ALEX JAY – Logo Designer

Logo design for Walt Simonson by Alex Jay, image © Marvel

Logo design in comics had always been a haphazard thing. A few publishers hired art directors who designed logos, but it was more common to have them created by artists or letterers or production staffers. In the 1980s, for the first time, larger comics publishers like Marvel and DC were willing to pay enough for a logo to make it possible for a freelance designer to make a living mainly doing logos as their contribution to comics, and a few did. My friend and fellow comics historian Alex Jay is a perfect example. We met some time in the 1980s when he and I were competing for logo work, and he was stiff competition, as his designs were powerful, creative, and original, like the memorable one above. Alex has put in countless hours of research assistance on this blog and on his own blog, Tenth Letter of the Alphabet, where more about the design process for his logos can be found, including a complete logo gallery.

Alex Jay by Chris Lee, 1992

Alexander Jay was born August 15, 1953 in Florence, Arizona, near his hometown of Coolidge. Alex’s parents, Larry and Laura, owned a grocery store where he read the latest comic books. His favorite was THE FANTASTIC FOUR. Several summer vacations were spent at Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm and Pacific Ocean Park. One of his favorite toys was the Fireball XL5 rocket ship. Alex spent his allowance on Mad paperback books, Famous Monsters of Filmland and Aurora monster model kits. 

In 1964 Alex’s family moved 24 miles to Casa Grande where his father built a supermarket. Alex watched his father use a lettering brush and green and red tempera paint to write the weekly food specials on sheets of butcher paper for display in the window. At a sixth grade show-and-tell Alex saw the Marvel Comics collection of Chip Goforth and became a comic book collector. A couple of years later, left-handed Alex bought his first lettering book, ABC of Lettering, by Carl Holmes (1965, Walter T. Foster).

In high school Alex contributed cartoons and a logo to the school newspaper. He shared fanzines and comics with future comic book artists Michael Adams and Tony Salmons. In 1968 he attended his first comics convention in New York City, which was organized by Phil Seuling. Alex and friends attended several San Diego Comic-Cons in the 1970s, as well as two Phoenix Cons organized by Bruce Hamilton and Don Newton. Alex met C.C. Beck at the 1972 con.

In 1971 Alex was in the Arizona State University (ASU) advertising design program which included a course in lettering. A couple of years later, with new instructors, the program emphasized graphic design. Alex became familiar with the work of designers Herb Lubalin and Seymour Chwast; lettering artists Gerald Huerta and Michael Doret; and the design publications U&lc, Print, Communication Arts and Graphis. Alex was selected for the ASU Graphic Design Workshop which provided the opportunity for students to get real-life experience: meeting the client; submitting designs for approval; creating and preparing the art for reproduction; and delivering the production art to the printer. He also did work for the student-run graphics office. He met future comics artists Rich Chidlaw, Richard Sala and Rusty Falk.

From EMPIRE, © Berkley Books 1978, and ALFRED BESTER’S THE STARS MY DESTINATION, © Baronet 1979

In 1977 Alex set his sights on New York. Before moving, he attended the San Diego Comic-Con and met Byron Preiss, who was impressed by his portfolio of logos and graphic design work. In New York, Alex designed logos for the Byron Preiss Visual Publications’ graphic novels EMPIRE and THE STARS MY DESTINATIONand graphic story collections THE ILLUSTRATED HARLAN ELLISON and HARVEY KURTZMAN’S STRANGE ADVENTURES.

From MARVEL PREMIERE #54, June 1980, image © Marvel

Alex did production work and several logos at Neal Adams’ Continuity Associates. While there, he met letterer Tom Orzechowski, who referred him to Jim Salicrup at Marvel for “Caleb Hammer,” his first logo there (“The Coming Of” is by someone else).

From AMERICAN FLAGG! #1, Oct 1983, First Comics, image © Howard Chaykin Inc.

Having worked with Alex on projects for Byron Preiss, writer/artist Howard Chaykin commissioned this excellent logo for AMERICAN FLAGG! from him. It was a hit for First Comics. Alex told me:

Howard said he wanted large block letters (and no flag designs) which I did but I also did several alternate logos and he chose the eagle/shield design. He said it reminded him of the National Recovery Act (NRA) logo. Next, I refined my design, and Howard changed the eagle’s head into a hawk. 

