Logo Study: GREEN ARROW Part 1

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All images © DC Comics, Inc.

Green Arrow was created in 1941 by writer Mort Weisinger and artist George Papp. Comics were selling well, and the young company now known as DC Comics was increasing its titles and needed new characters to fill them out, especially the anthologies. Weisinger’s Green Arrow was clearly an archery version of Batman, no doubt inspired by Robin Hood as well. GA shares many elements of the Batman mythos, including the boy sidekick (Speedy), the rich playboy alter ego, and the themed gadgets and vehicles. I always found him appealing as a boy, probably because he had skills a real person could theoretically acquire with lots of exercise and practice; like Batman, but unlike many super-heroes. I can’t say any of the stories I read about him were memorable, though.

Green Arrow and Speedy first appeared in MORE FUN COMICS 73.  Issue 77, above, is, I think, his first cover appearance in that title, but as it’s an anthology, there was no Green Arrow logo on it. As a B-list character, Green Arrow continued to appear only in anthologies from the 1940s through the 1960s, so his first cover logo came only in 1970, nearly thirty years after his inception. I’m beginning this logo study, then, with a look at the logos used for his interior stories, on the first pages, which I have images of thanks to some kind readers of this blog: Jim Kosmicki, H. Hardie and Rob Kelly. Much appreciated, gents!

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Here’s the first page of his first story from MORE FUN 73. The logo was probably drawn by the artist, George Papp, and inked by either the letterer or the inker (which could have been the same unknown person). I think this image is from a reprint, judging by the whiteness of the paper, so the title might have been redrawn if the original red ink was too faded to reproduce well. In any case, the letter shapes are regular, probably outlined with ruler and circle/oval templates, then filled in. Unfortunately, whoever did it had no real grasp of correct letterforms, and the G, R and W are pretty awkward and off-model. The long central arrow shape is the best thing about it, and shows someone, probably Papp, had the right idea, but it kind of disappears into the letters, making both the arrow and some of the letters harder to see. Plus, the drooping arrowhead is just kind of sad looking. Nice try, but not very effective.

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For the story in MORE FUN 74, the logo is very similar, but has been redrawn. (Or, it’s possible the original printing of 73 was closer to this and redrawn for the reprint.) The logo is now outlined in black, with a slight thickening or drop shadow on the bottom edges. The arrow’s beginning and end extend far enough out from the letters to be easily identifiable, and the tip is correct and straight. Best of all, the letterforms are now more correct and on-model for this art-deco style alphabet also used for the word “COMICS” on the cover of this and many DC titles. The logo is effective and well-drawn, much improved over what we have to look at for 73. Perhaps a bit thin in places and too long for a good cover logo, but perfect for a story. And, like many memorable logos, it has a visual tie-in to the character, the arrow.

morefun75_jan42

You’d think the company would have made photocopies and handed them to the artist, telling him to use it on future stories, but as was often the case back in the early days, that wasn’t done. Instead, new logos were created, probably by artist George Papp, as the moment and page layout came to him. For issue 75, above, we have another version of the same art-deco alphabet, now curved and with an enlarged A that has a single serif, an odd choice. The letterforms are again off-model and awkward, particularly the R, O and W, but the N is also wrong. And that huge THE seems completely wrong and overpowering, not right for the rest at all. Plus the arrow is gone.

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For MORE FUN 76 there’s a similar one, but again completely redrawn. This version shows improvement. The letters are now all aligned vertically with each other, and the A, while larger, is more integrated, as is the THE. Some shapes are still off, but they’re better than last time. And the logo is all filled in solid black, so the THE is also more integrated that way. Still odd that it’s so large, though.

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For MORE FUN 77, a completely new direction: bouncy block letters with some of the art deco feel, but more cartoony. Again drawn by Papp, I think, as it has the same tendency to make the right leg of the R too narrow. Actually, for a humor character, this approach would work well, and it’s the kind of lettering often used for story titles, but not really ideal for a character logo. And let’s not even get into an amusement park called “Gayland”…

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MORE FUN 78’s logo is another complete departure. Here, I think, begins a search for a logo that could have, in theory at least, appeared on a cover. The space it takes up, stacking the two main words, suggests that, as do the one-point perspective block letters. The letterforms are okay, though I still have some problems with the G (could read as a C), the N and the W. The latter two don’t follow the block-letter plan of the rest, and are instead using the forms from the previous cartoony version. By far the oddest thing here is that THE in a banner covering parts of the R and E in GREEN. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that done in the 1940s…in fact, I can’t think of any examples before the 1970s. It reads fine, but is just an odd choice. This logo lasted for three issues.

