With the April, 2000 issue of Batman, #576, a new logo and trade dress (all the other information at the top) was introduced, created by Chip Kidd, a noted and award-winning book designer who had worked on several books for DC.
This design is type-dominated, with only a small Batman cowl as a graphic element. The word BATMAN looks back to the block letterforms from the version created for issue 241 in the 1970s, and is certainly easy to read against a solid background. All the other elements are enclosed in rectangles of various sizes, and the type other than the word Batman is a classic rounded sans-serif font. The entire trade dress, except for the UPC code box and website address, forms a banner at the top of the cover, and does not interact with the cover art at all, meaning the art stops at the banner.
Comics covers have often tried this sort of layout. In fact, many early comics used a separate logo area at the top, such as the first years of Detective and Action Comics. Marvel Comics also took this approach for a time in the 1970s. While it makes the logo very easy to read, I prefer a floating logo that allows art to run behind it. It just feels less cramped. On this layout, I don’t find the Batman cowl very appealing either, it seems stylized to the point of being a caricature, something Bat-mite might wear. And the logo has no mystery or menace about it, which I feel Batman’s logo should have. So, all in all, I have to say I don’t care for this one.
Curtis King, the man at DC in charge of cover design, needed a fresh Batman logo to herald the launch of a new creative team for issue 608, and he contacted artist/designer Chris Gardner, who works mainly for the House Industries type foundry. Here’s what Chris said about it in his blog:
A few years back I got a call from Curtis King at DC Comics. He wanted new logos for the Batman line of books. It took me all of a nanosecond to say “Jesus Christmas!!! I’ll do it!” Jim Lee was starting his run on the book with issue 608, (the “HUSH” storyline for the non-nerds around here…) and that’s where this logo first appeared. I wanted the logo to feel new and at the same time harken back to the glory days, not to mention we just had to get Batman’s mug back on the thing. This was the greatest gig ever, thanks Curtis!
Chris also included his logo sketch there, and has given me permission to use it here:
First, I have to say this is a terrific Bat shape! It goes back to the original Bob Kane idea of the Batman head and cape, with aspects of the Carmine Infantino three-quarter view for the head, and incorporates great side-light shading and cool rib shapes in the cape. Notice how, in the sketch, Batman’s mouth showed, but has been hidden in the shading in the final version. Well done, lots of atmosphere, mystery and menace!
The Batman letters mix some elements of the original logo created by the Bob Kane studio for issue 1 with the later revision by Ira Schnapp: art deco letterforms, but the B is now thickest on the left side, as are all the letters, in fact. They’re spaced tightly to the point of overlapping in places, but still easy to read, and there’s a nice drop shadow. Note that in the sketch the drop shadow was on the left side of the letters, in the final it’s on the right, where I think it looks best, as the slant of the letters seems to indicate that’s where it should be.
In all, a very effective logo, going back to those essential elements that seem to work well for Batman: large, art deco letters in front of a bat shape with menacing, mysterious elements. This is the logo still in use at the moment, though the Bat shape is often dropped. The Batman letters alone still work fine, but I prefer the whole logo as conceived by Chris.
Where will Batman’s logo go next? Only time will tell. Meanwhile, let’s take a look at a few more covers.
There have been dozens of Batman one-shots, mini-series and graphic novels, mainly since the 1980s, far too many to include in this logo study, but I did want to look at a few long-running spinoff series. Of course, Batman continues to appear in DETECTIVE COMICS, which I’ll look at another time, and had a very long run with Superman in WORLD’S FINEST COMICS. Batman also had a long run in the team-up book THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD, but the first real Batman spinoff was BATMAN FAMILY in the 1970s. This used the Carmine Infantino bat shape with Ira Schnapp letters, but in a slanted version that isn’t quite as well-designed as the original. I think it’s by Gaspar Saladino, but some elements suggest it was done by someone else on the DC staff. The Y bothers me on that word, it seems to be in different perspective than the rest, and the space between the first A and the T is too large. The Infantino head and cape helps make it fairly attractive.
