Logo Study: DC Comics Cover Logos 1939-1949 Part 2

All images © DC Comics

FLASH COMICS had been a success for All-American Comics, one of two sister companies under the DC symbol along with National Comics, and in 1941 they began a new title for the character. Officially ALL-FLASH, the QUARTERLY was short-lived as the title soon became more frequent. This is one of my favorite logos from the All-American roster. ALL-FLASH is beautifully rendered in a dynamic brush style that looks appealing and fresh, though it was probably not rendered in single brush strokes as it appears. QUARTERLY is equally masterful square-ended letters, and the entire logo is in “show-card” style, meaning the kind of hand-lettering then very common in many places, from movie-theater lobbies to department stores to advertising in magazines. I have no idea who designed it, it looks unlike any other logos from the company, but it’s tempting to think it could have been designed by veteran letterer/designer Ira Schnapp, who had done plenty of show-card lettering in the past. We have no way of knowing if Ira worked on any All-American logos, but he could have. On the other hand, there are no other logos I know by Ira that are similar. The logo was slightly redrawn a few times for later issues, but always followed this model closely.


By contrast, another new title and character from All-American was GREEN LANTERN, and his logo was a hot mess of ragged flames surrounding and emerging from poorly designed block letters. This logo is also unlike anything else the company put out, but in a bad way! My guess is that it’s by Green Lantern artist and co-creator Martin Nodell. The cover artist of this first issue is Howard Purcell, but looking closely, the GL face in the lantern, and the lantern itself in the logo are subtly different from what Purcell has drawn, which I think would eliminate him as the logo designer. And the fact that this logo was also used on all the inside stories drawn by Nodell cements the idea that it was his design. That’s my guess, anyway.


Over at National Comics, STAR SPANGLED COMICS began with a logo that used the Art Deco COMICS from earlier titles, but probably redrawn, and an upper and lower case STAR SPANGLED with swooping S shapes that add interest. On the now-standard banner, carefully-drawn stars in a random pattern help make this an attractive logo. While it all works together well, the shapes of some letters in STAR SPANGLED are uneven, and that suggests to me it wasn’t designed by Ira Schnapp, but I could be wrong. I have no other ideas.


At the end of 1941, National began another new title whose logo has a lot in common with the previous one, though this COMICS is an older version used on several previous National titles beginning with NEW FUN COMICS #11 in 1936, and also on DETECTIVE COMICS and ADVENTURE COMICS. The main clue is the extra space between the C and S. You can see those logos HERE. LEADING is similar to STAR-SPANGLED, but the letter forms are more consistent and correctly proportioned, though the slightly larger A is a bit odd, and the L does not follow the same thinner-horizontal strokes plan. Another logo that could have been worked on by Ira Schnapp, or it could be the work of whoever designed those earlier National logos. Unlike many other National logos of the time, LEADING skipped the horizontal banner.


At All-American, Wonder Woman debuted in ALL-STAR COMICS #8 cover-dated Dec. 1941, and the following month became the lead feature in this new title. The slanted block letter SENSATION is a little like the second FLASH COMICS logo and I’ve always thought it held bad design choices. The first S is much larger, but also much thicker than the rest, the second S adds serifs or extra extensions at upper right and lower left, which none of the other letters have, and the O is an oval, while all the other letters are sharply squared. These things do not go together well! And those very sharp corners on the first S look bad to me, too. COMICS is in a different Art Deco style that I actually like better and think looks fine. The horizontal banner helps it read well, as does the drop shadow, and in all, it’s not a terrible logo, just not a good design, in my opinion. I have no designer guess.


Later in 1942 Wonder Woman got her own title. A variation of this logo first appeared on her initial story in ALL-STAR #8, and it’s very well-designed, if a little hard to read in places where there are multiple loops in a row. After studying all the early covers and stories by original artist H.G. Peter, I now believe that he designed this logo.


That first story in ALL-STAR #8 had this rather crudely-drawn version of the logo, very likely by Peter. Perhaps it was a tryout attempt. In small print under it are the words “Trade Mark Application Pending.” That application was made with what was called an “ashcan” edition of her first regular issue shown here:


The ashcan edition (made to secure copyright protection), is probably from late 1941, using the cover art from SENSATION #1, but there’s a different version of the logo in the cover lettering below, one with less-tall letters. That version is equally well done, and suggests to me that Peter did both and other variations are in the cover lettering of early issues by Peter. He and writer co-creator William Moulton Marston had their own studio and suppled All-American Comics with finished lettered art, which also lends credence to Peter being the logo designer.

