Visiting DC Comics, 2009

Since I started doing Logo Studies on this blog I’ve been wishing I’d paid more attention to all the old logos kept in the DC Comics Production Room when I was on staff there from 1977 to 1987. I mean, I did always enjoy looking at them, and during the DC Implosion of 1979 or so, when work was slow, I was given the job of going through all the file cabinets full of logos, reference art (sometimes actual comic art panels, but usually photostats), cover proofs, letter-column headings, etcetera, and reorganizing them into neat hanging folders with tabbed labels. So I probably had every DC logo still in existence to that point in my hands at some time, most by Ira Schnapp or Gaspar Saladino. As I did more and more logos myself through those years, they went into the files too, along with logos by Alex Jay and others. But after I left staff, I didn’t have access to those files, and when DC made the switch to digital files for logos in the mid to late 1990s, the physical files were no longer needed much, and were moved upstairs into file cabinets in the Film Library (where the actual film negatives of all DC’s comics were being converted to digital files too.)

The more logos I studied, the more I felt some of the answers as to who designed them might lie in those files, and this past summer I started talking to Curtis King at DC, the man who commissioned many logos when he was in charge of Cover Design, about coming to the offices to spend some research time going through those old files. My summer was busy, but early in September I brought it up again, and asked if he could start the process of approvals for my coming in. I wrote an email describing what I had in mind, and Curtis passed that on to Richard Bruning (another person who used to commission logos from me!), who got the okay from everyone. Monday and Tuesday of this week I was there.

trainarriving

Sunday evening I drove up to my mother’s home in north-central New Jersey to stay overnight with her, and Monday morning she drove me to a nearby train station on the Gladstone line, where I took the train into the city. The last time I commuted on this train line was in 1970, going to art school in New York. The trains are newer, thankfully, and the ride is still pleasant and pretty quick. I changed trains once, and arrived in New York’s Penn Station around 9:30 AM. Then I took the subway (E train) to the stop near the DC offices at 1700 Broadway.

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As I emerged from the subway, I noticed these giant satellite media trucks in front of one of the hotels, and there seemed to be a lot of police in the area. As I walked toward the DC offices, there were barricades up everywhere, thankfully not blocking where I needed to go, and the street in front of the DC entrance was full of police cars and motorcycles.

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I knew something big must be going on, but had no idea what. I figured someone would fill me in eventually.

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I headed inside, where security was tight, but my name was on the list of visitors, so I had no trouble getting up to reception, where Curtis King met me. “You picked an interesting day to visit, what with Obama being here,” he said after our hellos, and then I knew what all the fuss was about. I hadn’t been following the news, but the president was scheduled to appear on the Letterman show, across the street from DC, and was staying in the hotel across the street in another direction. Who knew?

Curtis brought me down to the film library, where I met the man in charge, Roger Bonas, who was very helpful, giving me a desk to work at, and showing me the files. There were a lot more than I remembered! And going through them was an odd, sometimes nostalgic experience. Many of the file folder tabs were still the ones I’d made 30 years ago, for instance, and lots of the contents brought back memories. Suddenly two days seemed a little optimistic to go through them all, but I dug in. My plan was to look in every folder and pull out all the original logos I could find, and perhaps good examples of some logos where there was no original. By lunchtime I had gone through the files sitting in a box on the floor, the ones on top of the file cabinet (a very wide file cabinet, by the way) and had two piles of logos: one all originals from about 1950 to 1975, and the other a mix of originals and good photostats mostly from 1975 to 1995.

worlds-finest_150

I took the older logos down to the Production Department, where manager Henry Manfra had said he’d be able to get them scanned for me. This was extremely kind of him, and very helpful. I wanted scans of the older ones to preserve all the details possible, and scanner Dezi Sienty started working on them for me, doing a terrific job. Above is an example, a classic Ira Schnapp design. I’ll be using the scans of these older logos to enhance existing Logo Studies, and for new ones. Then I had some lunch and went back to the film library to make copies of the other, larger logo pile, a tedious job, but fun in its own way. On some of the logos I found creator names or other identifying characteristics, and there were lots of my own original logos that I hadn’t seen in a long time, too. There are also quite a few I still don’t know the designers of, but I learned a lot from seeing and studying the originals, now with new purpose. And I’ll be scanning and using some of those in my logo studies as well.

