Dig these designs…
A lot of people like to knock DC’s New 52 initiative that kicked off in 2011.
I’m not one of them. I think it took an incredible amount of guts to completely relaunch an entire line of mainstream superhero comics and take a chance on titles like Men of War and I, Vampire.
That said, there were downsides, including the ill-considered reinvention of Superman and an overall unevenness of the titles themselves.
But there’s one thing that always bugged me and it’s a relatively minor issue in the grand scheme of things — the mags’ logos, especially Batman:
The Batman logo, an awkward and asymmetrical image, felt like an attempt at corporate synergy. It came out at the time the Arkham games were immensely popular and it felt to me that the publisher was seeking to subtly link itself to the video game’s iconography. I could be way off-base but it’s something that’s stayed with me.
Now, with the New 52 farther and farther in the rearview, DC has been upping its trade dress game. When Rebirth was phased out at the end of last year, the publisher introduced a slate of bold and enticing corner boxes. (This followed an earlier launch of a sharp new “DC bullet” that replaced the maligned “Band-Aid” version.)
We’ve also seen new logos for Justice League and Hawkman that will each formally debut in June, as well as a nicely streamlined Action Comics header that premiered with Issue #1000. It also looks like Super Sons may be getting a new logo when it comes back as Adventures of the Super Sons in August, one that riffs on Adventure Comics.
But what about Batman, one of the logos most in need of a revamp?
Well, Issue #50 — featuring the Bat-Wedding of the Century — would be a perfect time, no? Unfortunately, there appear to be no plans to change things up.
Nevertheless, all this has gotten me thinking about the Logos of Batman Past, what worked and what didn’t.
I’m not limiting myself to the flagship title either (and in one case, I’m veering off comics). I’m considering pretty much any logo that features big Bat-iconography. The classic Detective Comics logo (likely by Ira Schnapp) for example, is one of comics’ all-time great lettering designs but it doesn’t factor into what I’m discussing here. This is about BATS, people.
So here for your edification and debate are the 13 GREATEST BATMAN LOGOS — RANKED.
(Oh, and a note on the dates below: Occasionally, DC would switch logos off and on. I’m giving basic ranges. I’m also allowing for whatever fine-tuning went on. Further, I’ve noted the designer where I have that info*. If you have any intel on these, share in the comments!)
Here we go:
13. Detective Comics (1976-80). Detective Comics managed to go about 27 years without having to proclaim in its logo that Batman was the star of the comic. The cover image and maybe a corner bullet – plus perhaps readers’ familiarity — did the trick just nicely, thank you very much. That changed in the ’60s amid the TV-driven Batmania, when DC was eager to scream “HEY, YOU! BATMAN HERE! GET YOUR BATMAN HERE!” across the top of Detective. (They were in all likelihood also trying to catch the eyes of readers who often could only see the tops of the covers on newsstands.) Ever since, DC has almost always made a point of emphasizing Batman’s starring role in the Detective logo itself, with very mixed results. This is one of the better ones.
12. Batman Family (1975-78, though also used in Detective for awhile after the titles merged). This one’s a bit of a cheat because it’s a rejiggered version of the mid-’60s logo, which — SPOILER ALERT — you’ll see below. But it was still effective and the bottom half was used as a smart contrast against the top half and the rest of the cover imagery. It also gave the comic a bit of a historical feel since it originally included mostly reprints.
11. Batman: Year One (1987). Designed by Todd Klein, this look was used only for the four Batman issues that featured Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli’s Batman: Year One. (The bat design was used later in Detective’s Batman: Year Two, as well.) I generally dislike asymmetrical Bat-logos but this emblem is better than a lot of other ones DC’s used over the last 30 years or so.
10. Wednesday Comics (2009). Remember Wednesday Comics? It was a 12-week anthology series printed like a Sunday funnies section that I wish had become a DC staple. For whatever reason, they used this logo, designed by Rian Hughes, for the series’ Batman story — and it rocks. Clean, clear, bold — with a tiny bit of extra detail by the left eye — this is the one that should be in use today. I’d move this waaaaaaay up the list had it gotten wider use.
