Logo Study: DAREDEVIL Part 3

Images © Marvel Characters, Inc.

When Marvel editors asked me to design a new Daredevil logo in 1996 I had been doing design work on my first Apple computer for about a year and a half, and I decided to start with three fonts, shown above. The first is an Art Deco font of my own design, the others are commercial fonts, though I’d condensed the Serpentine example quite a lot already. I’d prepare some samples using these fonts as starting points.

The first two versions used my own font and took cues from the previous logos: the strong right slant, for instance. I wanted a curve in there, and decided to put it on the bottom edge, keeping the top edge straight. One thing that did was make the first D the largest letter, which I thought was a good way to go, rather than it being the smallest letter, as many previous logos had it.The V also extended below the rest, going for the pointy thing, which Marvel usually liked. A very heavy black outline tied the letters together, and an open drop-shadow to the lower right gave a place to put a second color. Version 2 had another open outline inside the heavy black outline of version 1. This would have given a third color option but it made the letters harder to read, at least in black and white, and that one went no further.

Version 3 used Arquitectura with the letterforms first made much thicker, then outlined in heavy black. This time I tilted the letters forward in two-point perspective and added open telescoping behind them. I think this works pretty well, but it does lose some of the energy without the rightward slant.

Version 4 used Serpentine, the same font I’d used for my CAPTAIN AMERICA logo in 1995, so in retrospect I’m glad Marvel didn’t want this one. I used a similar layout to version 1, but with an even more extended V. After submitting these, Marvel editors chose version 1 with no changes…

…though when it first appeared on the cover of issue 353, someone had added an inset color with a wide white edge inside the letters. Doesn’t look too bad, and it’s the kind of thing that’s easy to do with the vector-based logos I had created in Adobe Illustrator. In one sense it was good to have that flexibility, in another it opened the door to bad design decisions. This one is okay, though I don’t think I would have used it the first time out.

On the next issue they kept my original color plan, but condensed the logo horizontally to such a degree that it looks rather squished. Again, easy to do with vector logos. In fact, logos created with vector graphics are quite malleable, and from this point on my logos would often be changed in ways I didn’t always like. Before computer graphics, making a logo version like this would have meant redrawing it from scratch. Here it was a simple task of stretching or squishing it in Illustrator, the work of a moment. I benefited from that kind of thing myself when creating variant versions of logos as I designed them, so I can’t complain too much.

I thought I was finished, but a month or two later they called me back to create the familiar tagline in the same style, which I was happy to do (and bill extra for). This was a simple task using my Art Deco font and curving it to match the main word.

I gave them an open version as well, again easy to do in Illustrator, where before I would have had to trace and ink a separate version. Marvel was happy and it first appeared here:

Personally I would have gone with the outline version of the tagline on this cover for better readability, and in print the letterforms look too thin, so I now wish I’d made them a little thicker.

The tagline reads a little better on this cover, but it’s still too thin. Fortunately, the main impact is all in DAREDEVIL, the tagline isn’t really needed, and I’m not sure why they even wanted it except that it was part of the book’s history and tradition. I guess that’s reason enough.

In 1998 Marvel relaunched DAREDEVIL as part of their Marvel Knights line for older readers, and wanted another new logo. They asked Comicraft to submit ideas, and Comicraft’s JG Roshell got the assignment. He talked about it in a 2001 interview on a Daredevil website:

I designed a lot of the initial Marvel Knights logos (Black Panther, Black Widow, Inhumans), did an update of the Punisher logo, and the logo and cover layout for the Punisher/Wolverine “Revelations” series. I also did the various Sentry logos, and had just finished one for the new Ghost Rider series.

Nanci [Dakesian] and Joe [Quesada] are incredibly easy to work with — they’ll tell me if there’s something specific they want, and if there isn’t, they’re really open to whatever ideas I have.

This one went pretty quick — Joe, as always, wanted something “fun but with a modern sensibility.” I had an idea in my head to combine the best aspects of the DD logos I could remember — from the original, goofy “Here comes…” one, to the square swooping one from the Frank Miller days, to Todd Klein’s spikey one that was current at the time — and try to make the ultimate, definitive Daredevil logo.

JG has kindly shared the following design versions with us.



JG continues:

I started in Adobe Illustrator with one of our fonts, Dutch Courage-Lite, and added sharp corners at the tops of some letters. I swooped it at a couple of different angles using KPT (now Corel) Vector Effects “3D Transform” plug-in and the Free Distort plug-in. Joe liked the angle of #3, and after that it was just a matter of refining the letter style until it had enough “boldness”.

Todd here. JG clearly wanted to take DD back to his roots with this logo, including the topline HERE COMES… for the first time in over 30 years. All these versions refer back to the original logo’s curved look, though using a curve on the whole logo much like the 1980 version, and with a much larger D that retains that idea from my logo, and the open drop shadow to the lower right as well. I like the integrated feel of using the same font in different “weights” or line thicknesses (on all but the last version). The added points at the top left of some letters, and similar angles elsewhere, look back to the second DD logo from 1968, so this is really a design that takes the best elements from the past and combines them wisely. Note that the Illustrator plug-ins JG mentions are no more, but similar ones are built into the program now. Here are JG’s further refinements:

The upper one, with less curved forms on the D and R is what Marvel ultimately chose, and that version can be seen as a nice amalgam of the original DD logo with later ones and with a modern feel, just what Marvel was looking for.

Here it is on the first cover in 1998, somewhat obscured by the art and but looking quite good. Again, the taglines seem too thin against the cover art, the only downside I can see. I’m not crazy about the color treatment inside the letters of DAREDEVIL that gives a a somewhat embossed look, but that’s not enough to detract from the overall impact. In fact, this logo continues to be used on DAREDEVIL books to this day, quite a long run, and the sign of a successful design.

Next time we’ll conclude this logo study with the most recent developments. Other chapters and more logo studies can be found on my LOGO LINKS page.

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