ARTIE SIMEK (and Sol Brodsky) at Marvel Comics Part 3

From MARVEL TALES #95, March 1950. This and all images © Marvel.

In Part 1 of this series I outlined the career of letterer Artie Simek, and in Part 2 I discussed logos he might have designed for Timely (as Marvel was then known) mostly in the 1940s. We continue here with logos that first appeared with 1950 to 1952 cover dates, though some may have been done in late 1949, around the time publisher Martin Goodman ordered editor Stan Lee to lay off most of the staff and use up the backlog of inventory stories he’d accumulated. Simek survived that purge because he was needed to design logos and letter covers, as he did on this example. The drippy logo might have been inspired by those being designed by Al Feldstein at EC Comics, whose horror titles Goodman was imitating. The vertical book name at upper left also copies EC. The large caption has another style Simek liked, the wavy letters in DEATH, while the vibration lines on LIVING are unusual for him but effective. Note that for a while in the early 1950s, Timely was using a Marvel Comic bullet to identify their books. Keep in mind that this is all guesswork based on style, but at least in 1950 there wasn’t anyone else at the company designing logos other than Artie Simek as far as I know.

From TRUE SECRETS #3, March 1950

On this romance title, the logo uses ball serifs, something I think Simek did elsewhere, but the letters are kind of thick and clunky otherwise, and the balloon lettering is definitely not by Artie. Still, the logo is probably his.

From MY OWN ROMANCE #11, March 1950

I like this one much better, the curled stroke ends add elegance, and the style is perfect for a romance comic. Nicely done by Simek.

All the books the company put out in this year probably used mostly inventory stories or even covers that could have been sitting around for years. Around this time, Goodman moved out of the Empire State Building to new offices at 655 Madison Avenue, where he focused more on other kinds of magazines: true confessions, movie gossip, crossword puzzles, and racy action-adventure titles like MALE and STAG. Stan Lee gradually built up his comics staff again over the next year or two as inventory stories were depleted, hiring back a few staffers from the 1940s. He needed them, as Martin Goodman had no plans to slow down his vast comics output.

From FOOM #17, 1977, the Marvel Bullpen about 1954.

Let’s take another look at this staff photo. Production staffers often filled several roles, the most important one being getting books ready to send to the printer. This included making any art and lettering corrections needed, and preparing and pasting together the various elements on covers, ads, text pages, and so on, including indicias and character logos. Beyond that, some production staffers focused on lettering, some on art, some on coloring (preparing color guides for the separators). In this group, Joe Letterese, Morrie Kuramoto, Dan Crespi, Herb Cooper, Artie Simek, Stan Starkman and Ray Holloway were letterers, while Vince Madafferi, Carl Burgos, Chris Rule, Sol Brodsky and Stan Goldberg were artists. I’ve found no information on Neva Del Vecchio, perhaps she was a colorist. And, of course, any staffer might be asked to pitch in on any task, and some were probably skilled in several areas. Carl Burgos was the creator of The Human Torch when he worked for the comics packager Funnies, Inc. in the early 1940s, but perhaps he fell on hard times and took a staff job. All these people probably did comics freelance work as well in their spare time, and/or perhaps were paid like freelancers for their staff work, by the page. Simek had already established himself as the company logo designer and cover letterer, but I know that Joe Letterese also designed some logos — he showed them to me, but sadly I no longer recall what titles they were. Perhaps other staffers did some logos and covers as well, as Martin Goodman continued his policy of following any hot trend with a flood of short-lived titles.

From ALL-TRUE CRIME #38, May 1950

Some title changes seem unnecessary, like changing ALL-TRUE CRIME CASES to ALL-TRUE CRIME. The logos are quite similar, and the numbering continued, so why bother? This cover has lots of lettering by Simek in styles that he often used, and his work becomes easier to identify in the 1950s because of that. When a book received a second-class mailing permit from the postal service it lowered costs for both subscriptions and shipping by mail to some vendors, so publishers tried to hang on to those permits by shifting them from one title to another but keeping consecutive numbering. It made sense at the time, but now adds confusion, and might have puzzled buyers as well. Some of the lettering on this cover, like “HIS BROTHER’S KEEPER” might have been done by Artie using Leroy lettering templates, and the same is true for parts of the lettering on the next few covers. The best clue is the vertical sides of the M, and how almost identical those round-ended letters are. This was a slow process, but made popular by EC Comics, so perhaps something Simek was told to use.

From SUSPENSE #3, May 1950

Some of these covers had lots of lettering, which would have kept Artie busy even if he didn’t do much story lettering. This logo again uses wavy letters for a scary subject.

From MY FRIEND IRMA #3, June 1950

Goodman had a deal with C.B.S. Radio to create comics from their programs, and this one ran for many years, as did the comic. The logo looks like Simek’s work, but I thought it might have been based on something from the show. I couldn’t find any evidence of that.

