ARTIE SIMEK (and Sol Brodsky) at Marvel Comics Part 2

From MARVEL TALES #93, Aug 1949. This and all images © Marvel

In Part 1 of this series I outlined the life and career of Artie Simek, who I believe was working for Timely, the company now known as Marvel Comics, by the spring of 1946, and who worked there until his death in 1975. In Parts 2 to 4 I’m going to look at some of the logos and cover lettering that I think were Artie’s main occupation at Marvel, at least until 1957, and a good part of his work until the mid 1960s. Above is an example that has the kind of wavy letters Artie often used on scary subjects. There’s very little real evidence of who designed logos for Marvel until the early 1960s, so this is mainly guesswork based on style, and not every logo is covered because some of them are so bland and ordinary that they give no clue as to who did them. Before we get into logos I think might have been designed by Simek, let’s go back to the beginning.

UNCANNY TALES, April-May 1939
MARVEL SCIENCE STORIES #5, Aug 1939

Before he started publishing comics, Martin Goodman published pulp magazines, which, like comics, needed large, colorful, eye-catching logos. I don’t know who designed logos for Goodman’s pulps, but they were effective.

From MARVEL COMICS #1, Nov 1939, and MARVEL MYSTERY COMICS #3, Jan 1940

Here are two of the first few comics published by Goodman, and you can see how similar the logos are to the ones on his pulps, so I’m guessing they were done by the same unknown designer. Many early Timely (Marvel) comics had similar pulp magazine inspired logos, and the same was true at other publishers. Block letters were the most frequent design choice.

From CAPTAIN AMERICA COMICS #1 & 2, March-April 1941

One exception in the vast unknown is the designer of these two Captain America Comics logos. Joe Simon claimed credit for them, he liked to design logos for books he worked on and edited. The top one is the most interesting, with the stars, flag banner, and angled stroke ends on some letters. The caption lettering is probably by Howard Ferguson, and he might have helped with the logos. The second one is more standard block lettering with telescoping to make it three dimensional, though still with slightly angled stroke ends, and both are well done. Simon was hired by Martin Goodman as his first comics editor, and Joe might have had a hand in other logos for the company during the short time he was there. The second of these was on the rest of the book’s long run.

From THE HUMAN TORCH #2, Fall 1940, and SUB-MARINER #1 & 2, Spring & Summer 1941

A few other early Timely logos broke the pattern of standard block letters like the first and last of these. I particularly like the flaming HUMAN TORCH logo and the large burst around it. Joe Simon might have been involved, or another possible designer is artist Alex Schomburg, who did the cover art for these issues and many other early Timely covers. He was also doing illustrations for Goodman’s pulps, and he had a good eye for detail and structure, but those are guesses. It’s unlikely that Torch creator Carl Burgos or Sub-Mariner creator Bill Everett were involved, as they were working for Funnies, Inc., who supplied stories to Goodman, while the covers would have been done separately at Timely.

From JOKER COMICS #1, April 1942

There were a few exceptions, but most early Marvel logos went with block lettering in some way. Here the letters are tilted to various angles, but does that make them funny enough for a humor comic?

From MILLIE THE MODEL #1, 1945

Millie’s logo used well-designed serif letters that were probably meant to look like the logo of a fashion magazine. Other variations followed.

From PATSY WALKER #1, Summer 1945

Martin Goodman imitated whatever trends seemed to be popular, these two titles were in the teen humor category, a success for Archie comics at MLJ. Patsy’s first logo is appealing mixed case italic letters.

From PATSY WALKER #6, Aug 1946

With this issue, a different all-caps style begins, and the letters have graceful curves, while the S is the only one with ball-end serifs. Could this be an early logo by Artie Simek? My first guess would be no, but then I found other logos from the 1950s using the same style that are very likely by Artie, so it probably is an early one by him. And unlike most Marvel titles, this one kept the same logo until it ended in 1965. Simek was often asked to do new logos for existing or relaunched titles, so the fact that this one didn’t change in almost twenty years suggests he did it and thought it didn’t need changing.

How did Artie become a logo designer at Timely? As far as I know he was a self-taught artist, and the only pre-comics published and credited work known for him are his sports cartoons. Those have lots of comics-style lettering, suggesting Artie was a comics reader, but no logos. The other well-documented activity by Artie was baseball and stickball, but none of those things would have made him much money, so he must have had other jobs. His entry in the 1940 census offers no clues, it lists no job or occupation for him and shows him still living at home at age 24. Perhaps Simek found work using art, where he could develop logo design skills, but if so we have no record of it. Somehow he landed a staff production job at Timely, where his lettering would have been useful. Perhaps he looked at existing Timely logos, or logos on other magazines, and when asked to do some, used them as reference and found it was another skill he could develop. That sounds a bit far-fetched, but it’s about how it happened for me when I was hired by DC Comics in 1977.

From CINDY #27, Fall 1947

This teen humor title starts with standard block lettering for the logo. It might have been done by Artie, imitating others already in use, but it’s so bland there’s no clue to who designed it. The cover lettering does look like Simek to me, another area where Artie’s work was seen more and more often.

From CINDY SMITH #39, May 1950

When the book was briefly retitled CINDY SMITH, the logo used the same style shown above for PATSY WALKER that I’m guessing was by Simek. This has the ball-end serifs on the S and C, and the same graceful curves and shapes. The timing of this logo is worth noting, it was probably commissioned in late 1949 after the first large staff layoff required of editor Stan Lee by his publisher Martin Goodman, so it’s unlikely there was anyone else left to design it other than Artie, who somehow managed to weather all the layoffs.

