Logo Study: AQUAMAN Part 4

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All images © DC Comics, Inc.

In late 1993 a new Aquaman series was previewed in this mini-series. The logo was designed by Chicago artist and designer Alex Wald. Alex is perhaps best known in comics for being the art director at First Comics, for which he designed nearly all the logos. He also did more than a dozen for DC. I like this one. Strong block letters with a wavy effect, as if seen through water, keeping the shapes from being too rigid. The swash on the Q is also a wave, going the other way. The first A is larger, and Alex has used the angles of the other two A’s to join together the last four letters, adding to the wave effect. An open drop shadow allows for a second color and helps pop the logo off the cover art.

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When the monthly revamp began a few months later in 1994, the same logo was used, and it stayed on the book for the entire 75 issue run, making it the most used cover logo in Aquaman’s history to this day. The series ended in 2001.

In 2003 a new Aquaman series was being planned, and Curtis asked designer Josh Beatman of Brainchild Studios to submit logo ideas. Josh is best known in comics today as the designer of the current DC Comics logo. Curtis has passed on to me, with Josh’s approval, a large number of logo sketches and process designs. Josh is apparently a designer who likes to provide lots of choices! I’ve gone through them and pulled out the ones that I liked best.

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This first group all have one theme in common: the emphasis is on the middle A, something that hadn’t been tried before. It has the advantage of making the design nearly symmetrical, and is a clever and fresh approach. The first two also have a weathered look that suggests a character who’s been around, and perhaps under water a long time, another nice touch. I have to say my favorite of these is the last one, though. I love the A’s without crossbars, and the frame is appealing.

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These two have a very different approach, a typographical mash-up. Interesting, but hard to read.

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These two return to the weathered look, but the the initial A given the emphasis. I like the waves on the top one. The bottom one returns also to the oddly mystical shape around the first A, with heavy borders and horizontal bars, suggesting a wrought-iron gate ornament to me.

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DC liked that direction best, though the final design has further changes: the horizontal bars are gone, and the first A and the Q are more clearly defined, with the circular symbol behind them. Color outlines enhance the three-dimensional feel of the letters, and a heavy outline serves to separate it from the cover art. Curtis tells me this is his favorite of the logos he was involved in for Aquaman. I like it pretty well, though it has a softness that seems at odds with the angry new take on the character.

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Perhaps some at DC felt that way too, because about a year later they asked Alex Ross to come up with a new logo design for the book. I worked with Alex’s pencilled design sketch, the third one shown above, tracing it in Adobe Illustrator, and manipulating the letters in various ways to show DC a variety of design treatments. Alex was kind enough to supply these sketches to me. I only recall seeing the third one, I don’t think DC ever sent me the other two.  Too bad, I like the trident, and would have enjoyed working on that design. The second one is interesting, but I feel a bit hard to read.

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The first version above is essentially a tight digital tracing of Alex’s design. The second has a thickened outline. Notice that there are very few straight lines, the predominant shape is the circle, and points created by the intersection of two circles. I particularly like the way Alex returned to Ira Schnapp’s round openings but allowed them to break out at the bottom. The fine points give the design a delicacy and also a dangerously pointy feel, an interesting contrast. The slight arc to the design and larger initial A also harks back to the Schnapp logo from 1962.

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These two add a gray drop shadow and a thin outer outline, both helping to tie the letters together.

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DC wasn’t sure they liked the points and the open A’s, and asked me to show them these variations. I did them knowing they would probably not be chosen, and they weren’t. Alex’s design worked well, messing with it was a mistake. But at least it was easy enough to do on the computer.

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One final version I tried gave the logo more of an arc, but unfortunately it just looked like it was falling apart, so no one liked that version.

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The final went back to the original tracing, but with a different gray drop shadow that encompassed the letters.

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Here’s how it looked on the cover of issue 15, the first appearance. The logo has been angled a bit, and I think looks quite good. In fact, this is my favorite Aquaman logo since the one by Schnapp, once again proving the fine design skills of Alex Ross.

Just one more Aquaman logo to go, but this post is quite long already, so I’ll save that for the conclusion next time.

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

4 thoughts on “Logo Study: AQUAMAN Part 4

  1. Mart Gray

    Wow Josh Beatman thinks outside the box. My favourite is the penultimate one, the waves. And the Alex Ross is my favourite design that went to print. As ever Todd, terrific research and commentary. (Oh, and you get a mention in my blog, Too Dangerous For A Girl, this week!)

  2. Torsten Adair

    The first logo shown above… The block letters, coupled with the rectangular shape of the logo and the diagonal, cause the eye to ignore the descending tail of the “Q”. I see “Aouaman”. The more horizontal logo is a bit better.

    Has anyone ever tried combining the horizontal stroke of the “A” with the descending cross-stroke of the “Q”?

  3. Daniel Preece

    Love this logo. Classic. Aquaman was the very first comic I read when it came out at this time. That logo with Alan Davis art was irresistible.

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