From SPORTS ACTION #3, June 1950

If ever a Marvel title was tailor made for Artie Simek, the avid baseball fan and former player, this is it, though the first issue (called simply SPORTS STARS) and the second don’t seem to have his logos on them. This cover lettering and logo are certainly his. The speed lines and shading on ACTION work well to add motion.

From WESTERN OUTLAWS #62, June 1950

A common style for western logos is rough and ragged pieces of wood, and Artie does that here, with contrasting script for AND SHERIFFS. Again, look at all that busy lettering. Potential buyers might have needed a while just to read the cover.

From YOUNG MEN #4, June 1950

This logo is probably Simek’s work, though it’s pretty generic, and the cover lettering too, but the balloons may be by someone else.

From CRIME CASES COMICS #24, Aug 1950

If crime comics are selling, put out lots of them was publisher Goodman’s plan, and he did. The shapes of these block letters are a little different and therefore more interesting. Artie also did the cover lettering. The wide caption looks like Leroy lettering, but perhaps it’s just Artie being precise and careful.

From MEN’S ADVENTURES #4, Aug 1950

This title might have been trying to interest buyers of Goodman’s non-comics magazines for men like STAG and FOR MEN ONLY. In these pre comics code days, content was unpredictable, but often violent.

From CRIME CAN’T WIN #41, Sept 1950

Crime comics seemed to promote police triumphing over the bad guys, while all the while glorifying the violence that attracted readers. The cracked letters of the logo are a new idea for Simek that I like, I think all the cover lettering is his too.

From CRIME MUST LOSE #4, Oct 1950

While CRIME is pretty standard on this logo, MUST LOSE! uses one of Simek’s favorite styles, what looks like brush strokes with very uneven ends. Even the O has an open area as if that’s where the stroke began and ended. The cover lettering is also by Artie.

From ADVENTURES INTO TERROR #43, Nov 1950

The word TERROR in this logo combines the brush strokes and wavy edges to create a merged style. I’m not sure if it really works, but it sells the concept. The cover lettering is by Simek, but the bottom text is type. Around this time, the production department may have had a headline machine for doing things like that. It created a line of type on photographic paper one letter at a time, run on spools through a darkened box where the operator could position the paper roll with handles, and the letters reversed like a film negative on a large dial (there were different fonts on different dials that could be switched in), exposing each one with a flash of light. Then the paper would run through a developer and out the side. Once dry it could be cut up and pasted onto cover art. I used one at DC when I started. It was kind of fun, but not a big time saver over doing the lettering by hand.

From AMAZING DETECTIVE CASES #3, Nov 1950

There’s a lot more type on this cover, so in this case a production person might have specified what they wanted and sent it out to a photo-typesetter, a service every publisher needed and used often.

From THE GUNHAWK #12, Nov 1950

If this logo is by Artie, he was looking at logos by Ira Schnapp at DC Comics, as it’s very similar to some of those. The other lettering is type.

From LOVERS #30, Nov 1950

This logo and cover lettering definitely looks like Simek’s work to me. The logo letters are an interesting mix of script and lower case type elements.

From MILLIE THE MODEL #25, Nov 1950

Millie’s book had gone through several logos before settling on this one that I think is by Artie, with appealing rounded letters in a gentle arc. He also did the balloons. I’m not sure what the round icon at upper left is, a hatbox perhaps?

From THE APACHE KID #53, Dec 1950

This logo style made from many parallel pen strokes, is one that Simek often used, and the curves aren’t so easy to get right. Here it’s obscured by the dark red color over it. The captions might be type except for MYSTERIOUS. This series began with #53, continuing from another western series, RENO BROWNE, that had run three issues, and was itself continued from MARGIE, a teen humor book. The next issue was number 2. Confusing to collectors, but probably done to keep the mailing permit.

From JOURNEY INTO UNKNOWN WORLDS #37, Dec 1950

I like this logo by Simek, which combines letter shapes meant to suggest brush strokes with an open drop shadow and speed lines, all in a gentle curve and shallow perspective. The Saturn symbol is fun, too. By this time, having done logos for several years, Artie’s skill had improved to meet the needs of many kinds of comics. Notice how the letters of the second word are wider and spaced further apart than the first one to give the words almost equal width. That’s good design.

From MARVEL BOY #1, Dec 1950

Is this science fiction or a superhero tryout? Perhaps a bit of each, but it only lasted two issues. I like Artie’s logo, the rest is type.

From LOVE TALES #44, Jan 1951

On the other hand, LOVE here could have benefitted from wider letters to fill the logo area better. Perhaps Simek expected other elements at the side. I like the script TALES.

From TEXAS KID #1 and APACHE KID #2, Jan & Feb 1951

Two more western kids. I like the previous version of APACHE KID better, but these are okay, and the drop shadows add depth.

From LOVE ADVENTURES #3, Feb 1951

Perhaps the romance logo areas were intentionally kept spare as a style choice, a contrast from the busy crime and horror comics. This logo works fine. The captions are type, but I think Simek did the balloons.

