Obsessions

Amazing X-Ray Glasses And 9000 Other Novelties – Johnson Smith & Co.

With Chicago’s “C2E2″ 2012 ComicCon (http://www.c2e2.com/) approaching this week from April 13-15 at McCormick Place, it seems fitting that I do a piece on an aspect of comic books that everyone even remotely acquainted with the realm knows well – the Johnson Smith & Company of Detroit, Michigan. You may not recognize the firm’s...

Lucky Strike

I thought I was cured. About a decade ago, I vowed to put a cap on my bottle cap collection, after being injured in the line of duty (an embarrassing story I’ve recounted way past its expiration date, I’m afraid). I was through with mining for small objects, but recently started “pinning” a few...

Black Dahlia Murder: the Crime, the Cosmetics, and the Folksinger

  So I’m at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood to scope this 1933 Stanwyck flick about broads behind bars, but before it starts this dame gets up in front, name Joan Renner. Says her passion is historic crime and vintage cosmetics: sounds to me like a lethal combination. Then she gives the whole audience...

How Walt Disney Used His Kansas City Library Card

When the word “Disney” is mentioned, it’s almost impossible to separate it from the craft of motion picture cartoons. Whether it’s used to describe a multinational entertainment corporation, or it alludes to Walt Disney the man, it’s easily synonymus with the technique of film animation. This was obviously not always the case. In 1920,...

Jessie’s Gang

Jessie Gang is passionate about design—and designers—so much so that she’s hard at work on an ongoing series of  “icons of graphic design” portraits—Jessie’s Gang. Jessie, a graphic and product design major at the School of Visual Arts, admits (with a smile) to papering her walls with creations by some of her favorite artists,...

Joe Shuster’s Artwork for the 1942 Novel The Adventures of Superman

I used to spend a lot of time as a kid visiting antique (actually, “junk”) shops. It was like visiting a museum, except you pick up stuff and hold it. One of the things I found (probably around 1972) was a book by author George Lowther from 1942 about Superman. I’d never heard about...

Affordable Love

Gallerist Jen Bekman’s affordable art site, 20×200, offers a selection of smart, well-curated photographs and prints, as evidenced by these Steve Lambert pieces. There are a variety of love-themed options (as well as a slew of other subjects), should you be on the Valentine’s Day gift hunt or just because.   Resources Recommended by...

On the Roadside Sign Again

I’ve been slightly obsessed with portable roadside signage since I first encountered a stretch of white boxes with flashing red arrows along Route 28 in upstate New York. I’d certainly seen that form of advertising before, but didn’t realize how ubiquitous it was throughout rural America (or admittedly, what little I know of rural...

A True Visionary Gives Chicago A Landmark Branding Campaign Circa 1920-30

(This piece is a much expanded version of an article co-written with photographer/writer John Gruber for Print Magazine and the British trade mag Ads International in 1998.) The thought of Chicago in the 1920’s usually conjures up images of gangsters, Prohibition, and other Roaring 20’s clichés, but there was another movement in the Chicago...