All images © Marvel Characters, Inc.
In 1993 Marvel was undergoing an unprecedented expansion in both titles and sales. It was a boom that would end soon after, but before it did, this new title launched. It used the same logo that was appearing on the original book, with UNLIMITED added in the same style, though actually more in the style of the squatter one-line version, as all the bottom serifs are aligned and at the same angle. By now there had been quite a few FF one-shots and limited series, and nearly all of them used the original FF logo in one version or another.
This issue of the regular title from 1993 did have an alternate logo at the top, but simply to provide a different logo for the second FF team in the story, and it appeared only this once, as far as I know. I like it, actually. It reminds me of the Tom Orzechowski WOLVERINE logo, perhaps intentionally (since he’s in that alternate team). I asked Tom if he’d created it, but he said he hadn’t, and I haven’t found out who did.
This is off the track a bit, but you’ll see why. I was never given an opportunity to work on a logo for the Fantastic Four comic, but in 1994 I was asked by Toy Biz, the Marvel toy division, to create one for them. I don’t remember the details now, but looking at it, I think they wanted a logo that had some of the feel of the original, but with more traditional super-hero seriousness and weight. I produced this compromise that they liked, preserving the upper and lower case and the basic letterforms (for the most part; I squared the circular areas), while moving to a more typical super-hero look and alignment.
They also asked for the 4 symbol at the same time. It was harder than it looks to get the number 4 to look balanced inside a circle, but I think this works well. I perhaps might have made the horizontal stroke a little longer on the right end. The drop shadow was an option, I don’t think they ever used it.
Here’s a picture I found online of one of the toys produced at the time using both logos. They’ve changed the 4 logo some, but it’s still recognizably my design. Looks pretty good, if I do say so myself.
In 1996 this title began as part of a larger 2099 line, all the Marvel characters in the future. Ken Lopez did many of the logos for these books, but he swears this wasn’t one of them. I believe you, Ken! I also did a few for the line, and the 2099 is mine, from somewhere else, but the designer of the rest is unknown. Perhaps that’s just as well, it’s pretty awful. The letterforms of FANTASTIC are readable, but that’s all they have going for them. To my eye, the shapes are too thin, and the up-tilted sections at the bottom of the Ts and C give it an awkward, gawky look. I also don’t like the shape of the Ts, which leaves too large an open space to their right. And compare the shape of this 4 to the one above, you can see what I mean about how easy it is to get wrong. Perhaps this logo was done by someone on staff at the time, I don’t know. The less said about it, the better.
In 1996 Marvel tried an unusual experiment, essentially lending out some of their characters to former Marvel artists now working under the Image Comics imprint they founded. Jim Lee was given the FF for a year, and he relaunched the title with a new first issue, but wisely returned to the original logo exactly as it had appeared in the early 1960s, along with the original topline motto, and a trade dress not unlike the one from back then, too. The art was more complex than Kirby’s, but the overall feel was one of a return to the roots of the series.
When that experiment was over, Marvel again relaunched the title with new numbering, but later had second thoughts and gradually returned to the original numbering after a time of using both old and new. For the logo they retained the original that Jim Lee had used, though the rest of the trade dress was much busier, with typical Marvel over-the-top cover blurbs everywhere, somewhat diluting the effect for me.
That brings us up to the current decade, which would see more new titles, and the influence of a major motion picture treatment. We’ll cover that and wrap up this Logo Study next time.
More chapters and other logo studies on my LOGO LINKS page.