Everything has a logo. Now you may think that that’s a bold statement, and I would have to agree, but once you start putting time into what exactly a logo is it becomes a little clearer. The dictionary defines it as:
“A graphic mark, emblem, or symbol used to aid and promote public identification and recognition. It may be of an abstract or figurative design or include the text of the name it represents as in a wordmark.”
Here we see that a logo can essentially be your name/signature, case in point: Jim Henson Company, Marvel, and Fedex to name a few. Or more abstract ones that don’t explicitly state their company name but are so ingrained in our minds we can instantly recognize them, let’s have another three examples: Apple, Nike, FireFox. Now why would any of this pertain to comics or the comics media? An easy answer would be that logos are everywhere in comics, from the publisher, series title, even on the villains or heroes chest, it’s amazing how they are ingrained in so many panels.
If I showed you a bat logo from a comic you may think Batman, a black embellished spider may be Spider-man or one in his spider-family. Or maybe one of the most well known, a red S sympilised on top of gold/yellow forming what looks like a giant S shield. Yes, that’s Superman, which shows just how even someone as iconic as that could be remembered by just a logo upon his chest. Even through many years of changing it it sticks through, showing that sticking with the same logo and changing it slightly keeping the same formality can update it for the era but keep the identification of what it is symbolizing.
Let’s start with where it begins, the company….
DC was originally branded as National Allied Publications, but looking back at this time when they published the series New Fun it seems they had no logo signifying what publication this first series belonged to. Back then it wasn’t as big as a deal due to really being the only comic publication at the time. Debuting in their 1940’s titles was their original DC logo, a basic black lined circle with A DC PUBLICATION filling in the middle. Flash Fact: DC originally stood for Detecitive Comics which makes a little more sense when you see what logo/name they went with a year following in 1941.
Now going by Superman-DC Publication due to their two main draws being Superman and Detective Comics. This logo went with the same style of the original, that being a usual black lined circle and white background with the words filling the inner space. In the years following – 1949 to be exact – DC dropped the word publication and instead added their original name National Comics while adding the color red to Superman. The next big change came in the 1970’s.
Wanting to shake things up DC added the main character of each series on the logo, usually showing said character in action with DC: The Flash or whomever the story was about. As great as an idea this was it seems to not have lasted long with DC adapting to a new red faced name inside of a simple circle. Going back to it’s clean easy looking format, which honestly looks great and classic. But why have something clean when you can have it cluttered instead? Because just two years later DC changed to a light blue font and added red text, The Line of Super-Stars and two stars in the circle. Having only waited another two years DC drastically changed their logo yet again.
Now all a shade of deep blue DC made their logo more of a complex circle with more depth and four white stars instead of two. Yet more complex it still retained its simplicity which was why we can presume is the reason it lasted almost thirty years into 2005. Instead of a circle we get what was dubbed the DC SPIN which was a stylised circle bursting from the DC logo. Surprisingly this is the only logo with a creative team named for its creation, that being Josh Beatman of Brainchild Studios and DC executive Richard Bruning.
In 2012 we got the most unique take on the logo since the 70’s with a rolled back stylized blue D over a hard black C that peeks out just a little. The color scheme did change with each title or media it was representing. As different of a take this was it was still a cool design, that sadly didn’t last long. With the release of 2016’s DC Universe: Rebirth Special #1 the world was introduced to the new design of DC’s logo, which funny enough wasn’t really “new”. Instead DC took inspiration from their clean cut 1972 logo and changed it to their blue color, with a thinker outline of a circle. Personally this clean and simple version is to me the best DC logo they have ever had.
Now what I have written above isn’t every single change ever done to the logo, only the main ones that changed a ton or stood out most. Throughout the years there has been special one off logos, or series specifics. To name them all would give no time to the other companies, but one thing that sticks out in DCs history is a clean simple logo seems to work best.
With DC’s logo out of the way let’s head over to the other large competitors design, Timely Comics, which evolved into Atlas Comics, that became what we know today as Marvel. Unlike DC Timely Comics had a logo that had a three tipped shield with blue and white lines running down, adorning with Timely Comics INC in 1939. this logo bears resemblance to Captain America’s first shield. Fascinatingly enough it doesn’t seem to be on any of their comic covers, but at least they had a logo, plus we actually know who made this logo: Martin Goodman.
Come 1950 Timely Comics became Atlas Comics and with the name change came a logo change. Now presenting itself as a globe with big bold Atlas placed upon the middle, pretty on the nose and self-explanatory. When Atlas became Marvel in the 60’s there where a few different logos for different titles at the time, one was a simple black circle with Marvel Comic in a bold white fount inside the circle and deeper in a wheat leaf. Another was a simple stamp like vertical logo that just had MC, and one that just said Marvel Comics Group. Very simple concepts for a newly developed name.
