Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Creator: Marvel Bullpen

A stroll down Memory Lane with the boys from the Bullpen: 
left to right, the top row includes Joe Letterese, Morrie Kuramoto, 
Dan Crespi, Sal Contrera, Herb Cooper, Artie Simek, 
Vince Madafferi, Carl Burgos, Stan Starkman, Neva Del Vecchio
and Chris Rule. Bottom row: Sol Brodsky, Ray Holloway and 
Stan Goldberg. Whew!

Marvel Bullpen photo was published in FOOM #17, March 1977; links to Grand Comics Database (GCD), Todd Klein (TK) and Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999 (WW).

Top row, left to right: Joe Letterese* (Comic Vine photo GCD TK WW), Morrie Kuramoto* (GCD WW) Dan Crespi (GCD WW) Sal Contrera (GCD) Herb Cooper* (GCD WW) Artie Simek* (GCD WW) Vince Madafferi** (WW), Carl Burgos (GCD WW) Stan Starkman* (GCD TK WW), Neva Del Vecchio, and Chris Rule (GCD WW Wikipedia).

Bottom row, left to right: Sol Brodsky (GCD WW), Ray Holloway* (GCD WW) and Stan Goldberg (GCD WW).


** Who’s Who listing suggests a fake signature, but the photo proves Madafferi was for real. The Social Security Death Index has someone named Vincent D. Madafferi who was born May 30, 1929 and died April 20, 2006.

(Next post on Monday: Professor G.A. Gaskell)

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Creator: Morrie Kuramoto

May 28, 1921 – March 14, 1985

Information at

California Birth Index
Name: Mamoru Kuramoto
Birth Date: 28 May 1921
Gender: Male
Mother's Maiden Name: Mukai
Birth County: Tulare

California Passenger List
Name: Mamoru Kuramoto
Arrival Date: 1 Oct 1922
Age: 1 Years 4 Months
Birth Date: abt 1921
Birthplace: Fresno, California, United States
Gender: Male
Ethnicity: Japanese
Name and address of nearest: Mrs. Tsui Kuramoto ([Grand]mother), #1479 Yoshidacho, Takatagun, Hiroshimaken
Ship Name: Persia Maru
Port of Arrival: San Francisco, California
Port of Departure: Yokohama, Japan [September 12, 1922]
Destination: Fresno, California, United States
Last Residence: United States of America, California
Line: 10; Matsumi Kuramoto, mother
Line: 11; Yoshie, sister
Friend's Name: Msasuke Shin
Archive information (series:roll number): M1410:164

Name: Mamoru Kuramoto
Arrival Date: 26 Jun 1936
Age: 15
Birth Date: abt 1921
Birthplace: Calif, Reedley, United States
Gender: Male
Ethnicity: Japanese
Ship Name: Chichibu Maru
Port of Arrival: Los Angeles, California
Port of Departure: Kobe, Japan
Last Residence: Japan
Archive information (series:roll number): m1764:69

1940 United States Census
Name: Mamoru Kuramoto
Age: 18
Gender: Male
Race: Japanese
Birthplace: California
Marital status: Single
Relation to Head of House: Son
Home in 1940: Pasadena, Los Angeles, California
Street: West Valley Street
House Number: 144
Inferred Residence in 1935: Pasadena, Los Angeles, California
Residence in 1935: Same Place
Resident on farm in 1935: No
Attended School or College: Yes
Highest Grade Completed: High School, 1st year
Household Members:    
Name / Age
Robinshi Matsumoto, 47
Matoanni Matsumoto, 38
Mamoru Kuramoto, 18
Yacho Mateumoto, 12
Mielko Matsumoto, 10
Roy Matsumoto, 9
Bobbie Matsumoto, 6

World War II Army Enlistment Record

Serial Number: 39025099
Name: Mamoru Kuramoto
Birth Year: 1920
Race: Japanese, citizen (Japanese)
Nativity State or Country: California
State of Residence: California
County or City: Los Angeles
Enlistment Date: 30 Mar 1942
Enlistment State: California
Enlistment City: Fort Macarthur San Pedro
Branch: Branch Immaterial - Warrant Officers

Branch Code: Branch Immaterial - Warrant Officers
Grade: Private
Grade Code: Private
Term of Enlistment: Enlistment for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law
Component: Selectees (Enlisted Men)
Source: Civil Life
Education: 3 years of high school
Civil Occupation: Sales clerks
Marital Status: Single, without dependents
Height: 67
Weight: 121

