Saturday, April 22, 2006

Come on baby, do the logo-motion

That Thor cover in yesterday's post really did remind me how much I love comic book logos. I don't think we think too much about the masthead logos of periodicals in general: with the exception of historical icons like Time or Life, most folks probably don't remember distinctly what the logo of a magazine looks like.

Comic book fans are different. We not only recognize and remember the logos of our favorites, but we have distinct tastes about which ones we like and which ones "don't work". That odd uncomfortable feeling you got lookin' at that "Thor!" logo? That's our logo-sensibilities at work, telling you that's not a Thor logo. That's not even a weird 1990s Thor logo. It's like Peter Parker's spider-sense, tingling to tell us all's not right in the four-color world.

I'm a big fan of interesting and unusual comic book logos that I haven't seen before. Most of these are DCs from the 1970s or before (I've been a Marvel fanbull for a long time but I'm not as up on my DC history), so sometimes it's a fun discovery when I first see an elegantly-designed, elaborate and symbolic logo like this, from a DC comic I didn't even really know existed:

Let's do the Time Warp again

Cool, huh?

Lotsa comics logos are almost as familiar to us as the superheroes inside the books. Who doesn't know this logo?:

Superman #1 logo

...which, aside from a relatively recent temporary, intentional, and kinda ill-advised metamorphosis...

Superman #123 logo

...remains pretty much the same in 2006 that it was in 1938:

Superman #225 logo

On the other hand, DC's other big superhero has an iconic look that is recognized the world-round. But unlike Superman, he hasn't had a consistent logo to his comic over the past 67 years. This original logo persisted with a few subtle variations for several decades:

Batman #1 logo

This 1970 logo revamp (six years after the 1964 debut of the "New Look" Batman) worked the same concept but with a much more modern design:

Batman #220 logo

But by 1972, it had evolved into this version which was the familiar standard for the next fifteen years. It's similar to the 1939 original yet modern and dramatic:

Batman #252 logo

This somewhat generic 1987 post-Crisis logo was clear and bold, but not especially Batmanesque:

Batman #410 logo

Premiering just a few months before the 1989 Batman movie, this gothic redesign reflects the Anton Fursting of Gotham City and the Dark Knight:

Batman #443 logo

An across-the-line logo overhaul in 2000 reflected a new noir look for the series that tied all the various Batman books together:

Batman #592 logo

The big bat silhouette reappeared in 2002 and has been the standard right through Infinite Crisis:

Batman #638 logo

Even with all these logos, I'll bet that that Batman logo most recognized by the general public is the one that doesn't come from a comic book at all:

Batman TV logo

Golly, that's weird and kinda-bad typography by design standards...but it works, it's instantly recognizable from across the room, and it elicits an immediate response-c'mon, who didn't think to themselves when seeing that logo "Na na na na na na na na...Batman!"

Next up, sometime this weekend: a look at the design and evolution of a classic Marvel Comics logo...and why, as Ben Grimm might say, "the more things change, the more they stay the same."

(Images from The Grand Comic Book Database)


Kevin Melrose said...

I really liked the c. 2000 logo and trade dress for Batman and Detective Comics. There was a real "designerly" feel to them that worked particularly well on the latter title when Dave Johnson was providing the cover art.

Bully said...

Me too! While it didn't look especially Batmanish (at least in comparison with what's gone on before), I think it was one of the best attempts at tying a various group of titles together and it was certainly one of the most professional trade redresses done that made those comics look like actually "real" books. The influence of Chip Kipp is pretty high in them, and I enjoyed the color pallete experimentation that went on in the books at the same time.