Image © Steven Bové. All other images © DC Comics, Inc., except as noted.
Steven Bové is an artist and graphic designer who spent a few years in the DC Production Department, and while there designed about a dozen logos for the company. He’s not well known in the comics community, except by those who worked with him, including myself. Steve joined DC in 1986, about two years before I left staff there to go freelance full-time, and he quickly became my right-hand man in the office, someone I could depend on to get things done well and quickly. We’ve stayed in touch since then, and I thought I’d spotlight his logo work here. I’ll let Steve introduce himself:
“I grew up around comics and remember Superman #163 vividly. The cover just got my attention. The coloring was particularly effective. I remember trying to copy the graphics (a favorite pastime) of that and many other comic covers. At that time comics were everywhere, in every candy store or barbershop. But it was Daredevil #4 that really made the difference for me. There was this energy about it and the strong cover graphics were completely unique at the time. I don’t believe I had ever seen WHITE used as a background color choice and that was unusual.
Daredevil © Marvel Characters, Inc.
” I was a kid, but most teachers recognized my artistic potential and that would lead to a more focused path. I joined DC in 1986 and really just went to work. It was all a blur from the moment I walked into the Production Department: think fast, work fast and deliver quality. It put me in demand from editorial and would often confuse where it was I was best suited. Todd Klein, the lead production artist, looked at me one day and said just as he was leaving to go freelance, “I knew I could go the minute you arrived.” I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders at that point. To make matters worse I was constantly bugging editors to look at my art and help me to eventually get it in print.”
As I’ve told Steve, I still feel bad about laying that burden on him!
“Firestorm was a very interesting character and I knew I could come up with something stronger than the font that was being used at the time. Richard Bruning, Art Director, focused me by saying, “Remember, the character in essence is a modern concept”. That was the key and made the execution very easy. What made it work for me was the overlay with the nuclear symbolism in the letters. This would end up being a trademark of my logo work as I strived to get the characters’ symbol in the letter shapes.”
What Steve is talking about is that the symbolic atom art inside the main letters is done on a separate overlay so it could be held in a color, a technique we’ll be seeing in some of his other logos. I like this design. The large open letters are easy to read even with the atom art in black, as shown here. In style they’re block letters with strong angled stroke ends and extra points at each upper corner. No curves anywhere, which makes the contrast of the atom art, which is all curves, more effective. The second line is also block letters, but to my eye it’s not as effective because the stroke widths are not consistent. For instance compare the wide angular strokes on the Ns and very wide angular strokes on the M with the much narrower ones on the rest. It still reads fine, and all ties together well. The surrounding box gives the logo a second or third color option, making it more likely to read well on a cover. The atom art, by running through the open letters, adds a surprising amount of depth to the logo, which would otherwise be completely flat, an excellent design choice.
And here’s the logo’s first appearance on issue 65 of the title, looking good even with the atom art still in black.
Here’s another cover with the atom art in white and without the surrounding box. Still works well for me.
Also in 1987 Steve designed this logo for a four-part mini-series explaining Superman’s homeworld as revamped by John Byrne. The letterforms of the word KRYPTON are based on the interior title lettering by John Workman, seen here from issue 1:
Workman’s title is effective, with that very unusual Y giving the word an appropriately alien look. Steve has added inner shapes for all the letters, with some adjustments for better readability, including making the O smaller and less overlapped. And, of course, he’s put a map of the imaginary world in the O as well, continuing his theme of art inside open letters. The top line uses DC headline type in a font similar to Eurostyle, I believe from an optical typesetting machine, spread out to fill the width of the logo nicely. While John’s idea was original, Steve’s development of it makes it a better logo design.
Here it is on the first cover, showing how the double outline worked to allow a second color. This miniseries was followed by two more in a similar theme, and Steve’s logos were seen on those as well. I’ll cover them next.
This logo, which is all Steve’s design, is very Art Deco in style, which seems appropriate for the subject to me, as it looks back to Superman’s origins in the 1930s while still appearing stylish today, as Art Deco has remained in the design arsenal of comics and other media. The letterforms are mostly simple geometric shapes with the centers missing from the rounded parts, and overlapped to add a feeling of depth and also make the word shorter in width, a clever idea. The Daily Planet globe is positioned as both a symbol to fill out the top line and as a dot over the I in METROPOLIS. I like this logo a lot, though there is one small thing that bothers me: the lower corner of the S overlapping the I. All the other overlaps are left over right, that one should have been as well. In all, a fine design, and it’s interesting to see how much some of the letters can be overlapped and still read well. The shape of the S and the missing openings carries the design into almost abstract territory, and is a delight to see.
Here it is on the first cover, looking quite nice, though spoiled a little by that ugly type box right below it.
The third miniseries had this title. This is again all Steve’s design, using a letter style with serifs for SMALLVILLE. The serifs are somewhat inconsistent: wider on the S than elsewhere, for instance, but in general they follow the style of many serif fonts, with the exception of the A, where the center stroke is rounded. Not sure why Steve chose that, but it works fine. The entire logo is curved, with SMALLVILLE having a deep telescoped drop-shadow,where all the connecting strokes have been left out below the letters to create a large open space, a technique often used by Gaspar Saladino in his logos. THE WORLD OF is in set type in the font Copperplate, which is very wide and has tiny serifs, both tying into the lower word and contrasting it. The solid letters of the top line also contrast with the open letters of SMALLVILLE. By itself, this would be a competent but unexciting logo, but there’s more:
On an overlay Steve has drawn some buildings representing downtown Smallville, making great use of the open space in the drop-shadow. I particularly like the way the church steeple extends up into the space between the V and I. This addition makes the logo really work to say something unique about the subject, a fine job.
Here it is on the cover of the second issue, looking good. The contrary perspectives of the buildings and the dropshadow make it seem like a window into another scene has been opened, an inviting idea that I love.
In addition to designing logos himself, Steve was also sometimes asked to do final pen and ink renderings of logo designs by others. That was the case with the original HELLBLAZER logo designed by Dave McKean, above. Steve did this outlined version of the main word, while the the top line is set type in the font Trajan.
Here it is on the first issue’s cover, looking quite good over the painted McKean art, though I can’t say I like the color choice.
More Bové logos in Part 2. You can find lots more logo studies on the LOGO LINKS page of this blog, too.