Joe Rosen passes


Image © Marvel Characters, Inc.

I learned this afternoon that longtime letterer Joe Rosen has recently died. I never met Joe, but admired his work. Joe was one of the three lettering workhorses at Marvel Comics in the early Stan Lee/Jack Kirby days, along with his brother Sam and Artie Simek, and he continued to letter at Marvel for many years. I remember him announcing his retirement in the early 1990s I think (but I haven’t found any confirmation of that). I liked him best as the letterer of many of Frank Miller’s DAREDEVIL stories such as the one above. The Grand Comics Database shows his earliest credit as letterer of DC’s MR. DISTRICT ATTORNEY in 1948, but the brief bio for him on Wikipedia says he started at Harvey, probably before that. So the 2000 stories indexed by GCD are likely not all he did. I appreciated his work, and thought it was smart of him to retire when he was ready and able, unlike some of his contemporaries who kept going until the end. Hope his final years were good, and may he rest in peace.

26 thoughts on “Joe Rosen passes

  1. Danny Fingeroth

    Joe was simply the best, both as a person and a letterer. A truly class act. Having him letter a script always made it 25% better than it really was.

  2. Roger Stern

    I am so sorry to hear this. Joe was indeed the best. I never knew the man, but he made us all look good.

  3. Justin H.

    Such a shame. He lettered so many of my favorite comics… and kept Daredevil having a consistent “voice” all the way up to the Comicraft years.

  4. Rodrigo Baeza

    Sad news; I liked his work as well.
    I don’t think he worked for Marvel during the Lee/Kirby days, I believe the bulk of his work at Marvel was done during the 1980’s and 1990’s. He did do a lot work for Harvey, much of it can be seen (uncredited) in the recent collections that Dark Horse has published.

  5. Todd Post author

    Thanks, Rodrigo. I guess my memory of seeing his name in Marvel books earlier is faulty, and I’ll bow to your knowledge.

  6. Phil Balsman

    I’ve always appreciated how consistent and solid Joe’s lettering was, and it really imparted how important it was to have a steady foundation in place before getting ambitious with lettering and design. A good lesson from a great man.

  7. David Marshall

    This is very sad news. I started paying attention to letters as a high school student, back in the late 1970s. His work truly stood out as clean, consistent and professional. Hopefully life in his later years was easy as possible.

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  9. Mike Rockwitz

    Joe was a gentleman and an amazing letterer. No matter the deadline or the amount of copy on the page he always said, ” I will do my best.” He never let Marvel down. I always considered myself lucky to have worked with him. Rest in Peace Joe…

  10. Rick Parker

    I worked on staff at Marvel Comics from 1977-1983 in the production department doing “lettering corrections” and did a great deal of hand lettering for Harvey, King Features, Marvel and DC and others over the years. Those of us who worked in comics at the time, all considered Joe Rosen the consummate professional. His work was about as perfect as something can be which was done entirely by hand (before computers drove people like Joe– and other hand letterers into involuntary retirement). It seemed to me the man lived to work. When he wasn’t lettering he was on the subway to and from the office picking up and delivering work. He had a great humanistic style that never called undo attention to itself or distracted from the storytelling aspect. His “voice” as a letterer was always smooth and he mainlined the dialogue directly into the mind of the reader. He was a man of few words, a modest man who was good at what he did and was highly regarded and respected by all who knew him and his work.

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  12. Doc V.

    Joe lettered for Atlas back in the 1950’s. I have some originals where his name is above the art border so my guess is that he was very prolific and 100% uncredited throughout the 1950’s for Stan Lee.

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  14. Don

    I first came across Joe’s work on the Hulk. I liked that his stuff wasn’t overly stylized and NEVER subtracted from the artwork.

    I’ll miss his lettering something fierce. Rest in Peace, Joe.

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  16. drhaydn

    Joe Rosen had been in the field for 30 years when I discovered comics in 1969. He worked for another 30 years after that. An underappreciated titan whose contributions cannot be forgotten.

  17. David Riegler

    Letterers never get the credit they deserve. I wish ALTER EGO would do big articles notnly on Joe Rosen, but also his brother Sam, Artie Simek, and Ira Schnapp, among others.

  18. Joel Rosen

    Sam and Joe Rosen were my uncles. They worked together in a basement studio in their home in Brooklyn. As far back as I can remember, Sam worked for Marvel and Joe worked for Harvey, Sam stopped working due to health problems and Joe took over his work at Marvel in the mid 70’s IIRC.

    I am in search of a particular book lettered by Sam. Old family story has it that he wrote a birthday greeting to my brother David at age 6 in a panel. We assume this would have been done around November, 1964. Any help in locating this book, or how to go about a search for it, is greatly appreciated.

  19. Todd Post author

    Hi Joel, I’ve emailed you about this. Comics historian Steven Thompson has searched all the Marvel titles around that time and hasn’t found what you’re looking for.

  20. Haydn

    Todd (and Joel): Any possibility it might have been in one of the Mighty Comics? Sam was doing some uncredited work for them around that time.

  21. Haydn

    An update for Joel Rosen (also posted on Alex Jay’s blog):

    Take a look at the splash page of Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD #5, from late 1968. It’s a full-page newspaper, with the credits cleverly included as headlines on the page. One headline reads: “Sam Rosen, letterer, has visit from nephews Davy, Dan, and Joel.”

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