Logo Study: Action Comics/Superman Part 5


All Images ©DC Comics, Inc.

When John Byrne’s revamp of the Superman mythos began in 1987, his lead book restarted with a new issue 1. The existing Superman title became THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN, as shown above, with a new curved two-point perspective logo.The designer was Alex Jay, a freelance graphic designer who moved to New York City in 1977, and soon after began to do logos and design work for Byron Preiss and others. I first met him in 1983 when we worked together on some covers for THE MASTERWORKS SERIES OF GREAT COMIC BOOK ARTISTS co-published by DC Comics and Phil Seuling’s Sea Gate. Alex did the main cover logo and design, and I did the logo versions of the artists’ signatures.

Alex began working on other logos for DC in 1986, and did many fine designs. I’d say he was my main competition at the time, in fact! Here are his recollections of designing this logo.

“On May 2, 1986, according to my appointment book, I had a three o’clock meeting with Richard Bruning to discuss a logo. I don’t have notes of that meeting but what usually happened was Richard would describe the assignment and the “look” or “feel” of the logo. Sometimes he would show samples of past work or offer some suggestions. Then it was up to me to submit sketches at a later date.


“On May 20, I dropped off six sketches for Richard.”


“On May 22 I had a 4:45 meeting with Richard to discuss the sketches. He made pencil notations and a sketch near sketch number five. On the left side he wrote, “smaller “S” and drew a line through the top stroke to show that it aligned with the “U”. Below the sketch he wrote, “accent curve”. On the right side it says, “depth to this line”. He also sketched an alternative version. I returned to my studio and incorporated most of the modifications.

“On June 10, I delivered new sketches to Richard. We discussed any changes at this meeting. On June 16, I delivered the finished logo to Richard at 3:30.

Alex adds that the logo ran as designed from issues 424 to 450. From 451 to 456 “THE ADVENTURES OF” was reduced in size.

Thanks, Alex, for the information and sketches. You’ve given a fairly typical description of the logo design process at the time.

In a way Alex’s final logo follows the lead of my ACTION COMICS revision seen in part 3 of this series, with the S supersized. I like the way “The Adventures of” fits in aligned with the top of the S, and the letterforms are very similar to the revised Superman logo from 1982, which makes sense. The arc and perspective of the telescoping letters (to a vanishing point below and center) is new, and a refreshing change. Nice work!

Adventures of Superman 457 cover

A few years later it was replaced by that 1982 logo, I think to increase crossover buying with the main Superman book. I was asked to letter “THE ADVENTURES OF” in a matching style. I recommended having it float over the telescoping on “SUPERMAN,” but at the time the editor didn’t want to do that. The result is a logo that’s unnecessarily tall, and with a visual disconnect between the top and bottom lines, in my opinion.

Adventures of Superman 501 cover

About fifty issues later they finally came around to my point of view and I did this version. Working with the Superman logo is always challenging because of the complex perspective and curves. Simply moving the previous top line down wouldn’t have worked, it had to be redrawn to match the slightly different curve of this location.

Adventures of Superman 592 cover

In 1991 the Superman franchise expanded with the addition of a new title, SUPERMAN, THE MAN OF STEEL, seen below. Above, THE ADVENTURES OF was revised again at that time, using the style from issue 425. I’m not sure what the thinking was on this version, but the top line is larger, and has deeper telescoping, which does a better job of matching the word below, at least in that regard.

Superman The Man of Steel 1 cover

MAN OF STEEL once again needed to follow a different part of the SUPERMAN curve, and this time I made the letters nearly all the same height instead of gradually getting smaller. It just seemed to look better that way in this case.

Action Comics Weekly 601 cover

Over in ACTION COMICS, the book went weekly for a while, requiring another logo revision by me. I don’t like this one as well as the previous version. Here the large A seems to be slanted at a different angle than the rest of the letters, and the horizontal serif on the left side, matching what John Workman had done years before, doesn’t look good to me now either.

Action Comics 653 cover

But the next one I did was far worse, and I think undoubtedly my least favorite of all the ACTION logos I was involved in. I think my direction here from the company was to make ACTION curve to match SUPERMAN, but the result is really lame. Not only does ACTION now look bad, but the combination of styles and mismatched telescoping/drop shadow is pretty awful. What can I say, they can’t all be winners, but someone should have rejected this one.

