ComicsAlliance Design Meeting: DC’s ‘The New 52′ Logos
DC Comics released this week via Newsarama the logos that will adorn the 52 new #1 issues that constitute the publisher’s ambitious line-wide superhero relaunch, which kicks off August 31 with the release of Justice League #1. Along with the redesigned costumes and retooled character concepts that we’ve discussed at length here at ComicsAlliance, the new logos are an integral component of what DC hopes will be an attractive package to sell to new readers and lapsed comic book fans. With some beloved logos abandoned and some old favorites returned, DC has put a lot of thought into the design of its new books. Check after the cut for thoughts on their efforts from ComicsAlliance’s resident design snobs Andy Khouri and Chris Sims and Let’s Be Friends Again creators Curt Franklin and Chris Haley.While seemingly less critical than line artwork, the impact of comic book logos cannot be overstated. As is the case with advertising, a comic’s logo conveys perhaps most efficiently the style, attitude and identity of the character(s) and stories to be found behind its pages — often regardless of what’s been drawn on the cover and in what style, for those things rarely stay consistent in the comics industry of today. A good logo achieves that goal and makes plain what the viewer is looking at; a great logo — think Apple Computer, The X-Files, Coca-Cola, James Bond’s “007″, Ghostbusters, Nike, The Sopranos, Tron, Indiana Jones, the Wu-Tang Clan, Cheers — transcends that goal and makes the viewer understand it.
Comic book logo designers have been profoundly successful at this, with many logos from the Golden Age of the 1940s surviving today with just relatively minor tweaks. Of course, many of them were borne out of necessities dictated by venue, as legendary comics letterer and logo designer Todd Klein wrote on his website:
Since comics were traditionally sold in racks on newsstands and in stores where often only the top half of the comic was visible, the logo traditionally filled the top third or quarter of the cover with large, bold, colorful open letters designed to appeal to kids and other readers.
Obviously comics have moved away from the street corner newsstands and grocery store spinner racks of the past and onto the shelves of the world’s direct market comic book retailers. The challenge of the logo designer remains largely the same with respect to comics shops, but it’s been compounded by the new dimension of the Internet, the venue where comics most need to succeed if they’re to survive. With the decision apparently made to abandon and/or update logos that had been in service for many years or even bring some back, DC Comics’ VP – Art Direction and Design Mark Chiarello and his team had to create new logos and iconography that function as calling cards for The New 52 as the material traverses the increasingly varied landscape of the Web and all manners of mobile devices.
How successful were they? Read on for the guys’ thoughts.
Andy Khouri: There’s an obvious scheme to these Batman family titles, whose logos are all characterized by a sort of sloped letter placement set against the Bat symbol (not present on this version of the Batwoman logo, but seen in Amy Reeder’s cancelled variant cover for issue #3). The Nightwing logo cheats a little bit but it’s still in the same school, with the outer letters punctuating the design.
Chris Sims: There’s definitely a unifying theme with these of having the same distinct Bat symbol in the background to tie them in as a family of titles, which I don’t think we’ve ever seen before. One of the things that I think is really interesting is that while Superman’s had pretty much the same logo since 1938 with the exception of a few minor changes, there’s never really been a definitive Batman logo. There was an attempt to go with the big, blocky typeface in the late ’80s to match the movie, but even that only lasted a few years before it was changed. Along those lines, I’m kind of surprised that they didn’t go for a look closer to the Nolan films — setting that comic book style bat behind that big, wide-spaced Arial Black would’ve been pretty awesome.
For Batman in particular, they seem to have gone with a look that’s pretty close to the logo for the Arkham Asylum video game.
Andy Khouri: There was a period in the 1990s when all the Batman books did have a unified design, actually. Batman, Detective and Legends of the Dark Knight – those three, at least – used a version of the logo type from the Schumacher films set against the same Bat emblem. And it was ghastly.