By the end of Monday I’d gotten through about a third of the files and copying. I knew I’d really have to work hard on Tuesday to get through the rest, but at least I now had things down to a routine and knew what to expect.

trainchange

After a nice dinner with Mom and a few games of Scrabble Monday night, Tuesday morning I was back on the train, or as above, waiting for my connection, but earlier this time. I caught an express in Summit and managed to get to the DC offices by 9:15 AM. Curtis hadn’t arrived yet, but luckily Roger Bonas was just coming in, so I went up with him and got right to work.

I had been hoping I’d have time to visit with my editors, and the other people I know at DC, and I did do some of that on this trip, but always with the clock ticking in my head. I really needed to get through all those files! I suppose I could have extended my research to another day, but I knew there was work waiting when I got home that needed to go to the printer on Wednesday, so that would have been a problem.

I did chat with Shelly Eiber in the film library, someone who started at DC before I did, and is still there. Shelly used to work in the darkroom when I was on staff, making all the photostats now sitting, largely unused, in those files I was going through. Now she works at a computer, like most of the DC staff. I also talked to Curtis King, Kenny Lopez (who came down to go through some of the logos with me, and pointed out the ones he’d done), and in editorial, Karen Berger, Shelly Bond, Pornsak Pichetshote, Angela Rufino and a few others in Vertigo, all of whom I work with frequently. But, mostly, I worked really hard in the film library, at the copier, or taking logos down to Hank and Dezi in Production to be scanned.

broadway

Somehow I got through everything by 4:30 PM Tuesday! The only thing I didn’t have time to do was put all the logos back in their individual folders, but everyone said that was okay. I said thanks and goodbye, and headed back down Broadway to Penn Station and home. I had been hoping to have time to take some pictures inside at DC, too, but there just wasn’t a minute to spare, so I only was able to snap the few outside shots shown here.

Then it was back to my mother’s and a long drive home to south Jersey. Now I’m at work once again, and it all seems somehow like a mirage, except for the large pile of logo Xeroxes, and the logo scans (more of which I’ll be getting next week). I learned a lot that will, I think, improve my logo studies, and the images and information will make its way here gradually, when I have time. And one day I hope to have a large DC logo gallery of images on my website with info on as many of them as possible. But that’s off in the future somewhere. I’ll get there eventually!

7 thoughts on “Visiting DC Comics, 2009

  1. Erik

    Mr. Klein, you are doing a great service for the history of comics. Thanks for elevating the comic logo and giving some attribution to these wonder pieces of art.

  2. Adam Farrar

    That sounds like a very rewarding trip. I’m excited to see what treasures you found in those file cabinets and boxes. Am I reaching too far to hope you’ll put together a book of your logo studies?

  3. Rob Leigh

    I’ve been hoping for YEARS that someone would go through that mishmash of logo files to organize and possibly scan them. They’ve bounced around so many times; the last time I was in the Film Library they were unceremoniously tossed in a heap in one of the cabinets.

    Of course now that I know you have scans, I might pester you from time to time. 😉

    By the way, it’s strange seeing old folders with your handwriting on them, isn’t it. Every now and then, I’ll come across one of my old labels from nearly 20 years ago–kind of feels like walking over one’s own grave.

  4. Todd Post author

    Happy to help, Rob. It is odd, especially in a company where the office has moved to different buildings twice since you made them.

  5. Pingback: Todd’s Blog » Blog Archive » DC Comics’ Production Dept., 1979 Part 2

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