WWII Hospital Admission Card File

Name: Mamoru Kuramoto
Gender: Male
Race: Others (incl Philippine Natives & Puerto Ricans) or race unknown (Filipino)
Rank: Enlisted Man
Admission Age: 20
Birth Date: abt 1923
Birth Place: USA
Admission Date: July 1943
Admission Place: Ft. Benjamin Harrison, Indiana
Discharge Date: August 1943
Military Branch: Others, unassigned and unspecified
Diagnosis: Diagnosis: Deformity or disease of the spine; Diagnosis: Other conditions of the Bones and Organs of Movement: Deformities due to previous disease or injury NEC (not elsewhere classified)
Injured in Line of Duty: Not in Line of Duty, existed prior to entry into service
Type of Discharge: Discharged for disability, not in line of duty (existed prior to service)
Length of service: 1 year – 2 year
Service Number: 39025099

New York, New York, Marriage License Index

Name: Mamoru Kuramoto
Gender: Male
Marriage License Date: 1955
Marriage License Place: Manhattan, New York City, New York
Spouse: Gail Masuoka
License Number: 27921

1959 Manhattan, New York, City Directory

Name: Morrie Kuramoto
Street Address: 136 West 91 TRaflgr 32937

Honolulu, Hawaii, National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
Name: Morrie Kuramoto
Birth Date: 28 May 1921
Death Date: 14 Mar 1985

U.S. Veterans Gravesite
Name: Mamoru Kuramoto
Service Info.: Pvt US Army World War II
Birth Date: 28 May 1921
Death Date: 14 Mar 1985
Service Start Date: 30 Mar 1942
Interment Date: 1 Jul 1987
Cemetery: National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific
Cemetery Address: 2177 Puowaina Drive Honolulu, HI 96813
Buried At: Section T Site 663-A

Social Security Death Index
Name: Morrie Kuramoto
SSN: 550-22-9033
Last Residence: 11105 Long Island City, Queens, New York, United States of America
Born: 28 May 1920
Died: Mar 1985
State (Year) SSN issued: California (Before 1951)

Marvel Comic Convention 1975
Program Book


Jim Shooter

Kleefeld on Comics
Photo of Kuramoto with the Timely bullpen.

Marvel Comics: The Untold Story
Photo of Kuramoto with Kevin Banks, the artist of Calvin.

Scott Edelman
Marie Severin’s ’70s Marvel Bullpen map

Comic Book Artist #2
Barry Windsor-Smith Interview
CBA: Did you work in the Bullpen with regularity? Do you recall what the atmosphere was like? Any anecdotes or memories of Marie Severin, John Verpoorten, Herb Trimpe, Frank Giacoia, Bill Everett, Gil Kane, and other office “regulars”?

Barry: I worked there on occasion. The offices were no bigger than an average NYC apartment. Areas were sectioned off—the Bullpen itself could hold four people sort-of comfortably, with liberal deodorant use. Stan had the only office with a door. The atmosphere was quite merry most of the time. Marie was a constant source of laughs with her wonderful cartoons of all of us. I remember one afternoon in the late summer of '68, the radio was playing the Beatles' latest song and as it came into the long, chanting coda one by one each person began singing along—Herb, John Romita, Morrie Kuramoto, Tony Mortarello, Marie and a few others—all singing at the top of their lungs, “Naaa—NaNa, NaNaNaNaaa—Hey Ju-u-ude…” It was wonderful, gave me chills of pleasure.

20th Century Danny Boy
Partners for Life - The Interviews: Dave Hunt
DB: When did you become aware of the history surrounding Ross and Mike?

DH: It wasn’t too long because we bullpen guys were always talking. We were usually in the one room which made things even more interesting. Marvel comics when I first joined them in August 1972 were incredibly small. I walked through the door, as there was no security, and I was in Marvel comics. At that point they were basically one room. There were a couple of small offices, Stan Lees and that was about it. We moved shortly after several times and they became bigger and bigger until we had one entire floor in an office building. The classic picture I have of Marvel comics was one room in which you had Morrie Kuramoto, Danny Crespi, Frank, Mike, myself and a round robin of other people. So within that small room we were talking all the time and I would come home and my teeth would be hurting from laughing. I loved it so much because it was not like going to the office. It was like going to the circus every day. It was like a dream.

What If?
#34, August 1982, self-portrait

Grand Comics Database
Comic book credits

Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928-1999

Web of Spider-Man Annual #1

The Comics Buyer’s Guide
April 19, 1985
“Morrie Kuramoto, 41-year comics veteran, dead at 64”

Honolulu, Hawaii

Related Posts


(Tomorrow: Marvel Bullpen)

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Anatomy of a Logo: Star Wars

The film, Star Wars, premiered on May 25, 1977. Today, on its 36th anniversary, I’m examining the evolution of the film’s logo. 

During the film’s pre-production, a decal (below) was produced. In the first Official Star Wars Fan Club newsletter, reprinted in the Star Wars Scrapbook (Chronicle Books, 1991), there was an explanation about the decal by Ralph McQuarrie, who did the art:

...“It was done as a symbol for the film—to go on film cans and letters. George [Lucas] had had one for American Graffiti, and wanted one for Star Wars.” 