Chris Sims: Even those were only around for about five or six years, from the mid ’90s up through No Man’s Land.
Andy Khouri: There is a lot of shading and color detail in the Batgirl, Batman and Nightwing logos. They remind me of video game graphics, in that way. I think there must be some thinking about how these will look on high resolution computer monitors, phones and iPads, where those kinds of touches can really be appreciated. The Batwing and Batwoman logos are in a more classic high-contrast 4-color comic booky style.
Chris Sims: I really like the Batwing one, with the way that the letters are styled with those sharp wing-points and the nice placement of the “W” right in the center. Batgirl, on the other hand, looks like someone just busted out a freeware font. The emblem in the background of Batwing is all separate peices, so they don’t quite match up. I’m wondering if that’s an indication that Batwing will be the “Batman on a budget” referenced in Morrison’s run, but considering he’s a dude with a jetpack, that seems pretty unlikely.
Curt Franklin: Is the one ear on the Batwing cowl bigger than the other?
Andy Khouri: It’s Batman’s version of the O_o emoticon.
Chris Haley: I guess Batman doesn’t need a great logo since he’s Batman and that books going to sell, but man, Batman should not have the worst logo of the Bat-Family.
Chris Sims: I’m excited that Dick Grayson’s finally releasing his concept album, though.
Andy Khouri: What do you make of Nightwing’s logo using the Batman emblem? I think this could be controversial.
Chris Sims: One of the nice things about the old Nightwing logo — and the costume too — was that it was deisgned with these shapes that echoed the Batman logo without actually including it. Look at the shape of his mask with that old costume and you’ll see it. This one… man, if you saw a dude at a rock show wearing that t-shirt, he would have a blonde mullet and a handlebar moustache, and you would be shoving people out of the way to try to take a picture of him with your phone.
Andy Khouri: While the colors on all of these will change from cover to cover, I think it’s pretty cool how just seeing the Batman emblem with that blue in the Nightwing logo is enough to suggest Nightwing, even if that lettering wasn’t there. Why is he wearing red? Argh.
Andy Khouri: This next section of Batman logos seem like the reject pile to me. The Rian Hughes logo for Batman and Robin is back as is the logo for Batman: The Dark Knight, but there’s no continuity beyond some version of the Batman emblem. The Detective Comics logo is actually laughable because it looks like the logo is peeking out from around a corner and saying “I’m Batman!” and giggling.
Chris Sims: That Batman and Robin logo is fantastic, though.
Chris Haley: Yeah, no one can say that Batman and Robin one isn’t beautiful.
Curt Franklin: The eyes in the Batman and Robin one are kind of silly. Why have the eyes?
Chris Sims: He’s a Bat-MAN, Curt.
Andy Khouri: I’m not sure what to make of the “dirty” treatment on the Detective Comics logo. Is this going to be the gritty crime book? I think Detective has traditionally been sort of the classier Batman book.
Chris Sims: Under Greg Rucka, ‘Tec was definitely about crime and cops as much as it was about Batman. I’m not sure why they felt the need to make it look like it was spraypainted on concrete, though. Banksy In: Detective Comics!
Curt Franklin: It’s almost tilted like it’s in the sky, like the Bat Signal.
Chris Haley: I don’t like how “Batman” is in upper and lower-case on that Detective logo, when nothing else is. If Detective is a “gritty crime” book, then I can give that logo a pass, but if it’s not, that’s bad design.
Chris Sims: The long “I” in the Dark Knight logo makes it look like a very specific protest sign.
Chris Sims: My first thought when I saw the Aquaman logo was that after so many years of not having a definitive Aquaman story, maybe “Legend of the Golden Tweezers” will be the one that hits. My second thought was that that is definitely the Assassin’s Creed logo.
Curt Franklin: Don’t want to be the guy that states the obvious, but the Aquaman thing is like a trident, right?
