The 1960s were a difficult period to find first-time employment at mainstream comics publishers, even the smaller ones like Charlton. There were more opportunities in underground and alternative comics, but even there getting started wasn’t always easy. The first generation of comic book creators was generally still active at publishers like Marvel, DC, Western, and Archie, the market had taken a downturn in the 1950s, and even with some new interest from the Batman TV show, and increasing success for Marvel’s superheroes, comics sales were not encouraging. In fact, many in the business thought comics were on the way out. Pat Boyette was one creator who bucked the trend, as seen above, working mostly for Charlton, but other publishers as well. He did the art and lettering on nearly all his work, and both have a sparse, simple, and accessible style that go well together. In this two-part article I’ll look at his comics and that of other letterers who began in the 1960s, and are perhaps not as well known as some I’ve already written about, at least as letterers. Thanks go to Alex Jay for his invaluable research help, and I’ve pulled from other sources too, which will be linked below.
Aaron “Pat” Boyette was born July 27, 1923 in San Antonio, TX, and he lived there most of his life. Pat had several successful careers in other fields before entering comics, beginning as a broadcaster, first on radio before World War Two. He became a disc jockey and announcer for station WOAI in San Antonio until drafted, and after serving, resumed his career at KONO. He soon transitioned to TV, and was primarily a newscaster for twenty years for several stations. He also became a low-budget film maker along the lines of Roger Corman. In the mid 1960s, in his early forties, Boyette decided to try his hand at comics. He randomly selected a Charlton comic, cold called the company to make sure they would accept samples, and mailed some. A year later he received a call from editor Dick Giordano who liked his work, and sent him scripts to draw.
Boyette’s first published work is above, and as you can see, it’s already professional and appealing, with fine storytelling and lettering. His only previous comics work was on a local comic strip, Captain Flame in the 1950s. Pat seems to have been one of those people whose talent shines no matter what they take on.
We can be sure Boyette lettered his own work because of his working method. He got permission from Giordano to work smaller than usual, on letter-size paper, close to printed size, and always sent in finished inked and lettered work. His friend artist Tom Sutton said:
Lettering at that size is madness. But you couldn’t tell!
A month later, Boyette’s best known character, Peacemaker first appeared with a script by Joe Gill, art and lettering by Pat. Though full creator credits were not yet being used, Boyette’s elongated signature is at bottom right. The character was later sold to DC Comics and appeared there in the 1980s.
When Pat did a cover, he also usually did the lettering, and when it was a first issue, the logo as well. All those elements work together perfectly here.
By 1968, Dick Giordano had moved to DC Comics, and asked Boyette to help with a deadline problem. Pat put together some Blackhawk material very quickly, as usual with his own lettering and feature logo, but the experience led Pat to continue with Charlton, where his deadlines would not be so frantic.
Boyette worked for other publishers in the 1970s, and many consider his best work to be horror stories he wrote, drew and lettered for Warren, as above. Boyette said Warren never asked for changes, and published almost everything he sent them. Here you can see Boyette’s distinctive early S, which is all curves and rises in the center section.
He did all kinds of stories for Charlton, the one above is again all by him, with excellent display lettering in the feature logo and title. Here the S is less curvy.
Boyette’s work continued to appear sporadically into the 1990s, always beautifully drawn and lettered. Mark Evanier, who used Boyette on Hanna-Barbera comics he edited, remembered the artist:
Pat had a warm, friendly, radio-trained baritone voice that made you like him the minute you spoke to him on the phone. He was enormously humble about his comic book work, forever deflecting compliments, always hoping that he would some day do work that was worthy of the praise that many heaped on what he’d done. He was very fast — and willing to work very long hours — so he often bailed out editors in deadline crisis situations. We spent hours on the phone, talking about everything under the sun and, unlike many in comics, you could talk at length with him about something other than comics. I only got to spend time with him in person twice but I liked him on the phone and I liked him even better in the flesh.
Boyette passed on Jan 14, 2000, in Fort Worth, TX, at age 77. His wife Bette died before him, and he was survived by daughter Melissa.
Vivian Lipman began working in comics at MLJ (Archie) and Timely (Marvel) in the early 1940s in a variety of roles: editing, writing (mostly text pages and puzzles), inking, and probably lettering, though I haven’t found any examples of that I’m sure about. She became a letterer at DC in the mid 1960s, according to the Grand Comics Database, which has quite a few stories credited to her like the one above. The lettering style is all slanted, which other DC letterers were doing at the time (perhaps an editorial preference), and the letters are even and regular, with very round O’s. The other thing that I notice is the thought balloons have many tiny scallops, while the regular balloons have few.
Vivian Lipman Berg was born Jan 4, 1923, in New Rochelle, NY, the youngest of four children. Her parents were Russian emigrants. She studied art at Cooper Union in Manhattan, where she met her future husband, MAD artist Dave Berg. They were married in 1949. She helped him with ideas for his MAD feature, “The Lighter Side of Dave Berg.” in a 1977 interview with the Daily News of Tarrytown, NY, Berg said:
Vivian, loves to read so she helps with the research. For example, for a “lighter side of modern technology,” she read the book Future Shock for ideas. Discussion and the comic followed.
