Peel slowly and see

After relaunching its entire line of comics last year, publishers DC has unveiled a new identity, its second since Milton Glaser’s classic stamp design was replaced in 2005. Almost immediately, Landor’s new design met with the power of comics nostalgia

After relaunching its entire line of comics last year, publishers DC has unveiled a new identity, its second since Milton Glaser’s classic stamp design was replaced in 2005. Almost immediately, Landor’s new design met with the power of comics nostalgia…

‘The New 52’ was how DC referred to its restart of 52 monthly stories from issue #1 in an attempt to attract new readers, introducing new characters and freshening up some old favourites along the way. It also saw the launch of same day publishing for both its printed comics and their digital versions. And last week DC revealed a brand new identity design created by Landor. This being the world of plugged-in comics fans, blogs and forums across the internet quickly lit up.

Landor’s vast flexible ‘system’ is of course a long way from the look of the Detective Comics series that launched in 1937 and carried Batman’s debut two years later. The founding of DC Comics Inc – off the back of National Allied Publications – took the series title as the company name, later reducing it to DC. Now DC is the publishing wing of DC Entertainment and is owned by Warner Bros., itself part of Time Warner (DC’s rival, Marvel, is a Disney brand).

So at face value DC’s new identity reflects its current standing within American corporate culture. But perhaps it points further to the inherent differences between a “comics” publisher and an “entertainment” company. Indeed, Landor’s design looks less like it belongs on a printed front cover than it does on screen, or in motion. The hint of ‘reveal’ certainly suggests the latter. (Armin over at Brand New makes some good observations about various “formal deficiencies” within this potentially exciting identity system.)

And this is no doubt the point. Comics have always enjoyed a life outside of print, particularly in film, online and, much more recently, in app form. But the ‘culture’ of comics still seems bound up with strong feelings of nostalgia. With a particularly fervent core readership, any changes to a title’s key elements – like plot development or artwork – are bound to generate a reaction. Likewise for a logo that marks out a particular comic series as coming from the famous DC stable.

Someone who managed to do that perfectly was Milton Glaser. In the mid-1970s he was approached to create a new identity for DC. His design (above, left), a shield of four stars inlaid with the company’s initials – known as the ‘DC Bullet’ – was in use from 1977 until 2005 when it was reworked (above, right) by Brainchild Studios.

While I have fond memories of Glaser’s design, it was the logo used at the time that I first encountered comics. So whether I ‘liked’ it in late 1980s doesn’t particularly matter: it’s the design I recall when I think about the dark inks of Batman comics, or the vivid yellow of the Watchmen (see top image). It’s embedded itself and now has a resonance that, I imagine, many others feel similarly attached to.

Will Landor’s design, with its clever nod to the superhero’s twin identity and the ‘peeling back’ of the mask, remain as fondly remembered in another thirty years? The logo exists in a completely different world to the one in which I bought comics: the way we experience it – and later recall it – will of course be different too.

More details on the new DC identity can be found here on the DC Comics blog.



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