Logo Study: KA-ZAR (1997)

Images © Marvel Characters, Inc.

In 1996 I was asked by then Marvel editor Matt Idelson to submit designs for a new Ka-Zar ongoing series by writer Mark Waid and artist Andy Kubert, one which I’d also be lettering. I always liked the character when he appeared in the X-Men books, even though he’s similar to Tarzan (or maybe because of that), and I was happy to get the assignment. All the logo ideas I submitted were done on my Apple computer. These two started with a block-letter font I designed, adding a gray outline above and bevelled facets below, inside a heavy black outline to pull the letters together. Version 2 tilted the letters a little, with the top tilted away, and added a telescoping drop shadow, open for color.

I did two more versions of 2 with a larger Z, which is an attractive letter that doesn’t often appear in logos, and is therefore fun to play with. In this case I hoped they might let me have it larger even though it’s in the middle of the name.

These versions continued the large Z theme, pushing it further, using the commercial font Benguiat Bold as the starting point. The upper one was head-on with an open outline around everything, the lower one followed a similar plan to the ones above, with slanted letters and telescoping. One small difference in the telescoping: it doesn’t recede in perspective but goes straight down. I still like this version a lot. For me it has the elegance of TARZAN married with strong, wide verticals. In fact, it might have been a little too close to the Tarzan logo for Marvel.

Unfortunately, Marvel didn’t go for any of those designs, and Matt asked for something rougher. I don’t recall if my SPIDER-MAN logo was mentioned as a direction to go, but it may have been.

In any case, I thought of some jungle comics logos or story titles I’d seen in the past where the ends of the strokes were jagged like broken wood, like this one from 1955:

and I took that approach as a starting point for this version. One problem was that the two A forms left a lot of room at the top, so I extended the top stroke of the Z to fill that space, tucking the hyphen in the opening below it, which kept the letters as close together as possible. A thick outline added strength and readability, and an open drop shadow would make a place for a second color, and help pop the logo off the cover art.

Marvel liked the approach, preferring the less rough version, but some changes were asked for. The Z extension was removed, and I filled the space by increasing the angle of the diagonal stroke. Instead of all equal stroke weights, the horizontal strokes were narrowed a bit. Not sure whose idea that was, it might have been mine or theirs.

In this version the perspective plan of the earlier styles was followed by simply stretching the bottom edge of the entire shape on the computer. (Version 3B was similar but stretched less.) One good thing about this was it gave the Z a more balanced shape by slightly widening the bottom stroke and narrowing the top stroke. Marvel liked this version, and it became the final logo.

Here it is on the first cover of the 20-issue run beginning in 1997. Marvel staffers made one final addition: a large oval shape behind the logo. This masked all the small openings so cover art didn’t show through, which they felt helped it read better, and I couldn’t argue with that, though if I had done it I might have made the oval less tall. Overall I think it worked well, though, and I was happy with the end result. Too bad the book didn’t last longer!

4 thoughts on “Logo Study: KA-ZAR (1997)

  1. Pingback: When Todd Klein Created The Ka-Zar Logo | The Comic Archive

  2. Pingback: Logo Study: KA-ZAR (1997) « COMICON.com Pulse: Comic Book News, Opinion and Insight

  3. Craig

    What I loved about this logo – not even knowing that you did it – was that it seemed to be somewhat true to what had come before, also. It has that “1960s Marvel” look to me, combined with the logo used in the early 80’s for Ka-Zar the Savage. I actually thought it was intentionally that logo but with more attractive letterforms in your version.

    All in all Ka-Zar ’97 was probably the best Ka-Zar logo in the character’s history – and one of the best Marvel logos of the ’90s.

    Thanks as always for posting these columns. I love reading them.

  4. Le basque

    Well, I feel the added oval shape is overkill. Your logo already had way enough to stand out on its own with a thick outline and the dropped shadow. Too many cooks on the final result but still a pretty cool logo.

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