Images © Graham Nolan and Chuck Dixon, all rights reserved.
A few weeks ago I got an email from artist Graham Nolan asking if I’d be available to design a logo for a creator-owned project he and writer Chuck Dixon were developing called JOE FRANKENSTEIN. I haven’t taken many logo assignments the last few years because I’m usually quite busy lettering pages for DC Comics and other companies, and while logo designing can be rewarding, it’s tough to schedule around, since you can’t tell how long it might take. While I haven’t seen either in a while, I know Chuck and Graham a little from their days writing and drawing BATMAN, where they created the villain Bane, among other things.
After learning that they needed the logo soon, I regretfully passed on the assignment, and Graham asked if I could recommend someone else. I did, and that person was also too busy, so Graham came back to me for more ideas. That’s when I thought of Gaspar.
Gaspar Saladino has long been my favorite letterer and logo designer, and recently he returned from retirement to letter a few new pages for a proposal by some newcomers, an assignment arranged by letterer Clem Robins. I wrote about that HERE. I hadn’t spoken to Gaspar in over ten years, but that lettering project, and my blog about it, prompted me to get back in touch, and Gaspar and I have been talking on the phone about once a week since. I knew he’d enjoyed lettering those pages, so I thought he might like to try this logo design too. I asked Graham if he’d be willing to give Gaspar a shot at it, and after some thought and discussion with Chuck, he said he would. I asked Gaspar about it, and he said he’d be happy to do it. “You and Clem should be agents!” he told me, after I assured him this was work I didn’t want for myself.
Next I gathered as much info as I could from the project’s WEBSITE plus what Graham could tell me and put it into an email to Gaspar, and of course gave each of them the other’s phone number so they could talk directly. Graham wanted a mundane “JOE” over a monstrous “FRANKENSTEIN,” something with a “Universal Monsters” vibe, he said. Gaspar set about doing his first pencil sketches for the assignment.
Here are those sketches. I liked them a lot, preferring the top one with its unusual letterforms and a hint of lightning in JOE, while the second one had that organic, rotted look of some of Gaspar’s famous horror logos for DC like SWAMP THING. Neither were quite what Chuck and Graham wanted though, and Graham asked for more sketches.
Here’s the second round, and Graham said they loved them both. I do, too! Chuck and Graham felt the top one was the closest to what they were after, but he made a few modifications.
Here’s the final sketch with an all caps JOE drawn in by Graham, and he also reduced the height of the S and eliminated the open drop shadow, which he felt could always be added later on the computer if needed. This was sent to Gaspar, who being a pro, was happy to ink it just as they wanted it. The final inked version is the top image above, looking great to me. I particularly like the way the A seems to be falling apart at the bottom.
Here’s a detail from Gaspar’s inks at full size. If you look closely you can see some extra pen lines where he made the cracks in the letters a bit deeper and sharper, as well as the outside corners. Despite the fact that he hasn’t worked on a logo in a long time, I’d say The Master still has it!
Here’s the logo scan cleaned up a bit and converted to bitmap format on the computer, making all the blacks solid black and all the whites pure white. I note that Gaspar did a little revising on the JOE that Graham sent him, making the O perfectly round, and the J and E more evenly square, which I think is an improvement.
Here it is with color by Graham, looking even better…
…and best of all on this promotional poster for the project with a white outline around it to separate it from the art. I’m really pleased with the way this venture turned out, and I know Graham and Chuck are as well. “We can now say we have a Gaspar Saladino logo! Very cool,” Graham emailed.
I think so, too. And I urge you to check out and support this project, which looks like a great one to me. In addition to their website, the project is raising funds on IndieGoGo HERE. They have a publisher, IDW, but still need to finance the actual work of creating many pages of story and art, and your support will help with that, while guaranteeing you all kinds of cool premiums, or just a copy of the finished book.
As for Gaspar, I think he enjoyed doing this, and perhaps there will be more new work from him in the future. Stay tuned!