All images © DC Comics, Inc. and Marvel Characters, Inc.
The two largest comics companies for most of the last 40 years, Marvel Comics and DC Comics, have had an unusual and fluctuating relationship, running the gamut from intense rivalry and sniping to moments of apparent partnership. The competition side is easy to explain: they’re selling to the same buyers in the same marketplace. The partnership is less so, but when it happens, it’s usually fueled by the staff and editors of the two companies, who are often friends, and include people who have worked at both companies. Since both firms are headquartered in New York City, and have a lot in common, fraternizing is perhaps inevitable.
One period of partnership came in 1996-97 when the company worked together on a crossover series called MARVEL VS. DC. But in the midst of that an even more unusual series, AMALGAM COMICS published its first twelve issues, six from each publisher. Every Amalgam issue featured different heroes, each a combination or mash-up of two or more popular characters from each company. In 1997 the process was repeated, with each company again issuing six Amalgam titles, again all different, though some with repeating characters from the earlier series. It was an interesting experiment, though something of an insider’s joke, as you had to already be a well-read comics fan of both companies to understand the ideas and get the references, I think. Apparently lots of people did, and the series seemed to be well liked. Collections of the individual books were produced that also sold pretty well, an example is at the beginning of this post.
Since all the titles and characters were essentially “new,” all 24 books needed new logos. This called for a lot of design work, especially considering they’d most likely be used only once each, but then the same could be said for the art in each title. The two companies approached the logo design issue a little differently, but both ended up with mostly the same solution: work with the guy who’d designed many of the logos being referenced to create the mash-ups…namely, me! In the beginning, though, several of the Marvel logos were designed by JG Roshell of Comicraft, and at DC the logos were overseen and sometimes designed or assembled by Curtis King on staff.
In this post I’ll cover the first six DC issues. I spoke to Curtis, and his memory of the design process is hazy, as is mine, but he recalls that he worked mainly with the DC editors on the cover and logo designs, having little or no contact with Marvel. Where I know them I’ll credit the logos used for reference in each.
First up is AMAZON, combining Storm from the X-Men with Wonder Woman. The logo on this one was pretty easy, and I believe all by Curtis King, who simply took letters from the current WONDER WOMAN logo:
The one new letter needed was the Z, which is the N turned on its side. The bottom bar is also from the existing WW logo, with little lightning bolts replacing the stars. Simple and effective, if perhaps overly DC-related. But then, Storm never had her own book or definitive logo, as far as I can recall, so it made sense to go with the more recognizable WW one. Curtis adjusted the proportions of the logo letterforms, created by Alex Jay as detailed here, though the Z stands out, a bit too large to my eye. Still, it worked well enough for this one-shot.
To digress for a moment, the Amalgam Comics logo itself combines the familiar DC Bullet logo with the word COMICS from the then current Marvel logo, all over a triangle with AMALGAM at the top. Once again this leaned heavily toward the DC side. Curtis doesn’t remember who designed it, but thinks it may have been someone at Marvel.
Next up is ASSASSINS, whose two heroines combined Catwoman, Elektra, Deathstroke and Daredevil. For the logo, Curtis used the blood-splotched S from DC’s DEATHSTROKE:
and the A from Marvel’s ELEKTRA ASSASSIN:
with the I and N in a similar style. I don’t know who created either of these logos, I’m afraid, though I suspect the Elektra one might be by Bill Sienkiewicz, the artist on the series. In any case, I was paid a small fee for this logo, not close to full logo rate, but more than a regular cover lettering rate. I don’t have any record of exactly what I did, though. I might have drawn the A, I and N letters. Curtis already had the S, but since so many are needed, he had to make small variations so they didn’t all look the same. Or, maybe he had me do that while he did the Elektra letters. Looking at the N, I see things I wouldn’t have done in it: the serif at upper right, and the way the diagonal meets the two vertical strokes (making the joins too wide to my eye). Overall the logo is okay, but the letters don’t really match size-wise, the S’s seem too small except for the final one. Maybe it’s better not knowing exactly who did what!
Next is DOCTOR STRANGEFATE, a combination of Marvel’s Doctor Strange and DC’s Doctor Fate. Of all the first-year mash-ups, I think this is the most obvious and natural one, and this comic has often been named as the best of the Amalgam series, with really terrific art by Jose Luis Garcia-Lopez and Kevin Nowlan.
For the logo, Curtis combined two that I designed, DOCTOR STRANGE for Marvel:
and FATE for DC:
Even these logos had some inherent similarities, the shape of the A in each, for instance, and the combination of long vertical strokes, graceful curves, and points. Hey, the same designer came up with both (Strange in 1993 and Fate in 1994). Again, I was paid a small fee by Curtis to design the large S in the same style as the F in Fate, those being the only two letters from that logo, the rest coming directly from the Strange logo. Looking at it now, I think it works fine, though the weight of the S and F kind of overpower the rest, but with such a long name it’s hard to see how else it could have worked. I think adding a drop shadow like those on both the original logos would have made it read a little better on the cover, helping to keep the distraction of the art behind a bit further away.
Next is JLX, combining the Justice League of America with The X-Men. The logo for this one combined the J and L from a JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA logo:
with the X from an X-MEN logo:
Curtis put this one together, I’m sure, and I really like it. The balance between the two elements is perfect: the X is larger, but the combined size of the JL complements it. One could wish the X wasn’t partly covered by art, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. I’m sure the cover artist didn’t know what the logo would look like when he drew the picture. The shortness of the title also helps this logo shine. In fact, I think it works better than either of the ones it was drawn from, both much longer titles.
LEGENDS OF THE DARK CLAW combines Batman with Wolverine. The logo is based on this one:
from BATMAN: LEGENDS OF THE DARK KNIGHT, designed by Richard Bruning, as described here. There’s no reference to Tom Orzechowski’s classic Wolverine logo, only a claw-ripped circle in the background. Makes sense to me, as I don’t really see how the two could be combined well, since the letterforms are so different. Once again, though, it leans heavily toward the DC side. Curtis recalls putting this one together and creating the ripped oval.
Finally we have SUPER SOLDIER, combining Marvel’s Captain America with DC’s Superman. This logo is based on the classic Superman one as redesigned by Milton Glaser’s studio, as described here. I don’t really have to show that one, do I? The only thing representing Captain America is the star, taking the place of a hyphen perhaps. Dave Gibbons did the cover and art, and knowing Dave, I imagine he designed this logo as well, though it might have been finished and/or inked on staff at DC. Curtis doesn’t remember doing it himself. It works well enough, but if you look closely, the perspective lines on the telescoping don’t all go quite toward a single vanishing point as they should. This logo is a pain in the neck to work with in that regard, as I know well, and for a one-shot it’s certainly okay with me to “fake” it a bit, as was done here.
Next time we’ll look at the six Amalgam titles released by Marvel Comics in 1996.
More chapters and other logo studies on my LOGO LINKS page.