The fine logo designed by Ira Schnapp for the Silver Age relaunch of THE FLASH in 1959 remained virtually unchanged throughout the long run of that title, well into the 1980s. There were only very minor changes in that time, a tribute to the excellence of the design.
One interesting exception is this cover for issue 174, with a giant block-letter logo as part of the cover art by Carmine Infantino, supporting Flash’s Rogues Gallery of villains. This technique was pioneered by Will Eisner on THE SPIRIT, and is probably not the first example of such a logo treatment at DC, but it’s an early one, and something often seen on DC covers lately.
For a while in the 70s the script THE was replaced by this upper-case version. And while we’re looking, check out all the great cover lettering by Gaspar Saladino! One of those covers where the letterer should get an art credit.
In 1980, the script THE came back, but the speed lines changed from open single lines with a space below in the heavy border of the letters to these small closed spikes, looking to my eye more like tiny horizontal icicles than speed lines. I’m sure it was done to make it easier for coloring, but I don’t think it works well.
The Silver Age run ended in 1985, and Barry Allen, the man behind the mask, died the following year in DC’s epic series CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS. Not one to let a character franchise languish, though, DC began a new series featuring Wally West, Barry’s protegé, as The Flash, in a new series called, simply, FLASH in 1987.
I did the logo for this relaunch, but I can’t find anything about it in my files, no sketches or even a finished copy. That leads me to believe I may have been given an idea or sketch to work from, and just told to go ahead and work up the final design. This could have come from artist Butch Guice, but more likely staff designers Richard Bruning or Kez Wilson, I believe the people I would have worked with on it.
In any case, the design emphasizes my favorite part of Flash art: the speed lines! The ones here running behind the letters and off to each side are the kind made popular by Carmine Infantino, who used them extensively throughout his run on the book, a good example from the cover of FLASH 116 is above. The letters of the logo lean even further forward, and the F is now the smallest letter, as they are all in the same perspective, increasing in height from left to right. The words THE NEW were not part of the title, but only appeared on the first issue. In searching through the DC logo files, I found only a photostat of my lettering for FLASH, not the speed lines, which I’m sure I would have done at the same time, so this one remains a bit mysterious.
While I think it’s a good logo design, I don’t like it as much as the Schnapp one, and it did present one design problem. The cover lettering usually had to fit into the triangular space above the logo, tilted at the same extreme angle. This got old after a while, especially for cover letterers like me.
Issue 18 used a simple type treatment instead of the logo, probably to allow more of the fine cover art by Joe Kubert to show through. Other issues dropped the speed lines for a similar reason.
For issue 32 I was asked to letter the logo onto a billboard, another technique pioneered by Will Eisner in THE SPIRIT. His logo designs for that series were always creative, and deserve their own study someday.
On issue 36, in 1990, a new logo appeared. This one was a collaborative effort. Steve Bové, one of the designers, remembers it this way:
A new editorial team was set to take over FLASH with issue #36. DC Art Director Richard Bruning showed me a few sketches done for a new logo. He asked if I had any ideas. I only had one but it was a good one! I considered Steranko’s X-Men design, added a lightning underscore and showed the design to Keith “Kez” Wilson (Assistant Art Director), who asked if he could tweak it. What he and Bruning did was essentially redesign the piece and that created a logo that could be used in many different ways.
The new logo broke the mold in one major way: it slanted to the left, or backwards, but the long lightning bolt coming off the H, and the triangular points representing the old speed lines still allowed the logo to have the appearance of forward motion. Notice how there are both positive points, as at the top of the F, and negative or open points, as under the horizontal strokes. The F is once more the largest letter, and the space above the others is filled with a condensed tag line, THE FASTEST MAN ALIVE! A little hard to read, but at least it gives the logo a horizontal top line with no awkward space left open. The letter forms have an art deco feel, especially the S, but are modernized by the points and lightning bolt for an overall pleasing result.
On issue 62, in 1992, the logo gained an open drop shadow, but lost the lightning bolt. The drop shadow made it more readable against background art, and allowed the use of a second color, but the loss of the lightning bolt meant a loss of that feeling of forward motion to my eye. It was probably done to give more room for cover art. The F also was shortened to the same height as the rest of the letters, in perspective, and the tagline was dropped. And so it remained for the next few years.
Next time, the 1990s to the present!
More chapters and other logo studies on my LOGO LINKS page.