From THE ARIZONA KID #1, March 1951

Simek uses his rounded brush style on this logo, perhaps for contrast from the other new western titles. The banner and star caption are his, the others are type.

From BATTLE #1, March 1951

Around this time, a few years removed from World War Two, war comics became popular, and of course Martin Goodman jumped on the bandwagon. This is one of Artie’s cleverest logos, with chips being knocked out of the letters, as if by gunfire, adding motion and interest. The arrow caption and balloons are his, the other cover lettering is type.

From MYSTIC #1, March 1951

With so many comics on newsstands, it’s a wonder there were still titles like this one available. MYSTIC has Art Deco shapes with wavy outlines and a few notches at the bottom as well as an open drop shadow to allow for a second color. The balloons are by Simek, most of the rest is type.

From PRIVATE EYE #2, March 1951

When you have a lot of new titles, changing up the logo layout on one is a good idea, as here, where it’s in a square. The balloons are by Simek, and the word DOOM at the bottom, the rest is type. Someone, perhaps Artie himself, was using the headline machine or getting photo-type a lot now.

From SPY FIGHTERS #1, March 1951

The cold war made spies a hot topic, and spy comics soon followed.

From ASTONISHING #3, April 1951

Marvel Boy moved into this title when his own failed, but only for the first three issues. And it should be said that Goodman was cancelling or revising titles before he even knew if they were successful or not based on sales figures. This logo is in the style of a science fiction pulp, but with more curves in the letters. Artie’s balloon (which may be Leroy lettering) and bottom caption are great, the others are type.

From KENT BLAKE OF THE SECRET SERVICE 1, May 1951

We’ve seen angled lower right legs like these on the K’s and R’s from Simek before, it adds subtle variety to the otherwise bland block letters.

From STRANGE TALES #1, June 1951

Here’s a title that had a long life into the Marvel superhero revival, though with a different logo we’ll get to later. This logo is typical Simek work, and he did the balloons, the rest is type.

From TRUE SECRETS #6, June 1951

Another stylish romance logo, but here with lots of type around it. The balloons are probably by Artie, but the balloon shapes are not typical for him at the time, too many scallops. Perhaps he was just changing things up for variety.

From ASTONISHING #6, Oct 1951

After Marvel Boy departed, this title became another horror/science fiction anthology, something that must have sold well, as there were many of them. The logo has a clean science fiction look, but the bottom caption by Simek is pure horror.

From COMBAT KELLY #1, Nov 1951

I really like the aggressive, wide, square-ended strokes of this logo, and the way each letter is tipped to the right rather than just slanted. It’s a good look for a war title. Note the small symbol ATLAS after the Y. This stands for Atlas News Company, Martin Goodman’s own distribution arm, and it appeared on all his comics going forward for some years. Because of that, the company became known as Atlas, though that was never an official name.

From ADVENTURES INTO WEIRD WORLDS #1, Jan 1952

This one doesn’t work so well for me, perhaps because there are too many styles. Also the black telescoping on the second line is nearly invisible, making the line spacing seem off. Simek played up WEIRD as the most important word, and I agree with that, even though it’s copying EC Comics’ titles WEIRD FANTASY and WEIRD SCIENCE. Not his title choice anyway.

From BATTLE ACTION #1, Feb 1952

War logos should be large and bold, and this one is. I like the burst as well.

From PATSY AND HEDY #1, Feb 1952

Another logo in the Simek teen humor style he created for Patsy Walker. There would be more.

From AMAZING DETECTIVE CASES #11, March 1952

This title’s logo could have gone in several directions, Simek chose one of his horror styles with wavy letter outlines.

From MYSTERY TALES #1, March 1952

The same approach is used on this logo, but with even more frenetic edges. The large caption and word balloon are by Simek, the rest is type.

From BATTLEFRONT #1, June 1952

This logo could have been broken into two lines, but keeping it as one long word left room for the effective figure work above and below it. It’s possible that was by Artie, but more likely by a staff artist. The large words in the burst are by Simek, the rest is type. Interesting that the bottom banner promotes the title as “Now on sale every month” when this is the first issue.

From COMBAT #1, June 1952

This logo is similar to G.I. COMBAT published by Quality Comics, and later for many years by DC Comics. The art reminds me of FRONTLINE COMBAT from EC Comics, and the artist, Russ Heath, also worked there. War titles were clearly selling. Fine large caption by Simek.

From JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY #1, June 1952

And here we arrive at another long-running title and Simek logo familiar to comics fans as the later home of Thor. That connection still makes me happy to see it, and it’s a fine logo for a horror anthology.

There you have 44 new or revised logos I think were designed by Artie Simek just for comics cover dated 1950 to 1952, and I’ve skipped some I wasn’t sure about. In that same period, for comparison, DC started 25 titles. In Part 4 I’ll look at more 1950s and early 1960s logos and covers I think were done by Artie Simek before the rebirth of Marvel superheroes.

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

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