Logo Study: Action Comics/Superman part 6

Superman Animated DVD
This image © Warner Home Video, Inc. All other images © DC Comics, Inc.

Beginning in 1996, and following on the success of the Batman Animated series of cartoons, Superman Animated aired on TV sporting the logo above, created, I believe, by someone involved with the animation studio. The logo was obviously inspired by the Alex Jay logo first seen on THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #425, in part 5 of this logo study series, but it has a more extreme curve and perspective, and deeper telescoping.

Superman Adventures logo

Not long after I was asked to do a comic book logo for a new series by DC based on the animated show. Basically, I had to create the word ADVENTURES to match the curve and perspective of SUPERMAN. I recall it being rather difficult because the perspective on SUPERMAN wasn’t consistent, but I got there eventually.

The regular Superman titles got a striking new trade dress and logo treatment in 2002. Here are two of them:

Action Comics 787 cover

Adventures of Superman 600 cover

These were created by Josh Beatman of Brainchild Studios, more famous now for creating the new DC symbol that debuted in 2005, also seen in an earlier chapter of this logo study. Beatman’s Superman cover treatments used the previous logos in a new way, with the addition of a large three-dimensional S symbol. I thought they were quite striking and attractive, though at times the colors made them a little hard to read, as in the ACTION COMICS sample above. That’s not the fault of the designer, though.

Adventures of Superman 630 cover

As happens with ever-increasing rapidity these days, Beatman’s logo treatments were put aside, and some new ones were commissioned. I was asked to take another shot at THE ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN. This time I suggested dropping “THE” altogether, as I think it’s implied, and I made ADVENTURES as large as possible, giving it nearly the same weight as SUPERMAN, with OF small in script, following the style often used by Ira Schnapp. The telescoping on this ADVENTURES is the deepest so far, and I think the logo works quite well.

I was also asked to redo the ACTION COMICS logo once again. This time the editor and art director wanted to go back to the original Ira Schnapp logo from the book’s beginning, but with a few small changes. The first thing I did was to recreate Schnapp’s logo on the computer, but as if it had been freshly drawn, with all the corners sharp, all the line weights even and consistent:

Action logo A

The main change wanted was to downplay the word COMICS, placing the emphasis on ACTION. I created three versions for them to consider:

Action Logo B

Action Logo C

Action Logo D

Of these, they liked the first one best (also my favorite), and went with it, though for the final logo, they asked for the outlines on ACTION to be even thicker, something which was easy to do on the computer. Here’s the printed version:

Action Comics 814 cover

I’m very happy with the way this turned out. It goes full circle, returning to the first very successful logo design from 1938 by Ira Schnapp, with just enough contemporary input from me to make it work for today, I think.

action828_2005

For issue 828 in 2005, the logo got a temporary new topline just for this issue, but more importantly, ACTION was given a new drop-shadow to give the word more weight and better readability. I like that change.

action881_2009

And it remains thus to the present day. There aren’t many comics logos that are strong enough to remain appealing for over 70 years, but this is one of them!

All Star Superman 1 cover

One more recent Superman logo to consider, this one for ALL STAR SUPERMAN, created by award-winning designer Chip Kidd. The most surprising thing to me about this design is the placement and size of ALL STAR, just below the DC logo. I think most readers would miss the fact that it’s part of the title, and I only confirmed it by checking the indicia inside! But Kidd places the emphasis on SUPERMAN, where it belongs, with a very three-dimensional scroll-away reminiscent of the opening text on the Star Wars films. Certainly eye-catching, and though “MAN” is rather small, I doubt there are many readers who wouldn’t find it easy to read.

That’s it for this logo study, hope you’ve enjoyed it. More chapters and other logo studies on my LOGO LINKS page.

13 thoughts on “Logo Study: Action Comics/Superman part 6

  1. Martin Gray

    Todd, thank you so much for giving me the logo study I requested – it’s fascinating, and surprising how many tweaks I’d forgotten over the years.