9. Gotham Knights (2003-06). This is just a plain, solid logo, by Chris Gardner. The lettering isn’t quite bold enough but it’s balanced and sharp. I always like Deco lettering.
8. Detective Comics (1968-72). OK, now this is a hot mess. The lettering is unbalanced and awkwardly positioned in the bat. But I don’t care! I love its flamboyance, the way it cites Robin and/or Batgirl as co-stars of the book, and the little Carmine Infantino figures flanking the sides. And because of the off-kilter lettering pattern, there’s a lot of background color showing, allowing for some fun contrast against the main cover imagery. It’s hardly a good graphic design, but it is exciting. (Likely designed by Gaspar Saladino.)
7. Batman (2002-06). A smartly designed image by Gardner that seemed like a modern riff on Batman’s mid-’60s comics logo. This should have gotten a much longer, healthier ride than it did. DC opted to drop the bat portion for the most part in 2006, leaving just the lettering. I’m not sure why they did it but it was a step back.
6. Batman (1970-72.) One of Batman’s most recognizable, enduring logos, it actually had a fairly brief initial run on the flagship title while finding greater exposure on merchandise. It was also used for The Brave and the Bold from 1970 to 1983, and the cover of Detective Comics from 1980 to 1986. I’ve always been a big fan of this one — believed to be designed by Saladino — and the way it lends itself to all sorts of color combinations and contrasts. Included here is a revised version that shortened Batman’s name to make room for Robin, who was appearing in the book as a back-up feature and guest star. Both versions work for me.
5. Batman (1972-1986). I have a love/meh relationship with this one, depending on the size and context. As Young Dan, it always kind of annoyed me that BAT and MAN were separated, even if they were similarly divided on the original, Golden Age version. I also liked it better after they shrunk the size as time went on. But mostly I dug it when they used unexpected color combos as opposed to the standard black background. Regardless, it’s a bold, strong look — probably a Neal Adams/Saladino job — that captures its time period but remains timeless all the same. Edges out #6 because of its longer term primacy.
4. Batman (1940-64). Batman’s original logo (designed by Jerry Robinson, according to Klein) set the standard, though it’s been improved upon over the decades. I like the original, cruder version from the earliest issues as opposed to the more refined version that entered the picture in 1941. And, like the Detective Comics logo of the same era, it looks better splashed across the top of the cover, as opposed to shunted off to the left.
3. Batman ’66. (1966, 2000, 2013-Present). The TV show logo, which was repurposed by DC both for an obscure one-shot in 2000 and the recent Batman ’66 comics series, is a stronger, more evocative version of the original comics emblem. But instead of breaking up BAT and MAN, it incorporates the name with spooky, stylized lettering. The irony, of course, is that show wasn’t spooky at all. No matter. This is one for the ages.
2. Batman and Robin (2009-15). Another Rian Hughes job. This is a great logo. Just great. Classic yet modern, with plenty of opportunity to shift colors around as the cover image requires. As non-flagship logos go, this is as good as it gets.
1. Batman (1965-69). It’s stylish, symmetrical and timeless — the bat is modern and the lettering (by Schnapp) is classic. It’s also one of the moodier logos — that Bathead by Carmine Infantino and Joe Giella** behind the cape is transcendent — which is surprising in retrospect when you consider that this was the comic emblem of the Camp Era. But it betrays DC’s intentions: It was first used on the cover shortly after the start of Batman’s “New Look” — a move to modernize the Caped Crusader and excise the alien-heavy, sci-fi silliness of the early Silver Age. Fifty years after it was in vogue, it remains Batman’s best cover logo ever.
— 13 DC COMICS Emblems — RANKED. Click here.
* NOTE: Most of the credits above were from letterer Todd Klein’s blog. A few years back he did a whole study of Batman logos. It’s invaluable and you should check it out here.
** Klein says Giella inked the head. Historian Arlen Schumer says it was Murphy Anderson. Both agree it was Schnapp who lettered it, and that’s good enough for me.