Clark College, receiving an Associate in Arts degree from Grays Harbor in 1970.


Working in and around the Aberdeen area from 1967 to 1975, Workman created local and regional advertising, always attempting to do the ad work in comics form whenever he was allowed to do so. He also did comics fanzine work, writing and drawing for several different publications, including fanzines overseen by Rick Spanier (Assorted Superlatives) and by Mark Wheatley. In 1968, he met gag cartoonist Carl Stamwitz who had worked for Marvel Comics in their humor magazines. He was further encouraged when he met and had numerous conversations with the legendary writer-artist Basil Wolverton in 1969.

He got his start in comics publishing on a national level in 1972 by writing and drawing two four-page comics features, "Sindy" and "The Fallen Angels," that appeared for three years in two California-based men's magazines published by Archie Comics alumnus Ed Goldstein. Using different pseudonyms (one being E. L. Bert), Workman also wrote short prose stories that appeared in the magazines alongside stories by Harlan Ellison and Robert Bloch. Two years later, in the pages of Mike Friedrich's Star*Reach , he wrote, penciled, inked and lettered stories for the seminal fantasy/science fiction comics anthology. Workman's work on Star*Reach attracted attention from DC Comics, and they offered him a production job in 1975. [1]

Workman was art director of Heavy Metal magazine [2] from 1977 to 1984. His comics art, writing, lettering, coloring and design work are evident throughout issues from that period.


From 1977-1983, Workman lettered comics occasionally (mostly for DC); he has been working steadily as a freelance letterer since 1983. Some of the regular titles he has lettered include First Comics' Grimjack from 1984 to 1987, Marvel's Fantastic Four from 1985 to 1989, Cosmic Odyssey in 1988–1989, Fantastic Force from 1994–1996, The Incredible Hulk from 1997–1999, and Spider-Girl from 2000–2002.

For DC Comics, Workman lettered Doom Patrol from 1987–1995, the Legion of Super-Heroes from 1991–1993, Michael Moorcock's Multiverse in 1997–1998, and Aquaman in 1999–2000.

Workman handled lettering chores for Topps Comics' X-Files titles in the late 1990s, and Image Comics' Savage Dragon from 2003–2005. Since 2003, he has done a lot of lettering work for Archie Comics, especially for their Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega Man titles. He has created logos for many of their super-hero characters and has done interior lettering on both New Crusaders and The Fox.

Walt Simonson

Workman has worked on many of Walt Simonson’s projects, including Thor (Marvel, 1983–1987), Balder the Brave (Marvel, 1985), Jurassic Park (Topps, 1993), Robocop vs. Terminator , Star Slammers (Bravura/Malibu, 1994), Orion (DC, 2000–2002), and "Ragnarok."

Tommy Lee Edwards

Recently Workman has lettered much of the Marvel, DC and Wildstorm work of Tommy Lee Edwards, including Gemini Blood (1996–1997), The Question (2005), Bullet Points (2007), Turf, Marvel 1985 (2008) for which he won the 2009 Harvey Award for lettering, and DC's "Mother Panic" (2016)."

Writing, artwork and design

In addition to the thousands of comics pages that he has lettered, Workman has also written and/or drawn for DC Comics, Marvel Comics, Archie Comics, National Lampoon , Playboy , Hamilton Publishing, Image Comics, and others. He wrote an introduction and the final chapter in Bhob Stewart's Against the Grain: Mad Artist Wallace Wood and contributed a short autobiographical piece in comics form to the TwoMorrows book Streetwise. Working in an art style similar to that of artist Mike Sekowsky, he pencilled and inked three of the dust jackets for the hardcover DC Comics Justice League Archives series.

He wrote and drew the 41-page "Adventures of Roma" which ran in consecutive issues of Dark Horse Presents in 1987. Workman's early science fiction and girlie-humor strips "Sindy" and "The Fallen Angels" were collected in a five-issue run by Forbidden Fruit, an imprint of Apple Comics. Wild Things, a three-issue series published by Metro Comics, was made up mostly of material created by Workman for such diverse publications as Star*Reach and Heavy Metal. In July 2013, a reformatted graphic novel version of "The Adventures of Roma" with new art and additional story material was published in both hardbound and softcover editions by CO2 Comics.