    And I agree about the Superman logo with curved U, it made sense and looks great.

  2. Kate Willaert

    I’m loving the logo studies. 🙂

    A question: are you very aware at all of who has designed various comic logos throughout the years? I only recently discovered Steranko designed that X-Men logo that remained on the books for decades, and was curious what all other familiar logos he may’ve designed that I was unaware of. And similarly, wish I could also find a list of logos designed by Orzechowski…I know he did the one for Wolverine, and I loved the Appleseed logo the moment I saw it. But there doesn’t really seem to be a resource to look this up (and credits rarely given in the comics).

  3. Todd Post author

    Hi Kate,
    Most of my knowledge about logo creators is for DC Comics, where I worked on staff for ten years. I’ve seen Tom Orzechowski’s logo design notebook, and can confirm he did the well-known Wolverine logo, but don’t recall exactly which other ones he did. For other Marvel logos, I only know about the ones I did, which were many in the late 1980s and 1990s, see my Klein Lettering Archives on my website. I’m hoping to add to my knowledge while doing these logo studies, but I don’t have a good source for Marvel logo information thus far.

  4. Todd Post author

    A personal sketchbook that has all his logo design sketches in it. Tom is on ComicSpace, by the way, if you wanted to try asking him about it.

  5. Kate Willaert

    Oh! Thanks for that info. 🙂

    And yeah, I actually saw your Lettering Archive pages just before I initially found this blog of yours…it was fun to finally know who designed that square-shaped X-Men logo, which I remember was always fun to see occasionally show up on covers to change things up. That first issue of the Seagle/Bachalo run was a favorite instance where it was used, as well as a few X-Men Unlimited covers (like that Madureira one for #1 where it was all gigantic!).

  6. Antonio

    Hey all!

    I emailed Todd with some info on the Superman (and Batman) All Star logos, and he suggested I post it here, so here goes:

    The perspective in these two logos is intended to reflect what the characters do; Superman flies off to save the day and so his logo speeds away into the distance; Batman, on the other hand, lands on your head from above and his logo starts off at far away and comes at you. I heard this from Chip Kidd during a lecture. I must agree with Todd in that the way he designs is not very Comic-ey, and I believe super hero logos should be; but I sort of find them nice to look at. Very simple and clean. Maybe a bit adult, but I guess that’s what you have to do to appeal to older audiences?

  7. William Potter

    Looks like your last revision of the Adventures of Superman logo is BACK on the new Digital First A.O.S. series 🙂 Good to see it again as I believe it was/is the best logo that title had in it’s history.

  8. Fletch

    I love the All Star logos. It’s Neutraface, right?

    Just a question – does anyone know anything about the “glass” version of the Superman logo they used for Superman, The Movie? Who did it and how it was done. They didn’t have computer design back then, so maybe someone painted it?

    I tried to do it in Blender, using a glass texture, but can’t quite got the dimensions correct.

    http://img819.imageshack.us/img819/1769/pyn9.png

  9. Brian K.

    I love this series on the Superman logos. I’ve been a voyeur here for some time; long time lurker, first-time poster, you could say.

    That said, as a designer myself, it drives me crazy to see the haphazard and incongruent way multiple typefaces are thrown at a cover. Witness the ACTION COMICS #881 “The Hunt for Reactron” you’ve shown above. It literally hurts my eyeballs. There are like 17 different typefaces on there and none of them work together! And this isn’t even the worst offender by far!

    Spending all the time and energy to design and perfect a comic’s masthead is wasted when some junior without an eye for design, slaps all this awful type down on an image. I think DC, especially, needs to work up a visual language bible that outlines complimentary typefaces and should avoid using character’s branding marks/logos (relying solely on type) when they guest star and let the image speak for itself.

    The Supes/Kalibak one above it is more my speed. Just as effective, and with less type to distract.

    Your thoughts?

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