...“It was done while we were working on costumes,” said McQuarrie. “This was how we first pictured Han Solo. It could be a sort of Luke character, but I think it’s more like Han. Anyway, George decided that Han Solo should be a more relaxed character, and his costume was changed. But this decal was designed before the change.”

At the time the original title was The Star Wars. To my eye, the font on the decal is Futura Display. Below is a detail from a page in the Photo-Lettering’s One Line Manual of Styles with samples of Furtura Display and Futura Display Open. The letter “T” was modified to close the gap with the “H” and “A”.

On the corporate letterhead, the film title dropped the article and a new logo had been created. In the Star Wars Scrapbook, it was revealed that Joe Johnston did the title lettering which was based on the Precis font family. (Thanks to eagle-eyed Ferran Delgado for finding the font.)

1976 San Diego Comic Con; the text credits Joe Johnston for the lettering

From the book, The Art of Star Wars (Ballantine Books, 1979), are some of McQuarrie’s concepts for the film poster with the Johnston logo.

Art by Howard Chaykin

In December 1976, a novelization of Lucas’s screenplay, ghost-written by Alan Dean Foster, was published by Ballantine Books. The cover art was by McQuarrie and the cover fonts are from the Helvetica family.

A full-page advertisement for Del Rey books appeared in Starlog #7, August 1977. Included was the Star Wars novel with a photograph on the cover. The book with this cover was not published. In place of the photograph would be an illustration with a logo, which I have included.

As mentioned earlier, the original title was The Star Wars. Below is a storyboard panel, by Alex Tavoularis, of the opening crawl reproduced in The Art of Star Wars.

Lucas referred to the crawl used in the Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers serials. The same crawl was used in The Green Hornet serial.

Universal Pictures, 1936

Universal Pictures, 1940

Dan Perri designed a logo, with a vanishing point, for the opening crawl, but it was not used. Instead, it appeared in print on posters and advertisements.

1977 movie poster

People Weekly, September 4, 1978

The New York Times, March 24, 1985

Lucas turned to Suzi Race to design a new Star Wars logo. She wrote about her involvement in a two-part post on her site: part one and part two. The Star Wars Poster Book (Chronicle Books, 2005) had a short account of her role:

...Though the poster contained no painted imagery, it did introduce a new logo to the campaign, one that had been designed originally for the cover of a Fox brochure sent to theater owners….Suzy Rice, who had just been hired as an art director, remembers the job well. She recalls that the design directive given by Lucas was that the logo should look “very fascist.”

“I’d been reading a book the night before the meeting with George Lucas,” she says, “a book about German type design and the historical origins of some of the popular typefaces used today—how they developed into what we see and use in the present.” After Lucas described the kind of visual element he was seeking, “I returned to the office and used what I reckoned to be the most ‘fascist’ typeface I could think of: Helvetica Black.”

Inspired by the typeface, Rice developed a hand-drawn logo that translated well to the poster campaign, and ultimately to the movie itself. “I did have the screen in mind when I drew the logo originally,” explains Rice, who “stacked and squared” the words to better fit the brochure cover. It was an aesthetic choice that has lasted nearly three decades.

The now-familiar “S” ligature extensions that Rice drew were modified a bit after Lucas “remarked that it read like ‘Tar Wars,’” says Rice. “He asked me to make some revisions on the leading and concluding ‘S’”

Brochure cover with Rice’s logo

Detail from the brochure

Mylar poster with Rice’s logo

A caption in The Star Wars Poster Book explained how Johnston revised the Rice logo:

The second version of the Advance poster on regular paper features the standardized “W” used today. The modification was made by ILM conceptual artist Joe Johnston after it was decided that the original didn’t work well in the pan shot that was initially planned for the opening credits.

Poster with Johnston’s logo revisions

Above are the Rice logo (top) and the Johnston revised logo (bottom). Johnston redesigned the “W”, widen the other letters and increased the letter-spacing. His version of the Rice logo was used in the film.

Rice’s original logo was used in a 20th Century Fox brochure promoting its upcoming films in Variety, January 6, 1977. The logo was also used in some consumer magazines and books, which were in production months before the film’s release.

Rolling Stone, June 2, 1977; Rice logo in perspective; advertisement font is Serif Gothic

U.K. edition paperback

Starlog #7, August 1977

Science Fantasy Film Classics, December 1977

Meanwhile, Marvel Comics was preparing their adaptation of Star Wars by writer Roy Thomas and artist Howard Chaykin. Sometime in 1976 or early 1977, letterer Jim Novak was tapped by Stan Lee to  rework the logo. Novak explained how it happened in an interview with David Anthony Kraft in Comics Interview #1, February 1983.

