In 1989 Steven Bové was on staff at DC and finding opportunities to use his design skills for logos. This one, created for an issue of SECRET ORIGINS, is my favorite of Steve’s DC designs. It’s hard now to imagine a more perfect concept for a character who is immaterial, with the front of these block letters missing, and only the black drop shadow present. It still works beautifully to get the name and idea across, though placing it on typical comics art might make it hard to read. The letterforms are classic block style, very tall, and in three point perspective, resulting in a very three-dimensional drop shadow. The triangular symbols are decorative, but the one on the right also helps define the letter L. Steve writes:
“Phantom Girl was an ambitious idea that no one really wanted. I heard the character was up for a Secret Origins issue and didn’t really have a logo. I drew up a sketch and showed it to all concerned parties. They loved it but really didn’t know where to go with it afterwards. I designed it as a drop out and would later use the same concept for ‘Ghost’ at Dark Horse.”
Here it is on the cover of issue 42, looking great. The monochromatic art behind it helps the logo read well, and the white color not only matches the character’s costume, it adds a ghostly feel that I approve of. Too bad this one hasn’t been used more.
This logo appeared only in WHO’S WHO and on the interior splash page of a story in SECRET ORIGINS 50. The character is one of the more obscure ones in the DC Universe, first appearing in a single issue of SHOWCASE in 1968, and later joining the cast of AQUAMAN. Steve remembers:
“Dolphin was all mine as I was also the writer and penciller on the story. It was inspired by a girlfriend’s signature on a postcard. I thought it was a very different look for a superhero logo.”
I love the dolphin shape for the letter D, the best thing about this one! The rest of the letters are fine, but only the dot of the I has a distinctive shape. Great idea overall.
Here’s the cover of SECRET ORIGINS 50, where the logo appeared. That’s Dolphin at lower left. In this final issue of the series, a clever idea replaces the character logos, as all the trade dress components are loaded into a wagon.
Image © TSR and DC Comics.
This is another comic based on a game from TSR that Steve probably did some work on, either design work or just the final rendering. Here’s the original logo for the game by Doug Watson:
Image © TSR, Inc.
A very classy logo in every way, but I’m sure DC felt it was too complex for a comic, and thus had staffers do a version for that. The result is less exciting than the above, but perfectly fine and more readable as well, I think.
Looks quite good on this cover. It helps that the art has been drawn to accommodate the steep curve of the main letters.
In 1990 DC decided to put a new logo on FLASH, and in this case it was a team effort. Steve recalls:
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 for FLASH logos 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 (as in past logos), 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.
The DC design staff continued to tinker with this logo for some time. Issue 39 added a solid drop shadow behind both the main word and the topline that could be held in a color. I suspect this was another Steven Bové overlay effect, though I haven’t been able to locate the original in the DC files.
The earliest version I found there was this one, with the drop shadow on FLASH now an outlined shape, and the topline made much heavier by first being redone as outlined letters, then all but FASTEST filled in with black, at least on this copy.
Here’s the first cover appearance on issue 46 with the topline still all outlined letters.
The logo was revised further in 1992, after Steve left the DC staff, so he may not have been involved in this version, which removes the lightning bolt effect from the bottom and makes the F the same size as the rest. I think all these versions are effective and dynamic, a good look for the title.
The final DC logo in this study is from a 1991 miniseries. This striking and unusual design is another team effort, with the majority of the design credited to Keith “Kez” Wilson, while Steve did the finished inks. Steve says:
If you notice, the logo plays off of Keith’s Batman and Detective logos with the bird graphic. I did a lot of work like this where I just did the final rendering.
I’ve always liked this logo on every level: the contrast between the words, the graphic use of black in the word BLACK, the artful shape of CANARY in upper and lower case, combining rounded and pointed forms, and the bird shape behind, pulling it all together and separating the logo from the cover art. Yes, it’s nothing like a canary, but who cares, it works! Particularly interesting is the way the strokes of the R and Y meet, another unique design element by Kez. Really well done by everyone involved!
Here it is on the cover, looking quite lovely. I believe this was done after Steve left the DC staff. Steve writes:
“By 1990 I was exhausted by the constant work of a production artist and came down with pneumonia. I was out for 2 weeks and shortly after the printing of Dolphin and my return, I quit. There really were no new frontiers for me at DC and no one in the company at the time wished to lose me as a production artist. Mike Carlin sat with me and told me there was a fine line between a fan and a professional. I knew I had crossed it.
” Sesame Street offered me my first access to a computer and I did various art and design projects as well as animation with them for several years. I still worked as a freelancer in comics and around 1992 secured at least 75% of the Dark Horse line of Superhero Characters. Those logos were done in conjunction with the various editors and art director at the time. They may not have all been good but the experience was a positive one. I continued to do comics and logos for various publishers with mixed results.”
Images © Dark Horse Comics, Inc.
Here are some samples of those Dark Horse logos, with GHOST being the best and most memorable design in my opinion.
Steve’s career since then has taken him to many new places and new challenges. I invite you to visit Steve’s BLOG for lots more work samples, including the cover of an original graphic novel Steve has recently written and drawn.
Hope you’ve enjoyed this third DC logo designer spotlight. More Logo Studies can be found on the LOGO LINKS page of my website.