Super Problems: The Next Generation

posted in: Commentary | 0

What do you do when you have a little time to think about a trifling thing that you want to complain about? Put it on the internet, of course!

i’m going to keep this critique light-hearted because I’m reviewing a logo for the anniversary of a comic book character. (Think about how high that ranks on people’s “things worth caring about” lists: A review of a logo for a comic book character‘s anniversary. It’d be lucky if it broke the Top 10,000.)

So anyway, Superman is 75 this year, and to commemorate the event DC unveiled a 75th Anniversary logo. That’s all well and good, but look at that thing. LOOK AT IT.

The first thing that came to my mind was “why did they overlap the 7 and the 5?” Presumably it’s to square nicely with the word “years” across the bottom, but that started a new question: why is the cape breaking the frame? My only guess is that it reads better as a cape that way than it does without it, but with Superman’s shoulder being aligned with the word “years” the cape looks like an extraneous design element. Text won’t sit in a nice box when set against that outline! Speaking of boxes, why is there a red box set directly against the blue figure when the colors are the same intensity? Not that I think that someone is going to run this logo in black & white for a letterhead or anything, but there’s no way that box would hold up in a one-color printing job.

What if someone wanted to print it in monochrome anyway, for, let’s say, a letterhead, as I mentioned before? Well, for starters, that outline is not going to reduce well, I can tell you. There are too many small lines that aren’t to scale with the broad, clear lines of the text and the logo. Look at those ripples in the shoulder, caused by the cape. Don’t forget about that hair, too! Superman has sure gotten some spiky hair recently. Maybe it goes better with that pose.

That pose, yes… Superman seems to be looking downward, in a vengeful, brooding manner. Some people seem to appreciate the change, but I personally don’t. From the start, Superman was a straight-laced do-gooder with a strong, almost smug sense of justice. Sure, this made him a bit flat as a character, but it’s also part of what makes him a “super” man; he has powers he could easily use to conquer the earth, but he chooses to uphold truth, justice, and general Midwestern U.S. ethics instead. And he’s smug about it. You know who’s vengeful and brooding? Batman. Not Superman. When Superman needs to mull things over, he doesn’t hunch over gargoyles during a midnight thunderstorm, surveying the city for evil and writing sonnets to himself. No, Superman flies thousands of miles to his private fortress (one he built himself, and didn’t inherit from his parents—unlike somebody else I could name) for a little R & R. He doesn’t even project his frustrations onto others! He‘s a SUPERMAN, darn it! That’s why the old Fleischer cartoons always showed him standing proudly, arms akimbo, smirking into the stars! Superman is better than you!

OK, so I went off track there. Still, I don’t have much love for the “75” logo. It certainly does what it’s supposed to, but there is a lot of explaining that needs to be done, and a design is a lot like a joke: you shouldn’t have to explain it. If you’re feeling brave, you can check out the comments on Deadline’s coverage of the story, where more than a couple of people share my opinion on the logo.

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