All images © Marvel Characters, Inc.
In 2001 Marvel celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Fantastic Four with this 12-issue series, making their famous long-time motto the title of the comic, a nice idea. Everything about this logo and trade dress design says Comicraft to me, and while I haven’t received confirmation from Richard Starkings, I did find a font on their website called Thingamajig that seems to be what was used to create the logo and topline, a font based on the original FF logo. It nicely captures the bounce and excitement of the original, and the overall design is busy, but well-done. I like the 40 in the box at left which uses the FF’s 4 logo. The only thing I’m not fond of are the letters FANTASTIC FOUR at the top, which I think are too condensed and too far apart. Otherwise, it’s a good job.
Over in the main FF book, the 4 symbol also took a prominent place for a few issues, though this logo layout needed to be smaller than usual to fit with the cover art. At this point, after 40 years, it’s pretty likely just the 4 itself was enough to identify the book to potential buyers, though, and that’s large enough to be easily readable.
In 2002, with issue 60, Marvel took an abrupt swerve in a different direction, giving the title a completely new look and logo concept, one where the letters are more in the style of a typical sans-serif font, slanted right, over a very horizontally stretched 4-in-a-circle symbol with the negative space open to the background art. A glowing horizontal line goes between the words and curls around behind the 4 circle like the rings of Saturn. That circle is heavily three-dimensional, and all the logo elements are surrounded by Photoshop glows, helping to separate it some from the background art. That art is quite busy here, and I still find the logo a little hard to read, but it definitely signals to the reader, “This is not your dad’s FF.” It’s futuristic, slick, modern, and follows the current trend toward using fonts rather than hand-drawn letters. It was created by Marvel staff designer Adam Cichowski, according to my contact there, Tom Marvelli, who helped me credit some of these recent logos. Thanks, Tom!
One place the new logo works well is over painted art, like this cover of issue 500 in 2003 (the numbering now reverted to that of the original series, as discussed last time). While the flames behind it here still add a little confusion visually, the very airbrushed or Photoshopped look of the logo complements this painted cover art much more successfully than even the rest of the trade dress.
In 2004 this new FF title launched with another new logo approach combining some elements of type and hand-drawn letterforms. ULTIMATE looks like type, FANTASTIC FOUR could have begun as a commercial font, though it has a slightly uneven quality that makes me suspect it might have been hand drawn. In any case, the F in Four has been modified by adding large horizontal and angled strokes to make a huge but hard to see 4 symbol. The main logo has a drop shadow, a nod to the past, while the word ULTIMATE has a Photoshop effect behind it. So, overall, this logo sort of straddles the approaches of the present and the past. It’s also designed by Adam Cichowski.
2005 saw the release of a major and quite successful film based on the comic. As is usual, the logo for the film was completely a new creation, creator unknown to me, though clearly based on a “comic book” logo look. The letterforms are attractive and easy to read, and the use of a large 4 symbol instead of the word FOUR is a fine idea, with the flaming circle behind it also quite appealing. Super-hero movie logos usually have to include metallic airbrushed effects, and this one is no exception, they’re on the beveled edges that push the letters forward. Really a quite good design overall, and much of the movie publicity needed only the 4 symbol to get the concept across.
That same year, Marvel launched this new FF title aimed at younger readers with a logo based on the film one. In fact, the similarities are more in the overall shape than anything; the letterforms are more squared and thinner, and the 4 is not angled and now a negative space in a solid circle. I like that part best, though, a nice variation on the theme.
A few issues later it changed to a variation on the original FF logo, one with an open outline and the centers inset, dropped down a little below the outline. Not a bad look, though it has the effect of reducing the size of the open areas in the center of the letters a bit too much to my eye, they’re too thin.
Over in the main title, the logo took a vacation for a few issues to make way for the all-type cover designs using the font Trajan exclusively…
…and then returned using the heavily-outlined version from the 1980s with a new THE NEW in slanted block letters above. That remained for about a year.
In 2008 another new type-based logo and trade dress began, with a new, inventive variation of the 4 symbol taking prominence, and, like the film, replacing the word FOUR in the logo, an approach they liked so well they use it twice on each cover. I like it pretty well, too. If you’re going to use standard sans-serif type for a logo, having it complemented by a clever graphic 4 that everyone knows means the Fantastic 4 is a good way to go.
And that brings us up to the present, and a prediction. I may be going out on a limb here, but I predict that some time in the future, sooner or later, the original FF logo will return to the cover of their main title. It’s tough to keep a good idea down!
More chapters and other logo studies on my LOGO LINKS page.