An essential component of Marvel Comics’ distinctive appearance in the 1960s was the interior and cover lettering of Artie Simek and Sam Rosen - two of the finest craftsman employed by Stan Lee. Both men had worked in the business for decades: In the 1940s Rosen lettered for Will Eisner on his seminal Spirit comic strip; Simek worked on staff at Timely comics, the precursor to Marvel, and reportedly did some lettering for DC in the 1950s. Both men brought bombast and personality to Marvel's 1960s output. Guided by Editor/Art Director Stan Lee, who helped design the different bursts, balloons, captions and sound effects that Simek and Rosen brought to life, the Marvel letterers, through Lee’s promotional extravagances, began to gain unprecedented recognition, even if they were often the punch line to countless jokes in the credits.
Early Simek credit on billboard, possibly added by John Severin, from "A Dude There Was!" Lee story/John Severin art. Two-Gun Kid # 50, Oct 1959.
|Sam Rosen's bold title lettering, splash from Amazing Spider-Man # 17, Oct 1964, Steve Ditko art|
|Artie Simek's clean, attractive lettering (note the signature scallop style on "The Search for the...") |
Fantastic Four # 27, June 1964 (Kirby/Stone cover art)
Besides contributing to a skillful product at Marvel for over a decade, Simek and Rosen designed eye-catching and attractive logos that drew the attention of those browsing the neighborhood newsstands. The Fantastic Four, said to be designed by Sol Brodsky, with assistance from Artie Simek, had a fanciful, circus like style that was unlike more serious logos, the Amazing Spider-Man, possibly with the help of Steve Ditko, created a motif that held the lettering in an intricate web; Thor and Sgt. Fury had scalloped edges that were the motif of Artie Simek. The ragged, rough-edged look made the line stand out. Stan Lee, as art director, oversaw the finished product, as did publisher Martin Goodman.
|Sam Rosen lettering from Tales of Suspense # 51, March 1965, Kirby/Roussos cover. Stan sometimes wrote directly on the pencilled work, setting the balloon placement and type of look he wanted (i.e. the arrow, burst) that Rosen skillfully rendered.|
|Artie Simek lettering, splash to Journey into Mystery # 125, Feb 1965, Kirby/Colletta art|
While other letterers were employed by Marvel in the 1960s, some quite good, especially the work of John Duffy, Ray Holloway (often incorrectly credited as the pen name of Sherigail; a study of the lettering styles shows that the name was used by production assistant Morrie Kuramoto, who often used an amalgam of his wife and daughters names) and Terry Szenics (whose husband Zoltan also worked in the industry as a letterer and occasional artist).Simek and Rosen were the workhorses, though. Their presence was anticipated almost as much as Lee, Kirby, Ditko, Colan or Romita's. Simek worked for Marvel until he died in 1975; Rosen’s last work appeared in 1972; he reportedly had a nervous breakdown and passed away in 1992. His talented brother, Joe, another prolific letterer for many companies, including
|Terry Szenics quiet lettering set a proper mood for Dr. Strange. From the splash of Strange Tales # 111, Aug 1963. Steve Ditko art, of course!|
Although rarely discussed in conjunction with the period of 1960s Marvel, Simek and Rosen’s talents were sorely missed by the mid-1970s, when quite a few less talented letterers were employed. Those less skilled at calligraphy made the finished package considerably weaker in appearance.Thankfully, a number of exceptional letterers continued to grace the Marvel line, notably Tom Orzechowski and John Costanza, but the professionalism of Simek and Rosen was a cut above, ranking highly with the best in the field such as Ben Oda, Joe Letterese, Howard Ferguson, Gaspar Saladino and Ira Schnapp, to name a few. Along with the coloring skills of Stan Goldberg (who rates his own blogpost, coming soon) Simek and Rosen gave the Marvel comics of the 1960s a distinctive and attractive look.
For an informative study on Marvel's logo's (as well as other companies) go to lettering pro Todd Klein's blog:http://kleinletters.com/Blog/?page_id=2709