A Peel and Lack Thereof


DC's new logo began appearing on publications released last Wednesday, Mar. 7th.
It replaces what officially was called the DC Spin, introduced in 2005 to succeed the long-lived DC Bullet.

new DC Comics logo, with blue D peeling away from black C... or something

New websites were also unveiled for DC Comics and parent company DC Entertainment. And the DC Nation block of programming that now runs on Cartoon Network from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturdays, which debuted on Mar. 3rd, is likewise branded with — as it came to be known soon after news broke on Jan. 13th of DC's trademark filing — the DC Peel.

I don't love it.


... Okay, I hate it.

I realize that I have to step back from the fact that my favorite publisher of the
objects that have in large part defined my life is now in so many ways unrecognizable to me. The new branding should be judged on its merits. Still, as a graphic designer and as a consumer of and writer about comics for almost 40 and over 20 years, respectively, with too big a chunk of the past decade sadly excepted, I have to give it a thumbs down. I wish I could say that my crucial time away — several years during which I was unable to purchase new issues, keep up with industry news, or maintain contacts with comics-world acquaintances — didn't impact my perspective; of course it did, it couldn't not, yet to a certain extent that gives me a strange vantage of both outsider and insider on a comics industry very different than it was 10 years ago, as if it were a family member from whom I used to be inseparable and now haven't seen in long enough to be saddened by how little we have in common.

I get that the DC Peel is a new icon for a new era — a multimedia era, whose digital aspect is supposed to be represented by the peeling back of the D to reveal the C. The problems there are that (1) none of the Web browsers I've seen peel or flip back that way and (b) the E-readers that do visually mimic page-turning in physical books — which itself is the theoretically outdated format that the new technology is supplanting, making such a gimmick at least potentially merely transitional — echo paper rather than the weird latex, adhesive look of the Peel. So it doesn't evoke paper, it doesn't evoke tablet/smartphone technology, and it certainly doesn't evoke film.

The DC Peel, based on its texture, would be a great new icon for Colorforms or
Band-Aids or maybe Fruit Roll-Ups. But for a company that publishes traditional comic books, or collections thereof, or the digital equivalent, or original graphic novels — or even, as Marvel has long been, a company positioning itself as a library of characters and story premises to be exploited across various platforms? Not so much. And that's despite the fact that the new design was created specifically to be adaptable not only to different color schemes but to character- or property-specific designs, like the bloodstained smiley face of Watchmen, the emerald power-ring glow of Green Lantern, or the lightning-speed sparks of The Flash, as seen below. More iterations, plus applications of the "peel-back" concept, are viewable in a gallery at dccomics.com, where you can could also find the original press release.

variations on DC Peel for 'Watchmen', Green Lantern, and Flash on black background

I wonder what it says that I'm unable to find any mention of DC on the website of Landor Associates, the brand-consulting firm that came up with the Peel.

Some of the complaints over the new logo have apparently been on the grounds that nothing about it suggests comics — the actual word being part of the DC Comics version notwithstanding; the same icon is, again, used for DC Entertainment and DC Nation. To be fair, I've read articles promoting the idea behind the Peel at least in part being that it implies a dual identity, removing the outer layer to reveal what's underneath.

Comics Alliance has a nice critique of the Peel done by Dylan Todd pointing out that none of the most familiar publishers in comics today have company icons that suggest the comics medium. The page-flipping animation that precedes the Marvel and DC logos on their film projects does just that, come to think of it, but the DC and Marvel brands themselves don't, nor do those of Image, Dark Horse, Oni, Boom, Dynamite, IDW, or Archie (to add an example not included by Todd and generally overlooked in discussions of the direct market because it remains focused primarily on newsstand sales).

A DC Comics (or DC Entertainment) logo doesn't need to suggest comics — but I'd argue that it should have some kind of observable echo of past DC Comics logos for the sake of... you know, I was going to say "continuity" and that just opens up a hornet's nest of rueful humor. [I'll belatedly interject here, by the way, that — as their primary component isn't even necessarily lettering — such icons as the DC Peel are more properly known as brands, emblems, or service marks, not logos, although there's certainly a blurring of the lines. The familiar Superman logo is, well, a logo, while the character's insignia is an icon, and both of those things and the character's appearance themselves are (registered) marks. Given that service marks can range from stylized lettering like the script in Coca-Cola signage to the NBC peacock, "logo" tends to be
the catch-all term of convenience.]

Why couldn't DC have maintained a variation of its letters in a circle, which is practically the only common thread DC logos have ever had?

ten versions of the DC logo, from original slug to 'modern' DC Bullet to the recent Swirl or Spin, most in circle until the new DC Peel

I wrote a couple of years ago, in a post that's now down and can't be republished without some busywork that I hope to get to soon, that the DC moniker stems from
the initials of Detective Comics, which also lent its name to one of the many corporations under which the National/DC line was published.

