Companies, heroes, and every franchise in between has a symbol they follow. Symbols are incorruptible, a simple and recognizable way to get your name or brand out there. Once a film becomes unanimous with a symbol that people recognize, it tends to help your cause. People like simple. It’s easy to understand and people don’t have the time to think about the subtext in their everyday lives with work, family, and hobbies taking up much of their days.
Unfortunately, the creator of one of the most recognizable symbols in cinema history has passed. Michael C. Gross, at the age of 70, died November 16, 2015 from cancer, which he had been battling on and off since the mid-1990’s.
Throughout his life, Gross was a very beloved graphic designer and eventually became a producer in Hollywood. He was first known designing for the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. From there he art-directed EYE magazine before becoming the art director of National Lampoon magazine in 1970. His work first appeared in the eighth issue of the magazine, the “Nostalgia” issue, published in November 1970, and then went on to his most famous National Lampoon piece that was the cover for the January 1973 “Death” issue. On the cover was the words, “If You Don’t Buy This Magazine, We’ll Kill This Dog” which he illustrated next to the wording. From there, regardless of his gallows humor, he got even bigger.
Leaving National Lampoon in 1974, Gross formed Pellegrini, Kaestle, & Gross, Inc. while also becoming the personal designer for John Lennon, as well as being a consultant to the Muppets. Moving into the late 1970’s he art directed Esquire magazine and was a design director for Mobil Oil.
In 1980, Gross moved to California and shifted gears, working as a producer or an executive producer on 11 films, many of them very well know. These films included “Heavy Metal”, “Ghostbusters”, its sequel “Ghostbusters II”, “Twins”, “Beethoven”, “Legal Eagles”, “Kindergarten Cop” and “Dave”. He also became the producer for 5 television shows, including “The Real Ghostbusters” and “Beethoven”.
In 1995 Gross left Hollywood and moved to Italy to pursue his first love of paining. He ended up living the rest of his life in Oceanside, California, battling cancer on and off till it took him three days ago.
Gross went through many stages in his life. He was a graphic designer, a producer, a painter, a photographer and a museum curator, who gave lectures and taught. He will be sorely missed. RIP Mr. Gross. You left your symbol behind for all eternity.