Logo Study: STRANGE ADVENTURES Part 1

Images © DC Comics, Inc.

At the end of the 1940s super-hero comics sales were falling, and publishers like DC were looking to branch out into other areas to bolster their line. One of those areas was science fiction, and an SF anthology book was planned. Apparently several titles were considered seriously enough for logos to be drawn up by staff logo designer Ira Schnapp. Here’s one that went no further, using the same kind of layout and telescoped lettering made famous on the SUPERMAN logo that was originally conceived by Superman creator Joe Shuster, and then developed with professional polish by a logo designer believed to be Schnapp. Clearly SPACE was the important word in this title. The lower case IN is an interesting departure from the usual classic block letters Schnapp liked to use on many of his logos. One thing about this design is it’s very tall. It would have taken up lots of room on the cover, not always a good thing. Notice the black border and the word in type on the right, “PROPRIETOR”? This was apparently a preprinted art board intended for logos that could then be photocopied, have the company name and information typed in ahead of or above the printed word, and sent off to the copyright office in Washington. Ira must have been given a supply of them to work on, though I’ve only seen examples on a handful of logos in the DC files.

Here’s another that I think is from the same time, the clue being the word ADVENTURES, and the similar approach to the logo design, though this one is not curved. You can see that Ira liked to shade the telescoping on his large block letters to give them more weight and depth, thereby using black as a color. This one is also pretty tall, and likewise went no further, though a different design for these same words was used on two issues of SHOWCASE in 1958, designed by Schnapp:

But I digress, the final title decided on for DC’s first science fiction anthology was this one:

This is another Ira Schnapp design which again uses block letters, once more in three point perspective with the left point of the A in ADVENTURES closest to us and a telescoping drop shadow. This is a photocopy from the DC files, but not the original Schnapp art, which is no longer there. I’m guessing the original would have had one part of the telescoping, either the bottom faces or the sides, filled in with black, as on the other logos above, and this version was modified to open those up for color. The use of multiple shade lines on each U indicates that, and the heavier connecting lines on the bottom facets suggests they were once up against solid black and then cut open.

As a design this is attractive, though not as interesting as many of the super-hero logos Schnapp worked on. Editor Julius Schwartz was handling the title, an appropriate choice since he was an SF fan and former SF writers’ agent, and if Julie had any input, I’d guess he would have suggested making the logo look somewhat like the SF pulp magazines it was hoping to draw an audience from, as well as comics fans. Thus, a more conservative look, nothing too flashy or “comic bookish.” The three-dimensional feel was equally appropriate for the SF pulps and movies of the time as well as comics.

DC’s commitment to this title choice is shown further in this ashcan edition, made up with any art on hand (obviously from a Western title) and also sent to the copyright office in Washington to secure the rights to the title. And sure enough, there’s the original version by Schnapp with the solid black areas! The one very odd thing here is the angle of the logo, aligning the bottom edge to horizontal, but since this was not for publication it didn’t really matter.

Here’s the first issue, dated Aug.-Sept. 1950, and showing editor Schwartz pushing the science fiction connection for all he was worth, with a cover showcasing a heavily retouched photo from the upcoming SF film “Destination Moon.” Interestingly, this was the first film adapted from the work of SF writer Robert Heinlein, a friend and I think occasional client of Schwartz in his agenting days. Heinlein was involved in the production of the film I believe, so perhaps Schwartz got the still and permission to use it from him.

The logo is again the one with black in the telescoping, now aligned correctly with the top edge horizontal, and looking quite nice and SF pulpish. Inside this generous package of 52 pages for 10¢ were five stories and a two-page text filler. The “Destination Moon” 8-pager was an early work by writer Gardner Fox and artist Curt Swan, both with long careers at DC. One story was a reprint from REAL FACT #3, two others were the first of many about recurring characters Darwin Jones and Chris KL99, respectively. I mention this because, since the logo did not change for many years, I’m also going to look at logos for series within the title.

While Darwin Jones never had even a story title with his name in it for some reason, Chris KL99 usually did. Not really a logo, just an open-letter title, and one that’s not particularly well drawn. I think this is about as close as we can come to a logo for him, though. Created by Schwartz friend and former client veteran SF writer Edmond Hamilton, Chris KL99 reappeared in many subsequent issues.

Here’s his first cover mention on issue 3, still not a logo, but more artfully lettered by Ira Schnapp at least. Very much in the mode of other Hamilton characters, he was a heroic space explorer with no super powers, just some interesting alien friends.

On issue 9 we can see the alternate version of the logo with open areas where the black had been, and used in an interesting way, a negative version making all the black lines white, and then having solid color filled into the fronts and sides of the letters. A surprisingly effective use of red, yellow and blue against the starry background. This issue also introduced a new recurring series character, Captain Comet.

And this time he got an actual logo, making good use of the name visually in a curved comet shape speeding from right to left, allowing the curve of the C’s to emphasize the shape. Nothing else very memorable about the letterforms, they’re standard block letters with small speed lines supplying a sort of drop shadow, but it’s a good visual idea. And the character is also much more super-heroic in appearance at least, indicating an attempt to get more super-hero fans reading the book. The listed author, Edgar Ray Merritt, was a pen name for John Broome, another Schwartz regular, with the pen name probably lifted from three SF authors: Edgar Rice Burroughs, Ray Bradbury and A.A. Merritt.

The SA logo remained unchanged for all of Julie’s editorship, about 16 years. Next time we’ll look at another popular series within the pages, and then other logos under other editors.

Lots more logo studies, and other chapters of this one when posted, can be found on my LOGO LINKS page.

4 thoughts on “Logo Study: STRANGE ADVENTURES Part 1

  1. Kurt Busiek

    >> DC’s commitment to this title choice is shown further in this ashcan edition, made up with any art on hand (obviously from a Western title) >>

    From ALL-STAR COMICS #47, actually. That’s the Justice Society tied to that stagecoach.

  2. Johnny Bacardi

    On that ashcan, that’s Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Dr. Mid-Nite, and Hawkman tied to that stagecoach headed over that cliff, so it looks like that was supposed to be a JSA story…

  3. Pingback: Letterer Todd Klien Studies "Strange Adventures" | The Comic Archive

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