Logo Study: CAPTAIN AMERICA Part 3

All images © Marvel.

In 1981 Marvel looked back 40 years to the first incarnation of Captain America, and put a recreation of the Joe Simon logo from the very first issue on this special cover. It’s a tracing/recreation, not the original, there are minor differences, but it’s pretty accurate. The main difference is in the word COMICS, which has thicker open letters.


Either the response was very good or the editors just liked it because in 1982 they put the Joe Simon logo back on the cover for a long run, with the addition of a full figure of Cap in action in front of a large star. Both new elements give the old logo support and interest, and I think it still works well. The style of the letterforms seems surprisingly timeless, not suggesting the 1940s in particular.


For a while the logo had this outline around it. The reason, I’m sure, was to separate it from the background art, and make for easier cover assembly, but it flattens the logo and I think works less well this way.


Occasionally they just used the logo with nothing behind it, which I actually like better, particularly on this flag background.


Cap got a new logo in 1991, a strongly arced version of the 1960s letterforms, also in one point perspective receding toward the top, and with the open drop shadow below. The flag stripes are back, but the unknown-to-me designer mitigated their impact by giving the main letters a heavy black outline, increasing readability. This is not a bad look, though the severity of the arc makes it seem a bit too compressed horizontally.


The arc also created design problems both for cover artists and placement of cover type above, as shown here. Straight open type above just doesn’t work well with this logo, and many times the logo was too tall for the art.


In 1994 they tried again with a similar design, but this time less arced and with beveled letters and an open telescoped drop-shadow. This fit the cover space a little better, though it’s still pretty tall. The large faceted star in front is a nice touch, and the beveling gives this logo a more substantial 3-D feel, as if it’s cast in metal. The oval in the background does little for the design, but is hardly noticeable. The letterforms, especially the C’s are more like standard condensed sans-serif type here than previous versions, but the entire treatment keeps it firmly in the “comics logo” mode, and it does have a 1990s feel to me, too. I don’t know who designed it.

In 1995 I was asked by Marvel to submit sketches for a new Cap logo design. I was working on my first Mac computer just a short time then, and decided to try using it for this assignment. Initially I prepared four samples on the computer and sent them in.


This first one is a real eye-scorcher. What could I have been thinking?! Got carried away with computer effects, looks like, though I think this one began with hand-drawn letterforms.


Version 2 began with a font called Serpentine Bold, which was designed by Dick Jensen in 1972 and soon become a staple on book covers, movie posters and advertising everywhere. It still seemed fresh to me then, I liked the thick and thin strokes and small pointed serifs, and I had fun creating this version using two-point perspective and telescoping.


Version 3 began with a title font I’d recently created for myself, based on squared-off block lettering. Looking at it now, the extra thick outline seems too much, and I don’t like the backward slant.


This fourth sample began with a common text font, though I can’t put my finger on which one, and used the gentle arc approach. I like the way the letters merge at the center, but otherwise this version isn’t terribly remarkable or appropriate.

Word came back that of these four they liked version 2 the best, but they wanted to see more samples with the letters straight across, and perhaps slanted to the right. I did three more.


Version 5 began with a slab-serif font, though again I’m not sure which. It shares features with fonts called City and Colossalis, but isn’t quite like either. Perhaps I started with one of those and modified it. This sketch was going in a good direction. It has a modern feel, I like the upper and lower case, and the way the slabs are joined. The outline is too busy, though.


This version, which began again with Serpentine Bold, was the one I liked best, and the one they ultimately chose, with some changes. I’ve done some modifications to the initial C and A letterforms, as well as joining the A to the P. I think I also added thickness to the forms overall before developing the outlines and drop shadow.


These final samples use the font Albertus, one with a classic feel. It was designed in 1938, but feels much older, harking back to Roman times. An interesting idea, but not a great success for this assignment.


After requested changes, this is the logo they bought. The drop shadow and central bars have been removed, and STEVE ROGERS added at the top with a star between. Marvel also wanted to have Cap’s shield flying by in the background, with some speed lines creating horzontal bars behind the letters. They sent me the shield art, but I no longer have that version.


Here’s how it first appeared in print, on the cover of issue 444 in 1995. I’m pleased with the way it turned out. STEVE ROGERS is a little hard to read, but the selling point is CAPTAIN AMERICA, and that looks good. The shield works here, but it often created a sort of storytelling problem, where you weren’t sure if it was part of the art or of the logo.


Starting with issue 452 they dropped that element and just used the letters. I think it looked good, and I’m happy with it. Of course, credit should be shared with Dick Jensen, the designer of the Serpentine font I used to create the logo.

We’ll continue with several new CAPTAIN AMERICA launches near the end of the 1990s next time.

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

3 thoughts on “Logo Study: CAPTAIN AMERICA Part 3

  1. Kurt Busiek

    I’m curious as to whether there’s a reason you skipped from #146 to #255.

    To my mind, the classic CAP logo (“classic” because it’s the logo they were using when I started buying and it lasted so long that all subsequent logos have looked “wrong” to me) is the one that started in #138, returned with #152 and stayed around with minor changes until #274, with only minor exceptions (the #255 logo you covered and #157).

    It’s basically the arced logo from #110, with the stars framing the logo dropped (they only lasted until #117, and were dropped when that logo was brought back in #136), but with the red/white/blue stripes. It had “and the Falcon” added for years, and was solo for years.

    And yeah, you covered all the pieces of it elsewhere — the arced logo, the stripes — so you may not have considered it a separate logo variant. But for ten years, the series was overwhelmingly represented by that arced logo with red/white/blue stripes (making coloring the covers a tricky proposition, sometimes), and that’s still the logo I think of when I think of Captain America.

    What did you think of the stars around the #110 logo, by the way? They’re not terribly prominent, but I thought they added a nice touch that livened up the logo. I can see why they were dropped — they must have been a production headache, as a floating element, back in the days when production meant X-acto knives and rubber cement, but they’d be no problem in the digital age.

    By now, I expect they’d look old-fashioned, but ah well. I liked them.


  2. Todd Post author

    To be honest, Kurt, I missed that those stars were part of the logo! They aren’t terribly well drawn, which for me works against the idea floated by a commenter in part two of this study that the logo was by Steranko (see my addition to part 2). I can’t see him doing stars like that, personally. And, yes, I skipped those issues because I’d already covered all the logo elements on them.

  3. Jeremy Mace

    It is interesting to think about which logo embodies the character. For me it is the 1982 run – I started with the book at that time and that IS Captain America for me. I never cared for the heavily curved version in the 90’s. It is an unstable logo that did not represent character well. Very cool to see Mr. Busiek’s comments on a logo he has such a connection with. I would love to know which one Mr. Waid likes the best. By the way – I came back to the book with his run and your new logo. I liked your “tweaked” version of the Serpentine font and thought it was a great and different direction. Thanks for the commentary!

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