Logo Study: DC ROMANCE COMICS Part 4

secrethearts1_1949

All images © DC Comics, Inc.

DC launched this companion title to GIRLS’ LOVE STORIES in 1949, just a month after it. It follows the same stylistic model: photo cover, mostly typeset cover copy, and an attractive arched logo. This one, though, looks more to me like the design of DC staffer Ira Schnapp, not long on the job as the in-house logo designer that he’d hold until near the end of the 1960s. While the letterforms are not typical for Schnapp, there are a few clues. First, they’re open letters (with the left sides shaded for three-dimensional pop). Next, unlike GIRLS’ LOVE STORIES, the arch is symmetrical, and the letters are all capitals with taller initial caps, things Schnapp liked to do. Finally, the words at lower left, IN THIS ISSUE are certainly by Schnapp, so we know he was involved with this cover. The serifs on this logo, especially on the E’s are playfully curved, and the entire design is appealing and even perhaps romantic. The book was off to a good start.

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With issue 8 the logo lost the shading, making the letterforms bolder and easier to read, and it gained a bannered subtitle clearly lettered by Schnapp. The subtitle wouldn’t last too long, but this version of the logo remained for many years. Notice that the DC symbol is gone, but unlike some of the other DC romance comics, this one didn’t replace it with the title in a small circle.

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Issue 99 in 1964 featured a new Schnapp logo much more in the style he used on DC’s superhero comics. In fact, it’s not too far from the logo he’d designed for this title three years earlier:

secretorigins1_1961

As DC’s romance comics made their way through the turbulent 60s, the books were all pushed in various directions, suggesting that readership was dropping. Nothing wrong with the new logo, but I don’t think it’s as appropriate as the previous one.

secrethearts101_1965

With issue 101 in 1965, the logo changed to another, even blockier Schnapp design. I like this one better, the wide letters fill the logo area perfectly, leaving lots of room for the art, and in its simplicity it once more mimics the kind of standard sans serif type used on many non-comics magazines, an approach likely to be more appealing to readers of non-superhero comics, I think. And it gives the entire cover a more balanced feel.

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But typically, yet another Schnapp logo showed up on issue 116 in 1966, along with the dreaded go-go checks at the top. The letterforms on this one are almost the same as the previous logo, just a bit less extended horizontally, and the large heart behind is certainly appropriate, but as with the other covers of this time, the overall design is poor and very unbalanced.

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Here’s the original logo from the DC files. Unusually for Schnapp, the C and R show the use of a compass to achieve their perfectly round lines (the central pinholes are covered with white paint), but both S’s have quite a bit of touch-up paint, so they were hand-drawn and then fiddled with until Ira got the exact shape he wanted. On its own, a good design, but again rather prosaic, not very romantic, and too tall to be a good fit on most covers.

secrethearts135_1969

Issue 135 in 1969 brought a new look and a fresh logo not by Schnapp. It’s possible this logo was designed by the same unknown person who did new logos for other DC romance books around the same time, but I believe it’s by Gaspar Saladino, the main logo guy at DC after Ira Schnapp.

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Here’s the original from the DC files. While it does use slab serifs like those of the unknown designer of contemporary logos for YOUNG LOVE and GIRLS’ LOVE STORIES, the way they’re formed and handled, the tight spacing, the style and flair of the top tagline all suggest Gaspar to me. It’s a terrific logo, full of energy and creative letterforms that would be likely to appeal to readers. The execution is solid, showing no correction paint, the mark of a seasoned professional, which Gaspar already was by then. On the cover it’s given a tilt, adding interest to the design. I wouldn’t call it a romantic look, but it’s a good one.

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Unfortunately, the days of romance comics were nearly over, and the final issue was this one in 1971. Notice that the logo has been modified to remove some but not all of the slab serifs, leaving it in a half-baked state that doesn’t look nearly as good as the original. But if I were the potential buyer, I’d be too busy laughing at DC’s idea of a hippie to even notice that.

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Another title joined the DC Romance lineup in 1950, this one even more clearly a sister title to GIRL’S LOVE STORIES. It follows the same cover design, and the logo uses very similar letterforms, though a little thicker than the first version of 1949. As with SECRET HEARTS, I’d say the logo is by Ira Schnapp, who also did the cover lettering that isn’t typeset. Again, not a typical style for Schnapp, but the graceful curves of the other title gave him the direction, and he followed it well. Even more interesting is the circular title symbol in the upper left corner, replacing the usual DC symbol, and also like the one on GIRLS’ LOVE STORIES.

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Amazingly, the original has survived in the DC files, not much worse for the wear of 60 years. I think it once again shows Ira Schnapp being pushed into a more curvy and romantic direction that he might have gone on his own, but he rises to the task and the result is charming. Only the G seems to have given him trouble, and you can see some of the white correction paint chipping off, revealing ink that went too wide on the curves.

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That symbol was replaced in 1957 by another more like the usual DC one, but with a heart in the center, and the words NATIONAL ROMANCE GROUP in the ring. The original logo remained for a long time, though at a different angle than on issue 1. Here you can see the subtle black drop-shadow on the right edges that give the logo more depth. I particularly like the graceful wave of the center stroke on the E.

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Nearly every DC romance title seemed to founder on the rocks of 1966-67, and this one was no different. A new Schnapp logo features GIRLS’ in attractive script, but otherwise this cover is the same kind of design disaster as the others of its time. In retrospect, it’s kind of surprising that script was not used more often on these logos. Seems like an obvious direction for a romantic logo to me.

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The final issue was this one in 1971, and it has another version of the DC Romance line symbol, simply DC in a heart shape. The trade dress is less cluttered, but the caption box is still too large and annoyingly placed. It should have been skipped altogether. Not much else to say about this cover.

Next time I’ll examine HEART THROBS, one more romance title that DC bought from another publisher. Other chapters and more logo studies can be found on my LOGO LINKS page.

5 thoughts on “Logo Study: DC ROMANCE COMICS Part 4

  1. Jeremy A. Patterson

    The romance books were not the only genre DC tried to seperate from their main line in the late 1950s: They also put out a ‘National Humor Group’ bullet on their funny animal & teen humor books!

    J.A.P.

  2. Tony

    Just a thank you for a surprisingly interesting series. I do pick up these old romance titles at comic conventions, as they are cheap and illustrative of another era.

    I wonder if DC ever went thru a period when people of other races were ever featured on the covers? (Or did the genre die before that might have happened?)

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