Action Comics 667 cover

Fortunately it didn’t last long. In 1991 the title was revised to fall in line with ADVENTURES OF and MAN OF STEEL, creating strong ties between the three titles. I was again asked to create this version, and asked to use the letterforms from the original ACTION COMICS logo. At this size ACTION COMICS is a little hard to read because the narrower strokes are too narrow, but it worked well enough to make everyone happy at the time.

Superman Man of Tomorrow 1 cover

In 1995 a fourth title was added to the line with a bottom title by me, this time very square and elongated to differentiate it from the others. This title is really too long to fit well in the space, and is a bit of an eyechart, but I did what I could with it.

Action Comics 733 cover

1996 brought a major, if temporary, revamp to the entire line, nicknamed the “Superman Electric” series. I created an entirely new matching set of logos based on and containing the new chest symbol. This was a lot of fun, and in a way, freed me to rethink the titles without having to rely so much on what had gone before. Plus, I knew it was temporary, so could ignore any outrage from the fans, as I knew they’d get their old favorites back before long. I began these logos with hand-drawn sketches, but then, for the first time, took them to the computer, where I traced and finished them.

Action Electric Logo

I did fully telescoped versions, which were used on some of the covers. I bit overdone in the shading, but actually they looked better in print than they do in this picture. When the traditional Superman look and logos returned, there was one more revision to ACTION COMICS:

Action Comics 764 cover

This time I was given the opportunity to make ACTION COMICS larger and more readable, and I think it works better here than it had before.

Next time, more new looks for the Superman line, and I’ll try to wrap this up.

More chapters and other logo studies on my LOGO LINKS page.

12 thoughts on “Logo Study: Action Comics/Superman Part 5

  1. Cindy McShane

    Todd, thank you very much for this series. Like many comics fans, I am quite curious about the “behind-the-scenes”. The critiques of different logos, along with their history is fascinating.

    Thanks again, Cindy

  2. Shawn

    Let me second Cindy’s comments. It’s always interesting to get a behind-the scenes look at how the work is done, and the historical perspective matched with the politics of each change makes for a really great story. Thanks a bunch, and I hope there’s more than just this storyline to come!

  3. Todd Post author

    Yes, I’ll be doing other logo studies in the future. BATMAN is on the top of my list at the moment, but I’m always interested in hearing what you, the readers, would like to see covered.

  4. Bill Angus

    Add my name to the list of those of us enjoying this – this is the kind of thing I was hoping you’d be addressing on your blog.

    I just love this kind of ‘process’ stuff. If you still have any of them, I’d love to see sketch samples of how you arrived at a logo, when you were creating something from scratch (one of my favourite bits of the Comic Book Artist magazine interview with Ken Bruzenak a few years back was getting the chance to see his various concept sketches for Chaykin’s Shadow mini series – fascinating stuff).

  5. Todd Post author

    I’ll probably do that in some future entries, Bill. I have sketches for many of my logos, but not all of them. The final part of this logo study will show some alternate versions for one logo. There are some logo sketch examples in the HOW TO: Logo Design section of my site, too.

  6. Todd Post author

    I’ll consider that, Michael. Narrowing it down to five favorites would be tough, but I suppose I could give it a try. Five least favorite would be easier.

  7. Brandorama

    I love the imagery of the Superman comic brand. The retro style is similar to artwork produced by Andy Warhol and Lichtenstein. No wonder the Superman brand is worth billions of $ today!

    What a great brand designer!!!!!!

  8. Graeme Burk

    I loved that original Adventures of Superman logo. It evoked both Shuster’s original The Superman logo and the logo of the first couple of seasons of the 1950s TV show for me. It was really striking. I was very disappointed when the decided to use the 1983 logo for branding purposes.

    And I really hated that curved Action logo and never knew who to blame (then again, I hated abandoning the Schnapp logo altogether even more) so thanks Todd– good thing I love so many of your other logos!

  9. SanityOrMadness

    You’ll be glad to hear that the “least favorite of all the ACTION logos [you were] involved in” has been trotted out for the “90s” Action Comics #1000 variant cover this week :)

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