Logo Study: IRON MAN part 1

All images and logos ©Marvel Entertainment, Inc. except as noted.

In 1962, building on the successes of THE FANTASTIC FOUR and SPIDER-MAN, Marvel writer/editor Stan Lee began creating other superheroes to star in existing Marvel books. Thus Iron Man debuted in issue 39 of TALES OF SUSPENSE rather than his own title. At the time the number of titles Marvel could publish was limited by their distributor, and that was likely the reason. While Lee’s brother Larry Leiber worked on the script from Stan’s plot, the cover was drawn by Jack Kirby, who created the “costume” or armor. Interior art was begun by Kirby and finished by Don Heck, who soon took over most of the art on the feature.

Most Marvel cover logos at the time were designed by production manager Sol Brodsky and finished or inked by letterer Artie Simek, who also did much of the cover lettering. All the captions and balloons on the cover above look like his work, and he probably did the “IRON MAN’ logo as well, using very square block letters and a pattern of small rivets. This was a time-honored technique for metal-themed characters and words in comics. Another, more artful one is this logo created for DC Comics by their staff designer Ira Schnapp:

©DC Comics, Inc.

Simek’s Iron Man logo above isn’t very well-proportioned, but then again, it’s not meant to be a real logo, and was only used on this cover, so I think we can cut him some slack. The character continued to appear in all subsequent issues of TALES OF SUSPENSE, but it wasn’t until issue 53 that he gained an actual cover logo.

This one looks much better to me, with well-proportioned sans-serif block letters. They’re so standard in form that they don’t really relate visually to the character, though. The only points of interest are the slightly ragged ends on the straight strokes, but that’s so subtle it’s hard to see. The same font could be used for almost any character, and lacks distinction. The comic book logo as a whole is attractive, though. Interesting to see the word “featuring” very much in the style of DC’s Ira Schnapp. Sol Brodsky must have been looking at the competition when he designed this one, assuming he did.

With issue 59 the character began sharing the book with Captain America, and the logo changed again to co-feature both. This time IRON MAN gained impact from much thicker block letters, though still very standard in form. The slight ragged ends are gone. Notice how each character’s name fills the same amount of space, making the CAPTAIN AMERICA letters much thinner and horizontally condensed. It may have been accidental, but it gives the two names nice contrast. And a drop shadow is added to each, giving additional interest and a little more pop off the background shape.

Toward the end of the TALES OF SUSPENSE run, the two characters received larger logos, alternately, with the other smaller below. Here the same sort of letterforms are just expanded vertically for Iron Man. Cap’s logo actually relates to him by using stripes of red white and blue, but Iron Man’s is still very standard in style.

Iron Man left TALES OF SUSPENSE with issue 99, and appeared in this one-shot with Sub-Mariner, cover dated April, 1968, using the previous logo. Later in 1968 he finally gained his very own book.

Titled THE INVINCIBLE IRON MAN, the logo is once again very standard block-letter forms, with IRON MAN redrawn and even taller than before. Aside from the open drop shadow there’s not much about this logo that is different or better than what came before it, nor is it worse. Certainly it’s very readable, and the name is short enough to make it memorable, though the character’s costume has become increasingly less robotic and iron-plated over the passing years, and except for the mask and chest plate could pass as a typical superhero costume.

With issue seven the rivets returned, at least offering something that suggested metal, but it was a half-hearted attempt.

Finally, on issue 11, the logo was gained some additional elements: two-point perspective and telescoping that gave the letters width and weight. The rounded characters now had more appropriate beveled corners, too. The general effect isn’t bad, but if you look closely, the shading on the telescoping is rough and unconvincing, not well done at all, and only barely conveying the idea of shadows. I’d call this logo a slight improvement in some ways, a step backward in others. As to who might have designed it, it doesn’t look to me like the work of Brodsky and Simek. Probably someone else on staff at Marvel then did this one, but I have no idea who, not having been able to assemble a good picture of Marvel production staff for the time.

Would IRON MAN ever get a really good cover logo? It would take some years, but the answer is yes, and we’ll see it next time.

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

One thought on “Logo Study: IRON MAN part 1

  1. Pj Perez

    Just found your blog and as a font design geek, I am fully intrigued by your explorations of comics logo designs! (And of course, a fan of your lettering work over the years. Oddly, I just pulled out “The Dark Knight Strikes Back” last night to re-read, lettered by … oh, but you knew that.)

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