Monday, April 6, 2020

School Days: W.C. Fields Shorts

At Arizona State University I was enrolled in Vanessa Vargo’s illustration class which was at 7:40 in the morning. For one of the assignments I created a poster promoting short films starring W.C. Fields. The “W.C. Fields Shorts” program was scheduled at the Memorial Union (MU) Movie House for October. The assignment called for the poster to be 18 by 24 inches (45.7 x 61 centimeters) and printed in two colors. 

I don’t have the thumbnail sketches but the concept was based on showing Fields in boxer shorts. Below are the top hat, headless Fields figure and lettering drawn on vellum. The lettering was based on the Koloss typeface in the Letraset catalog. (The alphabet can be viewed here.) Graphite was rubbed on the reverse side of the vellum then the top hat and lettering were transferred to illustration board and inked. Letratone was adhered over the lettering and parts of the hat. Four dancing figures, wearing different patterned orange shorts, were rendered in ink and gouache. Pantone paper was used for the background. The first version had an orange background. The second version used brown which made the orange shorts pop out.

I entered the poster in the Department of Art’s 1976 Annual Art Student Exhibition which was jurored by Misch Kohn.

Catalog design by Leon Dunn, ASU Graphic Design Workshop
Cover photography by Chris Hornung
Typeface: ITC Tiffany
Dimensions: 7.0625 x 7.4375 inches / 18 x 18.9 centimeters

(Next post on Monday: Casa Grande Neon Sign Park)

Monday, March 30, 2020

Comics: Gerda Gattel, Letterer, Proofreader, Production Manager, Editorial Assistant and Archivist

Gerda Gattel was born Sara Gerda Hammerschlag, a German national, on October 28, 1908, in Lichtenstein, according to a family tree at During World War II she was in England. Her full name and birth information was recorded on the card, Female Enemy Alien—Exemption from Internment—Refugee, which had Gerda’s address as “18, Raglan Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham”. She had been a “Radio Kindergarten Teacher and Private Secretary” and was currently unemployed as domestic help. On October 13, 1939 Gerda was exempted from internment because of ”Nazi oppression”.

In September 1945, Gerda married Gerhard Julius Gattel at Henley, Suffolk, England.

Gerhard was a German emigrant who arrived in New York City on September 22, 1938. According to the 1940 U.S. Federal Census, he resided with his uncle, Martin Gattel, in Brooklyn at 803 Beverly Road. Gerhard was a mechanic and had filed a naturalization application.

On October 16, 1940 Gerhard signed his World War II draft card which said he was born on January 18, 1912 in Chemnitz, Germany. He lived at 245 Ocean Parkway in Brooklyn. Gerhard enlisted in the army October 19, 1942, and became a naturalized citizen on June 17, 1943 in Louisville, Kentucky. At some point he was stationed in England where he met and married Gerda.

In April 1946 Gerda was set to join Gerhard in the United States. The British manifest said she was a British citizen and her U.K. address was ”Great Oaks, Goring Heath, Pangbourne, Nr. Reading, Berks.” She was the “Dependent of: T/5 Gerhard Gattel, ASN 32534331, US Army. 117 Midwood St., Brooklyn 25, New York.” Aboard the M.S. John Ericsson, Gerda arrived in New York City on April 29. 

Who's Who of American Comic Books, 1928–1999 said Gerda was a letterer in the production department of Timely Comics (Marvel Comics) from 1947 to 1952. Information about her art training has not been found.

The 1948 Manhattan city directory listed the Gattel’s address as 86 Fort Washington Avenue and it was the same in 1960.

On February 7, 1949, Gerda became a naturalized citizen according to a document at

On June 26, 1952, Gerhard and Gerda were aboard the S.S. Liberte bound for Le Havre, France. The passenger list said they planned to be away for ten weeks. They returned aboard the Ile De France to New York on September 3, 1952. The passenger list recorded Gerhard’s occupation as clerk and Gerda’s as proofreader.

Who's Who said Gerda was also a proofreader and production manager at Timely before moving to National Periodical Publications (DC Comics) in 1958. At National she was Irwin Donenfeld’s assistant from 1958 to 1968 and became production coordinator in 1968. Gerda was responsible for archiving the company’s publications.

In Alter Ego #56, February 2007, P. C. Hamerlinck wrote about Michael Uslan and said

In addition to Woodchucking, Uslan made time to become friendly with many of the DC staff. One in particular was Gerda Gattel. “She was one of the nicest ladies I’ve ever met in my life,” Uslan recalled. “I would talk to her about the old days at DC. At the time she was in charge of DC’s library. She knew how interested I was in comic book history. Most days around lunchtime Gerda would let me go into the library, and she would pull down volumes of books for me. Ultimately, over my summers with DC, I wound up reading every comic book they had ever published. I also had a chance to talk to Ira Schnapp, who had designed virtually every DC logo. He had refined Joe Shuster’s logo for ‘Superman.’ Amazing people … it was a phenomenal time to be there.”
The June 1973 Academy of Comic Books Arts Newsletter published a photograph of Neal Adams and Gerda who presented the 1972 Best Letterer Award to John Costanza. Below are details of pages two, four and five.

The June 1973 newsletter was reprinted in its entirety in Alter Ego #143, November 2016.
Gerda retired in 1973. The Social Security Death Index said she passed away May 14, 1993 and was laid to rest at Fresh Pond Crematory and Columbarium. Gerda’s death notice was printed Aufbau, June 6, 1993. Gerhard passed away January 18, 2002.

(Next post on Monday: W.C. Fields Shorts)