In 1991 DC released an entire new line of comics using characters licensed from Archie Comics. These were superheroes created in the 1950s and 60s who had been lying dormant for some time. The best known were THE FLY and THE SHIELD, both originally produced for Archie by Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. I’m not sure when work on the line began, but it was probably some time in 1990. DC gave Kez the assignment to design the line symbol (an exclamation point in a word balloon), the IMPACT logo itself, and the logos for the first six comics, not to mention the overall cover design and trade dress. You can see many of those elements on this cover. I think the Impact symbol is quite clever, and I like it better than the Image Comics symbol, also using the letter I. The logo for THE FLY is large and easy to read, with the L nicely tucked between the F and Y in a pleasing way on those serif block letters. By putting THE inside the F, Kez has reduced the logo effectively to three letters, making for maximum size and impact (there’s that word again). All of Kez’s Impact logos have a feeling of fun about them: nothing too heavy here, just enjoyable super-heroics.
LEGEND OF THE SHIELD had a logo that takes up rather a lot of cover space vertically, but the very bold word SHIELD carries the message well. Note that the shallow curves of the S are similar to the ones on the JSA logo shown last time, and are also reminiscent of some early versions of the Superman logo by Joe Shuster, giving a golden-age feel to the logo.
A revised version of the logo without the shield appeared on issue 12, in a better layout for the cover art, but perhaps not as destinctive a design.
BLACK HOOD follows a more traditional cover logo rectangular shape. I’m not sure why the decorative box is below it, but my guess is it was meant to contain the creator credits, which DC decided not do use on this line. Why it wasn’t just dropped, I don’t know.
Here’s the original logo from the DC files, the only Impact one I found there. One unusual element is the way the B’s lower loop does not connect to the left vertical bar. I’ve tried that a few times, and always get told to change it because it might read as an R instead of a B. As you can see here, it reads just fine. The way the L and A overlap is kind of awkward. It fills the space well, but to my eye suggests the A is lifting it’s left leg to get out of the way! In general, the spacing and thicknesses on all these letterforms are somewhat inconsistent and uneven, making it a less successful logo for me than some of the others by Kez. It works pretty well on the cover, though.
This logo isn’t bad, but it has one disconnect that bothers me. If you consider the comet tail trailing off the bottom of the C to have motion, it goes from right to left, fighting the left-leaning slant of the letters, which want to suggest movement from left to right. Other than that, it’s a fine if somewhat predictable logo.
I think this is my favorite of Kez’s Impact logos. I love the rough treatment of the outlines on JAGUAR and on THE. Speaking of which, did you notice how Kez combined the right leg of the H with the vertical stroke of the E? Why didn’t I ever think of that?! Very cool! The animal skin pattern in the letters of JAGUAR is also nicely done, I love the way it evolves as it moves down. Great work!
THE WEB might be Kez’s most graphically ambitious design, incorporating a doorway, a silhouetted figure, and its shadow. The letters of WEB are particularly attractive, I like the angles it carries, but overall the logo is perhaps trying to do too much, and conflicts some with the rest of the cover art.
Another version appeared beginning with issue 6, which Kez tells me he didn’t do. I think it works less well than the first one.
Later Impact titles had logos by other people. These first six all work well together, establishing a design look distinct from the rest of DC’s comics at the time, and I think convey the light, fun feel of the comics (with perhaps the exception of BLACK HOOD, which wasn’t so light). Sadly, the line didn’t sell well, and lasted only a relatively short time.
Around 1991, Kez left the DC staff, continuing to work for them as a freelancer. He says:
I had various inking assignments like POWER OF THE ATOM and ANGEL AND THE APE that I worked on after I left. I actually did very little logo work. I think the last couple of significant logo projects I did were ROBIN for Dan Raspler who was handing the Batman books with Denny O’Neil at the time, which I did just before leaving New York to return to Texas, and GUNFIRE. I also did the logos for both series I co-created with Tom Joyner, HAMMERLOCKE and SCARLETT. The last of my freelance projects for DC were those two books.
Here’s HAMMERLOCKE from 1992. The logo is bold and easy to read, combining rectangular shapes with some sharply pointed angles, and all receding toward the top in one-point perspective, with a heavy black drop-shadow. Very effective, suggesting to me both action films and super-science. Great cover art by Chris Sprouse and Kez, too! The one slightly odd thing is that the name, which I think was meant to be one word, is split into two here, but it works fine.
SCARLETT from 1993 is another design delight, showcasing Kez’s ability to overlap letters and combine strokes in a way that’s easy to read but graphically unique.
Here’s the original from the DC files. What a great combination of standard serif letterforms, graceful curves, and dangerous points. The fact that the double T suggests a vampire’s fangs is emphasized by the small blood drop. This design is so strong and appealing it outshines many a vampire film logo!
The final DC logo from Kez is GUNFIRE from 1994, another strong effort. Very three-dimensional, with a wide telescoping drop shadow and beveled letters, the gunsight symbol in the R is graphic icing on the cake, very effective. I also like the off-level tilt, adding depth and interest to the three-point perspective. Good work!
So, what has Kez been up to since then? He reports that he did a lot of inking for Defiant Comics, then shifted into animation and advertising. He says,
When I moved from comics to animation back in the early 90s I let my attempts at getting comics work lapse. I’d found moving back to Texas made it a bit harder to get work, especially when in such a competitive freelance market, which is why I moved into animation and then more advertising and marketing-oriented work.
Nowadays I’m freelancing again, and I’m doing a lot of stuff like seasonal decoration design (like those large air-blown decorations you see in people’s yards at Christmas and Halloween), storyboard work and quick-service restaurant kids’ meal packaging and signage, as well as graphic design.
Also, Kerry Gammill and I have formed MONSTERVERSE ENTERTAINMENT. Our first comic book title will be BELA LUGOSI’S TALES FROM THE GRAVE, which will be in stores in September. Tom Joyner, Jim Fern and I have just gotten the rights back to our vampire series SCARLETT, and will be reprinting the original series as well as continuing with new stories. We also plan to reprint HAMMERLOCKE, the series Tom and I did with Chris Sprouse. Both series will get a graphics facelift in the process.
Sounds great, Kez, I look forward to seeing all that! You can find out more at Kez’s website, too. Thanks for your help in putting together this logo study, and revisiting some good memories.
Other chapters and more logo studies can be found on my LOGO LINKS page.