Logo Study: THE BOZZ CHRONICLES

Images © James Bret Blevins and David Michelinie (writer).

This logo study began in an unusual way. In January of 2010 I received an email from Jeff Sharpe wondering if I knew who’d designed the logo for this Marvel/Epic series from 1985. He’d recently bought the logo at an auction. I didn’t, but I asked if he could send me a high-resolution scan and told him I’d try to find out.

I did ask around, but my resources for Marvel logo design information are limited, and I drew a blank, so I put it aside. Recently I’ve begun a series of daily posts on my “Todd Klein, artist” page on Facebook (link in the left margin of this page) titled “Logo of the Day.” Each day I put up a logo scan and give the designer’s name, if known, the date and first appearance, and sometimes other brief information. Recalling my Bozz logo scan, I posted it about a week ago, saying the designer was unknown, but guessing the series artist James Bret Blevins might have been involved. Bret is on Facebook also, so I messaged him about it. A few days later I got a confirming email and three logo sketches! Designer found. I asked Bret if he had any memories of the project and the logo, and here is some of what he wrote:

“I have many warm memories—those were very early days for me as a professional—only a year or so after I had started at Marvel. I worked with Archie Goodwin and Margaret Clark, and I believe, if my memory is correct, that BOZZ was the second Epic comic contract, after Jim Starlin’s DREADSTAR Epic book. BOZZ is one of the highlights of my comic book career—I loved the time period and subject matter, and had a blast researching all the Victorian trappings and designing the characters. I was twenty-three, freshly arrived on the east coast, loved being in and around NYC, and the atmosphere at Marvel in those days was heady and fun—more like a loose ongoing party than a serious business. The royalty system had only recently been implemented, and the direct market/comic shop distribution changes were opening up opportunities for variety and experimentation, which the Epic division was designed to encourage. The future seemed bright and everyone I knew and collaborated with seemed to be having a good time creating comics for an expanding audience.

“I was approached by David Michelinie about working together on a creator owned book for Epic–he presented outlines for several scenarios, and BOZZ was the one I jumped at. I’m still fond of those characters, and I poured all my energy into doing the best job I could. I was always straining against the deadlines, and in fact was unable to do justice to my ambition, though I’m proud of what I was able to manage under the time pressure and at that young inexperienced age. The love for the material is evident when I look back at the work—David did a wonderful job bringing those characters to life, and the plots were engaging, inventive and just plain FUN. I did my best to compliment his sensitive plotting/scripting—I felt great empathy for Bozz himself—confused and overwhelmed by a complicated world he didn’t understand—a world that often made no sense (and still doesn’t). David and I also shared a whimsical sense of humor that I loved expressing through the situations, storytelling, acting and staging—and the higher quality paper and printing of the Epic imprint allowed me to use very fine-lined, old fashioned pen and ink rendering on sections of the artwork.

“In retrospect I wish that I had found some way to continue working on BOZZ beyond the original six issues (for one of which I was only able to contribute a cover). I hated to leave the project, and I recall the reasons as a combination of modest (by 80′s standards) sales and financial pressures (retaining ownership of the property meant substantially lower page rates than working on a Marvel-owned book). I also regret not building on the collaborative chemistry David and I developed—I let the disappointment I felt over my incapacity to continue the project affect my communication with David, and we only worked together one other time, on a Marvel adaptation of the third Indiana Jones movie.”

Here’s the first of the three logo sketches Bret sent me:

As you’ll see, this is pretty close to the final logo. It’s hand-drawn, but the style of the letterforms looked familiar to me, and I soon realized I had a font named Campanile that was quite similar, one of a set of fonts published in a book and CD by Dover Books called “24 Victorian Display Fonts.” Here’s a quick mockup by me using the font:

While the letterforms are similar, there are many subtle changes in Bret’s hand-drawn sketch, the most obvious being the height of the letters. Bret’s version also has thinner strokes overall, and if you look at the letters closely you’ll see most are altered in small ways. If fact, I find Bret’s version more elegant in general, and the swash under THE is a great addition.

The second Blevins sketch puts Bozz’s head in the O, which doesn’t work as well for me, though I do like the expression on the face.

And the third sketch combines the previous two ideas. Bret says:

“I don’t recall officially being asked by Archie to design the logo—in my memory the sense of a freewheeling creative atmosphere was part of the appeal of the entire Epic idea. I probably just jumped on the opportunity as part of my enthusiasm for the entire undertaking. I’ve always loved the melodramatic, eccentric mood evoked by the Victorian era  currently in vogue again as Steampunk), and relished using THE BOZZ CHRONICLES as an excuse to hunt down and buy a shelf full of Victorian reference. I’m sure I combed through that material and found typeface elements that seemed to convey the spirit of the book. I am unable to remember the name of the artist who rendered the actual logo that was purchased at auction (it’s been almost 30 years!), but I know he did many logos for Marvel.”

After reading this, I realized that the finished logo had been rendered by someone else, so I sent Bret a list of possible designer names, mostly Marvel staffers I thought might have been there in 1985. The name Jim Novak rang a bell for him. He said, “I’m almost sure it was Jim Novak, because some faint distant wail from my subconscious kept prodding me that the last name sounded like Nowlan, but I knew Kevin hadn’t done it.”

Here’s the finished logo produced by Jim Novak, who kept all of Bret’s first design intact (that must have been the one the editors liked best, and I concur), though Jim made the letterforms more consistent and added an outline around everything so the logo would work better against cover art. Here is it on the first issue cover:

I feel gratified that I’ve solved the mystery of this logo design, with the help of Bret as well as Jeff Sharpe, who sent me the logo scan. Wish they were all this easy! If any readers have similar information, please send it my way. You can find more logo stuff on my LOGO LINKS page, and on the Logo of the Day feature on my “Todd Klein, artist” page on Facebook.

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