Andy Khouri: I thought it was a stylized “A”? Obviously there is confusion about the emblem, so I think Aquaman must present a unique design challenge. How do you convey the graphic identity of a character who really has no graphic identity beyond maybe his costume’s colors?
Chris Haley: Put little fish in the letters, obviously.
Curt Franklin: Rounded at the bottom and pointed at the end is also a trident shape. Maybe they’re working on multiple levels.
Chris Haley: “Yes, five minutes until the weekend.. what? What do you mean I have to make a logo for Voodoo before I leave?!”
Chris Sims: Voodoo looks like a logo for overpriced headphones.
Curt Franklin: If you flip Voodoo upside down it’s an ad for oopooA.
Chris Sims: Okay, is it just me, or do any of you guys think the Blackhawk logo looks like the bird is wearing lipstick on its beak?
Andy Khouri: Well, it’s not just you anymore. Thanks, Sims.
Chris Sims: Like… Like it’s trying to trick Elmer Fudd into thinking it’s a sexy lady so that he won’t shoot at it.
Andy Khouri: The Blackhawks logo really frustrates me. I was a little disappointed to see DC recommit to this really cool concept but update it to some kind of special ops thing seemingly reminiscent of all the original WildStorm books. But the logo here is funny and brazen, it would be perfect for a cool period war book.
Curt Franklin: I sort of dig the Blackhawks thing. The whole mascot aspect of the bird in the middle makes me think of when WWII planes that had the logos on the side.
Andy Khouri: The Grifter logo is truly shocking.
Chris Haley: That Grifter logo has got to be the most embarrassingly funny one of them all. It actually looks like a rejected Cyborg logo they just changed the letters on.
Chris Sims: Grifter Logo: Right Click > Add Style > Bevel and Emboss > Stroke (3px). Done.
Andy Khouri: I’m honestly not trying to be snarky, but that looks like something we did in middle school when we were learning Microsoft Works on old Apple Performas.
Chris Sims: The little blood trail running down the “I” is quite literally hilarious.
Chris Sims: Are we taking bets on how long it’s going to take for Disney to put a C&D on that one?
Andy Khouri: I don’t think there can be any debate about this: For Legion Lost they put the Legion logo on top of the Lost logo. That’s precisely what it is.
Curt Franklin: They took the Lost logo and added some static.
Chris Sims: It’s a shame, because that Legion logo, which we’ll get to later, is actually one of the best of the lot.
Andy Khouri: I think the premise of the series is that the lost Legionnaires are trapped in the past. What I get from this logo is that they’re trapped in our past.
Curt Franklin: So they’re like hipster Legionnaires.
Chris Sims: The only way that logo could be redeemed is if the Legionnaires actually wake up on an island and there’s a smoke monster and a hatch.
Andy Khouri: Then we can spend years guessing what the Smoke Monster is, and it will turn out to be Superboy-Prime.
Andy Khouri: Mister Terrific is kind of amazing. Something about that logo just screams “F*CK YOU” to me.
Chris Haley: This one makes me laugh too, but I don’t dislike it. It does remind me that the guy has a “T” on his face, and that’s a helpful thing to remember.
Chris Sims: It looks like a logo you’d see on boxing trunks.
Curt Franklin: For a guy that literally has “FAIR PLAY” up on his sleeve, it’s perfect.
Chris Sims: Nice to see that Wonder Woman finally got that parking space she wanted.
Curt Franklin: “Hmmm, not wicked enough.” “Put it it at an angle.” “OHHHHH SHIII”
Andy Khouri: Isn’t there a version of the Weezer logo that looks a lot like that?
Chris Haley: I think you’re thinking of the Van Halen logo.
Chris Sims: Or the original World Wrestling Federation logo.
Andy Khouri: I don’t know if they could have made the Wonder Woman logo less majestic or feminine if they’d hung an Ed Hardy t-shirt off those hooks on the side. That does not say “Princess Diana of the Amazons” to me, it says “My Band Is Called Wonder Woman And I’m Going To Stencil That Sh*t On Your Sidewalk.”