At the end of the 60’s Marvel saw a big change in their logo with a bold orange-red – I’m horrible with colors – surrounded by head shots of their most famous characters at the moment. Having a good run into the mid 70’s they changed into a bold black Marvel Comics Group that lasted a few years until it turned in a bold black Marvel Comics. Hitting the extreme 90’s Marvel changed into an epic MTV look alike with the orange-red Marvel bleeding into an M with a yellow COMICS placed on top of it. Hitting in the early two-thousand we got what we now recognize as the Marvel logo.
Sitting on a red border is the loud proud MARVEL in a white coloring shouting at the reader. It has had a few tweaks here and there but nothing too dramatic. This logo may not seem special, unique, or different, but it does what it was made to do, and it does it well. It’s a simple enough logo that when Marvel made Marvel Now it was an easy logo update. Just by looking at these two major comics publisher we can see that a simple clear logo seems to be the way to go.
There a more than a few comics publishers that you can consider “indie”, so with that in mind we will only go over a select few of the more well known, per se the bigger ones. Starting out at the top of the alphabet would be Archie Comics that for it’s first 7 years was MLJ Magazines. For the first logo MLJ went with a simple 90 degree rhombus filled in with an orange-red color, with their letters in yellow stating, “An MLJ Publication”. Pretty simply, as could be expected back in the late 30’s, early 40’s. Between these years before evolving into what we now know as Archie they seemed to change their logo once. Now a triangle with a rectangle placed across it and dropping the Publication to Magazine.
In the later years of 1940 MLJ became what is now known as Archie Comics and with this name change came another logo change. This logo has changed often throughout the years, but has been primarily the same concept of simply stated its name and sometimes with Archie’s or others heads, or full bodies. Here or there it has changed its shape, or added COMICS and other subtitles, but Archie knows the simplest and most effective logo is just the companies name.
Over 40 years later Dark Horse Comics came to fruition in Milwaukee, Oregan by creator Mike Richardson, but you’re not here for that history (we’ll do that another day), you’re here for that juicy logo. Much like the other indie logos I have and will spotlight here it seems hard to track down what order the logos came in/if they have changed/and who made them. The far ladder saddens me because it would be nice to know who exactly made each logo, and what may be going through their minds making them decide just why to make it a certain way. Back to that Dark Horse logo.
It seems Dark Horse hasn’t changed much throughout the years other then the placement of their words, or in some rare cases a few different colors. For visuals we have a blackened side profile of a horse that looks much like a Knight from chess, with the words DARK HORSE COMICS in big white lettering with a black background, or sometimes in black with white backgrounds. Unlike other logos who just use their names Dark Horse has a ‘mascot’ per se that goes along with its name that is easily recognizable by itself. Granted with a name like Dark Horse it comes easy to make a distinguishable figure head that’s simple and easy to slap on a cover.
Following the alphabet we head over to Dynamite Entertainment who was founded only 14 years ago in 2005 giving them years of watching others change logos thus helping them find what seems to work. Being just having the companies name or just DE in a rectangle or by itself with a red explosive font, or a dull black logo. As I’ve stated before and have shown throughout, just a simple logo works wonders. Image is a big name in comics history and throughout their 17 years of publishing they have kept the same concepts for their logo. Going the way of the other publishers Image has kept it simple with their name as the highlight in either black of white bold font inside of a huge i.
Those are just a few highlights of logos in the world of Indie comics, as I previously stated – multiple times – the simplest logo is the way to go. With the company name, and sometimes a picture the represents the company. There are a ton of other companies but they all seem to have their names as logos with a little stylization showing that that may be the tried and true way.
Now to the inspiration for this deep dive into logos; the series logo. Now it would be an extremely gigantic task to go over every series logo ever created so I will go through the one that has gone through a recent update that prompted me to do this. That being DC’s main Justice League. To preface this segment let me tell you this, it was a pain in the ass to find these logos throughout the years, having to go through many different sources to figure out just a minuscule amount of detail, so please bear with me. Let’s start with Justice League, or as it was originally known, Justice League America.
The Justice League first appeared on the cover of The Brave And The Bold #28 during December of 1959. The team assembled to fight the newly created villain Starro The Conqueror, also debuting on the cover was their first series logo. This cover art was provided by Mike Sekowsky and Murphy Anderson but no info on who was the artist behind the logo. The logo was a shield colored red, white and blue, flanked by stars with Justice League Of America written within. Only appearing in three issue of Brave And The Bold the Justice League received their own series that kept the same logo. This famous logo was used from it’s creation until 1987 when it seems the series ended.
