All images © Marvel Characters, Inc.
It was 1964, the Marvel Age of comics was in full swing, and Captain America was back! And who better to draw him than his first artist, Jack Kirby? Never having seen the Golden Age Cap, this was my first exposure to the character, who the story explained had been frozen in an iceberg since World War Two. Despite that somewhat dubious information, Stan Lee and Jack Kirby made him work very well, and Captain America soon became an integral part of The Avengers, as well as appearing in other Marvel books. Though there aren’t any actual records that I know of, the early Marvel logos are said to have been created by Sol Brodsky and Artie Simek, with the former probably designing and pencilling, the latter probably inking and finishing. The logo for THE AVENGERS is one of those, and the cover lettering reintroducing Cap to the world is also probably by Simek: standard open letters with some ragged ends adding interest.
TALES OF SUSPENSE was the home of Iron Man, and in issue 58, cover dated October 1964, he battled Captain America. The lettering of Cap’s name here is approaching a logo, but not there quite yet, it’s just open title lettering, but the red white and blue bands show the way Marvel would often go with his logos. This appearance was a tryout of sorts…
…in the very next issue TALES OF SUSPENSE began a Cap co-feature that ran for the rest of the series. Cap now got his own logo, and both his and Iron Man’s logo here are probably by the team of Brodsky and Simek. The entire logo is kind of a jumble, with four different letterform styles, but the IM and Cap logos are similar enough that they work well together. Both are open block letters that mix straight and rounded forms, and have square stroke-ends. To give them equal space, Iron Man’s letters are much heavier and wider, Cap’s are thinner and condensed. The letterforms are attractive, and I like the more informal C’s on the Cap logo, giving it a fresher look, somewhere between the blockiness of IM and the really loose title lettering elsewhere on the cover. Not a bad start for a Marvel Cap logo.
Toward the end, TALES OF SUSPENSE began featuring one logo or the other and subtitling the second character, and on issue 98 Captain America finally got his own cover-wide logo. It features the red-white-and-blue theme first seen on issue 58, but with more carefully drawn and precise block letters, well-formed and on the classical model for such things. A small black drop shadow helps pop it off the cover art. The only thing unique about it is the flag colors, which I have to say I find a bit distracting, but on an open background like this it reads fine. Perhaps this was also designed by Brodsky and Simek, but from this point until the mid 1990s my knowledge of who created Marvel logos falls into an abyss of ignorance, so it would well have been someone else working in the Marvel bullpen at the time.
In April of 1968 Captain America got his own Marvel title, continuing the numbering from TALES OF SUSPENSE. The logo is a revised version of the previous one, with taller letters and the open drop-shadow on the left this time. The logo is well-made, but hard to read on this cover because of the coloring. That’s not the logo designer’s fault. It might not even be the colorist’s fault, as Marvel covers of the period are notorious for dark, muddy colors from their printer. While I like the idea of the flag colors, and they certainly tie in to the character and his costume, I still find them distracting, unless the blue is lighter and the red a bit muted so the letterforms stand out better.
Maybe Marvel agreed, as the flag stripes were dropped for issue 102, and only appeared occasionally thereafter. Without the stripes, the logo is easier to read, and still strong and gracefully made, though a bit conservative. Perhaps for this character that’s appropriate.
For issue 110 in 1969, a revised version of the logo added a gentle arc and slanted the letters to the right. Both changes add some interest and movement, usually a good thing, and this version would prove popular over time. The letterforms on this one are a little less regular — notice how narrow the E is, and the loops of the C’s are uneven — but in this case that actually adds to the hand-drawn charm of it in my view. One thing I would have done differently is to make the outline on the letters (not the open drop-shadow) a little thicker to help them stand out from background art, but it still works fine.
ADDED: As pointed out in the comments to this post below, this logo version might have been designed by cover artist Jim Steranko for his brief stint on the book. He did that for his run on X-Men, though that logo is drawn better than this one, in my opinion. I haven’t seen Jim take credit for this logo in print, but if anyone should know of such a reference, or has the chance to ask Mr. Steranko, I’d be happy to include that information here.
As Cap moved into the 1970s he was joined by a new African-American partner, The Falcon, perhaps in an effort to be socially conscious and fight the Cap’s right-wing, conservative rep. For this first appearance of the new team they went back to the previous straight across logo with flag stripes. FALCON is in a not-very-heroic serif type style for no apparent reason, with THE and AND in small, short block letters, and kind of jammed in. The spacing of the F and A in FALCON is also too close.
Two issues later they combined it with the arced Cap logo, and it’s a much better combination. Both names are now slanted the same way, and the word AND fits nicely into the small space between them. Still kind of an odd combination of letterforms, but better. And FALCON has been redrawn with improved shapes and spacing for the F and A.
Issue 143 in 1971 brought a completely new Cap logo and a new top banner with full figures of both characters. This Cap logo has a more modern look than the previous ones, leaving behind the 1960s Marvel style altogether. The letterforms of AMERICA are tall block-letter shapes not too different from the Joe Simon #2 logo, but without the slight angles on the horizontal strokes of the E and C. CAPTAIN is thinner, smaller and horizontally stretched, but similar in style. Both are tied by a drop-shadow style I associate with the 1970s: telescoped, but with all the interior shapes removed and just the outline used. Lots of similar ones were showing up at both Marvel and DC in this decade. The flag stripes are back, too. FALCON is the same as before, but AND THE are now smaller, lower case, and together on the left end, a better place for them. I don’t know who designed it, but if I had to guess I would say Jim Novak would be a likely person. Could have been anyone on the Marvel staff at the time, though, or even a freelancer like Gaspar Saladino.
A few issues later this version appeared, going to a straight across and much less tall logo from TALES OF SUSPENSE 98, but redrawn I think, with FALCON in the same style, smaller, in a box. The layout with the square cover art area is one used on most Marvel books at the time, and I never liked it much. Don’t like this logo version very much either, it’s readable but rather dull. At least the figures on either side give the logo area some interest.
Next time we’ll move on into the 1980s.
More logo studies and other chapters on my LOGO LINKS page.