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 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 the thing.
Okay, I kind-of hate the thing. 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 (aside from personal relationships — but even then only partly aside, given how many friends I've made through comics) is now in so many ways unrecognizable to me. I should judge this rebranding on its merits. Still, though, 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 couldn't 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 [a] none of the Web browsers I've seen peel or flip back that way and  the E-readers that do visually mimic page-turning in physical books — which itself is the theoretically outdated format that the new technology is supplanting, making such a gimmick at least potentially merely transitional — echo paper rather than the weird latex,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 smart-phone/tablet technology, and it certainly doesn't evoke film.
The DC Peel would be a great new icon for Colorforms, 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 (with more iterations, plus applications of the "peel-back" concept, viewable in a gallery at the DC Comics website, where you can also find the original press release).
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, that is; the same icon is used for DC Entertainment and DC Nation. To be fair, I've read some articles that promote the idea behind the Peel at least in part being that it implies a dual identity, removing the outer layer to reveal something special underneath.
Comics Alliance has a nice critique of the Peel done by graphic designer 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!, IDW, Dynamite, or Archie (to add an example not included by Todd and generally overlooked in discussions of the direct market because it remains a kid-focused, newsstand-primary publisher).
A DC Comics (or DC Entertainment) logo doesn't need to suggest comics — but I'd argue that it should have some kind 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 — since their primary component isn't even necessarily lettering — such icons as the DC Peel are more properly known as brands, emblems, or service marks, but 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 some variation of its letters in a circle, which is practically the only common thread DC logos have ever had?
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 8 years later changed to "Superman DC National Comics" to reflect its by-then-standard corporate indicia, National Comics (later 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.
I liked the DC Bullet as a pop-art thing of its time but felt that it was due for retirement long ago. Nearly a decade before its replacement I was telling friends that DC should scale back to something less dated and more versatile, 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, it was overdue.
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 PDF on its website showing and briefly discussing the primary DC brands through the Spin's debut. Its history is missing the unique slugs that the romance titles sported for certain stretches as well as the "DC" variants that appeared on things like reprint giant contemporaneously with the line's standard icons, but that makes sense since the idea was to trace the prevalent corporate branding. Whether you'd like to see a truly comprehensive set or not, I hope to have a Cover Album showcasing 70+ years of DC logos soon.
I wasn't aware that the Spin generated its own fan backlash when it bowed, not being plugged in either literally or figuratively to message boards at the time. Comics Alliance wasn't around a decade ago when I had to withdraw from the comics sphere, and 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, who on Jan. 17th brought us a pitch-perfect look at what online chatter would've been like when past DC logos were introduced.
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 came next.
How do you like the DC Peel?
DC logos are trademarks or registered trademarks of DC Comics.
Logo grouping created by Brian Saner Lamken for Blam's Blog.