Brand identity didn't yet exist in the uncharted marketplace of "comic magazines"
when National Allied Publications released New Fun #1 at the dawn of 1935, and it would be 5 years before a slug, tiny at first, reading "A DC Publication" appeared on the cover of Action Comics #23, released Feb. 22nd, 1940 — then on issues of Detective, Adventure Comics, More Fun Comics, and others in the publishing line thereafter. The label became "A Superman DC Publication" in 1941 and changed to "Superman DC National Comics" in 1949 to reflect its by-then-standard corporate indicia, National Comics (later National Periodical) Publications, on most of the line. It remained for over 20 years until new, title-specific icons were introduced in 1970, to be replaced by a simple "DC" in a circle (or, for romance series, a heart) in 1972 and my beloved if short-lived "The Line of DC Super Stars" icon in late 1973. And then at the end of 1976 came the so-called DC Bullet, designed by the legendary Milton Glaser, maintaining the block letters and circles of the recent emblems but adding a couple of stars, a border, and (in most usages) a tilt; the Bullet gave its name to to DC's softball team and lasted for nearly 30 years.

While I liked the DC Bullet as a pop-art thing of its time, I felt its retirement was overdue. Nearly a decade before its replacement I was telling friends that DC should move forward by scaling back to a less dated and more versatile icon, a simple, rounded sans-serif "DC" like the one that appeared in those 1970 character labels or the Super Spectacular issues of that era or, more recently, under the main "Vertigo" logo on issues from that DC imprint. When the DC Spin — which I've generally heard referred to as the DC Swirl or the DC Swoosh — appeared in 2005, I did a little internal happy dance of the soul.

The DC Spin was designed in consultation with DC creative VPs Richard Bruning and Georg Brewer by Josh Beatman of Brainchild Studios, which has a capsule history online showing and briefly discussing the primary DC brands through the Spin's debut. It's missing the unique slugs that the romance titles sported for certain stretches as well as the "DC" variants that appeared on things like reprint giants contemporaneously with the line's standard icons, although that makes sense since the idea was to trace the prevalent corporate branding.

I wasn't aware that the Spin generated its own fan backlash when it bowed, not being plugged in to message boards at the time either literally or figuratively. The Spin would've been more appealing if it were a little less busy, and it looks much better when the CGI-style modeling isn't played up, but I think that it deserved a much longer run than it had — especially given what has come next.

How do you like the DC Peel?



DC logos are trademarks of DC Entertainment. The logo timeline was composited (and
some logos were heavily reconstructed for better resolution) by your humble blogger.


Related: Ace o' DC JL Bait DC at 75 52 Geek-Out DC in '76

7 comments:

  1. How do you like the DC Peel?

    I would not like it on a book, I would not like it on my Nook, I do not care that it can flip, whoever likes it is a dip.

    More later!

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  2. Yeah! Seussify it, brother! ^__^

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  3. I'm sorry, I had a distraction.

    You basically took the words right out of my mouth regarding the new logo, on its own merits (or lack thereof) and those of the previous one. That composite of past logos makes me insanely nostalgic and even more alienated from the current DC than ever; I almost can't believe that the same company that's done all this to the present incarnation of its publishing line has such a fantastic reprint-collection program, although the cynic in me says that that's just mining the library to wrest cash from aging fans.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Yeah, I'm not a fan of this new logo either, and you've pretty much expressed my reasons why (principally, it has no connection to past logos, and looks kinda dumb).

    On the other hand, it is something on an unintentionally-appropriate logo for the company at this time, as it's general design confusion is perfectly representative of a DC that often seems at cross purposes with itself.

    I haven't exactly become a regular reader even now, but I do find that many useful and/or just plain enjoyable links from friends lead there or to the personal website of contributor Chris Sims

    Ditto. I really should read it more regularly, because in addition to Chris Sims' stuff, there's a ton of material on there I enjoy. But there's only so much time in the day...

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  5. Arben: I would not like it on a book, I would not like it on my Nook, I do not care that it can flip, whoever likes it is a dip.

    Ha! Tell us how you really feel, Arb.

    Arben: the cynic in me says that that's just mining the library to wrest cash from aging fans

    Nah...

    I have been really impressed with DC's varied reprint program. We're not just getting the Showcases at the one end and the Archive editions on the other, but various HCs with certain runs, themes, or artists (1960s Batman annuals, Superman: Kryptonite Nevermore, Don Newton's Batman stuff) and stuff in TPB that I loved as a kid and never thought would be collected (1970s JSA and Wonder Woman).

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  6. Teebore: it has no connection to past logos, and looks kinda dumb

    If you want the concise version of my post, yeah, that. 8^)

    ReplyDelete

  7. I have been really impressed with DC's varied reprint program


    While I can't disagree with you, one thing that bugs me, especially in their themed reprint collections, is the lack of covers. Stuff like all the Greatest Stories collections, Secrets of the Batcave leaves out the covers for some reason, and I have no idea why (beyond the obvious: $$$).

    ReplyDelete