Next up is Batman and the Outsiders from 1983. This logo is definitely by Gaspar Saladino, and hearkens back to his Batman logo from the early 1970′s, the one that filled the Bat shape. This bat shape is more stylized, and the logo itself is more of a superhero team logo, which is exactly what this book is. I like it except for the very small “AND THE” jammed between the two larger words. I probably would have put that after the word BATMAN.
In 1989 Legends of the Dark Knight launched as a series of short story arcs, the kind that had been popular since Batman Year One. The early covers all featured this layout with the art framed, the logo in a box at the top, the story title in a box at the bottom. This was by artist and designer Dean Motter. It’s not exactly a Batman logo, but has all the classic elements of one, so qualifies for me. Putting such a long title in that small a space makes it a little hard to read, but the bat shape in the background helps sell the idea.
Curtis King later reworked it as a floating logo to allow the cover art to be larger, usually a good plan, as it’s a major selling point. It does make the logo a little harder to read, though.
1992 brought the first of many books based on the Batman Animated TV show and sequels. For this one, Curtis King put together elements designed for the TV show. The word BATMAN is a different type of art deco lettering, one that works fine for me, and the bat shape is certainly menacing and mysterious. What’s not to like? The show was very well designed, too, and great fun.
1992 also saw the launch of another ongoing Batman title: Shadow of the Bat. Curtis King put this design together using the Frank Miller bat shape I did for Batman Year One, the word BAT inspired by the original art deco letters, and the rest similar to Richard Bruning’s design for Legends of the Dark Knight. I think this one does a better job with a long title, though it takes up more space, of course. There’s also conflicting angles with the bat shape leaning right, the word BATMAN vertical, and the rest leaning left. I like it anyway.
In 1995 this title launched as an “Elseworlds” vehicle for alternate versions of the Batman characters. Curtis King designed this logo using a very effective rough pencil texture for the bat shape that I love, and two fonts for the logo, a tall serif font and a blocky sans-serif font. Somehow they work fine together, and I like the way the letters are spaced out, not only making them easy to read, but showing more of that cool bat shape.
who once again shows he has a great eye for an effective bat shape. He chose yet another art deco font for the word BATMAN, an attractive one, and for GOTHAM KNIGHTS, a stylized sans-serif look that is both somewhat art deco and very modern. I much prefer this one.
In 2009 this new title began with a striking logo by Rian Hughes. Rian has kindly shared some of his design work and ideas about this logo with us. Below are two of many variations that he submitted.
The second concept was the direction DC liked best, and he did many more versions of this one. Here are some:
As you can see, Robin’s chest symbol was considered as an added element for a while, but later dropped. More on that in my ROBIN logo study. Concentrating on BATMAN here, we see a variety of shapes and styles as Rian explores his options, all of them interesting. Here’s what Rian writes about the final, seen on the cover above:
“In the final version, the treatment of the “Batman” type is interesting – it needs to fit symmetrically within the bat shape. As we have two repeated As, I used the angle on the outer side to slant the B and the N, giving a neat reflective symmetry. The T and M are perfectly upright. Curving the outer sides of the B and N was tried, but the B especially begins to look a bit strange. Finally the curve on the bottom of the “Batman” type follows the curve of the bat wings, and opens up a neat bit of central negative space to sit the “and” in. The top of “Batman” has a very subtle curve as well to help fill the negative space above the B and the N.”
Rian also submitted the final logo in a wide variety of colors inspired by Batman comics of the 1950s and 60s and also the Batman TV show, just a few are above. As usual, Rian takes the time to develop his ideas thoroughly, and with excellent results, creating a terrific logo.
That wraps up this logo study, hope you’ve enjoyed it. More chapters and other logo studies on my LOGO LINKS page.