The premise of this mini-series from Vertigo/DC is simple but brilliant. In England, in the swinging 60s, a group of four talented lads from humble backgrounds form a group that soon has the world cheering, and sets them on a path of fame and fortune. The twist is, it’s not a music group, its a team of superheroes. All this is told in flashbacks while in the present a writer (son of the group’s original public spokesman) and a young, beautiful producer gather information for a documentary about the group known as The Mates. It’s written by David Tischman, with great art and painted covers by Glenn Fabry.
Last year editor Shelly Bond asked me if I’d like to letter the book, which I happily accepted, and also thought I’d be a good person to design the logo. Since I was around in the sixties, I thought I might be, too! Working with Ken Lopez at DC, I did an initial round of hand-drawn sketches, the first one is above. For inspiration on these, I looked at lots of 60s album covers and, at Ken’s suggestion, also 60s comics, especially Marvel comics, which at the time were much hipper than DC. We wanted something loose, with a fun feel, but not too cartoony. The first sketch went in that direction, but having seen Glenn’s cover painting for the first issue, I thought the shape might not be a good fit, so I redid it wider:
Here I used a straight edge in some places to give it a slightly more solid feel, and added more pronounced serifs. All these sketches were drawn in pencil, then inked with markers.
This one is inspired by the psychedelic Fillmore music poster lettering from the 60s. Kind of an odd shape, but I like the way the T on the first line meets the S below. Since the covers would all be painted, I did my designs in solid black, thinking that they could be held in a color, or knocked out in white for good effect.
Version 3 takes a similar approach, but in a rectangular format. You don’t have to look to hard at 60s album covers to find lettering similar to this. I like the shape of the last S quite a bit, and might try to use that again somewhere.
This is my favorite of the initial designs, though I was pretty sure it wouldn’t be chosen, because the large T is too close to the one in the Beatles logo, which I knew they were staying well away from for legal reasons. Again, I really like the shape of the S on this one.
After some review and discussion, I was told I was on the right track, but they wanted a few more sketches. Ken told me to go more toward the 60s Marvel Comics look and less toward the album covers. I did two more sketches:
This one carried my first idea further along toward the original Fantastic Four logo. Maybe a little too close to it, though the letterforms are better than sketch 1 and it has a nice bounce.
Finally I went completely old-school comics, with the open lettering and drop shadow, taking my cue from the original Avengers logo. And this was the one they chose, without any further changes, I think. I simply scanned it, and traced it on the computer in Adobe Illustrator, probably making minor adjustments there.
Here it is on the first issue cover. As I suspected, white worked best, though the black outlines help it read, and the drop shadow does what any good drop shadow should do on a comics logo, helps lift the main letters off the page and make them read better. Not a terribly original design, but it fits the bill nicely, and I’m happy with it.
And if you haven’t read the comic, I suggest you give it a try, it’s a hoot.