COMIC BOOK LOGOS, A BRIEF HISTORY
The concept of a magazine logo is certainly nothing new, they've needed them since magazines began. Comic strips also had colorful logos, often in a separate box featuring some of the characters. The purpose of a comics logo, like that of any magazine logo, is to attract the reader and help sell the magazine. Since comics were traditionally sold in racks on newsstands and in stores where often only the top half of the comic was visible, the logo traditionally filled the top third or quarter of the cover with large, bold, colorful open letters designed to appeal to kids and other readers. Red, orange, yellow or white letters with thick black outlines were the most common. As comics developed, some companies tried to keep their logos in a similar style, to help promote their line of comics. Early DC Comics logos such as those below are a good example. (Note that I will focus on DC Comics here, as it's the company I'm most familiar with.)
Though I don't know for sure who created the above logos, it's quite likely that they are the work of early DC Comics letterer and designer Ira Schnapp, whose work dominated the covers of DC Comics for several decades, until he left the company in the late 1960s. For more information on Schnapp, click HERE.
Many of the logos from the Golden Age and Silver Age comics published by DC had Ira's classic logos, still associated with the characters today, despite many later designs. Schnapp brought his training as a stone-carver and probably previous work in the pulp magazines and show-card advertising to DC, and his logos are always clear, bold, and attractive. Here are a few of my favorites.
After Schnapp's departure, another letterer was called in from the freelance bullpen to fill the need for logos, and it was my all time favorite, Gaspar Saladino, who brought energy, artistic flair and great style to his logo designs. Here are a few prime examples.
In 1977 I joined the staff of DC Comics, and soon after began creating logos for the company, beginning with this one.
In the sidebar at right are some of my favorites, and in the KLEIN LETTERING ARCHIVES topic, also in the sidebar, you'll find a complete list with additional images.
In the 1990s, Computer lettering came into the field, and had a major impact on comics logos. I've described some of my own work of that kind HERE. You'll find more examples in the sidebar topic.
Comics logos today have generally moved away from the hand-drawn look of earlier times, often using commercial type fonts as a starting point, with various kinds of computer manipulation adding interest. Here's an example of mine with those elements.
In this case, the starting point was the London Underground signs that reflect the content of the story. DC's Richard Bruning provided some help with the "distressing" of the type. The trick is to keep it readable when doing this kind of thing.
Logos continue to evolve, but the challenge remains the same: capture a potential buyer's attention with a logo that is readable, bold, attractive and exciting. I hope to continue to find ways to make that work.
All text and images ©Todd Klein, except as noted. All rights reserved.
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