To digress for a moment, a note at the top of this cover says, “Rejected U.S.P.O. 1942.” Not sure what that means, but it’s intriguing! It can’t mean the copyright was rejected, as the Copyright Office handled that, not the Post Office, so perhaps it means a second class mailing permit was rejected. ADDED: Devi Thompson reads it as “Registered” rather than “Rejected,” which makes more sense, and he points out the acronym in this case would stand for “United States Patent Office,” so the note makes more sense now. Thanks, Devlin.


Another title from National in 1942 was the wartime effort BOY COMMANDOS from the studio of Joe Simon and Jack Kirby. Simon was in the habit of designing logos for their titles, at least since CAPTAIN AMERICA in 1941, so it seems possible he designed this one. The style is Art Deco, but with many differences in approach from the other Art Deco logos of DC. I don’t find it very appropriate for what is essentially a war comic, but if Joe Simon did design it, perhaps he was trying for something that fit in with National’s existing Art Deco approach. It’s certainly not up to the standard of his CAPTAIN AMERICA logos, though, so perhaps it is by someone else, but I’d say not Ira Schnapp.


1943 saw the introduction of this title from National, a typical humor approach for ALL FUNNY, not too different from many others on the stands. COMICS is a mix of the previous approach used on NEW YORK WORLD’S FAIR COMICS, with the S from other titles like ACTION COMICS. I’d guess it was designed by the same person who worked on those.


Over at All-American in 1943, COMIC CAVALCADE, a new anthology began with a logo that has some Art Deco elements and steep one-point perspective centered below the letters, giving the title the feeling of leaning out of the cover toward the reader. The letters are well formed, though there seems too much space between the words to me. I don’t have a designer guess. 1943 also brought this thick one-shot with ALL-AMERICAN very much in the style of that comic, but THE BIG and COMIC BOOK in the open script style of COMICS in ALL-STAR COMICS, which I suggested might have been designed by Shelly Mayer. The script is not as consistent or carefully done here, but the similarities are there. Perhaps Mayer worked on this logo as well, and if he did that ALL-AMERICAN, I can suggest he might have worked on other logos for his company that use block letters, but that’s just a guess.


There’s no doubt in my mind that 1944’s FUNNY STUFF from All-American is designed by Sheldon Mayer, who also did the cover art. It’s very much in his style, and the huge initial letters here make it different and appealing. This logo, with minor variations, continued on the covers until the title was changed to DODO AND THE FROG in the 1950s.


At National, a teen humor title, BUZZY began, along the lines of ARCHIE. This logo might be by Ira Schnapp, though it’s possible cover artist George Storm did it.


By 1945, interest in super-heroes was declining, and National was trying more humor comics, using cartoon-like characters, or actual cartoon characters under license.


With issue 2, FUNNIES became COMICS. Both words were common parlance for the form, but National always preferred Comics. I think these logos were designed by Ira Schnapp using a more informal bouncy style he liked for humor titles.


A similar logo look, with rubbery, rounded letters was featured in this new title from 1946 I think also by Ira Schnapp. It’s worth noting that by this year, All-American Comics as a separate company was no more. M.C. Gaines, unhappy with his partnership with Jack Liebowitz (and through him probably Harry Donenfeld) broke up their business, forming his own Educational Comics at the All-American address, while many of the existing All-American titles and staff moved to National’s 480 Lexington headquarters.


All-American Comics began another funny animal title in 1946, again edited and with cover art by Sheldon Mayer, who I’m sure did the logo as well, it’s similar to the one for FUNNY STUFF.


The final new title from National in 1946 was at least a different genre, an attempt to make facts fun. In my estimation, this was more likely to appeal to parents than children, and perhaps that was the idea. The title is uninspired, and so is the logo. REAL seems tacked on at upper left, FACT is inconsistent in stroke widths, and COMICS is picked up from previous titles. All three words are in different styles that don’t work together well, in my opinion. I think it’s by Ira Schnapp, though one of his poorer efforts.

We’ll continue in the third and final part of this study with logos from 1947-1949. Other articles you might enjoy can be found on the LOGO LINKS page of my blog.

3 thoughts on “Logo Study: DC Comics Cover Logos 1939-1949 Part 2

  1. Devlin Thompson

    Re: the Wonder Woman ashcan— take another look, and you’ll see that it’s not “rejected,” but “REGISTERED” with the U.S.P.O. (United States Patent Office), who would be the agency handling trademarks. The logo specimen from #5 reflects this with the “REG U S PAT OFF” notation beneath it.

  2. Martin Gray

    Another great round-up. And we are just incompatible! I love that burning GL logo ‘hot mess’, while the All-Flash leaves me cold … it’s as if no attempt has been made to match the book’s speedy theme.

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