Chris Haley: How else are you supposed to know she’s tough?
Curt Franklin: I also get a dog tag feel from the Wonder Woman logo, aside from the protrusions on the “W.”
Chris Haley: It is supposed to be a “horror” book. I could see that design for a horror movie poster.
Andy Khouri: Sims, you have some issue with the Catwoman logo, yeah?
Chris Sims: Mainly that it’s terrible.
Chris Haley: The Catwoman one is a real wasted opportunity.
Andy Khouri: it is one of at least two logos in the DCnU that has an animal scratch on it.
Chris Sims: Again, it looks like one of those logos that was just downloaded font that I’m pretty sure I have. TurkeyBones.ttf.
Andy Khouri: I don’t mind the Catwoman logo, but it’s a bit creepy for Selina, I think. The claw scratch is a nice touch, but the whole thing is a bit goth. More reminiscent of the look of the Halle Berry version than the sleek Selina version. Maybe not the Halle Berry logo specifically, rather that film’s general aesthetic. It was creepy, spindly and dark.
Curt Franklin: Yeah, I don’t know why you’d want to evoke that Halle Berry stuff.
Chris Haley: It’s just ugly, and that doesn’t match the character.
Andy Khouri: In terms of fundamentals, the Suicide Squad Logo is a sound design.
Chris Haley: “We’ve gotta fit guns into this logo so people will know these guys are dangerous, but we can only figure out how to fit one pistol in for an ‘E.’ What if we just prop another gun awkwardly next to the logo?”
Chris Sims: “F*CK YES GUNS!”
Curt Franklin: I think the Suicide Squad logo is pretty cool, aside from the fact that nobody really uses guns. It’s got the whole assassin motif with the rifle, the crosshairs.
Chris Haley: It’s not a bad design, but it seems like it’s trying to put too much in at once.
Andy Khouri: I like the stencil approach, the target is a nice touch, and it’s all perfectly balanced. The rifle on the left might be overkill — HA HA HA HA.
Chris Sims: I actually like this one a lot, I’m just confused as to why the “Q” is highlighted. It makes it look like hte book’s initials should be “SQ,” and they’re not. And yeah, that rifle has to go. The handgun as the “E” is pretty clever — at least if they’re going to be using Deadshot in it, becaues I don’t think King Shark packs a .45 — but the rifle is just ridiculous.
Curt Franklin: Suicide Squad is pretty ridiculous. “The American Government is going to let a bunch of super-psychopaths loose to kill people we can’t be seen to kill.”
Andy Khouri: The Justice League logos are bittersweet. I love that they decided to do something sleek and modern with it but I just don’t think it works for these books.
Chris Haley: I think the Justice League logo is great, it’s just not a great logo for Justice League. Nothing about it says, “These are the best superheroes in the world,” it just says, “This is a well designed logo.” You can tell they wanted something that would look classy when it got a lot of media attention.
Chris Sims: I don’t dislike that Justice League logo, but I do remember being really surprised that they were actually going with it for the book. It’s very much All Star Superman.
Andy Khouri: I do like the “Dark” part of the Justice League Dark logo.
Chris Sims: Man, I don’t. First off, can we all agree that “Justice League Dark” is one of the worst titles ever?
Andy Khouri: I confess it’s grown on me.
Curt Franklin: I always like to think of a comic book title in terms of “If I was the star of this comic would I call myself by the title?” And I can’t imagine anybody on the Justice League being like “Hell yeah, we’re dark as f*ck.”
Chris Sims: I really like how the angles and shading of the actual words “Justice League” look like they’re a shadow of the other book’s logo, because that’s really clever. But that thing is a monster. The “DARK” is so huge that this thing is going to end up taking up like a third of the cover.
