James Richard “Jim” Novak was born on September 14, 1955, in Chicago, Illinois. His middle name was found in a family tree at Ancestry.com. The birth information is from Wikipedia. Novak was the first of four children born to George Andrew Novak, a Chicago native, and Aleksandra Klimuk, a naturalized Russian according to the 1940 U.S. Federal Census. A passenger list said she arrived in the United States on March 31, 1939.
Novak’s parents were students at Chicago’s Kelly High School. His father was in the Class of 1949 and his mother in the Class of 1951.
They married on May 26, 1951 according to the Cook County, Illinois Marriage Index at Ancestry.com.
The names of Novak and his siblings, Patricia, Timothy and Carol, were in the Chicago Tribune obituaries of their mother (November 13, 1932–April 25, 1985) and father (April 24, 1930–January 27, 2003).
The Novak children attended Proviso West High School in Hillside, Illinois. Hillside is 14 miles (22.5 kilometers) west of Chicago. Below are Novak’s 1971 and 1972 class photographs from the yearbook, The Mural.
Novak’s senior photograph was not in the 1973 yearbook but he was pictured on the Mural’s staff page. He created and drew the character, Freddie, who appeared throughout the yearbook. Novak also lettered the five section spreads.
Novak was interviewed in David Anthony Kraft’s Comic Interview #1, February 1983. Below is an excerpt.
DAK: What decided you on lettering?Jim: I was always interested in every facet of comics. I had and still haver a twelve-by-twelve foot room in my parent’s basement. I used to go down there and do the writing, drawing and lettering on a whole book of my own at about age thirteen, fourteen or fifteen. There was a guy who painted signs and he was looking for an assistant.I needed a job and said I could learn, so he hired me. It was pretty easy for me and I learned to design lettering. And I figured that was a good way to break into comics. I also learned how to use a pen and a brush and got to be pretty good. When I was seventeen, I went to New York and spoke to John Verpoorten at Marvel and he said he would let me know about a job. I was getting homesick and moved back. I told him I didn’t think that I could hack it in New York. About a year and a half later, I was working at the sign shop again and was really sick of it, because I had done everything there was to painting signs. That’s when I came back to New York but Marvel wasn’t hiring at the time.I went to DC and got my first job from Jack Adler for Wonder Woman. I was there for two or three jobs. I worked for Julie Schwartz. Then Marvel called me back and Sol Brodsky said they had a staff position. I felt it would be to my best interest to work on staff and get the benefit of other people’s experience.DAK: In the production department?Jim: Right. That’s when I started to learn about lettering and I got better and better. A few of the people in the field who helped me out are Danny Crespi, who took me under his wing; Irving Watanabe, who gave me a lot of advice, and whose lettering you hear little about; and Gaspar Saladino, purely for style. Roy Thomas gave me Conan and liked my work. I was on staff almost three years. I thought then maybe I should freelance. Now it’s become a very good job. The comics work lead to the movie work and that led to other work. I’m turning away work, but I enjoy comics.
In the interview Novak said he married Lidia on July 10, 1982. At the time, they were living in Flushing, New York. Later, they moved to Huntington, Long Island, New York.
The Grand Comics Database has many of Novak’s lettering credits. An overview of Novak’s work is at Who’s Who of American Comic Books 1928–1999. Below are logos by Novak.
Star Wars #1, July 1977
Power Man #50, April 1978
Daredevil #166, September 1980
Stephen King’s Creepshow, 1982
The Futurians, Marvel Graphic Novel #9, 1983
Comics Interview #1, February 1983
The Saga of Crystar #1, May 1983
Cloak and Dagger #1, October 1983
Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #1, May 1984
Web of Spider-Man #1, May 1985
Iron Man #200, November 1985
Elektra: Assassin #1, August 1986
The Infinity Gauntlet #1, July 1991
The Punisher: War Zone #1, March 1992
The Devil Dinosaur logo may have been designed by Novak; see Todd Klein’s blog. Three of Novak’s logos are in Marvel By Design (2021) on pages 59—Daredevil, Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars; 114—Daredevil; 220, 227 and 228—Iron Man.
Novak passed away in mid-April 2018, in Long Island, New York. His passing was covered by Bleeding Cool, Multiversity Comics, and Previews World. Novak was fondly remembered by Eliot R. Brown and Pat Brosseau.
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(Next post on Monday: Alice Koeth, 1927–2020)