Comic Con, the worldwide gathering of superhero and comic-book enthusiasts, is in full swing in the Big Apple right now. So it’s a great time to look back at some of our favourite logo designs from the world of comics.
Of course, comic books are not like ordinary corporate brands, and most comic-book logos will vary hugely over time. They’ll get sketched by different artists, be redesigned as part of a new series, or get transformed for new roles outside of comics; in TV shows, movies and beyond.
These classic logos, though, all benefit from core design fundamentals that remain timeless, and which we believe will continue to inspire fans for decades to come.
Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster in the 1930s, Superman is arguably today the world’s best known superhero. And his logo, aka the Superman Shield, can make a similar claim; this stylised red ‘S’, on a yellow diamond shield with a red border, has become recognisable the world over.
A simple version has been stitched into the Man of Steel’s costume from the word go, first seen in print in Action Comics #1 in 1938. Its design then varied in colour and shape over the years (you can see the various incarnations here (opens in new tab)) before settling in to the classic version created in 1977 (above), the year shooting began on the first Christopher Reeve Superman movie.
The Superman logo has also given a huge boost to DC Comics’ coffers, because in 1945, the company (then National Periodical Publications) succeeded in trademarking it.
This allowed it to keep control of Superman stories in perpetuity, rather than allowing them to become public domain after 75 years, as is normal for copyright. And that’s not to mention all the cash the design itself has generated from associated licensing and merchandise.
Since 1939, Batman has rivalled Superman for the title of the world’s greatest superhero. Using brains, brawn and technology rather than physical superpowers, he represents a raw humanity that’s sometimes lacking in the comic-book universe.
The iconic character was created by artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger, and first appeared in Detective Comics #27. A Batman logo appeared soon after (shown above), which is believed to have been designed by artist Jerry Robinson.
Like most of the classic superheroes, the caped crusader has been reinvented and reimagined many times over the decades, across comics, TV shows, cartoons and movies. And the iconic Batman logo has similarly transformed into a number of guises; you can see the early designs here (opens in new tab) and its evolution over the decades here (opens in new tab).
Despite all the different versions, though, the core of the design remains: a black silhouette of a bat; brooding, mysterious and suggestive of a darkness at the heart of the masked vigilante. DC Comics believe in it so much, they even (opens in new tab) last year over what they considered its similar logo.
Marvel Comics’ most popular superhero, Spider-Man was created by writer-editor Stan Lee and writer-artist Steve Ditko, and first appeared in the anthology comic book Amazing Fantasy #15 (Aug 1962) in the Silver Age of Comic Books.
The classic Spider-Man comic-book logo (shown above) appeared in May the following year. It was designed by Sol Brodsky and inked by letterer Artie Simek, and you can see some of the later versions (opens in new tab).
As Marvel's flagship character and company mascot, Spidey has gone on to feature in several animated and live-action television series, syndicated newspaper comic strips, and a series of blockbuster films. The logo for forthcoming 2017 film, Spider-Man: Homecoming, was released this April and as you can see above, it has a punchy, kid-friendly feel but still contains the essence and feel of the original.
04. Wonder Woman
No offence to Buffy, Xena or Lara, but Wonder Woman was the original kick-ass heroine, and remains the biggest female superhero on the planet. Making her debut in All-Star Comics #8 in 1941, she got her own comic book six months later, and a long-running 1970s TV series cemented her fame around the world.
In the 1980s a redesign of Wonder Woman was spearheaded by DC Comics’ editor-in-chief Jenette Kahn. Part of the superheroine’s new look was a new logo (shown above), replacing the Eagle emblem she’d worn since the start. This fine piece of logo craftsmanship was created by none other than graphic design legend (opens in new tab).
Glaser’s clever design, combining the initials of her name with the essence of the original eagle emblem, has evolved over the years, but still retains its fundamental elements, and has become a licensing powerhouse for DC Comics. So much so that Whataburger (which has had a similar W-based logo since 1972) recently (opens in new tab) with DC Comics to “ensure that each party’s legal rights and interests are protected”, as the world awaits the new Wonder Woman movie. You can see a detailed history of the development of Wonder Woman’s logo (opens in new tab).
Comics superpower Marvel was originally founded in 1939 under the name Timely Comics. In 1957, it renamed itself Marvel Comics and its logo featured the word written in clean comic-book lettering and surrounded by its biggest characters, including Thor, Captain America and The Hulk.
It’s been through quite a few changes over the years and you can see the main variants of the Marvel logo (opens in new tab). But the current design, in place since 2002, is still not a million miles away from the 1930s original; on close inspection, even the off-kilter kerning between the letters looks familiar.
Written in simple white text on a red background, in a clean and professional font, the modern-day logo was created to accompany the 2002 Spider-Man movie. And it’s proved so effective that’s it now appended to almost every Marvel property, whether in print or screen. (You can see it, for example, attached to the latest Spider-Man logo shown above.)
A great example of strength through simplicity, this minimalist design is instantly recognisable wherever it appears; a great asset in a market where the competition with DC (who have been (opens in new tab) with their logo) continues to rage.
06. Iron Man
A “cool exec with a heart of steel”, Iron Man was created by writer and editor Stan Lee and designed by artists Don Heck and Jack Kirby. Debuting in Tales of Suspense #39 in 1963, he’s a modern day knight in high tech armour; along with Batman, one of the few superheroes who doesn’t rely on physical superpowers.
There were a series of Iron Man comic book logos over the years, and you can see the main iterations (opens in new tab). While they vary hugely in style and colour, the central theme of solid, bold, metallic lettering was adhered to consistently. And the logo for the 2008 movie, created under the leadership of artist, director and VFX supervisor Fede Ponce, took that same aesthetic blueprint and brought it bang up to date (see below).
Since he’s hit the big screen, Iron Man has become Marvel’s biggest earner and the wisecracking favourite of a whole new generation of young fans. You can see the evolution of the Iron Man movie logos (opens in new tab).
British comic 2000 AD began in the late 1970s and hasn’t looked back since. It’s become a major launchpad for British artist talent, including Alan Moore, Mark Millar, Garth Ennis, Mick McMahon, Frank Quietly and Grant Morrison, not to mention giving the world the iconic anti-hero Judge Dredd.
2000AD has had a number of (fairly similar) logos over the years, and you can see them all in detail (opens in new tab). But it was this 1988 design for issue 555 (shown above) that pretty much broke the mould.
The current logo, which has appeared in one form or another since issue 1234 in 2001, is a little slicker but still follows the future-facing design of its predecessor. And the irony that the titular year is now the past rather than the future has done nothing to hinder its appeal.