I would consider myself a fan of the Justice League. Growing up I gravitated towards DC more than Marvel, and as much as I love DC – comics in general – I have always had an issue how they name certain series. Following 1987 DC made a new Justice League America series by Keith Giffen and J. M. DeMatteis but named it Justice League, then Justice League International, then back to Justice League America. Thing is on their Wikipedia page these aren’t considered their main Justice League America title, no the second volume of Justice League Of America was 2011’s New 52 Justice League. But looking more into this their was also a supposed second volume of Justice League Of America which would be the 2006 series. Honestly DC seems to be all over the place with their Justice League series with having used Justice League, and Justice League Of America on multiple titles calling some the ‘main’ or ‘flagship’ title and then not. But in most cases the logo for Justice League Of America has stayed the same as it begone but in a more minimalist style, or with no logo and just their name.
Shit, comics can be confusing sometimes.
With the New 52 Justice League, and Justice League Of America they changed to a simple logo with just their names in bold lettering and a long rectangle behind a word, in Justice League it was behind Justice, and behind League in Justice League Of America. For Justice League this logo stuck until the end of it’s rebirth title with it getting a new logo for Scott Snyder’s run. Instead of being a flat design this new one has a tilt that gives off a more 3D feeling breathing new life into it. With a line above and below Justice League and an upside down triangle with five stars in it. But starting June 5th in the 25th issue a new logo will be born! Bringing back the shield, but having it as a simple one shade of color and the title in the middle with one star, but unlike the previous short lived logo it isn’t angled, instead just flat on the cover. On some of the covers it can be seen without the shield which works just as well.
With a history of one newly updated logo gone through let’s look at more unique takes on series logos, one specifically that DC is bringing back with their Year of The Villain. Battle damaged logos, or as known in other cases, interactive covers. As we went over last time comic covers are meant to draw in readers and what better way than to have the series logo be affected by what is on the cover? It’s hard to trace back where this trend of interacting with the logo started but one of my first would be Todd McFarlane’s Amazing Spider-man #328 cover, where we see Spider-Man punching Hulk hard enough that he is affecting the logo causing it to be jumbled about. Though that may be my first interaction cover, I have found one dating back to 1941 being Will Eisner’s The Spirit where the titular character is leaning upon the cover. This very well may be the first cover like this, but I know for sure it’s not the last; since Eisner did this often on The Spirit cover.
Jumping back to Marvel we have another that would stand out for me, being 1968’s Incredible Hulk King-Size Special #1 by Jim Steranko. Between two hard places Hulk keeps himself from being sandwiched by holding up his series logo while stepping on top of the name of the story. Interactions don’t happen a lot on covers, but they have happened enough times that going over them all would turn towards the boring side, so let’s go over just a select few more. In 1980 John Byrne paid homage to Neal Adams and Sam Rosen’s Uncanny X-men #56 cover on his cover with Dark Phoenix grabbing the logo for Uncanny X-men #135: which seems to be one of the more popular battle damaged covers.
Now let’s jump to the future!
In this years (2019) upcoming DC crossover they run with that battle damaged theme throughout the tie-ins with a few logos becoming destroyed, our in a few cases frozen by the villain the hero is fighting. My favorite would have to be the The Terrifics cover where Bizzaro grabs the series logo and smacks the team with it, kinda makes me want to buy it. Thing is DC is no stranger to messing with their logos in this way, one which would be the famous Man of Steel #18, (by Jon Bogdanove, Dennis Janke) the arrival of Doomsday. By showcasing the wrapped up monster bursting out of the cover breaking apart the logo DC warned the readers just how destructive this new villain would be. Then again in 2013’s New 52 Villains Month DC changed the logos, but not by destroying them instead by writing the villains name over it. Not as cool, but hell neither where most of the stories contained within.
But wait there’s more! Well, two more at least. As I was writing this they didn’t really fit in with the other interactive covers, and I know there is more than these listed, but sadly I cannot remember the other comic series names. But enough nonsense, let’s get to it. Instead of breaking the logo, or having the logo interacted with some artists will hide, or dramatize the logo like John Cassaday and Dave Stewart did masterfully with Batman: Legends of The Dark Knight #150. On this great cover we see the series logo blend into the building under the gliding Batman. Another modification seen with series logos – nothing that changes or interacts with it – would be Watchmen’s placement of it on the left reading down and up. It’s unique and not used often, nothing too crazy, just different placement to draw the eye.
Me spouting facts and opinions of logos could go on for pages and pages, hell it turns out as much as we rely on logos so do the citizens inside of comics. Or else how would you know if that weird musclebound leather wearing person in front of you is a good or bad guy? I haven’t even gone over the superhero emblem, which would be a logo that represents the character with a simple image of what they are named after (Spider-man, Batman), or what there name starts with (Superman, Wonder Woman). Plainly put logos are everywhere. But it seems logo means a lot to the comic world, how else would people know the publisher? The series? Or know which character is which if they didn’t have their logo adorned to their chest. While undergoing this history of logos I started out thinking about how easy it would be, but the further I got I realized just how logos are in everything, how people interpret them differently, and just how often they change for the times, or even just for the hell of it.