Logo Study: DC ROMANCE COMICS Part 1

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All images © DC Comics, Inc.

Romance has always been a part of comics, at least since Clark Kent and Lois Lane, but it was a minor part until 1947, when Joe Simon and Jack Kirby launched the above title at Prize Comics, creating a new genre for the field. In a wikipedia entry, this tale of the creation is told, sourced from the book “Great American Comic Books” by Ron Goulart:

Simon was serving in the Coast Guard when he got the idea for romance comics: “I noticed there were so many adults, the officers and men, the people in the town, reading kid comic books. I felt sure there should be an adult comic book.” Simon developed the idea with sample covers and title pages and called his production YOUNG ROMANCE, the “Adult Comic Book”. Simon later noted he chose the love genre because “it was about the only thing that hadn’t been done.”

Like many comics of the genre, the logo created for it mimics upper and lower case type, perhaps an early attempt to draw in adult readers, who might find similar logos on pulp magazines with like-minded subject matter. The logo is attractive, and sells the concept well, with the only small oddity being the lower case Y in YOUNG. The letterforms have the suggestion of small curled serifs in some places, and I would say have a slightly romantic feel as well. It may have been designed by Joe Simon. At least, he’s the likely candidate.

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Here’s the final Prize Comics issue, with a different logo, but one that follows the same general layout as the first one. These letterforms are bouncier, and have more traditional serifs. The Y is now a capital letter, and because of the bounce or slight staggering up and down of the letters and their strokes, it has a light-hearted feel. An outer outline around all the solid letters creates a space for a second color, and helps set the logo apart from the cover art. I have no information about who designed it except that Mark Evanier suggests it might have been by Ben Oda, working over a layout from Joe Simon, and from the style that seems like a good guess.

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In 1963 Prize got out of the comics business and sold its romance titles (this one and YOUNG LOVE) to DC Comics, who continued the title with the same numbering almost immediately. DC was already publishing other romance comics, and no doubt had little trouble filling the pages of the former Prize titles.

The logo is by DC staff designer Ira Schnapp, the man who did nearly all the DC logos in the 1950s and 60s. Schnapp’s classical design training made these upper and lower case letterforms an easy task I’d say. Schnapp’s designs are always solid and readable, but “bounce” was not something he usually did, and, while following the general layout of the previous logo, he’s made it more prosaic and less fun, in my opinion. Certainly the letterforms are bolder and easy to read, but have lost that light-hearted or romantic feel.

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This variation by Ira for issue 131 adds a little interest by slightly italicizing and angling the logo, but it’s still pretty prosaic. It does have the advantage of being designed by the same person who did all the other cover lettering.

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Here’s the original of that logo from the DC files. Aside from a small bit of smudging on the right leg of the R, it looks like Schnapp knocked this one out with little trouble. One interesting feature is the taller A with a non-typical serif on the upper loop.

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Issue 154, July 1968, features a new logo, and one that I find very puzzling. Ira Schnapp’s time at DC was nearly over then, and this is clearly not his work. It has a fresh, almost rock concert poster approach with the unusual feature of the lower parts of the Y and G covering part of the word ROMANCE.

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Here’s the original logo from the DC files, and even more puzzling in black and white. The person who largely took over logo designing for DC after Schnapp was Gaspar Saladino, but this does not look to me like his work. First, the way the letters of ROMANCE cut through the drop shadow of YOUNG is not something he would have done, nor are the shading lines on both that drop shadow and inside the letters of YOUNG. I can only guess that someone else was given a shot at sprucing up this logo, perhaps a young artist for the title with some design ability, or a young production staffer. The letters are well-formed, and overall it works, but the shading, drop shadow and intersections are odd and poorly thought out. It certainly has youthful appeal, and for that alone was probably a good idea. Romance comics were floundering in the late 1960s. Probably most young girls, the target audience, no longer found them relevant in light of then-current social trends, and I think the comics were being written and drawn mostly by middle-aged males who probably had little idea what would appeal to young girls anyway.

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With issue 168 in 1970, this new logo appeared. It’s much simpler than the previous one.

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Here’s the original from the DC files. It could be the work of designer Gaspar Saladino, but again, I don’t think so. The way the letters are shaped just don’t look like his work to me. Perhaps it’s by the same designer as the previous logo, I don’t know. The style is slab-serif, meaning the serifs are rectangular and boxy. I find the shape of the R unattractive, and some of the other letters are not much better. On the cover above an outer outline has been added to allow a second color in the logo, but the way it’s done, leaving all those large spaces inside, makes the logo even less attractive, I think.

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With issue 196 in 1973, this logo began, and I find it much more appealing than the previous one. It does use all capital letters, getting away from the upper and lower case approach, but those letters have some attractive curved elements in the Y and R, and are shaped better in general. It even has a slightly romantic feel to me. Romance comics were running out of time, though, and the final issue, 208, saw print in 1975.

Next time I’ll cover the other Prize title begun by Simon and Kirby and bought by DC, YOUNG LOVE. Other Logo Studies can be found on my LOGO LINKS page.

8 thoughts on “Logo Study: DC ROMANCE COMICS Part 1

  1. Martin Gray

    Really enjoyed that! Love that ‘have a fling with . . .’ cover strap – very Date With Debbi and Swing with Scooter! And I like the logo’s unusual look, as you say, it’s very concert postery.

  2. lars teglbjaerg

    Extremely well-written and researched article. Nice illustrations. Will add this feature to my favorite sites.

  3. Pingback: Joe Simon and Logos » Simon and Kirby – Jack Kirby Museum & Research Center

  4. rodan57

    Check out a contemporary issue of Rolling Stone Magazine for a possible source for the masthead on #154.

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