Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Typography: Merry Christmas/Happy New Year

My 1979/1980 Christmas and New Year card was printed front and back and used the typeface ITC Serif Gothic, which I modified by removing the serifs. My name was set in ITC Zapf Book. The star was hand-cut. Below is a scan of two cards.

(Next post on January 1: Peace on Earth)

Monday, December 17, 2012

Street Scene: Rosebud

My holiday greeting from the 1980s. The “Rosebud” sled was purchased at
the B. Shackman novelty store on Fifth Avenue at 16th Street in Manhattan.
Although the physical store no longer exists, it does have an online presence.

(Next post on December 25: Merry Christmas/Happy New Year)

Monday, December 10, 2012

Lettering: New Testament

In the early 1970s, I found the 1971 album, New Testament by the Ventures, in a cut-out bin. What interested me was what was on the back: a blue pencil rendering of the title lettering with notations on the ellipse size and degree. At the time I was a graphic design student at Arizona State University and had never seen anything like it. Compared to the finished lettering, there were a few changes: the lowercase "e" is uniform; the "s" connects to the "e"; and the lowercase "n" has a vertical stroke. Presumably, Robert Lockart did the lettering, too.



(Next post on Monday: Rosebud)

Monday, December 3, 2012

Typography: John Alcorn’s Books!

Dust jacket and selected pages from
Murray McCain
Illustrated by John Alcorn
Simon and Schuster, 1962

(John Alcorn’s Writing!; next post on Monday: New Testament)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Lettering: Claire Szep, Hidden in Plain Sight

Claire Szep was the first wife of Al Feldstein, the artist, writer and editor of numerous EC Comics titles and the editor Mad Magazine. I stumbled upon her name in Jumbo Comics #56, October 1943, while researching the work of Chu Hing, who was thought to have inked one of the stories. Szep’s name appeared in the third story, featuring secret agent ZX-5, and was “hidden” on two signs in the first panel of page eight.

I checked the Grand Comics Database for additional information on this story and the indexer said: “Note that Oriental lettering on sign [panel 1, page 8] clearly spells out ‘CLAIRE.’ Is it possible that this is by Claire Moe?” I knew nothing about Szep so I turned to Google and found two references. She was married to Feldstein, according to his entry in Who’s Who in U.S. Writers, Editors & Poets (1989):
Feldstein, Albert R., b. Bklyn., Oct. 24, 1925; s. Max and Beatrice (Segal) F.; 
m. Claire Szep, Sept. 2, 1944 (div. Jan. 13, 1967); m. Natalie (Lee) Sigler, 
Jan. 27, 1967 (dec. Sept. 11, 1986:) children: Leslie, Susan (dec). Jamie, Alan 
Weiss, Mark. Free-lance artist-writer comic book industry. NYC. 1945-47; 
freelance artist-writer, editor, E.C. publs. Inc., NYC.. 1947-55; editor MAD 
Mag., 1955-85; supr.: MAD TV Spcl, 1974; Author TV scripts; illustrator 
children’s record album covers. Student, Bklyn. Coll., 1942-43; League scholar. 
Art Students League, 1943-43. Served with USAAF. 1943-45. Home: Wellers 
Bridge Rd Roxbury CT 06783
At his website, Steve Stiles wrote: “…When World War II broke out, he enlisted in the Air Force, taking time out during basic training to wire a proposal to his high school and college sweetheart, Claire….”

September 2, 1944, Buille, Mississippi, Arkansas

December 9, 1944, Brooklyn, New York

Jim Vadeboncoeur, Jr. was one of the indexers of the ZX-5 story, so I emailed my findings to him and asked if he thought Feldstein inked the story. Here is his reply:
Based on your observations of the signage and the biographical info, Alex, it 
would seem safe to say that he had a hand in it, to be sure. Based on the date, 
he would have been 17 years old when this was drawn. I think it’s unlikely 
that he was involved with the tasks we customarily associate with “pencils” or 
“inks”. Given his age, this would be at the VERY beginning of his career in 
comics and long before he had a recognizable style. I would hesitate to assign 
a specific contribution, but given the ornateness of the backgrounds, it seems 
likely (and historically sound) that he was providing “assists” to the major 
artists in this Iger Shop-produced effort. That might include filling in blacks, 
inking of secondary figures, inking of backgrounds, etc. I’d speculate this might 
be one of his first jobs and that he, a young kid fresh out of high school, was 
trying his best to impress.

VERY good catch on the “SZEP”. Hames [Ware] and I saw it, but had no idea
of what it meant. There are several other fake oriental characters that MIGHT 
be read as “AF”. Again, good catch and thanks for sharing.
I turned to Ancestry.com to learn more about Szep and Feldstein. According to the Social Security Death Index, she was born August 14, 1926, in New York state. In the 1930 U.S. Federal Census, she was the only child of Edward, a restaurant waiter, and Margaret and lived in New Haven, Connecticut at 91 Bishop Street. The 1940 census recorded them in Brooklyn, New York at 10 Ocean Parkway, where they had lived since 1935. 

Szep and Feldstein met at the High School of Music and Art. Szep graduated in January 1944. Also in her class was illustrator James Bama and composer Morton Feldman.

Feldstein enlisted in the Army Air Corps on March 24, 1944, and later that year, he married Szep on September 2 and December 9. 

In a Google search, I learned about Szep’s profession in a snippet from Who’s Who Among Human Services Professionals (1992): “Feldstein, Claire Szep, psychotherapist; d Edward and Margaret (Schiffer) Szep, children: Leslie Tory, Jamie Bisignano, Susan…” She was a psychotherapist, so I think it’s safe to say she talked about her work and shared some of her patient’s stories with her husband. Maybe she was responsible, in some way, for the creation of the comic book, Psychoanalysis, which was published in 1955 by EC Comics. (Each issue was discussed at Polite Dissent: 1 2 3 4.) Szep passed away July 9, 2011, according to the Social Security Death Index, so she can’t be asked about her influence on the comic book. Feldstein’s forthcoming autobiography may shed some light on it.

An amusing story about Szep at the Museum of Modern Art can be read in George J. Leonard’s book, Into the Light of Things: The Art of the Commonplace from Wordsworth to John Cage (1995). In the endnote she was erroneously credited with writing comic books; the writer had confused her with her husband’s profession.

Lastly, the back cover of Mad Magazine #70, April 1962, has a sampler, “God Bless Our Fallout Shelter”, by MSZEP (lower right-hand corner). The embroiderer was Margaret Szep, Feldstein’s mother-in-law; maybe he designed the sampler. Her identity was revelaed in an Associated Press article about Mad Magazine; it was published in the Lima News (Ohio) January 23, 1972 and said:
New York (AP)—Right away you know your headed for the Mad Magazine 
offices because the elevator stops at the 13th floor.

Then you practically crash into a life-sized cardboard cutout of Alfred E. Neuman 
in lederhosen, following which:

...—You find the next cubicle decorated with a sampler saying “God Bless Our 
Fallout Shelter” embroidered by editor Al Feldstein’s ex-mother-in-law.

Other examples of “hidden” images and words can be seen here

(Updated April 17, 2023; Nex
t post on Monday: John Alcorn’s Books!)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Lettering: American Film Theatre

Eight of the fourteen titles, from 1973 to 1975,
designed by Herb Lubalin and Alan Peckolick.
Text font is ITC Korinna which was designed
by Ed Benguiat and Vic Caruso.


The One Show 1974

(Next post on Monday: Alice Koeth, calligrapher)