Jim, how did you letter before all this computer wankery? I've always wondered what letterers did 'before'. Just have steady hands? Use some sort of typewriter keys? Pardon my ignorance.
I didn't letter pre-computers. My hands were never steady enough -- OTOH, I was waaaay ahead of the curve for using computers to letters and I spent many years waiting for the fonts to get good enough to be viable.
In the old days, there were two methods:
In the US, the letterer used to letter directly onto the pencils, drawing the speech balloons and ruling in the panel borders, and then the inker inked around the lettering. See here
for Todd Klein's short piece on this, and here
for Nate Piekos' more in-depth article.
In the UK, because the artwork usually arrived at the editorial as finished, inked artwork, British letterers lettered onto adhesive-backed paper, cut out the speech balloons, stuck 'em down on the artwork and usually added the tails with process white. Some artists drew empty speech balloons onto their artwork (I've seen some Cam Kennedy pages that appear to have been done like this) and obviously extra-talented bastards like Dave Gibbons lettered their own work.
(Gibbons, I believe, used to letter his work as soon as he'd laid down the rough outlines on the page, so as not to waste time pencilling or inking anything that would be obscured by the letters.)
(Dave Gibbons was my favourite artist when I first started reading 2000AD and I attribute the fact that he also lettered his work to my lifelong fascination with lettering ...)