Images © Marvel Characters, Inc. except as noted.
Friday, on my Todd Klein, artist page on Facebook, I put up the logo above as part of my series, “Logo of the Day,” which is nearing 400 entries. It’s a logo I designed for Marvel Comics in 1993, and it first appeared on the miniseries of the same name in 1994. Fellow letterer and friend Jon Babcock wrote there:
“Do you keep any of your roughs around? It would be great to see a series of roughs that led to this. That is a damn tough logo to pull off and I would probably have tried about 10 different things and never made it look this good. I love this stuff!”
I wish I had time to go into more detail on all the logos of my own that I put up on “Logo of the Day,” I don’t, but Jon’s question prompted me to look in my files to see what I did have on this one. What I think Jon most wanted to see are the preliminary idea sketches, and I didn’t save those. Typically I will sit at my drawing board with a few sheets of copy paper and doodle ideas, small, like thumbnails, trying to come up with a few starting points I like. Sorry, Jon, don’t have ‘em, but I do have the next step, which are marker layouts over pencils. (At least that’s what I was doing in 1993, now I often go from pencils to computer drawing.)
Each layout would be pencilled out on copy paper and inked with markers, pretty tight, but not as precisely as the final. My first idea, as you can see, was mostly what ended up on the final logo. With characters from the X-Men, any opportunity to get a big X in there is welcomed, and in this case we have the word PHOENIX, which ends in X. That led me to this idea of a large C and X bracketing the two names. I did the top line smaller and in script, for contrast and variety, and I put the AND vertically in the opening of the C. I went with block letters that have thick vertical strokes and thin horizontal ones, and I added style with gentle curves on some of the letters, probably initially as a way to get that large C in CYCLOPS to fit the space well, and extrapolating from there.
Version 2 follows the same idea, but slanted and with curvier serif letterforms for the character names and horizontal bars between each line. I thought this was a more elegant approach and I particularly like the & symbol.
For version 3 I went very blocky in a style I thought would show a lot of super-hero power, again using horizontal lines as a design element.
Those three marker sketches, all begun as pencil sketches from my original thumbnail ideas, were submitted to the editor. They liked the first version best, but asked for some changes.
First, they wanted the top line in the same style as the character names, so did a marker version of that and taped it over the original script one. I made a note about having the AND be open letters, that may have been at their suggestion. As it turned out, they wanted it in a horizontal row, in the same style and size as the top line, and in a box, so it could be positioned in front of the character names. I thought this was a poor idea, but did what they asked by lettering the final AND separately, letting them put it where they wanted it. I’ve simulated the way it looked on the printed book in my first image above. Still don’t like it, but so it goes. In this sketch, there’s the character name SCOTT SUMMERS above the logo in a similar but less curvy style, with a note about it being on an ad. That would be a house ad for the book, which I don’t have a copy of, so I’m not sure if I did that lettering eventually or not. In any case, with the logo approved, I inked a very precise version on Denril plastic vellum and sent it to Marvel as the finished product.
In interesting follow-up to this logo came a few years later, when JG Roshell of Comicraft got in touch with me to let me know that Marvel had commissioned him to create a font based on the letterforms in the logo. He had started work on it, and sent me what he’d done. JG is a fine designer, so it was good work, though I think there were some letterforms I felt I would have done differently. I agreed to help with the font, as long as I got a copy and was allowed to use it as I wished. I think JG did most of the work, and we shared credit. Comicraft agreed not to sell the font, and I don’t believe they ever have. My name for the font is TKurve, and it has two versions: Regular, matching the logo and Heavy, where all the strokes are the same weight. Not sure if Comicraft’s version is exactly the same, but if so, I’m pretty sure they don’t have the Heavy one. Here it is on a cover from 1999 with the logo by Comicraft:
I’ve used it in various places, including this 1996 logo for DC:
Image © DC Comics, Inc.
That’s all I can recall about this particular logo, hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my process. Lots more logo studies can be found on the LOGO LINKS page of my blog.