For the Fantagraphics imprint Eros Comix, Workman wrote and designed Betty Being Bad (1990), a 48-page booklet about pin-up model Betty Page. He also wrote and designed two hardcovers for Heavy Metal Books, Heavy Metal: 25 Years of Classic Covers and Innocent Images. A self-published booklet,"The Comic Book Crisis," which examined the business side of comic books was incorporated (with additional new material) into issue 199 of The Comics Journal, featuring commentary by Mike Friedrich, Steve Geppi, Kurt Busiek, Gary Groth and others.

Through his own Neonarcheos Publishing imprint, Workman has published limited editions of "Writing, Penciling, Inking, Lettering, Editing Martelaine," "The Third Man," "The Art of John Workman," and both black-and-white and color posters of pages of his artwork.

Lettering style

Workman is noted for his distinct lettering style, tight craftsmanship, and the fact that for the most part he still does traditional lettering on art boards instead of using the computer and digital fonts.[ citation needed ] One of Workman's lettering trademarks is to often erase or omit panel borders when they touch the top, side or bottom of a word balloon or caption, thus opening up the balloon/caption to the gutter. In this regard, Workman's lettering style is similar to that of the late Bill Oakley. Workman's lettering style was highly influenced by the lettering of Jean "Moebius" Giraud from the time when Moebius appeared regularly in the pages of Heavy Metal.[ citation needed ]

Because he does most of his lettering by hand, Workman's collaboration is sought by those artists who wish to have a more cohesive and integrated look to the final artwork.[ citation needed ] (A joke in the comic book community goes that "Comic books are the only place where having 'Workmanlike' craftsmanship is a plus.")[ citation needed ]

Recently, however, even Workman has moved toward digital lettering. In addition to his "on-the-art boards work," Workman has been electronically hand-lettering by way of a WACOM tablet for such books as Torchwood, Mega Man , Thor , Turf, DC's "Before Watchmen" series Ozymandias , Superman: American Alien, and the latest incarnation of the Batman title.

Personal life

Workman is married to the former Cathy Foster, whom he met at Aberdeen's Eaton's Bookstall when she was looking for issues of Lois Lane drawn by Kurt Schaffenberger, [3] and the two have a daughter named Kate, a writer who is the author of two Sherlock Holmes novels. His brother Bill worked beside him on-staff at Heavy Metal magazine. Both were in the 2000 Jon Cryer film Went to Coney Island on a Mission from God... Be Back by Five.


  1. 1 2 3 4 Rosenberg, Aaron. "Happy Birthday, John Workman, the King of Letterers," ComixMix (June 20, 2008). Retrieved July 22, 2008.
  2. Arndt, Richard J. "A 2005 Interview with Steve Bissette About Bizarre Adventures!" Marvel’s Black & White Horror Magazines Checklist. Accessed May 8, 2013.
  3. Voger, Mark. Hero Gets Girl!: The Life & Art of Kurt Schaffenberger (TwoMorrows Publishing, 2003).

Related Research Articles

<i>Heavy Metal</i> (magazine) American science fiction and fantasy comics magazine

Heavy Metal is an American science fiction and fantasy comics magazine, published beginning in 1977. The magazine is known primarily for its blend of dark fantasy/science fiction and erotica and steampunk comics.

A letterer is a member of a team of comic book creators responsible for drawing the comic book's text. The letterer's use of typefaces, calligraphy, letter size, and layout all contribute to the impact of the comic. The letterer crafts the comic's "display lettering": the story title lettering and other special captions and credits that usually appear on a story's first page. The letterer also writes the letters in the word balloons and draws in sound effects. Many letterers also design logos for the comic book company's various titles.

The inker is one of the two line artists in traditional comic book production.

Wally Wood American comic strip cartoonist and illustrator

Wallace Allan Wood was an American comic book writer, artist and independent publisher, best known for his work on EC Comics's Mad and Marvel's Daredevil. He was one of Mad's founding cartoonists in 1952. Although much of his early professional artwork is signed Wallace Wood, he became known as Wally Wood, a name he claimed to dislike. Within the comics community, he was also known as Woody, a name he sometimes used as a signature.

