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Monday, June 08, 2009

Aquaman Logos

Today I thought we'd do something a little different, and talk about something close to my professional heart--the art of graphic design, at least when it comes to Aquaman's official logo over the years.

I had wanted to do something like this for a while, but never quite could get around to it. Then, one day a few months ago, comics legend Todd Klein sent me an email, asking for a scan from the first page of Green Arrow's first appearance in More Fun Comics #73 (which is, of course, the same book Aquaman first appeared in), since he needed it for his cool ongoing Logo Studies project, this time focusing on Green Arrow. I happy provided the scan for Todd, and he mentioned to me that he planned at some point to do the same treatment for Aquaman.

It was then I realized, if I was going do this, I needed to do it soon, because Todd's expert analysis was probably going to make my effort look superfluous, so I wanted to get there first!

So we're going to take a look at all of Aquaman's logo treatments over his seven decades in comics, starting with his debut appearance in More Fun Comics #73, cover-dated November 1941:
We've got a nice, if moderate, curve to the logo, and the font is strong and powerful.

But it wouldn't last long--over the next twenty-seven issues of More Fun, Aquaman's logo would change over and over, toggling back and forth between cartoony and more formal versions, none of them terribly dynamic and none lasting more than an issue or two:
(Thanks to Laura's Aquaman site for these impossible-to-find scans!)

Finally, with More Fun Comics #100 (November 1944), a new logo would debut, one that would last over a decade and a half, following Aquaman from More Fun to his long run in Adventure Comics, and then to his first headlining run in Showcase:
It's a fun logo--probably more appropriate for Aquaman than any of the others to this point--but its kind of plain, and the straight line the logo sits down allowed it to be squished into tiny spaces, unlike the logos for his compatriots Superman, Batman, etc.

Luckily, in February 1962, with the debut of his first ever solo title, Aquaman got yet another logo, this one becoming the Aquaman logo:
During the run of Aquaman's first solo book, the logo would get amended a bit, beefed up with a thicker line and occasionally surrounded by a matching shape, making it even more dynamic:
With the built-in arc, it demands the logo be given the proper space wherever its used. It can't be squished into a tiny space, it demands respect!

This logo would last for the better part of three decades, and even though other Aquaman logos would be designed and used, this one still would show up in various places, mostly merchandise. Its just so perfect--its a mix of the two previous approaches, but with a timeless look that makes it still work today.

(Although, once in a blue moon, somebody at DC got a wild hair and would use something else
Aquaman's first new logo debuted in Aquaman (Vol.2) #1, cover-dated February 1986, which was only appropriate, really, since Aquaman was undergoing major changes in this series:
Similarly to how I felt about the blue costume, I thought this new logo was dynamic and effective. It matched his new uniform, and while the letters are back to the straight line, the addition of the wave to the Q is a nice touch, giving the logo a nice sweep of movement. Unfortunately, also like the blue costume, it didn't last long.
This version--taking up a gargantuan amount of space, debuted in the 1989 Legend of Aquaman one-shot, and was retained for the subsequent mini-series, seen above.

This version keeps some of the same elements, but I never warmed up to it too much--too big, too many letters skewing off in different directions. Like the 1986 version, it too didn't last long.
Aquaman get yet another logo for his 1991 series, #1 cover-dated December 1991. This version seemed most directly inspired by the "classic" 1960s logo, with a similar curve and thickness of line. The tiny little waves at the top are a nice touch--though, sadly, it too wouldn't last beyond the series' 13-issue run.

A year later, in the Aquaman: Time and Tide mini-series, another new logo was designed:
This logo (debuting on #1, cover-dated December 1993) was retained for the regular series that followed the mini, and became the longest-running Aquaman logo since the 1960s version.

Occasionally, for special issues, a new logo would be used, mainly to keep the book visually consistent with the multi-book crossover event, like the "One Million" story line:
But the Time and Tide logo would last all the way through to the series end, #75, except for one issue, #63, cover-dated January 2000, the debut of the new creative team of Dan Jurgens, Steve Epting, and Norm Rapmund:
But even that logo would be discarded when Aquaman got another new series in 2003, so that of course meant another new logo:
The first few issues of this series featured many more magical/fantasy elements, and this logo seems to be an attempt at reflecting that. The "A"--indeed, the whole logo, with its slightly wavy letters, as if the ink is bleeding a bit onto the paper--seems like an old-time stamp, like something you'd see on a parchment. The letters being on a straight axis is back, too.

This logo was discarded fairly quickly, and a new one debuted in Aquaman (Vol.7) #15, cover-dated April 2004:
...I personally really loved this one. It seemed like a modern update of his classic logo, with a hint of the darker edge pretty much all superheroes had at this point.

Cartoony yet strong, the combination of this logo with art by the great Alan Davis made these some of the nicest-looking covers Aquaman had had in a long time.

But of course, that didn't last either: in February 2006, Aquaman got retitled to Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis, so a new logo was appropriate:
This logo seemed like a step back to the more dull, straight-ahead logos Aquaman had been saddled with before. Certainly not a bad logo by any means (I like the font in particular), but it just doesn't have that majestic sweep of some of the earlier versions.

Most of the time, when Aquaman appeared on a piece of merchandising (say, the Mego dolls), his classic 60s logo was used. But around this time, the Aquaman pilot show--originally titled Mercy Reef--was going through its paces.

When it did surface, as a DVD, the show was officially christened Aquaman and it got its own logo:
...I like the tiny skullls!

Aquaman's other, more successful, TV appearances have been on Cartoon Network's Brave and the Bold. On some of the promo material for the show, this new Aquaman logo was used:

Similar in overall feel to Aquaman logos of the past, I don't think this one is to bad, although the blue and white coloring (easily changed) seems a tad dull. As far as I have seen, its only been used on some of the online promo material for the show, never on any of the toys or on the show itself.

...and that's where we are now. Aquaman, not having had a new comic series since Aquaman: Sword of Atlantis was cancelled in 2007, has not needed a new logo. When he has appeared, like in the 2008 DC Universe Holiday Special, no formal logo was used.

I hope that if/when Classic Aquaman does return, DC doesn't feel the need to reinvent the wheel again, and simply uses his classic, timeless logo:



Joseph Tages said...

I second bringing back the classic logo, preferably in orange as seen at the end of your article. It's timeless as Superman's and easily identifiable with the character.

Wings1295 said...

The classic logo is the best, but I do like the 2004 updating of it, kind of new and retro at the same time!

Rick L. Phillips said...

I love the classic logo or the logo for the Brave and the BOLD series. I loved this post so much maybe you would consider doing a similar one as a guest post for PLASTIC MAN PLATITUDES. I am not an artist and something like that should come from an artist.

Russell said...

The first AQUAMAN logo I ever came across was in JLA #112, which as far as I know was the one and only time that logo appeared! (I did kind of like it, though)

Nice job, Rob, as always!

nem00x said...

I'm sure in in the minority on this. But the Rick Veitch/Yvel Guichet logo is the absolute best logo. Hands down. To me it brings to mind the imagery of a sunken anchor, a symbol of marine strength.

Anonymous said...

What happened to the Entourage "james camerons aquaman"

rob! said...

I completely forgot about the Entourage one, I'll be covering that in a follow-up post!

rob! said...


glad you liked the post so much; are there even that many different Plas logos??

Rick L. Phillips said...

there may not be as many as Aquaman,s but there were at least 5 or 6.