Logo Study: THE ATOM Part 2

All images © DC Comics

1961 saw the debut of a new Atom, now called the Silver Age Atom. Created by Gardner Fox and Gil Kane under the editorship of Julius Schwartz, he was named Ray Palmer after a friend of Schwartz, a very short man who edited science fiction magazines. This Atom had powers more appropriate to his name, being able to shrink to a very small size, while still retaining the weight and mass of his full size when he wanted it.

The logo is by Ira Schnapp, the staff logo guy at DC then. He Also designed the SHOWCASE logo and did all the cover lettering. It’s fairly typical of Schnapp’s logos, with the most unusual element being the perfectly rectangular O. The short name allowed the letters of ATOM to be quite large, good for newsstand recognition, and the narrow telescoped drop shadow gave a three-dimensional pop enhanced by two shades of color. THE is classic Schnapp, sort of a hybrid between script and block lettering, and he often used that alternate form of E, a trend continued by his successor Gaspar Saladino and myself. There’s nothing in the logo that ties it to the character in particular, but it reads well, is slanted to add interest, and I think it looks good.

Inside the stories had another, more horizontal version of the same logo, also by Schnapp. Ira often did these for books edited by Julius Schwartz, even when he didn’t letter the stories, as is the case here (where it’s lettered by Gaspar Saladino I believe). Julie had a better eye for good lettering and logos than most editors at the time, I’d say.

Here’s the original of that logo (thanks to Paul Kupperberg for the scan!).  The word THE is almost exactly the same as the cover version while the ATOM letters are much expanded. It still looks good to me except that there’s too much space between the O and M.


The SHOWCASE appearance must have been a success, and Atom’s own title followed in 1962. The logo is the same, though a different color treatment flattens it out some here. Still works fine.


In 1968, with issue 39, Atom was joined by fellow Justice League member Hawkman, whose own title had just folded the month before. Perhaps sales of the two titles were down and the company took this route to try to capture readers of both. This logo, and all the cover lettering, are by Gaspar Saladino, the main successor to Ira Schnapp on DC logos. I think it’s an early logo effort by Gaspar, and shows the influence of Schnapp more than many of his later ones. Editor Julie Schwartz may also have asked that the new logo stick close to the previous styles of both solo titles, too, which it does. The very tall initial A and especially the H create problems for the cover art, as you can see here, because they extend down so far. There’s also a little too much space between the A and T to my eye, making TOM seem almost a separate word. The crossbar of the initial A looks too high, giving the long legs a stilt-like apparance, also true of the H, what we can see of it. The telescoped drop shadow is very much in Schnapp’s style, and helps pull things together. My favorite part of the logo are THE and AND, in an attractive block letter style that are more Gaspar than Schnapp. While this logo is an awkward fit, I have to give props to Gaspar for going after an interesting layout rather than just two horizontal lines. The combined title only lasted a few more issues, sending both characters to appearances mainly in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA.


A new version of this logo appeared recently on this BLACKEST NIGHT one-shot. I like the shapes of these letters, especially the initial A and H better! Don’t know who did it.


In 1983 writer Jan Strnad and artist Gil Kane took the character in a new direction. Separated from his wife, Ray Palmer fled his suburban lifestyle and traveled to the Amazon Basin in South America, where he became trapped at a small size and had a series of sword and sorcery adventures. The logo is one that I worked on, though I didn’t assemble the finished product.


Here’s the part that I did, drawn in ink on Denril plastic vellum, I think from a layout by either artist Kane or then art director Neal Pozner. I suspect it was Neal’s layout, and he commissioned the sword drawing from Gil, and perhaps the atomic symbol as well, or might have done that himself. On the logo the bottom of the open telescoped drop shadow is covered by a piece of white correction tape, probably so it could be redrawn a little shorter on a photostat, and there’s a double line on the right arm of the T.


Here’s that detail, and I vaguely recall being asked to add the inner line so the A and T could be cut and moved right a bit, making a narrower space between the T and O, as it appears in the final. The logo shape, getting taller at the ends, looks good alone, but on the cover the S had to go behind the corner banner, not a good look. Overall the logo isn’t bad, and I like the way it ties in both Atom’s atomic symbol and the sword, but I’m not crazy about the end result. It’s symmetrical and rather staid, missing a chance for a more dynamic and exciting approach. On my own, I think I might have tried a bigger sword with the letters in front of it, and perhaps the atomic symbol in the sword pommel or something like that.


The concept and logo returned in this 1984 annual-sized special. Here the atomic symbol gets some pastel colors that make it look more like flower petals, and the shape of the logo once again fights the overall design, creating lots of dead space at the top.


In 1988 the Ray Palmer Atom starred in a new monthly with a new logo entirely by me. I put the emphasis on ATOM, with POWER OF THE smaller and in the same style above. Around everything was a giant atomic symbol.


Here’s a photocopy of the original logo. I went with a sort of boring rectangular shape for the letters, using very wide vertical strokes and very narrow horizontal ones, something I liked at the time. I relied on the atomic symbol for depth and energy, giving the three orbiting electrons visible presence and slightly rough-edged trails to indicate swift movement and power. (By the way, three electrons would indicate an atom of Lithium, but I was just following what earlier artists and letterers were doing, and three orbits has an appealing look.) I still like the atomic symbol on this logo a lot, but think the letters are a little hard to read because of the very narrow spaces in them, and I’d do that differently now. POWER OF THE ATOM lasted for 18 issues, not a bad run for a minor character, if you’ll excuse the pun.


The next Ray Palmer book was this one-shot in 1993, also with a logo by me. This time my instructions were to design a new take on the 1961 Ira Schnapp logo (the first one in this post). I followed Schnapp’s layout, but used taller and narrower letters. For some reason I made the horizontal strokes of the A and T narrower than the rest, and I dislike that now, they should have been the same width. I curved the corners of the O a bit, I think a better look than Schnapps square corners, and put the three-looped atomic symbol in place of the opening of the O, where it works fine, and actually is a better tie-in to the character’s costume. THE is more my style, with a nod to Gaspar in the way the T and H are joined. Finally, the telescoped drop shadow is a deeper than Schnapp’s, which eliminates a lot of the gaps between letters in his design.


In this photocopy of the logo you can also see more clearly that I made the front outline of ATOM much thicker than the rest to help it read better. The logo worked well on the cover, and seems to have been popular, I think it’s been used a few times since.

Next time I’ll wrap up this study with lots of cool designs by Rian Hughes. Other chapters and more logo studies are on my LOGO LINKS page.

5 thoughts on “Logo Study: THE ATOM Part 2

  1. David Goldfarb

    Three electrons doesn’t necessarily represent lithium; it could be, for instance, a positive ion of beryllium. The large atom in the last cover clearly can’t be lithium (which has 6 nucleons in its most common isotope) and must be either a negative ion of Helium-3 or a doubly-negative ion of tritium.

  2. Diabolu Frank

    Not too long back, I went through your logo studies looking for the Atom. Thank you for knocking this one out! It’s great!

  3. Metz77

    Overall I really like your last Atom logo here, but to me it looks like the “TOM” is falling over backwards because of the way it aligns with the A.

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