From JUSTICE #7, Fall 1947

Another generic logo on this book, but the cover lettering looks like Simek’s work. The curved in perspective arrow is well done

From OFFICIAL TRUE CRIME CASES #24, Fall 1947

Some of this cover lettering is type, but the balloons and bottom right caption look like Artie’s work. He might have done the logo, one clue is the barely visible rough ends on TRUE CRIME CASES.

From ALL-TRUE CRIME CASES #26, Feb 1948

When the title and logo changed, there were no rough ends. The shape of the R’s is interesting. The cover lettering is probably by Simek, and the color treatment in the balloons kind of presages the heavy borders he would later use on covers. Note also the parentheses around GASP in the second balloon, the original way breath marks were indicated. That changed to dashed parentheses that morphed to the radiating marks used later.

From TWO-GUN KID #1, March 1948

This is another title with a bland block letter logo, but one that remained unchanged until the title ended in 1977, again remarkably long for the company. Could it have been designed by Simek, who thought it was fine and didn’t need changing? Impossible to say. The cover lettering here is probably by him.

From MITZI’S BOY FRIEND #2, June 1948

When Mitzi’s own title spun off this one, her name remained in block letters, but wider and thicker ones that suggest Simek to me, as does the style of the second line drawn to imitate rounded brush strokes. I’m not sure about the balloon lettering, but it’s probably by Artie.

There were other staff letterers at Timely, at least until the layoff of 1949, the main one being Mario Acquaviva, who started working at the company in 1942 while in the Army but stationed locally, but then served in Europe for a while. When he returned, he was put in charge of letterers at Timely, according to a 2009 interview with Leon Lazarus in Alter Ego #90 (TwoMorrows). Lazarus worked under him as did Veda Lufkin, Alberta Tews, Danny Crespi, Gary Keller, Morrie Kuramoto, Bob Lander, and probably more. I’m not sure how payment was handled, whether letterers were paid by the page or on salary, but probably the former, and the pay rate was likely low. If any of those people designed logos, there’s no record of it. Most of the production staffers at Timely in 1949 were laid off, though a few were rehired in the early 1950s.

From KID COLT #1 & #3, Aug & Dec 1948

Kid Colt, another long-running western character, began as a hero, but soon became an outlaw, as seen above. The first issue logo is nicely done, but I think not by Simek. The new one on issue #3 might be his, though it’s generic except for the off-model W. Again, this logo lasted a very long time, until the final issue in 1979, so it might also have been one that Artie did and liked, so he resisted revising it, but that’s only a guess. The caption lettering on both is probably by Simek, not sure about the balloon.

From COMPLETE MYSTERY #1, Aug 1948

This cover is full of Simek lettering, it must cover a third of the page, and DEAD in the logo is the first example I’ve found of the wavy-edged letters he liked to use for scary subjects. I imagine he also did the book in the logo. This title was short lived, and each of the four issues has a different logo, all probably by Simek.

From LAWBREAKERS ALWAYS LOSE #1, Spring 1948

This and the previous title are two of many crime comics Timely was putting out in response to success in that genre by Charles Biro and others started by CRIME DOES NOT PAY from Lev Gleason, beginning in 1942. As usual, Goodman’s knockoffs were second-rate imitations that didn’t last long. Simek might have done this block letter logo, which at least uses interesting perspective, and the cover lettering looks like his.

From LOVE ROMANCES #6, May 1949

Romance comics was genre started by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby with YOUNG ROMANCE at Prize in 1947. Goodman was quick to follow this trend with many romance titles of his own. The logo on this one is generic block letters which could have been designed by anyone.

From LOVE ROMANCES #13, Oct 1950

But this revised logo looks more like Artie’s work, and it was done after the 1949 layoff, so even more likely to be his. His cover lettering is getting bolder than ever here to attract attention, and I really like the jagged square ends of the large caption.

From LITTLE LENNY #1 and LITTLE LIZZIE #1, June 1949

Another genre Goodman tried was little kid humor. I don’t know if Simek did these logos, but I like them, and think they work better than standard block letters.

From COMEDY COMICS #8, July 1949

A teen humor anthology with a logo probably by Simek. I think he did the balloons too. The letter shapes of COMEDY are slightly Art Deco.

From LITTLE ASPIRIN #1, July 1949

Another little kid humor book with a similar logo approach and Simek balloon and label lettering.

From CAPTAIN AMERICA’S WEIRD TALES #74, Oct 1949

Superheroes fell out of favor after the end of World War Two, with only the top sellers surviving. Captain America was Timely’s top seller, but even it was failing by this time, and Goodman tried turning it into a horror title. It only lasted two issues. I think the logo is by Artie, though he didn’t use drippy letters very often, and he also did the round caption.

From FILM FUNNIES #1, Nov 1949

Cartoon-inspired funny animals was a genre that Timely never did very well, this one lasted two issues. I think the logo and cover lettering is by Simek.

From LITTLE LANA #8, Nov 1949

One more kid humor title, and the logo is quite ambitious. I think it’s by Artie, though I’m not sure he did the balloon. This is the last new Timely title begun in the 1940s, I’ll start next time with more 1950’s titles and logos.

Thanks to Alex Jay for his invaluable research help.

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

One thought on “ARTIE SIMEK (and Sol Brodsky) at Marvel Comics Part 2

  1. Ron Kasman

    Thanks for putting those up and for your commentary. It was interesting to take a close look at them.

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