Chris Haley: Is that Justice League International logo all wobbly for everyone else or am I having a stroke?
Andy Khouri: The JLI logo is bewildering for a few reasons, not the least of which is that JLI was primarily known as a comedy book.
Chris Sims: I like that the JLI logo uses the globe as a background, even if it does make it busy and it took me a long time to realize that’s what it was. But seriously, the shaky letters make no sense.
Curt Franklin: Gathering by the geography they used in the logo, it’s also not so much International as it is Eastern USA, Europe, and North Africa.
Andy Khouri: I think making it all wavy was probably a mistake, it’s barely readable. Imagine this with artwork around it.
Andy Khouri: They nailed it with the All Star Western logo. I “get” the book right away from this alone, it seems fun and embracing of its genre. You know what you’re going to get. Great design.
Chris Haley: I hope the book is as good as the logo, because that there logo is mighty fine.
Chris Sims: I like the All Star Western logo a lot, but that distressed look they use would say “Old West” a lot more effectively if they hadn’t already used it for Batman and Wonder Woman. Using the off-kilter sherriff’s star behind the “All Star” was a nice touch too.
Curt Franklin: It’s mainly a Jonah Hex book, right? Why not call it Jonah Hex?
Andy Khouri: Because that is also the name of a piece of sh*t Megan Fox movie.
Chris Sims: Yyyyyyup.
Chris Haley: The Flash wins the logo beauty competition hands down.
Chris Sims: That Flash logo’s really good. It’s got a nice, simple futuristic look to it, even if my brain keeps flipping that “S” around into a “Z” whenever I glance at it. The Flazh. I like it, though. Like Barry Allen’s going to be romancing Russian spies. “Ooh, Flazh, you are runnink so fazht!”
Andy Khouri: The Flash logo is everything that DC says it is aspiring to be… modern, exciting, forward-moving.
Andy Khouri: Frankenstein and Firestorm are awesome. They remind me of the logos you see in Tomorrowland at Disneyland. I think Firestorm is boring as hell but I love that logo, it makes me wish I liked Firestorm.
Curt Franklin: Frankenstein looks cool, but god only know what S.H.A.D.E. is. I mean, I know, but is the world at large gonna GAF.
Chris Sims: Frankenstein and Firestorm are both really good examples of smplicity in design, especially when you’ve got a lot of text to work with.
Andy Khouri: Resurrection Man is a resurrected logo.
Chris Sims: It’s very close to the original Resurrection Man logo, to the point that I didn’t realize there was a difference until David Uzumeri pointed out that it was a hand instead of a full body, which is great. It’s this awesome little Romeroesque touch that highlights the potential horror aspect of a guy who gets super-powers from dying, which is awesome.
Chris Sims: The great thing about that Legion logo is that even when they’re trying to make verything look fresh and modern, it still looks futuristic and sci-fi next to the others.
Curt Franklin: It’s got the whole motherboard thing going on.
Andy Khouri: Maybe you guys will disagree, but I think the Legion works best as a vision of the future as imagined from our past, and I think this logo reflects that kind of Tomorrowlandish aesthetic. This is a future as envisioned by people in the ’60s or something, and that’s why it’s cool.
Curt Franklin: Yeah. It looks like a future logo from the past, exactly.
Chris Haley: Totally agree, and I think that works in it’s favor.
Chris Haley: Something that I’d really like to ask your opinion on is with all the talk of change and fresh, new takes on characters, why do you think they left the Superman logo completely untouched?
Curt Franklin: Because you had a gun to your head.
Andy Khouri: I like to think it’s an “if it ain’t broke…” situation. Even Action Comics remained largely the same. Green Lantern stayed the same too, no real reason to mess with it. Swamp Thing too, which was originally designed by Gaspar himself.
Chris Haley: Yeah, but a lot of these new logos took a good (unbroken) logo and broke them.
For all 52 logos from DC Comics’ relaunch, click over to Newsarama.