From THOR #338, Dec 1983, image © Marvel

Alex did more logos for Marvel, but this one was commissioned directly by writer/artist Walt Simonson, who liked it so much he gave Alex a large credit in the issue’s letters page. I also think it’s one of Alex’s best, combining elements of celtic forms and large beveled shapes on THOR.

From MACHINE MAN #1, Oct 1984, images © Marvel

Alex’s clever and futuristic MACHINE MAN logo was for Marvel editor Larry Hama. I feel it loses some impact in red on the cover, but it goes well with Barry Windsor Smith’s cover art.

From THE NEW MUTANTS #26, April 1985, images © Marvel

This X-Men spinoff title logo was commissioned by editor Ann Nocenti. The open telescoping really pops on that Bill Sienkiewicz cover. I like the pointed serifs and matching curves in the crossbars of the A and H. To draw the logos, Alex used an array of tools: circle and ellipse templates, French curves, triangles, an adjustable French curve and triangle, technical pens in widths from triple zero to four, and a number 2 pencil. Corrections were made with an X-Acto blade, white paint or ink eraser. Very few logos were drawn freehand. The original art was done on vellum, Bristol board or illustration board. While in New York, Alex studied calligraphy with Jeanyee Wong and Paul Shaw at The New School.

From THE GREEN LANTERN CORPS #201, June 1986, image © DC Comics

This is first of many logos designed by Alex for DC Comics, commissioned by Design Director Richard Bruning. Clearly the cover art by Joe Staton and Bruce Patterson was drawn to fit around the logo. Alex used both an open drop shadow and beveling to add depth.

From X-FACTOR #10, Nov 1986, images © Marvel

This logo was also commissioned directly by Walt Simonson. I love the complex two-faceted telescoping that gives the logo weight and depth. The overly-busy frame on this first cover use didn’t help it, but it still reads fine.

From X-FORCE #1, Aug 1991, images © Marvel

X-FORCE was commissioned by Marvel editor Bob Harras, and went through several versions, which you can read about on Alex’s blog HERE. On this first cover, Alex’s final logo was stretched vertically, something Marvel was fond of doing at the time. I think it was a bad idea in this case, it would have looked and fit better as provided.

From WONDER WOMAN #63, June 1992, images © DC Comics

This logo revamp was commissioned by DC’s Curtis King. It has pointed serifs, unusually shaped O’s, narrow open telescoping, and incorporates the Milton Glaser Studio WW emblem in a bottom bar.

From CATWOMAN #1, Aug 1993, images © DC Comics

Alex did several versions of this classy logo for DC Art Director Robbin Brosterman, this one was used for the ongoing series. I love the claw-like points of the C, the shape of the O, the solid letters, and the wide spacing.

From BATMAN #500, Oct 1993, images © DC Comics

On this revamped logo for Curtis King at DC, Alex did another classy treatment of the letters with small pointed serifs, angled arms on the A’s, a large B, and a black drop shadow, but the bat shape was retained from the previous version.

From JLA #1, Jan 1997, images © DC Comics

For this new logo commissioned by Design Director Georg Brewer at DC, Alex went very three-dimensional, with deep telescoping and a logo that curves out at the viewer. I’m not sure who did the shield behind it. Alex also designed several other Justice League spinoff logos.

From LUCIFER #1, June 2000, images © DC Comics

I think this is my favorite Alex Jay comics logo, I love the combination of elegance and menace that perfectly captures the character.

You can find many more on Alex’s website. He also designed logos for First, Eclipse, Defiant, Image and Dark Horse Comics. He continues to live in New York City, and his designs have appeared in the annuals of AIGA, Type Directors Club, Graphis, Print, Creativity and PIE Books. Alex is married to Amy, and has a son, Aaron.

More about the design and designers of comics logos is on the LOGO LINKS page of my blog.

Continue to next article. Back to The Art and History of Lettering Comics.

2 thoughts on “ALEX JAY – Logo Designer

  1. Diana Alcantar White

    Nice to know Alex succeeded with his art. Born and raised in casa grande, I attended the same, only, high school as Alex. If I remember correctly, he played trumpet in band. I also remember his parents grocery store. Larry Allen Supermarket. Building still there, living quarters look lonely.

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