Logo Study: THOR Part 2

All images © Marvel Characters, Inc.

With issue 338, cover-dated December, 1983, THOR gained a magnificent new logo that I feel is the best one he’s ever had to this day. It was designed by Alex Jay, who has written about the logo’s creation in depth on his own blog. Here are links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8. Go there for the full story, I’m going to pull a few images and discuss them below.

What Alex Jay did in approaching this logo is to look at ancient letterforms that might suggest the age and Norse origin of the mythic character the Marvel one is based on. This would be Norse Runes, whose very angular shapes can be seen in this first set of logo sketches. Runes were essentially made of all straight lines, easy to carve in stone or other hard materials. One characteristic feature is the angling of cross strokes like the one in the H in THOR, but you can see it in THE MIGHTY as well. Since the first line needed to go at the top, he’s made the T very large and put THE MIGHTY next to the top stroke so the logo keeps a rectangular shape. And in the second sketch above we can already see the beveling that will emerge in the final version, another way of adding bulk and depth to the letters besides the more typical telescoping seen in the other sketches.

In these sketches Alex is incorporating another ancient style from Celtic manuscripts like “The Book of Kells,” Uncial letterforms, which are more curved and rounded. It’s most obvious in the O of THOR, but also in THE MIGHTY, and there are subtle curves everywhere. While Uncial is not associated with the Norse, and in fact was used by their enemies and prey in the British Isles, it’s probably equally ancient. By blending the two styles he’s come up with a unique and appealing approach. Both the O and R in THOR are unusual open shapes that still read well, yet have a freshness that illustrates Alex’s talent.

Here’s a later sketch of the THOR version chosen by Walt Simonson, with his suggestion for the R incorporated, he didn’t feel Alex’s was what he wanted.

And developmental versions of THE MIGHTY, with the final one at the bottom. This leans more heavily on Uncial with almost no Rune influence. The forms are a mix of upper and lower case, the T, G and Y are upper, the H and M are lower, the E and I could be either. There’s something appealing about having the H’s extend above the top line and the Y and G a bit below the baseline. It adds interest that letters all the same height would lack. And the letter forms have a nice bounce to them with no true straight lines and just the suggestion of serifs.

The final logo adds one more element, a heavy outline on the inner shapes of THOR with lighter ones on the surrounding bevels, something that will help the letters read well and stand out no matter the color scheme. I love this logo, I think it’s Alex’s best ever. It stayed on the book through Simonson’s run and beyond, until issue 432 in 1991. But in comics, nothing is forever. New creators and editors want to put their own stamp on continuing titles, and one way to do that is to give them a new logo.

Issue 433 saw the debut of this logo, but it’s a little hard to see with such dark coloring, so here’s a brighter version:

I don’t know who designed this logo, but I have to say I don’t like it much. THE MIGHTY uses a simpler type of beveling on standard block lettering while THOR tried to take a modern approach with an opening in the left stroke of the R. I don’t find that particularly effective or appropriate for the character, but what I like even less is the O. It’s drawn with circle and oval templates, but does not follow the slant of the other letters correctly, looking all wrong and standing out like a sore thumb to my eyes. Sure, it’s big and readable, but quite a disappointing follow-up to the Alex Jay logo that came before it.

Issue 467 in 1993 had another new logo, but this cover hides much of it, so here’s a complete version:

Once again I don’t know who designed this logo. While I like it better than the previous one, it seems kind of an odd approach for a superhero based on a Norse god. Very curvy, almost suggesting 1960s rock posters in THOR. The large, blocky serifs add a little power, but the mix of those with the curves seems mismatched to me. THE MIGHTY looks like it might be a font, though not one I can put my finger on. Could THOR also be a font? If so, it’s one I don’t know. The outline shape and drop shadow add depth and open an area for a second color, good ideas, but the overall effect doesn’t seem right for the character to me.

MightyThor476Marvel

Here’s a photostat of the logo from original cover art. The top line looks better, but otherwise my opinion hasn’t changed. Some very odd letterforms in THOR.

Issue 491 brought another logo, and I do know the designer of it: myself! Here’s a more complete (and vertically stretched) version:

I was asked to design a new Thor logo in 1995, and I’m pretty sure I suggested they go back to the Alex Jay one, but instead they wanted a new design. This was done on the computer, and my submitted versions are below.

Designing logos using an Apple computer was still pretty new for me at the time, and I was experimenting with adding to existing fonts. This idea began with the font Albertus, but I changed or added on to almost every part of it. The only real survivor I see are the top ends of the H. I added diamond-shaped serifs at the bottom, diamond-shaped elements through the middle, and large serifs at the top of the T, among other things. I was going for something with a Norse feel, perhaps suggesting pointed weapons or metal studs, and I thought this direction worked pretty well. Marvel was always going for pointy and dangerous logo approaches then, too, so it had that working for it.