Logo Study: ANGEL AND THE APE

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All images © DC Comics, Inc.

In the late 1960s DC Comics was experimenting with new kinds of comics, hoping to draw in younger readers and feeling the pressure from Stan Lee’s Marvel Comics. Editor Joe Orlando launched several that blurred the lines between the superhero or mystery and humor genres, and this was one of them. Created by Nelson Bridwell (with some help from Howard Post) and penciller Bob Oksner (often with fine inking by Wally Wood), ANGEL AND THE APE was an unlikely team comic: she’s a beautiful girl, he’s a gorilla who draws comics; they’re detectives. Their first appearance was in SHOWCASE 77, above. DC was then just transitioning away from their long-time in-house logo designer Ira Schnapp to freelancer Gaspar Saladino, and I think this was one of the first logos he did for DC. It’s certainly the first one on SHOWCASE not by Schnapp, and the letterforms of AND THE are ones that Gaspar favored and Schnapp would never have used. The letterforms of ANGEL and APE are not typical for Gaspar, but he may well have been trying to step into Schnapp’s shoes on this one, and also represent a humor approach by using very rounded forms. While not typical, they do have the kind of bounce and energy Gaspar’s work is known for, so I think I can safely conclude this logo was by him. The logo creates balance by using the same style for both the main words and a different style for AND THE. It looks good, though it passes on the opportunity to do something more appropriate for the word APE. Not sure who did the cover lettering for this comic, it doesn’t look like Gaspar.

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ADDED: On my recent trip to go through the old DC logo files, I found the original of this one, and it’s full of new information, detailing the struggle Gaspar must have had with it. Two parts, the NGE and the PE are patches pasted onto a piece of art paper on which the rest of the letters are drawn. Gaspar must have done an earlier version of the logo and either not been happy with some of it, or his DC editor Joe Orlando wasn’t happy, so cut out the parts that were okay, traced them on a light-box in blue pencil (you can still see that where one of the pieces has fallen off, and redrew the two initial A’s and the L. Then he pasted the saved parts in place with rubber cement, which explains the yellow/brown stain where one part came loose. AND THE also was a struggle, he wasn’t happy with the first version lettered on this paper, so he painted over it with white paint and did it again. As a logo designer myself, I’ve had some struggles like this, though my tendency was always to just start over. The final logo looks fine, and shows no sign of the struggle!

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The feature jumped right into its own title for a brief but fondly-remembered run of seven issues, playing off 60’s pop culture themes. The logo is the same, and all the cover lettering is now by Gaspar Saladino as well.

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With the fourth issue, the emphasis shifted to ANGEL, with AND THE APE a mere subtitle. Obviously pushing the good-girl art of Oksner and Wood was where DC thought this title should go. The logo on this one is puzzling. the word MEET looks like Gaspar Saladino, but the word ANGEL does not. The closest thing to it I can think of are some of the logos and story titles used by EC Comics, and that brings me to this completely hypothetical theory: I think Joe Orlando designed the logo, and had Gaspar ink and finish it for him. Joe worked for EC, and I know he had an interest in logo design, because I worked on one with him some years later. Just a theory, but that’s my guess. ADDED: I’m now doubting this theory, as I found some other logos for DC humor titles like BINKY’S BUDDIES that Gaspar did in a similar style, so it may just have been one of his approaches to humorous logos. The title didn’t last much longer, and with the final issue, AND THE APE was dropped completely, and the character was mostly absent. Too bad, it was a fun idea.

In 1991 DC decided to relaunch the title in a new mini-series, and I was asked to design the logo. I began with four marker sketches, only three of which have survived.

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All my sketches played up the contrast between the characters. In this first one ANGEL is in open, flowing script while APE is very wide block letters with severe two-point perspective and telescoping drop shadow. AND THE fit nicely into the telescoping, which was the monoblock type, one large shape rather than individual letter sections. I have to say this is still my favorite of these sketches.

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Sketch two is missing. Sketch three put the main words on a horizontal line, with thin, gracefully curved shapes for ANGEL and again very heavy block letters for APE, with AND THE between, matching ANGEL in style. This layout would leave more room for cover art, and it works pretty well, though it puts the emphasis on the right side too much, I think.

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Sketch four is, for me, the least successful of these. Again APE is the most important, having too much emphasis, while ANGEL has thicker strokes, but is still quite a bit smaller. The style is a sort of quasi-calligraphy that I don’t think works well in the logo or for the character. The one thing I do like is that the same large A is used for ANGEL and AND. But look at those large gaps in the center. Poor design overall.

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Curtis King at DC suggested I combine the ANGEL from version 3 with the APE from version one, and this was the result. By thickening the strokes of ANGEL and putting it on top, it has more balance than version 3, and the letterforms of ANGEL provide good contrast to APE while still having some feminine grace. AND THE still fits nicely between the two.

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The final inked version made ANGEL larger and wider, the same width as APE, giving the two names more parity. I think it works well, and is an improvement over the sketch.

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Here’s how it looked on the 1991 mini-series by Phil Foglio and K.S. Wilson. I’m happy with it, and once again wish the relaunch had been successful enough for a regular series.

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In 2001 the duo came back for another min-series from Vertigo, a somewhat more adult take with great covers by Arthur Adams, and an entertaining script by Howard Chaykin and David Tischman. The interior art by Philip Bond was quite nice, too. The logo is by designer Daniel Gelon, as I recently learned from him. Daniel is probably best known in the comics world for his GREEN LANTERN logos on the current GL books, but he’s done a lot of work in the gaming arena. I really like the halo around the A of ANGEL, wish I’d thought of that! Like mine, this logo plays up the contrast between the characters. APE, being very thick and blocky, tends to have more emphasis, but it’s a nice design. I like the script used for ANGEL. The only thing I’m not crazy about is splitting AND THE into two lines. Those words could have stayed together on the top line, making for better reading and balance.

There you have it, a short study for a short-lived feature. More logo studies can be found on my LOGO LINKS page.

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