THE DANNY CRESPI FILES Part 2

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Production Manager Danny Crespi at his desk in the Marvel Comics bullpen, March 1979, photo © Eliot R. Brown.

Continuing my occasional series on Danny Crespi and his cover lettering, from a large collection assembled by letterer Phil Felix in 1984. As I research this, I’m posting pages on Facebook, and when I began, many who worked with and knew Danny posted unsolicited comments about what a fine person he was, notes about his lettering, and personal memories. Here are a few.

Phil Felix: It’s nice to think that I have a small part in keeping Mr. Crespi’s name remembered, through this collection of his (and others’) work. He was a great guy and I’m really proud that I got to know him and learn from him.

Rick Parker: I owe my employment at Marvel to Danny Crespi and will be eternally grateful for having known him. There was never a man with a bigger heart. A great family man, too. He loved his kids and used to stay in the office after hours to do these cover blurbs and miss the rush hour traffic on the subway to the Bronx. He would call his wife every night and say, “What’s for dinner, Babe?” Treated everyone the same—with respect—from the president of the company to the cleaning lady. Never had a bad word to say about anyone. I still get teary when I think about him.

Janice Chiang: I was waiting for permission to go to lunch and Danny was on the phone cleaning and fine tuning the letterforms (of some cover lettering). I learned my most important lesson at his elbow. I watch for fifteen minutes as it was transformed to the final version. When hand or digital lettering sound effects, I don’t stop until I’m satisfied with it. Danny’s other valuable piece of advice was “Don’t burn any bridges.”

Tom Orzechowski: Danny’s title and blurb work was wonderfully right between Sam Rosen and Gaspar Saladino.

Dave Hunt: Everybody loved Danny including me. Marie Severin used to love to do cartoon caricatures of him.

Howard Bender: If it wasn’t for Danny I never would have had a job at Marvel, Danny was the one who hired me. God bless him.

Mike Carlin: Loved Danny! Loved this book o’ lettering, too!

Scott Edelman: Danny was one of the nicest guys in the world, even though when Mike Esposito, who was doing art corrections in the Bullpen back then, grandiosely said, “In six months, I’ll be running this company,” Danny quickly quipped, “Yeah. Into the ground.”

Clem Robins: Danny was a wonderful man. When I met his daughter Susan a few years ago, I said I felt like she was my sister, because Danny was like a father to me. She answered that people tell her that all the time.

Nel Yomtov: I owe Danny quite a lot, not only professionally, but personally as well. My favorite uncle—we were very close.

I’m sorry I never met Danny myself. This time I’ll be looking at pages 5 to 8 of the Phil Felix collection.

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PAGE 5. This and all following images © Marvel.

I believe this is all by Danny except the one at lower right, which is by Gaspar Saladino. That one has a ragged burst border style that Gaspar used and Danny did not, and the letters are narrower and more angular. The open spots in the A and O of ACTION have thinner outlines, a technique Gaspar used, and the lower case I  is also something he did occasionally. The rest has typical Crespi very wide standard lettering and generally more rounded open lettering. The burst shapes are also typical of Danny. Thanks to Jose Marzan Jr. and Nicholas Caputo for identification help.

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“STARTLING” from STRANGE TALES #178, Feb. 1975. Note that the white letters on lavender do not read very well, the original lettering in black and white looks much better.

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“THE GREMLIN” is from THE INCREDIBLE HULK #188, June 1975.

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“ULIK” and the balloon next to it from THOR #237, May 1975. The round caption was on Page 3 of the Phil Felix collection.”FIRST ISSUE!” is from GIANT-SIZE INVADERS #1, June 1975.

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“SMASH!” from MARVEL TEAM-UP #27, Nov. 1974.

“Action as you like it!” from GIANT-SIZE MARVEL TRIPLE ACTION #2, July 1975.

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PAGE 6. These are all by Danny Crespi except the top left, which is by Gaspar Saladino. Comparing that one to the Crespi below is interesting. First, look how much larger Danny was working than Gaspar. Danny liked to extend the borders of his captions beyond the corners. All this cover lettering was photostatted (copied onto glossy photo paper) at the size needed, then cut out and pasted onto the original cover art. I think by extending the caption borders, Danny was able to get crisp, pointed corners when he trimmed the edges of the photostat, removing the excess lines, an easier way to get very precise corners than with a lettering pen. Gaspar’s regular lettering was wider than many other letterers, but still looks narrow compared to Danny’s, the widest I’ve seen. And the rough double border on that upper left caption is something Gaspar often did.

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“CASTLE FRANKENSTEIN” by Gaspar is from FRANKENSTEIN #17, July 1975.That square caption is from DOCTOR STRANGE #7, April 1975.

“Unknown” wavy balloon from TOMB OF DARKNESS #19, March 1976.

