The 1992 smash arcade hit, Mortal Kombat, used the Comix font (see Cartoon 12) in many different places throughout the game (on the main title screen, before and after each round, during character bios and endings, etc.). Although the game was ported to home consoles later, the font was modified (in some cases, quite heavily) from the original arcade version. Its many successful sequels would never make use of Comix, either.
The “Mortal Kombat” and “Midway” logos are most likely custom lettering.
4 Comments on “Mortal Kombat”
Thank you very much for this thorough documentation of Cartoon 12 in use!
Contributor tabmok99 comments that this bitmap font was part of the software package DeluxePaint II (1986) by Electronic Arts. The programmer was Dan Silva, who might have designed the font as well. Here’s what the font menu featuring Comix looks like in DeluxePaint (image courtesy of tabmok99):
DPComic (DeluxePaint Comic) is a recreation (or rather a TrueType conversion) made by codeman38 in 2004.
I’ve finally tracked down the true origin of the Comix font—and it comes from a source that, in retrospect, isn’t entirely surprising.
While digging into Deluxe Paint’s font files a few years back to try to automatically extract the bitmaps from them, I noticed some glyphs in Comix that felt extremely out of place for an MS-DOS application, at code points (17–20) that could not even be accessed from within Deluxe Paint:
This suggested that I should look at early Mac software—specifically, software released before 1988, when the DOS version of Deluxe Paint was released.
On two late-'80s CD-ROM compilations of Mac shareware (BMUG’s PD-ROM and Boston Computer Society’s PD-CD), I found a font called “Cartoon 12” that looked incredibly familiar:
But, as is so common in shareware compilations, the documentation for this font was so bare that it didn’t include an author credit or even a year of release.
On a whim, I tried searching Google for “mac bitmap font 'cartoon 12'”, and that led me to the March 1985 issue of MacWorld—specifically, page 85, which mentions that a font by that name was drawn for the game Through the Looking Glass by its developer Steve Capps. And just in case there was any doubt remaining, a quick glance in ResEdit at the font suitcase from Through the Looking Glass shows that it’s definitely that Cartoon 12:
(Curiously, the version on these shareware CDs—as well as Deluxe Paint’s Comix—seems to have originated from a pre-release version of the game, in which the space character was 7 pixels wide instead of 4.)
As an aside, Comix isn’t the only DeluxePaint font that seems to have been converted from a Mac shareware CD—I’ve discovered Mac counterparts for quite a few of the others as well, though finding the ultimate origins of those will likely be more of a challenge.
Cody, thank you very much for digging up this info and sharing it here, that’s delightful!
So is it correct to say that Deluxe Paint’s Comix is little more than a converted and renamed Cartoon 12, without any design changes? In that case, I’m tempted to adjust the typeface entry and give it the original name.
Great sleuthing, Cody! There is a lot of early digital type history to be rediscovered from the shareware days. Many bitmap and early vector fonts were distributed on Mac user group CDs and never made it to the internet. Or at least the world wide web as we know it: I remember a very active fontmaking community on AOL and listservs in the early 1990s.