Logo Study: AQUAMAN Part 5 (conclusion)

In 2006 DC was once again planning a revamp of their long-running Aquaman character and his then-current monthly series, this time giving it a new lead in the role, and a somewhat sword-and-sorcery approach, adding the tagline “Sword of Atlantis.” Designer Rian Hughes was asked to submit logo ideas, and he’s been kind enough to share those with me. Rian is another designer who likes to provide lots of choices, and from them I’ve picked some that I thought worth showing here.

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All images © DC Comics, Inc.

These first two in black type each suggest a particular era to me, the top one the 1970s, the bottom the 1960s. The latter has small waves on each end, but despite that neither really say much to me about Aquaman or his new storyline.

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This one also has a somewhat 1970s feel, though the flowing, organic letterforms and swirl in the Q are heading in the right direction.

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These two open-letter versions each use more up-to-date fonts, and each have unique features pointing toward Aquaman: splashing water on the top one, bubbles on the bottom. I like the creativity of those elements, especially the way the bubbles form the swash of the Q at the bottom.

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Next are some more developed treatments, using color. I really like this one. A nice combination of straight and curved shapes, with a slightly fantasy feel that works well for the new direction. If I were choosing, I think I’d have used this design, though I might have suggested connecting the swash to the Q for better reading.

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Two versions of this idea, with the second using a distortion effect that suggests water to me. The letterforms are rounded, but with sharp corners, somewhat like the Alex Ross design, but a bit looser. The treatment of the tagline doesn’t seem to match well, but that could have been developed further if this direction was chosen. I like it. And the very wide, bold letters and strong outline make for a good superhero logo.

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These two use very stylized, almost cartoony forms that Rian Hughes often shows. Of the two, I like the top one better. The lower one is a bit hard to read, and perhaps pushes the idea a bit too far. Very watery and organic and nice coloring!

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This version is also a bit cartoony, and suggests the 1960s in style. Despite that, I like it a lot. I think I might have suggested modifying the swash on the Q, where the small extensions suggest fur to me rather than water, but overall it’s a fine design. Would have been perfect for an animated Aquaman series. I guess DC was looking for something more serious.

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This is the design DC chose to go with. The letters are strong and forceful, very angular and easy to read. The large A and N provide balance, and the tagline is incorporated well. I see nothing in this design that ties to the character or the new series direction, though.

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Rian has these versions up on his website showing how the logo might have been colored to work better with the character, and I like them more than the one used on the first cover. But this kind of color treatment wouldn’t work against a background of underwater art.

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Here it is on AQUAMAN 40. I’m afraid I never really warmed to the logo, and fan interest in the character was not improved for long by the new direction. The series ran for 18 more issues, ending in 2007.

So, what makes a good Aquaman logo? I think one has to incorporate some kind of reference to water or the ocean. Comics is a visual medium, and that kind of visual tie-in is always helpful in a comics logo. The “Aqua” in Aquaman provides the perfect reason to do so. Even the use of organic, curved forms over very rigid ones is helpful, as long as they don’t go too far toward “cartoony”…unless that’s the direction the book is taking.

No doubt another new era for Aquaman is in the works somewhere at DC, but that’s all the ones we’ve seen so far. Hope you’ve enjoyed this logo study. I’ll be back with more in the future.

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

10 thoughts on “Logo Study: AQUAMAN Part 5 (conclusion)

  1. Bill Angus

    [quote]Two versions of this idea, with the second using a distortion effect that suggests water to me.[/quote]

    Interesting… I thought he was trying to make it look like a fish.

    Great series (as always), Todd.

  2. Torsten Adair

    The final logo has three defects: The “N” does not seem to kern well with the smaller “A”; the swash of the “Q” is almost nonexistent; and the “of”, vertical on a horizontal line, and reduced, almost disappears.

    The “traditional” logo (circle forms, via Alex Ross) would work with the letters based on the cap line, and the subtitle running beneath. The wavy one beneath that would work best sans subtitle, as it reflects the more traditional logo, has a wave form in the block, and suggests a fish.

    The first logo reminds me of 1960s beach movies, while the third has more of a “secret agent” feel. The “cartoony” logo above the final logo… that would work well for “Squirrel Girl”, given the bushy nature of the “Q”!

    Hmmm… is there a standard Aquaman logo that DC Licensing uses? Or is there a menagerie which designers can choose from, and DC just has to OK the design?

  3. Todd Post author

    DC Licensing would provide a style guide. I’m not sure what they’re using these days, but it’s probably an older logo.

  4. Kurt Busiek

    I really like the one with the bubbles — not for the SWORD OF ATLANTIS run, but it’s a very cool look. And I agree that the one below it, with the wave-shaped unconnected Q-crossbar, is the best — it has a nice, majestic fantasy feel. I didn’t see either of those when the logo was being designed, not that I had any final say over the logo.

    The one we used is nice, I think, though I agree it doesn’t really say anything specific. I also think it’s too short — it doesn’t make a strong enough footprint on the page — but I like the A shapes a lot, and the simplicity of the Q.

  5. Adam Farrar

    I think that Josh Beatman’s logo used at the start of the most recent series could have been brought back and adapted for SWORD OF ATLANTIS. I think the weathered and mystical look presented there would have matched the content of the stories better.

    I also really like Rian Hughes’ bubble logo, but it also reminds me of the bubble G in the logo for Grant Morrison & Cameron Stewart’s SEAGUY…which might have now stolen bubbles from any future Aquaman logos. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/f/f6/Seaguy-TPB.jpg

  6. Todd Post author

    And that logo for SEAGUY is also by Rian, so he probably recycled the idea, which is something I heartily approve of.

  7. Rian Hughes

    Hi Todd
    Good to chat at the San Diego Comic con, however briefly – I think we both had to fly out at some ungodly hour the next morning.
    Interesting comments – I feel the best logo wasn’t the one finally chosen, myself. I do find it a mystery which option gets the thumbs up sometimes. I’ll do a book on it one day, and show all the ones that got away!
    Cheers
    Rian

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