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Balloon and burst from THE RINGO KID #25, Jan. 1976.

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“DESTROY THE HUMAN TORCH” is from HUMAN TORCH #8, Nov. 1975.

“Take them away…” burst from THE INHUMANS #3, Feb. 1976.

“Macabre Mind-Benders” from CRYPT OF SHADOWS #17, May 1975.

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PAGE 7. All by Danny Crespi, I believe. DIE and DIES are two of the most common words on comics covers, and hard to track down.

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The square caption is from DAREDEVIL #122, June 1975.

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“ACTION-LOVERS” from MARVEL DOUBLE FEATURE #8, Feb. 1975.

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“The web-slinger DIES!” from MARVEL TEAM-UP #39, Nov. 1975. Note also that the balloon tails were not drawn by Danny when he lettered these, but were added after the lettering photostats were pasted on the covers. Again, this was to allow maximum flexibility in placement. A good idea, I never did it myself when I lettered covers, I always put the tails in.

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Two thought balloons from WESTERN GUNFIGHTERS #30, July 1975. These two WERE connected by Danny, but the tail of bubbles was added later.

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“BLACK BASSETT!” from KID COLD OUTLAW #195, June 1975. Note that even when balloons were connected on the cover, the balloon/caption borders were finished completely and lettered as separate pieces. This gave the production person putting the lettering on the cover the most flexibility in placement. Once the joined balloons were pasted down, the joined area was opened up by cutting out that part of the outline, or covering it with white paint.

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“The old lady DIES!” from AMAZING SPIDER-MAN #146, July 1975.

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PAGE 8. I’ve found some of these. I believe they are all by Danny Crespi except the one at bottom center, which is by Gaspar Saladino. Some of the open lettering outline techniques used by Danny here show the influence of Gaspar, who was always studied by other letterers. Jim Novak called Gaspar “The Master,” a nickname I agree with. In researching these pages, I’ve come to a much greater appreciation of Danny’s work too.

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“AND SHIELD SHALL FOLLOW!” is from INCREDIBLE HULK #199, May 1976. The original looks better than this reversed version with the letters white on black.

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“SPEAR” from POWER MAN #33, July 1976. Dark blue is not a good choice to fill open letters with, it makes them hard to read.

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Here’s that Gaspar balloon on THOR #246, April 1976. The rest of the lettering confirms it, very Gaspar.

“The Ape-Man must Die!” from TARZAN #11, April 1978.

“Hungry for your Blood” from POWER MAN #26, Aug. 1975.

“And my dreams come true!” from DEAD OF NIGHT #10, JUNE 1975.

More to come, when I have time to research them. This and other articles you might enjoy are on the COMICS CREATION page of my blog.

2 thoughts on “THE DANNY CRESPI FILES Part 2

  1. Nel

    Thanks for taking the time to showcase Danny’s lettering work, Todd. Sorry you didn’t get a chance to meet him — you guys would surely have it off. Btw, in the b&w photo above, that’s me sitting at Danny’s side in his office. The hands in the pocket at the top of the image belong to the estimable Jim Salicrup.

  2. Eliot R. Brown

    Excellent bit of recognition and tribute to a really great guy. Not ALLtogether a saint; he “fired” me four times in the 3 years I worked near to and under him. Perhaps that was more a reflection of me than him; he always took me back (and truth to tell some of the louder firings were merely sending me home; which I never did– I talked my way out of those!). Of interest are that the reversed captions and such are the hardest to predict the results of. The “lavender” one in particular would have been indicated by a painted version of the balloon shape with the central lettering shot on a piece of transparency (when the stat-room got that capability, otherwise a regular stat of just the lettering was pasted down on a piece of acetate, placed in registered position on the artwork and marked up as a “knock out”). I say ‘paint’ because the cover separators (a different gang than the internal guts people) had to know that the background was a solid color and the type was to be white. The paint was paint, not watercolor– acrylics or gouache.
    Also– the reversed work was always a problem. When the old stat camera was in use (Stu’s creaking monster from the 1950s) it was up to Stu (Schwartzberg) to get it sharp, which sometimes did not happen. Everything on Stu’s machine was adjusted by hand. (Parenthetically, that did not automatically improve when the smaller, more integrated cameras came into use in the mid-70s; it was up to the operator to adjust their machine– which also, often did not happen…) Or it was ganged up with other small bits of work and perhaps rushed. Some of the outlines of the lettering changed a lot in that way– it became a “fuzzy” outline that was further reduced when the cover art was shot on high-contrast photo-lith film.
    Finally– the “blue” that is so hard to read was– in my opinion– because that blue is actually a royal or midnight blue. It contains some red (100% cyan + 25% magenta) in it. “Two dot” colors that contain color complements cause the eye to shift between the two opposite ends of the color spectra– the eye tries to focus on one end or the other.

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