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The LEGO Story behind a DC Comics Super Hero...

IstokgIstokg Member Posts: 2,362
(From my new LEGO Collectors Guide chapter on LEGO Stories, Anecdotes and Histories!)

Many people have discussed the corrosive effects of time on history. And this is so true about LEGO. So much of what has happened in the past about LEGO has unfortunately not been well documented, even by the LEGO Archives in Billund. However, this is by no means unique to our building toy.

In my drive to squeeze every bit of information out of our distant collective LEGO past, I some times accidentally stumble onto some items... rather than research it.

This was true in regards to a relatively obscure comic book illustrator by the name of Joe Certa. Mr. Certa worked for DC Comics back in the golden era of the 1950s. Interestingly enough very little is known about Joe Certa, except that he lived in California, worked for DC Comics for about 15 years, first produced the images for their Super Hero Martian Manhunter in 1955, worked freelance in the 1960s, produced the artwork for the Dark Shadows magazine, and retired in the 1970s. Also known is the fact that Joe Certa lived from 1919-1986.

Joe Certa in the 1940s....


  • IstokgIstokg Member Posts: 2,362
    Fast forward to 2014.... the Martian Manhunter DC Super Hero that Joe Certa first drew in 1955 has been updated over the years... and in 2014 Martian Manhunter came out as a Super Hero Minifig Set 5002126....
  • IstokgIstokg Member Posts: 2,362
    This minifig super hero is a bit different from the Martian Manhunter that Joe Certa drew in the 1950s....
  • IstokgIstokg Member Posts: 2,362
    So far this is just the background on who designed a DC comic hero that many decades later became a LEGO minfig super hero.

    Now reverse 6 years to about 2008. In an Ebay auction that a friend brought to my attention, a group of nearly 100 artwork images of Joe Certa's estate were auctioned off in 1 block. Unfortunately I didn't have the money to buy it at the time... but I wish I did today. I'm sure that interest in the Joe Certa artwork would be very desireable by the Comic Book collectors crowd today.

    Anyway... in that auction of Joe Certa artwork were 2 images that caught my eye. One was for a Samsonite suitcase ad, during the time that LEGO in USA/Canada was licensed and sold by Samsonite Corporation. Here is the very high quality Samsonite ad artwork... not sure if it ever actually made it to an ad or not....
  • IstokgIstokg Member Posts: 2,362
    It was however another ad in this large group of artwork that caught my eye. And that was this 1963 Samsonite LEGO ad artowrk that Joe Certa produced...
  • IstokgIstokg Member Posts: 2,362
    This ad artwork is very nicely produced, and Joe Certa's talents were never in question. However this artwork did tell us a few things about Joe Certa.... 1) he likely never had LEGO... since the way the boy in the artwork was holding the brick seems very odd to us today, 2) the windows/doors style seems very alien (no pun intended) to us... no LEGO windows ever looked like that, and the doors were disguised on the 2 side wings so that we would not guess them to be doors, and 3) the colors used, especially what looks like lime green and Maersk blue, were both unknown to LEGO builders of the 1960s.

    Also the use of LEGO doors along with the inside curve of macaroni bricks are totally disguised in the 2 side wings of this building.

    Also, when I first saw this artwork by Joe Certa, I knew I had seen that building design before... but couldn't place it right away. Eventually I remembered that it was a model (0711) from a 1958 continental European Glued Display Catatlog... in black/white. Also, the artwork layout also looked familiar to me, and eventually I found that it was from a 1963 LEGO magazine ad, which I had an image of.

    And here we have all 3... the original display model from a 1958 catalog (left), the Joe Certa artwork (middle) and the final 1963 magazine artwork image (right)...
  • IstokgIstokg Member Posts: 2,362
    So now it came full circle...

    The Samsonite LEGO folks, while appreciating the artwork talents of Joe Certa, likely didn't agree with the interpretation of the LEGO building and colors used in the ad image. So they eventually opted instead to use a photograph of a LEGO building display with a human model, rather than the more abstract artwork from Joe Certa.

    So although Joe Certa never lived to actually see the day that his artwork actually made it to LEGO in 2014... it's very interesting to see that his involvement with LEGO goes back some time. And it was only thru luck that we are able to know about his involvement with LEGO!!
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