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With MORE FUN 81 from July, 1942, we arrive at what I think of as the golden age Green Arrow logo. Before researching for this logo study, I thought this one was created by DC logo man Ira Schnapp in the 1950s. Now that I know it’s this old, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t by him. First of all, at that time, I think Schnapp was only doing cover logos, and not all of them are by him either. In looking closely, there are other elements of this logo that make me believe it’s by some other, unknown person; perhaps George Papp, but probably not him, either.

The top line, THE GREEN, might be hand-lettered, but if so, it’s based on a font called Balloon Extra Bold, created in 1939 by M. K. Kaufmann, which was in turn based on show-card lettering popular at the time. Show-card lettering appeared everywhere then, on signs in stores, on movie ads, in newspapers and magazines. It was hand-drawn lettering, and made to order by professional artists and designers of the time, in the days when most type fonts were very staid and conservative. The Balloon fonts were among the first in a trend to make fonts that looked more informal and hand-drawn. Ira Schnapp, for instance, most likely did lots of show-card lettering before coming on-staff at DC. This particular logo might have been hand drawn; the G suggests it is, but the font was the model. In fact, you can see it on the cover of MORE FUN 77 at the top of this article.

The letters of ARROW are in a bold block-letter style with perfectly circular and perfectly straight strokes, a style favored by Ira Schnapp, which is why I long thought he might have done it. Looking closer now, the W is off-model, though, and not the way he would have done it. For instance, compare the Ws in this logo of his for Wonder Woman:

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See how all the angled strokes are the same length and equally spaced? the W in ARROW is compressed in the center, leaving only a tiny upcut on the bottom edge. Otherwise, they’re well-made, though, and the black telescoping behind them, with vanishing point center and above, is also well done. The arrow is back, and much more realistic than before, even having a drop shadow of its own, but the direction it points is very odd indeed. We read from left to right, and I think the overwhelmingly obvious direction for the arrow to point would be the same, toward the right. Is this a kind of visual dislexia? One can only wonder. While well made, that will always make the logo look odd to me. In any case, this logo became the default on Green Arrow stories for many years, appearing on the majority of his stories through the 1940s, 50s and 60s.

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There were some variations. MORE FUN 85 saw this one, where the word GREEN is in the same style as ARROW. Works pretty well, but leaves the word THE kind of hanging out there on its own, and also means the arrow shape is less prominent. The G has an unusual central crossbar, but it works for me. The telescoping on GREEN seems to go to a separate vanishing point of its own, too. Not a bad look, though, and would also have worked as a cover logo with some changes to the THE.

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Another completely new version appeared on this story in MORE FUN 87, January 1943, and this time I suspect it was actually designed by Ira Schnapp, though I’m only going by visual evidence. The word THE is now in slanted script with the kind of E that Schnapp favored. The G and A are now each equally larger than the rest of the block letters, another thing he often did. And the letterforms and spacing are all very much on the classic model Schnapp often used. Even the thinner center strokes on the E’s are something often seen on his designs. Okay, the arrow is still going the wrong way, but whoever did this was obviously following the main design. Otherwise, this is a fine, well-crafted logo that could have easily replaced the one from 81, but apparently it was only used this once (as far as I know). And that would be unusual for a logo commissioned from Ira Schnapp, who was still freelancing at this point, not on the DC staff, so it may well have been done by someone else, perhaps the artist or whoever lettered the story.

Next time we’ll look at Green Arrow’s story logos from other golden age anthology titles.

More chapters and other logo studies are on my LOGO LINKS page.

6 thoughts on “Logo Study: GREEN ARROW Part 1

  1. Todd Post author

    Yes, that’s also by Ira Schnapp, and pretty similar. I’m still wondering what this GA logo by Schnapp was created for. Perhaps a house ad, or a planned solo title that never appeared.

  2. David Goldfarb

    For the third logo (“More Fun” #75) you call the single serif on the A “an odd choice”. I wonder if the pointy serif was meant to evoke an arrowhead?

  3. Jeff Wolverton

    Love this page.

    Do you think DC will ever reprint any of the Golden Age Green Arrow comics?

    I love the “original” Green Arrow and wish they would reprint the Golden Age Green Arrow comics.

    Sincerly,

    Jeff Wolverton
    north Georgia

  4. Todd Post author

    I don’t know, Jeff. DC seems to have cut back on their reprint programs lately. And the problem with any golden age reprints is there’s no film to reprint from, only the printed comics themselves. In the past DC would have artists retouch scans of the comics art, taking out the dot screens from the color and recoloring them, an expensive and time-consuming process. I don’t think they do that any more.

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