Every year the San Diego Comic-Con puts out a large, thick, lavish souvenir book filled with features and art focusing on that year’s Comic-Con themes. They’ve just revealed the 2017 cover with a Jack Kirby tribute. The art is by Bruce Timm, based on Jack’s cover for JIMMY OLSEN #141. The logo and cover blurb are by me. The full announcement is HERE.
In late November, 2016, I was contacted by Gary Sassaman, Director of Print and Digital Media for the Con, who told me about the cover plan to celebrate the centennial of Jack Kirby’s birth. He said they were planning an homage to the above cover dated Sept. 1971, with Jack’s photo in the center circle. Would I be interested in doing the logo and cover copy in a similar style? Of course I said I was, sounded like fun.
In March, 2017 Gary sent me this cover sketch by artist Bruce Timm. Gary wrote:
“Because the dimensions of the Souvenir Book are different compared to a 1970s comic, Bruce Timm’s layout has changed things a bit. So I think instead of apeing the original Jimmy Olsen lettering, I’m going to ask you to do what you would consider a classic 1970s DC title design a la Gaspar Saladino. We’re going to drop all of the other cover trade dress. And then on the lower right it will probably end up saying ‘2017 Souvenir Book,’ since we’re celebrating multiple 100th anniversaries inside.”
This all sounded fine to me, and actually easier than the original plan. Gaspar Saladino is my favorite letterer and logo designer, and I thought I’d have no problem doing something in his style that would work. While the original Jimmy Olsen logo on the Kirby cover was designed by Ira Schnapp, Gaspar did the cover blurb at lower right, and he designed the logos for Jack’s other Fourth World and later titles for DC, and did most of the cover lettering on them, so his style was the right choice. Even though Gary needed to get approval for this plan from DC and Marvel, I decided to go ahead and work on the logo.
Supergirl logo by Gaspar Saladino, 1970, © DC Comics.
I needed to do a two-line title, and I wanted to use a telescoping drop shadow to give it more depth, but rather than going for the full telescoped effect, as seen on the SUPERMAN’S PAL logo above by Ira Schnapp, I thought I’d use the simplified version that Gaspar was beginning to use at the time, example above. In this style, only the outer outlline of the telescoping is shown, the many inner lines are removed. I also thought the cover art called for a logo in an arc above the circle and characters at the top.
Here’s my design sketch, which I sent to Gary. He approved it with one change, to remove the exclamation point at the lower right. I placed this sketch in Adobe Illustrator and worked up the logo there by tracing the lines and shapes with the pen tool.
Here’s the first stage with just the letters done, the drop shadow still to come. The very wide letters of COMIC-CON are more my style than Gaspar’s but the second line is something my lettering role-model might well have done.
Here’s the finished logo with color added. I wanted to keep it simple, and I thought white would work best for the letters. Here I tried shades of blue in the drop shadows.
I also did this version using red and orange, which I thought would probably go best with the cover art if it followed the general color scheme of the original Kirby cover.
In April, Gary sent me this raw scan of the cover art by Bruce Timm, which I thought was very cool! I was buying and reading the Fourth World Kirby comics when they came out, and I think Bruce captured the feel perfectly.
One issue we had to resolve was the Jack Kirby photo. We all liked this particular photo best for our cover, but the original photo could not be found. The best we could find was this one, which I think was scanned from the back pages of a 1978 SILVER SURFER original graphic novel by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby published by Simon and Schuster. The author photos were probably taken for that book. It’s rather grainy, and the shadowed areas lose detail, but it’s such a great picture.
I put together this cover proof in Adobe Illustrator after tweaking the Timm art and the Kirby photo in Photoshop (and giving the latter a sepia tone, which I thought worked better with the color scheme), and adding my red-orange logo. I also created the burst cover blurb in my best Klein after Saladino style. Everyone liked it, and I was asked to make just a few minor changes.
Here’s the final cover again to compare. The changes were to have Mister Miracle’s cape go over the logo, and to put a thin black line around the circle with Kirby’s photo in it. I also needed to put an ® mark next to Comic-Con. Once this was okayed by Marvel, DC, Bruce Timm and the Con staff, I assembled the elements exactly the same way in Adobe InDesign to the specifications of the printer, and sent it to Gary in late April.
I had a great time working on this assignment, and am very pleased with the result. I’m planning to be at the Con this summer, where I expect to see this book all over the place. If you’re going, perhaps you will too!