DAK: You’ve been credited as letterer of almost every series Marvel publishes, at one time or another, Jim. What are some of your uncredited works?

Jim Novak: The Spider-Man newspaper strip, various logos such as Power Man & Iron Fist (that’s one I remember doing that I felt proud of). The Star Wars logo has kind of an unusual story behind it. They brought in their logo from the studio and Stan Lee wasn’t crazy about it—the “W” was a little bit different looking and the letters weren’t Marvel-style. So I ended up re-doing it. It was way before the movie even came out. I didn’t even know what Star Wars was, at that point.

DAK: No one had any idea.

Jim: At the same time, we were working on the comic adaptation. I lettered the first issue, and I had no idea what that was about, either. The next thing I knew, the Star Wars logo was being used everywhere, from newspaper ads to some of the promotion and merchandizing materials.

DAK: You did that logo for Marvel and it ended up on all the Star Wars stuff?

Jim: Yeah. It was kind of a surprise to me, because I didn’t give it much thought. I was either working on staff or just there that day. I made a few significant changes, but it was basically their design and I Marvelized it, let’s put it that way.

DAK: Which one do they use now on posters?

Jim: I think it’s my logo. I don’t recall seeing the one they probably spent a couple thousand dollars on.

DAK: And you did yours for...

Jim: Twenty-five dollars. Things have changed since then. Now the financial situation is a lot different….

In the interview, I believe Novak was referring to the Rice logo. In the first Star Wars issue, all the letters are separated and bolder in stroke width. The major change was the design of the letter “W”. In the next issue, the horizontal strokes of the “ST” and “RS” were reconnected (Return of the Ligatures), as Rice had originally designed. That was done, I believe, for trademark reasons.

Splash page from the first issue

Splash page from the second issue

Novak said “...I made a few significant changes, but it was basically their design and I Marvelized it, let’s put it that way.” On closer examination, I compared his logo to the logos on the Ballantine Books mass market paperback and the mylar poster (all below). As you can see, the paperback and poster logos are essentially the same, with the exception of the W and weight of the outline. Someone drew a new “W” to replace the original one by Rice. Apparently, only the “W” was influenced by Novak’s logo. His logo, as far as I can tell, was never used outside of the comic book.

From the Star Wars Scrapbook was this comp of an unused advertising concept with the revised Rice logo.

It’s clear that the revised Rice logo was applied to some merchandising, mainly in publishing.

Dust jacket

The Del Rey dust jacket has two versions of Rice’s logo; artist John Berkey made Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader left-handed. Below are the Science Fiction Book Club edition and its newsletter, Things To Come, which disregarded the logo altogether.

The Del Rey mass-market paperback with Berkey’s art flopped, so Skywalker and Vader are right-handed. Rice’s original and revised logos were used on the cover and inside. The novel was followed by many more books published by Ballantine Books who had the exclusive license.

The Star Wars Sketchbook, Ballantine Books, 1977

The Star Wars Portfolio, Ballantine Books, 1977

Star Wars Blueprints, Ballantine Books, 1977

The Star Wars Iron-on Transfer Book, Ballantine Books, 1977

The Star Wars Album, Ballantine Books, 1977

Star Wars, Original Motion Picture Soundtrack, Reel-to Reel Tape, 1977
The 1978 Star Wars Calendar, Ballantine Books, 1977

The 1979 Star Wars CalendarBallantine Books, 1978

The Art Star WarsBallantine Books, 1979

The 1980 Star Wars Poster Art CalendarBallantine Books, 1979

The Rice logo was used in the comic strip and, modified again, for the 20th anniversary release of the Star Wars Special Edition.

Los Angeles Times Syndicate; Sunday page


The film logo was also used in merchandising and promotion.

Souvenir program

Detail of record album cover

Music book

Detail of record album cover

Trading cards


Playbill, December 1977
Advertisement, 1981

The 1980 Star Wars Poster Art Calendar; logo in Superman perspective

Later, the film logo was used as a frame around the logos of The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi.



In 1998, a Star Wars manga adaptation by HisaoTamaki was published. Currently, Dark Horse has the license to publish the Star Wars comic books.

Poster for the 1978 re-release

MAD Magazine, January 1978

Credit for the Star Wars logo belongs to Suzy Rice. First there was her original design. Second, Joe Johnston revised her logo for the film. And third, there was her original logo with the revised “W”, which can be traced to Jim Novak, whose contribution, although minor, was significant.

The research for this post was made easier by the chronology and treasure trove of images at Star Wars Pre-Release Collectibles. Special thanks to my brother, Allen, for use of his Star Wars collection.

(Next post May 28: Morrie Kuramoto)