All images © DC Comics, Inc.
With issue 198 in 1970 this new trade dress (the logo and type area at the top of the cover) began. Until now, WORLD’S FINEST had always featured Superman with Batman (and sometimes Robin), but another DC title, THE BRAVE AND THE BOLD had become a Batman team-up book, and the DC editors must have decided to try teaming Superman with other characters in this one. Ira Schnapp’s 1958 WORLD’S FINEST logo is on one line at the top, with character figures in circles on either side. Not a bad arrangement. COMICS is even smaller, tiny in fact, below that. And beneath the banner we have PRESENTS in type, and the two character logos. Still a rather crowded logo area, but the arrangement works pretty well and doesn’t take up too much cover space. This approach only lasted about a year and a half.
When Batman returned, so did a variation on an earlier logo treatment, with the Schnapp logo again larger, and flanked by character figures. The toplines were now in type. A few other variations came and went in the mid 1970s, as the book was sometimes an annual sized “Giant” and sometimes a 100-page anthology (using reprints to fill out the pages).
In 1977, under the management of Publisher Jenette Kahn, the title was revamped, returning it to the anthology format with all-new stories. WORLD’S FINEST was now one of several “Dollar Comics,” featuring a variety of characters along with Superman and Batman. At first glance, the logo seems the familiar Schnapp one, but in fact it’s been redrawn. The most obvious change is in the S’s, which have lost Schnapp’s graceful curve and are once more poorly designed, with uneven thicknesses. The W, O, R, and D all show minor changes, too. John Workman was on staff at the time, and I asked him if he remembered anything about this design. He told me,
“I remember Jenette and (cover artist) Neal Adams were frantically working on the Dollar Comics. I knew immediately, though, that it was silly to bind them with the term “Dollar Comics” (the DC-DC connection was just too much to resist) because the day would soon come when the price would have to be raised. I even remember working on that particular cover, but I don’t believe that I had anything to do with the actual lettering.”
The rest of the cover lettering looks to me like it’s by staffer Joe Letterese, so he may be the one who relettered this logo. Joe rarely worked on logos at DC, but in a pinch would have done so, and if things were being rushed out the door, that’s quite possible. I’m not sure why anyone thought this version was better than the Schnapp one, but sometimes these things just happen. The anthology format (though not the Dollar Comics name) lasted until 1982.
Then the title returned to regular comics length, and very briefly this layout, with the Letterese logo. But the editor wanted to once more feature the character logos, and wanted a new approach for the book’s title logo.
In 1982 I was asked to design a new version of WORLD’S FINEST COMICS on one line, following the style of the Schnapp logo, but with telescoping to give the letters a little more impact.
Here’s a scan of my original logo, drawn in ink on Denril plastic vellum. While it’s close to the Schnapp logo from 1958, I did add some design elements of my own: the S’s now have two horizontal and one angled stroke, all straight, with curves only on the outside corners, and the C’s follows the same plan, with the top and bottom ending in short straight strokes. This is the first time COMICS ever had the same size and layout as the rest. That was probably the editor’s request. PRESENTS is in the same style, but much smaller, so I filled it in black. The telescoping, with one point perspective centered and above, gets too busy in places, I probably should have left out all the connecting lines.
In this closer view you can see how some parts are too small to be useful, especially that tiny section between the horizontal strokes of the F. In PRESENTS, the P and R are too close, too. Notice the blue pencil guidelines, something I rarely did on Denril vellum. Usually I had a tight pencil or marker version that I simply traced over.
With issue 296 in 1983, just eleven issues later, this much better logo design by Ed Hannigan was introduced. Ed was doing a lot of cover layouts for DC then, sometimes doing the finishes himself, sometimes handing them off to other artists, much in the way that Carmine Infantino did them for DC in the 1960s. Ed is a talented artist and a good designer. This logo treatment is very creative, using a spotlight effect from the DC symbol to make a background area for the character logos that also suggests the Bat-shaped spotlight used in many Batman stories to let the character know he was need in Gotham City. Both the Superman and Batman logos are existing ones, but nicely angled and with all the inner lines removed from the telescoping on Superman. WORLD’S FINEST COMICS is a new design with tall, narrow letters that returns somewhat to the Art Deco origins of the title. the S’s are very Art Deco, and the N has regained it’s pointed strokes, though the W and M don’t have them this time. The outlines on the letters are pretty thin, and the letters are packed close together, making them a little hard to read, but having the spotlight shape behind some of them helps. In all, it’s a great design, and it remained on the book until almost the end of this run.
For the very last issue, 323, in 1986, the first logo from 1941 made a nostalgic final appearance. What a sad day for this title which had lasted without interruption for 35 years…
But the WORLD’S FINEST franchise was far from finished. We’ll see where it turned up in the 1990s next time. Other chapters and more logo studies can be found on my LOGO LINKS page.