Logo Study: Batman part 2

Batman 3 cover
All images ©DC Comics, Inc.

The logo that was created by Jerry Robinson for the first issue of Batman had a solid black background. This looked great, but was a problem against a dark background or black, so an outline version of the bat shape was created for issue 3. Taking the shading out of the Batman head made it less effective, though, so the head was redone for issue 6, below.

Batman 6 cover

The new head is more realistic than the previous Bob Kane-ish one, and cleverly uses black shading in the forehead and cheeks, while inferring light on each side keeping the edges open. The same technique is used in the Batman figure below. I believe this version was also by Jerry Robinson, who told me in a recent conversation that he established the Batman logo that was used for many years. On this one the letter B has been improved by someone using circle and oval templates on the curves to make them more regular. The lower opening is still not right, though, and each A still has uneven diagonal strokes. Let me show you how I think it should have looked:

BA drawing

This way the space between the top of the B and the upper opening is the same as the space between the lower opening and the bottom of the B, giving a more balanced look. And both the left and right strokes of the A are the same width throughout. Be that as it may, this version of the logo is the one that remained on the book until 1965. As Jerry told me, the letterforms might not have been quite right, but the overall look was definitely a hit with everyone involved. I know I loved it as a kid myself!

Batman 100 cover

Here it is on issue 100, unchanged except for the ears, which have become a little larger and pointier. Notice that on this anniversary cover the original logo on Batman 1 has been replaced by the newer one, though someone has drawn in the ribs in the bat wings on that and all the small logos. This logo continued until issue 169, during which time the art got more stylized and ever further away from the original spooky, mysterious concept. Finally, in 1965, Carmine Infantino took over as cover artist, bringing a much more realistic and action-oriented look. And with it, a new logo.

Batman 170 cover

Not entirely new, as the letters are the same, though the word BATMAN is finally brought back together under the Batman head, which is by Carmine, probably inked by Joe Giella, and is an unusual choice: a three-quarter view with the chin covered by a section of cape, as if Batman is pulling it up toward his neck. It reminds me of the kind of pose often associated with Dracula, actually. The logo goes very well with the art, and it should: it’s by the same art team! Carmine’s Batman is more realistic and more human than most of what had come before, and his compositions were solid. Not much mystery or spookiness to them, though. As a reader and fan, I liked this bat shape quite a lot.

Batman 171 cover

For the next issue, 171, someone has at last redrawn the letters of BATMAN. It’s not quite as I suggested above, but close, and much improved, with all the strokes even and consistent. Notice that the LEFT strokes of each A and the M are now narrower rather than the right ones, the standard convention for this type of art deco lettering. Also the N now has two almost equally narrow vertical strokes and a wide diagonal stroke, also the convention. The spacing of the letters is vastly better. All these things, plus the time period (1965) point to Ira Schnapp as the designer here. Ira used this style of lettering often, and always with these style conventions.

Batman TV show logo

In 1966 Batman received a huge and sudden jolt of attention due to the surprise hit TV show, logo above. Using the earlier bat shape and head, I suspect the lettering was done by someone involved with the TV show. I loved it as a kid, but even then I knew it wasn’t really much like the comics. Instead the show was played mainly for laughs, and if it weren’t for the great actors playing the villains, I might have turned it off. Those villains were the most fun part. If you’ve seen the show you may remember the large, gaudy sound effect lettering that would flash on the screen during fight scenes. I was told by DC staffer Joe Letterese that he did those.

Batman 214 cover

Sales on the Batman titles reportedly soared during the years of the show, but fell off again afterward. This no doubt put pressure on the DC editorial staff to try some new approaches on the cover, to see if it might help sales. For a few issues, starting with 214, above, they went all the way back to the logo from issue 1, but with a new bat head design that almost seems to be smiling, a rather odd choice, and redrawn letters. That didn’t last long.

Batman 220 cover

Then they tried this one, with giant letters filling the bat shape, along the lines of the TV show logo, but better drawn. This is the March, 1970 issue, and I believe the logo is by Gaspar Saladino. Ira Schnapp had left the company by then, and Gaspar was usually the one tapped for logo work, though some were done on staff by others. This looks like one of his. That said, I don’t think it’s a very effective Batman logo. The letters are really TOO large, dominating the logo shape and bat head, and losing all the charm of the earlier logos. This was a great time for Batman cover art, with Neal Adams leading the way, as here, and this logo was not to last long either. After having a very consistent look for decades, BATMAN began to change logos ever more frequently from the seventies forward. We’ll continue with that next time.

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

7 thoughts on “Logo Study: Batman part 2

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  5. Hank

    Great studies. Fascinating to see the head-and-shoulders Batman lettering “corrected” after all these years. It always looked awkward and unbalanced to me, but that was one of the things that made it so interesting. There was an inaccuracy to it (specifically, as you pointed out, in the B and the As) but it seemed that this unbalance made it unique. There was NO FONT that looked like that. It was deco kind of, sure, but no deco font would be that… funky. It was so uniquely Batman that it stuck around in the Carmine Infantino-era “black-satin Dracula” logo. So that oddball lettering was truly ingrained in the Batman visual iconography, spanning both Golden and Silver Ages. Interesting, since it didn’t push forward the hip mid-sixties sensibility of the Infantino/TV show age.

    Thank you for these fantastic, thorough and revealing studies.

  6. Joey Doe

    My favorite Batman logo is the one from issue 220. I wish DC would go back to that one, but with one change: replace Batman’s head with the one from the logo on the cover of issue 8.

    As for Detective, I wish they would create one that takes the Batman issue 171 logo, but replace the word “Batman” with the tilted “Detective Comics” logo from Detective issue 569

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