Logo Study: Batman part 3

Batman 230 cover
All images ©DC Comics, Inc.

The large bat-filling Batman logo we ended with last time didn’t last long, a mere ten issues. With issue 230 it was modified as above, having Batman filling the top half and “with ROBIN the Teen Wonder” below in type. DC was trying hard to be relevant in 1971, as can be seen in this Neal Adams cover, and I suppose allowing Robin to become a teen was part of that. The BATMAN lettering again looks like Gaspar Saladino. I don’t find the logo very effective, as it doesn’t use the space well, and the Batman head is still dwarfed by the logo.  Plus the bottom line uses type rather than hand-lettering. This one also lasted only ten issues.

detective381_1968

Over in DETECTIVE COMICS, Batman and Robin also shared a logo for a while, beginning in 1968. This logo is probably also by Gaspar Saladino, not long after he took over from Ira Schnapp as the main logo guy at DC. The letterforms are less even and consistent, though the slight tilt adds interest. The character figures are nice, and are probably drawn by Carmine Infantino. The white outline around them is an odd choice, as it keeps the logo from being seen as an integrated whole to my eye. On the whole, not a bad logo.

Batman 241 cover

Issue 241 saw the advent of a new logo design that would last for quite a while, and there’s a lot to like about it. The bat head is newly done, and larger, once again in good proportion to the bat shape. The ears are long and pointed, and the shading on the face has been reversed so that now the light source is overhead, and the face is in shadow. I don’t know who did the art, but considering that Neal Adams had been doing many of the Batman covers just previously, and has done this one, it’s a good bet that he was asked to do the logo head as well. The art style seems compatible, at least. The letters are once again split into BAT and MAN, punctuated by the head, as in times past. Here the letters are in tall, square block-letter style with a surrounding thinner outline to separate them from the bat shape. They are quite large, and extend beyond the bat shape, but to my eye are still in good proportion to the head and shape. They’re well-formed and certainly very easy to read. My guess for the designer of the letters is again Gaspar Saladino, though it could have been someone else. Whoever commissioned this logo must have been quite pleased, it’s definitely a winner. The bat shape, here in black, was often other colors, and edged with a thin outline of another color if needed for clarity, as below.

Batman 282 cover

This logo continued until 1986. Some artists had fun doing odd additions to the bat shape, or distorting or shattering the logo for particular covers, and occasionally the bat shape was dropped altogether, as on issue 400, below.

Batman 400 cover

In 1987 a special event in issues 404 to 407 called for a new logo version: Batman Year One by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli.

Batman 405 cover

Today a project like this would be in its own miniseries at least, if not in some more deluxe format, but at the time it was merely scheduled as four issues of the regular Batman comic. I was fortunate enough to letter the issues, and one day was called into a meeting with Frank Miller and asked to create the logo from his thumbnail sketch. I wish I’d saved it, but as I recall it was quite small, with the bat shape no more than two inches across, and the word BATMAN roughed in. The editor handed it to me, and I brought it to the copier (which did enlargements) blew it up to working logo size, took it home, and worked up the finished logo. I followed the existing block-letter style for the letters, but made them much thicker and stockier to fit the space. Everyone seemed pleased with the result, and thanks to Frank’s great bat design, it was one of the easiest logo assignments I can recall having. I think it was very effective on the covers, too.

Batman 408 cover

That bat shape was only used for the four issue storyline, though it would resurface later on another title. With issue 408, my new BATMAN lettering was used alone except for the tagline “THE NEW ADVENTURES” which I also did. Not sure why they added that — maybe to let readers know this was present day, not back in the past, like Year One? Seems odd to me now.

At any rate the Year One issues sold like hotcakes, and the Batman editorial staff realized they were on to something. They quickly started developing new short story arcs, hoping to capture the same audience. The first one to come out was this one:

Batman 417 cover

This time the logo and story title were combined into a rectangle, and the cover art was designed around it, a departure from the usual process, but since it was only for four issues, not hard to do. A logo area of this size and shape is rather an awkward fit for a comics cover, but a good artist, in this case Mike Zeck, can make the dead areas at the top work for him with a little planning.

For the first time the word BATMAN has been created with type, specifically the font Belwe Bold here. It’s artfully composed by DC staffer Keith “Kez” Wilson, in charge of cover design at the time. I believe he also created the story title and the whole logo box. The splattery word BEAST gives good contrast to the staid BATMAN, and I think it works quite well. Belwe is what’s called a slab-serif font, meaning that the little caps at the ends of the letter strokes (like at the upper right corner of the N) are squared-off slabs, rather than coming to a point as in many other serif fonts. The use of a larger beginning and ending letter, with a small line below the others, is a pleasing design that I’ve often used myself.

Batman 426 cover

The logo went back to my previous lettering for a few issues until the next special story arc was ready: A Death in the Family in issues 426 to 429. For this one, Kez again used his slab-serif BATMAN, now outlined for color, slanted, and with a new bat shape. I don’t know for sure, but Kez probably did that as well. I like the combination, although the angle of the bat shape is more acute than the lettering, so it kind of looks like it’s toppling to the right. But that adds some dynamics to the actionless cover art here, and the overabundance of type. Note the contrast between artist Mike Mignola’s very short bat ears and the very long ones on the logo. Hmm. Next time we move on to the 1990s and beyond.

More chapters and other logo studies on my LOGO LINKS page.

11 thoughts on “Logo Study: Batman part 3

  1. Pingback: Batman: análisis histórico de los logos | Birdchanger

  2. gorjus

    Todd, I think that what has struck me so much about your examination of the Batman logos is how, compared to the almost-mythic status of the Superman logo, they seem sort of “lost.”

    As far as Year One goes, your lettering on those issues not only made a huge impression on me–cementing the concept of Bruce Wayne as a child of wealth and education–but has literally become de riguer in the industry since then. How many cursive “diary entries” have appeared since then?

  3. Todd Post author

    Thanks for your kind comments. I can’t agree that the Batman logo is “lost.” I think rather it has an essence: the bat shape with the name in front of it, that has undergone lots of reinterpretations and reinventions. Where it strays farthest from that essence is where it works least well.

    The diary entries were, of course, writer Frank Miller’s idea. My contribution for both Bruce Wayne and James Gordon was to evoke their upbringing and schooling in their handwriting, something which hadn’t been done often before. It was the contrast between the two that made it work best, I think. I’m glad you appreciated it!

  4. Todd Post author

    Yes, that was one of mine. And it used a double dose of that trick, actually. There were two levels of larger at each end. By the way, all my logos are listed in my Lettering Archives pages, though by year, not alphabetically.

  5. Pingback: PrettyFakes » Blog Archive » Nostra Aetate (Modern Letter Project).

  6. Len

    Todd, the reason “The New Adventures” was added to the logo was to signify that this was now the post-Crisis “New Earth” Batman, and no longer the pre-Crisis “Earth-1” Batman. Unlike Superman, where they changed the original Superman title to “Adventures of Superman” and started a new “Superman” with issue #1, Batman didn’t have the restarted numbering, hence “the New Adventures” tacked onto the covers.

  7. Pingback: The evolution of the Batman symbol | Logo Design Love

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