Todd Klein American comic letterer

Todd Klein is an American comic book letterer, logo designer, and occasional writer, primarily for DC Comics.

Archie Goodwin (comics)

Archie Goodwin was an American comic book writer, editor, and artist. He worked on a number of comic strips in addition to comic books, and is best known for his Warren and Marvel Comics work. For Warren he was chief writer and editor of landmark horror anthology titles Creepy and Eerie between 1964 and 1967. At Marvel, he served as the company's editor-in-chief from 1976 to the end of 1977. In the 1980s, he edited the publisher's anthology magazine Epic Illustrated and its Epic Comics imprint. He is also known for his work on Star Wars in both comic books and newspaper strips. He is regularly cited as the "best-loved comic book editor, ever."

Walt Simonson

Walter "Walt" Simonson is an American comic book writer and artist, best known for a run on Marvel Comics' Thor from 1983 to 1987, during which he created the character Beta Ray Bill. He is also known for the creator-owned work Star Slammers, which he inaugurated in 1972 as a Rhode Island School of Design thesis. He has also worked on other Marvel titles such as X-Factor and Fantastic Four, on DC Comics books including Detective Comics, Manhunter, Metal Men and Orion, and on licensed properties such as Star Wars, Alien, Battlestar Galactica and Robocop vs. Terminator.

Kurt Schaffenberger

Kurt Schaffenberger was an American comics artist. He was best known for his work on Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family during both the Golden Age and Bronze Age of comics, as well as his work on the title Superman's Girl Friend, Lois Lane during the 1950s and 1960s.

Adult comics

The term adult comics typically denotes comic books, comic magazines, comic strips or graphic novels with content of an erotic, violent, or sophisticated nature marketed by publishers toward adult readers. They are sometimes restricted to purchase by legal adults, especially erotic comics which include sexually explicit material.

Chic Stone

Charles Eber "Chic" Stone was an American comic book artist best known as one of Jack Kirby's Silver Age inkers, including his landmark run of Fantastic Four.

Amanda Conner

Amanda Conner is an American comics artist and commercial art illustrator. She began her career in the late 1980s for Archie Comics and Marvel Comics, before moving on to contribute work for Claypool Comics' Soulsearchers and Company and Harris Comics' Vampirella in the 1990s. Her 2000s work includes Mad magazine, and such DC Comics characters as Harley Quinn, Power Girl, Atlee.

Gaspar Saladino

Gaspar Saladino was an American letterer and logo designer who worked for more than sixty years in the comic book industry, mostly for DC Comics. Eventually Saladino went by one name, "Gaspar," which he wrote in his trademark calligraphy.

Chris Eliopoulos

Chris Eliopoulos is an American cartoonist and letterer of comic books.

Vicente Alcazar Spanish comics artist

Vicente Alcazar is a Spanish comics artist best known for his work for the American comic-book publishers DC Comics and Marvel Comics, including a 1970s run on the DC Western character Jonah Hex.

Comicraft is a company which provides graphic design and lettering services to various companies.

Tom Orzechowski is a comic book letterer, primarily known for his work on Uncanny X-Men. Over the course of Orzechowski's career, he has lettered something on the order of 6,000 pages of Chris Claremont's scripts.

Sal Amendola is an Italian American comics artist and teacher primarily known for his association with DC Comics.

L Nathan Butler is an American cartoonist and writer-illustrator of comics, best known for Christian-themed comics.

Michele Wrightson, also known as Michele Brand, was an American artist who worked in the comic book industry. The former wife of underground cartoonist Roger Brand, she started out as an underground comix cartoonist. Later, when she was married to comics artist Bernie Wrightson, she made her name as a colorist. She was a key contributor to the first all-female underground comic, It Ain't Me, Babe, as well as its follow-up series, Wimmen's Comix.

Dave Hunt was an American comic book artist and fine art painter. Most active during the "Bronze Age" of American comics, he did inking for both DC and Marvel comics and Disney's comics. He was also an accomplished hyperrealist painter.