Logo Study: AQUAMAN Part 1

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All images © DC Comics, Inc.

When Mort Weisinger was hired by the company now called DC Comics in 1941, he was asked to create some new super-heroes for the company’s popular and expanding line of comics. Two of them appeared in MORE FUN 73, Nov. 1941: Green Arrow and Aquaman. Both have been in print most of the time since. The first artist on Aquaman was Paul Norris, as seen above. Aquaman was the second undersea hero, following Timely’s Sub-Mariner, but the two were always quite different. Aquaman seemed comfortable and at home as king of the sea, and all its creatures, breathing water or air equally well.

The logo, drawn by Norris, is fairly typical of super-hero logos of the time: attractive, but not conveying anything about the character. The initial A is largest, the letters form a nice arc. The stroke weights are inconsistent, with the angles on the M very wide, the horizontals on the A’s very thin, and the rest somewhere between. It works fine, and could have been worse.

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Story logos in the 1940s were often redrawn for each story, and that’s what happened with the Aquaman logo throughout much of that decade. In issue 74, his second appearance, the logo is similar, but not exactly the same, redrawn. Interesting to see how it reads fine even with so much of it covered by the caption box.

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The story in MORE FUN 76 took a slightly different approach, with the arc gone, and the tops of the A’s trimmed off to align with the rest of the letters. Here the logo was drawn as a solid black and held in a color, a somewhat unusual treatment for an inside story page. Again, it’s certainly very readable and well-formed, but doesn’t say anything about the character.

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In MORE FUN 81 the logo gained a tagline, “Sovereign of the Sea” for a brief time. It didn’t last long. This version of the logo has the Q and U looking somewhat squished by the widened A’s, giving the entire word an uneven feel. Issue 81 (Aug. 1942) was to be the last for artist Paul Norris, who went on to fame drawing the newspaper strip “Brick Bradford.” Replacing him for about eight years was artist Louis Cazanueve.

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Like Norris, Cazanueve continued to redraw the Aquaman logo on each story’s title page for quite some time, and under his pen it underwent a gradual evolution. Here, in MORE FUN 85, we see it still very uniform, in open block letters, but those letters are more equal in size and well-designed than what Norris usually did, with the initial A now the same size as the rest. Plus, rounded forms are beginning to emerge, with the Q now an oval rather than a round-cornered rectangle, and the U also rounded at the bottom. The cross stroke on the Q has added interest, too, now a triangle pointing inward.

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In issue 86 he tried it slanted to the right, giving the letters a little more energy.

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Issue 87 was back to straight-up letters, with a drop shadow added. One has to wonder what went through the artist’s mind when I was doing these: did he pull out an old issue for reference and just wing it?

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Issue 88 went back to the letterforms of Norris, with pointed diagonals, but still using the drop shadow, and to keep it more compact, the letters overlap a little. I guess most of these ended up colored red because it was the obvious contrast to Aquaman’s undersea environs.

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With MORE FUN issue 89, the logo began to look more rounded and cartoony, an approach that seems, somehow, appropriate for the character, though I’m not sure why. Perhaps it fits in well with his organic world. The letterforms can now have much thicker strokes, too, since the points are less acute, or in some cases, trimmed off.

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In issue 90, Cazanueve enhanced the rounded, cartoony feel by adding circular center holes in the A’s. They’re uneven, here, but suggest bubbles. Finally, an aquatic theme!

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Issue 97 brought back the drop shadow. This logo is not very consistent, not drawn as carefully as in some of Cazanueve’s earlier stories, but it is taking on a personality that seems appropriate for the character, though perhaps leaning a bit too far toward the cartoony.

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Finally, in MORE FUN 100, in 1944, after 27 different hand-drawn logos, this one appears, and will remain on the stories for some time. I think it’s also drawn by Louis Cazanueve, but more carefully than he’d been doing it on the story splash pages. Stylistically it’s very close to what had come before, but with more consistent strokes and shapes. Still cartoony and rounded, but a little more formal. Someone at the company had decided to put a recurring logo on the stories so it wouldn’t have to be redrawn each time, which I’m sure Cazanueve was happy about: less work for him!

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Here’s a better look at it from MORE FUN 101. And, as you can see, exactly the same as 100. When the series moved from MORE FUN to ADVENTURE COMICS in 1946, this logo followed, and remained for the rest of that long run.

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Aquaman also made occasional appearances elsewhere, and in this issue of WORLD’S FINEST COMICS 6, the logo style of Paul Norris takes on an interesting watery waver, previewing approaches that would be tried much later. Too bad this idea wasn’t carried back to Aquaman’s regular series.

Next time we’ll continue with Aquaman in the 1950s and beyond, including the beginning of his first solo series.

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

5 thoughts on “Logo Study: AQUAMAN Part 1

  1. Chad

    I really like the Aquaman logos from MORE FUN 76 and WORLD’S FINEST 6. I think they’re both simple, but unique, and I wouldn’t mind at all if they were brought back for a new Aquaman series.

  2. Lawrence

    Todd,

    This comment is related to your logo studies rather than Aquaman; I hope you’ll forgive the minor indiscretion of verging from the subject matter at hand. In any case, I read Deadman: Love After Death this weekend, and I greatly appreciated your creation of a (at that time) new Deadman logo. I’m curious what effect you were going after. If someone were to ask me, I would say that the logo slightly hints at the circus font that is apropos to the circus element of the story without having any kind of circus kind of fun; it has a nearly psychedelic roundess and connectedness of characters as well as a sharp pointedness that complements Kelley Jones’s art in a font that seems to hearken back to 19th century advertising. (By the way, I’m amazed by how Jones can draw with a realism that approches Neal Adams and a bizarre stretching of proportions that is reminiscent of Kyle Hotz.) Any comments on this would be greatly appreciated, and a study of Deadman logos (which would be a small project, even if you took on the Strange Adventures logos that included his profile) would tickle me pink.

    Best,
    Lawrence

  3. Todd Post author

    Hi Lawrence. You’re right about the scary circus feel. I’ll reserve any other comments until some later time when I can talk about the logo in a more appropriate post, either a Deadman logo study, or one on that logo.

  4. Rian Fike

    Dear Todd,

    Thank you so very much for these. As an art teacher, they provide amazing content for future lessons. I am also a huge Promethea fan, so if you ever need something else to write about…

    I would also like to ask your permission to begin a project of my own. I want to do an extended study of Alphabets of Desire on my blog at http://www.fullbodytransplant.wordpress.com

    I will take each sentence from that masterwork and explain what Alan Moore was saying in layman’s terms. I think three sentences per day would probably be the right bite size pieces for a text that incredibly rich. Sound good?

    Thanks, for everything.

    Rian Fike

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