When I Was the Fantagraphics Logo Guy

Amazing Heroes 1 cover

All covers and logos @ Fantagraphics.

In 1981 I was on staff in the DC Comics production department from 9 to 5 every day, doing corrections, paste-ups, and so on, and also doing freelance lettering and occasionally other work at home in the evenings. In late January I was approached by Mike Catron, I think, to design a logo for a new magazine he was going to edit for Fantagraphics. I knew Mike from some time he spent on staff at DC, and thought it was a fine idea. As a staffer, I wasn’t allowed to work for DC’s direct competition, companies like Marvel, but doing work for Fantagraphics was okay. I think I discussed an approach with Mike, who wanted a traditional super-hero look for this super-hero oriented fanzine. I did some sketches at home, and one day soon after Mike came to my desk in the production department with, I think, Gary Groth and Kim Thompson, to see what I’d come up with. DC security was pretty relaxed in those days, and it wasn’t hard to get into the offices if the front desk knew at least one person in a small group, which is what they did, but I remember being a little nervous about having my freelance job so obviously on display. The other staffers kindly looked the other way for this sort of thing, though, and Mike and the others chose the design you see above. Soon after, Gary sent me a check for my then-current logo rate I believe, $30. Not much, but I was lettering pages at the time for $10 each, and was glad to have a little extra side money.

Comics Journal cover

Gary Groth was very happy with what I turned in, and for the next three years, I became his go-to guy for logos. The next one he asked for was this outline version of his existing COMICS JOURNAL logo. Today this would be a snap to do on the computer, but at the time I had to create a hand-traced and inked version. The reason all this came to mind recently is that I was scanning and describing my collection of magazine-sized fanzines and such for sale on EBAY this week, and over the next few weeks, and many of these logos, some I hadn’t looked at in years, were there, either on the front covers, or advertised on the back covers.

Elfquest Gatherum cover

This was the next one I did, in July of 81. I was a reader and fan of Elfquest, so it was a fun assignment. The logo was approved by Richard and Wendy Pini, and I still think it looks pretty good, though it doesn’t fit this cover very well, I’d have made straight rather than curved if I’d known how it would be used.

Master Class logo

I don’t think this appeared on any magazine, but was for an art class Gary was sponsoring, perhaps to be taught by Gil Kane? If it ever saw print, I’m not aware of it, but I did it in August of 81.

Gil Kane’s Savage ad

This one was designed in late 81. Nothing too exciting, my standard block letters with a heavy rough-edged outline. I don’t recall if Gil had any input for me or not.

X-Men Companion I cover

Designed in early 1982, this was another book I was reading and a fan of, so again lots of fun to do, and the first time I had the chance to work with the word X-MEN. A rare, perhaps solitary example of Marvel allowing another publisher to produce two entire books about one of their comics (there were two volumes), and both had some great interviews.

Love and Rockets 1 cover

Fantagraphics’ first hit comics series by Los Bros Hernandez was picked up by Gary after they self-published one issue. I never saw that as far as I can recall, and just went with what the title seemed to suggest. Rather more comic-bookish than the series really was, and it only stayed on the covers for about 18 issues, but years later I happened to be in an elevator with one of the brothers, I don’t remember which one, and he thanked me for doing the logo. I was surprised he even remembered! Oh, and my copy of this issue was sold long ago, by the way. I designed the logo in April of 1982.

Hugo ad

I don’t think I ever saw copies of this book, which I designed the logo for in June of 82. The art suggested something bold and bouncy, and I went with that. The next one I did I can’t find any copy or trace of, it was called THE SURVIVORS! Don’t know if it saw print or not. The one following that had a good run, though.

Dalgoda 1 cover

DALGODA, about a talking, humanoid dog, had a name that was an anagram of “LAD, A DOG”, famous dog novel by Albert Payson Terhune, and the writer’s little joke. I went with a simple art deco design, which I think worked okay.

Nemo cover

In October 82 I did this design for a magazine about classic comic strips, edited by Rick Marschall, the name coming from the classic strip “Little Nemo in Slumberland” by Winsor McCay. I suggested this lower case style inspired by a font from the past often seen on old magazine covers.

In April of 1983 I did a logo for THE BROKEN SWORD. I have no record or copy of that one, and am not sure if it saw print. Then in August 83 I worked on one final logo for the company.

Don Rosa’s Comics and Stories cover

Looking at this cover now, I’d say the logo was certainly designed by Don himself, though I may have been asked to create a clean rendering of what he did for the drawing. In any case, they paid me for something! But that was the last one, and I’m not sure why. Perhaps my logo rate went up around that time at DC, and Gary didn’t want to match it, perhaps he found someone else to work with. I had fun with most of these, and still like many of them today. And the books and magazines they went on are mostly worth checking out if you have the chance.

11 thoughts on “When I Was the Fantagraphics Logo Guy

  1. ]@/\/\!3

    I like how the Don Rosa logo evokes the look
    of the Disney Comics logo with the word
    COMICS, colored in red.

    I’m looking forward to more logo studies.

  2. Pingback: Blog Mundo Fantasma – Iron Man +

  3. Peter Urkowitz

    Oh my god! I had no idea you had done these, Todd! They are beautiful! That Dalgoda logo in particular is one of my favorite logos ever, but all the others just look so RIGHT, like that was what the logo for each book was just destined to be. This was the period when Fantagraphics was really establishing their reputation for excellence and professionalism in the comics industry, and your logos clearly helped them a lot in that regard. Great post!

  4. ericshanower

    Hi, Todd. The Survivors was indeed released. Two volumes, I think. They were English translations of a couple of the Jeremiah series by Hermann.

  5. Todd Post author

    Thanks, Toni and Eric. Yes, that’s my logo on those covers. I might even have those books somewhere, they look familiar!

  6. Todd Post author

    I think your math is off, or you’re thinking of logos for things other than comics. $300 is a starting point for logo design at small comics publishers, though some big ones certainly pay more.

  7. Pingback: Blog@Newsarama » The Lightning Round

  8. tony

    Wow. I never realized you did so many of these landmark logos, at the time I was viewing these publications, I probably didn’t make such quantifiable observations about logotype, but in hindsight they really give the publications an added degree of professional credibility.

    tony

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *