The bizarre Bruce Lee flipbook craze

These '70s relics re-create his action sequences -- and provide a hilarious example of hard-sell design packaging


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J.J. Sedelmaier
January 13, 2012 6:00AM (UTC)
This article originally appeared on Imprint.

ImprintThe Bruce Lee craze of the 1970s produced an endless array of merchandise in the hopes of cashing in on the world-renowned martial artist’s popularity -- especially after his untimely death in 1973 at the age of 32. I'd been a fan of his since he'd played "Kato" in the old "Green Hornet" TV series, so I certainly had collected my share of Bruce Lee posters and magazines. One of the more interesting things that I came across and still makes me laugh is a three-volume set of flipbooks that re-create choice action scenes from his films.  I was initially attracted to them from the standpoint of having the opportunity of analyzing how his amazing body moved, but they’re also a hilarious example of foreign-based hard-sell copywriting and package design.

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Based on the cover headlines of each volume, you’d think that the publishers had invented the phenomenon known as persistence of vision. “The Newest Thing! Using papers to produce a sense of movement!” says the enticing copy. The design and layout of the sleeves that contain the flip-books are also a nightmare hodgepodge of font combos that assault the eyes ... For instance, I can’t honestly say that my instincts tell me to use a vintage font like Morris Fuller Benton’s “Broadway” to announce the “newest thing.”

Click here to see the flip book in action!

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="460" caption="Volume 2 Bruce Lee flipbook set."][/caption]

[caption id="attachment_233404" align="aligncenter" width="460" caption="Volume 3 Bruce Lee flipbook set."][/caption]

I'm sure I was “inspired” by graphic train-wrecks like the Bruce Lee flipbooks when I designed the title card for the Colbert Report, "Tek Jansen" cartoon series. In this case it was a matter of theorizing how the Stephen Colbert "character" and a guy with questionable taste might design his own superhero’s introduction graphic. In retrospect, I should've done even worse...

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Thanks go to Corrie Lebens and Zero Lastimosa for their production skills and help in pulling this post together.

Copyright F+W Media Inc. 2011.


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