It’s not known how she came to DC, but MAD and DC were owned by the same company starting around the same time, so it’s an easy connection.
Another story with lettering credited to Vivian, here the slant is less, and the speech balloons have more loops, but it’s otherwise much the same. Both books were edited by Mort Weisinger, so he may have been the one who first hired her.
Berg also worked for editor Murray Boltinoff, as on this story. This time the slant is almost gone from the balloon lettering. The story title is well done, I like the texture in BLACK from small open areas, and the credits (rare for DC at the time) have nicely lettered script.
I don’t see any lettering credits for Vivian after the 1960s. In the 1980s and later she was a magazine writer and illustrator. At some point the Bergs moved to California. Dave passed in 2002, Vivian died in California on Dec 21, 2014 at the age of 91.
Another letterer whose name I saw in Marvel comics for a few years is Al Kurzrok. This story is one of the first credited to him. The lettering is done with round-tipped pens of various sizes, and I like the variety of balloon shapes and styles. The title is a bit clunky, but has lots of energy.
Allan Lance “Al” Kurzrok was born on October 30, 1939, in Brooklyn, New York. His father Irving was a doctor and an award-winning amateur tennis player. In an interview in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune in 1986, Al said he started drawing at age seven and decided to pursue cartooning at age twelve, encouraged by his parents and cartoonist friends of theirs like George Wunder and Ham Fisher. He was also a music fan and began interviewing black musicians at the Apollo Theater at age 17, around 1956. He spent some time as a music journalist, as the photo above suggests. Al studied four years at the School of Visual Arts in NY, and wanted to pursue a fine art career, but it was a struggle, so he decided to try comics, and found work at Marvel starting in 1967.
I like Al’s lettering more on this humor story, where his rounded titles and a variety of display lettering work well.
In 1970-71, Kurzrok wrote five stories for SGT. FURY, but only lettered this one. The lettering reminds me of Artie Simek’s work, a frequent letterer on this title, and probably what Al was going for. Kurzrok was reported to be on staff in Marvel’s bullpen in these years. In the mid 1970s, he was doing production work at MAD rival CRACKED.
Kurzrok changed careers in 1977, studying to become a therapist, and he used comics to help him teach children. In 1980, while at the University of South Florida, he drew 102 comic strips meant to help children deal with mortality, loss, grief, anger, jealousy, greed, and anxiety. In the Herald-Tribune article he said:
The comic strips deal with big issues but they use humor, a fun approach and very different points of view. I envision parents and children reading them together, interacting with the characters and role-playing. And I have always been a proponent of good mental health beginning at home.
Kurzrok was a therapist in Florida by 1980, and published several books. He taught at the Ringling School of Art and Design. He passed on May 3, 2005 in Sarasota.
Another letterer who benefitted from the complete creator credits policy at Marvel was Shelly Leferman, though by 1968, he’d already been working as a commercial artist and cartoonist for a while. The lettering on this page follows the style of Artie Simek, which I’m sure new Marvel letterers were encouraged to study, and it looks good.
Sheldon “Shelly” Leferman was born on August 22, 1922, in Stamford, Connecticut, the youngest of three children. His father was a newsdealer, driving a delivery truck for magazines. Shelly’s art training is unknown, but he’s reported to have done gag cartoons for newspapers and magazines in the early 1940s. He worked for a photo-engraving company in Stamford in 1942. He enlisted in the Navy in 1943, and served in the Pacific Theater as a seabee. The book Cargo Soundings Album (1946) documented that service with many photos, and Shelly is listed among the servicemen. The photo above from the book is not labeled, but could be Leferman doing some painting. I knew Shelly when he worked for DC in the late 1970s, and I think it looks like him.
After returning home, Shelly continued to work for printing companies and as a cartoonist, though I haven’t found any examples. At some point he was hired by King Features, where he colored Sunday newspaper strips, and starting around 1967 he began lettering for DC Comics, Marvel, and other publishers. The story above is the first one credited to him at DC. The work is similar to the Marvel page above, though DC did not credit letterers at the time.
At Marvel, Shelly did get credit, lettering his first name here as Shel. I like the title.
DC finally began crediting letterers in late 1977, here’s a story with Leferman’s name on it. When I started at DC in 1977, I remember Shelly coming into the DC production room to talk to Anthony Tollin and Bob LeRose. He may have known Bob from previous jobs, and he may have also been doing coloring that he would have handed in to Tony. I don’t think I talked to Shelly more than to say hello, and didn’t get to know him, but he was a regular visitor into the 1980s.
A late lettering job by Leferman for DC, this work is, in my opinion, the best of his lettering. Very regular and with appealing letter shapes. His work in comics faded out in the 1980s, but he took an art director job at Stew Leonard’s, a restaurant chain based in Norwalk CT, retiring in 2000 at age 78. He passed March 30, 2007.
Continue to next article. Back to book.