Nostalgic notions, sentimental sighings, wistful wonderings, rueful reflections, poignant ponderings & yearnings for yesteryear! (With a few profound perplexities & puzzling paradoxes thrown in as well.)
Monday, 25 October 2010
DID YOU EVER WONDER ABOUT SUPERMAN'S "U"?
Superman #233, featuring Ira Schnapp's logo.
(Art by Neal Adams)
SUPERMAN's logo is as iconic as that of COCA COLA and is recognized
the world over, but it took a while before it was standardized by NATIONAL
PUBLICATIONS' ace designer and calligrapher IRA SCHNAPP (on the
cover of issue #6), based on JOE SHUSTER's original design. Did you ever
wonder, however, why it had that peculiar shaped angular "U" which didn't
match any of the other letters?
Superman Ashcan edition. (Art by Joe Shuster)
I thought I had solved the mystery when I first saw the cover of the Ashcan
Edition of Superman (SUPERMAN COMICS), and noticed that the "C" of
"Comics" cuts into the "U" of "Superman". Closer examination shows that the
"U" had almost the same squarish curve (if that's not a contradiction in terms)
as the "P" and the "R". Was it simply a case of this rough logo being relettered
for issue #1 with the word "Comics" omitted, and someone taking the easy
way out by angling-off the letter to complete the bottom line of the "U"?
Superman #6. 1st appearance of Ira's logo.
(Art by Joe Shuster)
It would be easy to assume so, going by the cover (and centre pages) of
the actual first issue (which, legend has it, was originally intended as a one-
off - hence the un-numbered cover). It therefore didn't seem unreasonable to
suppose that, when Ira Schnapp came to letter the definitive version, he was
provided with a printed copy of the then-relatively recent SUPERMAN #1
for reference. It certainly couldn't have been issues 2-5, as each cover
logo featured a curved "U". (For the cover of issue #1, see previous
post.) So - mystery solved?
Well, no. Despite my fine speculations, after a bit more digging
I found that JOE SHUSTER had occasionally rendered the "U" in that
way from as early as ACTION COMICS #2 - which predates the Ashcan
and the first issue by quite a margin. (As that story was actually reprinted
in SUPERMAN #1, I could have saved myself needless hypothesizing by
simply reading the comic.) It seems entirely possible, therefore, that Ira
Schnapp was provided with a copy of the angular lettered logo for reference
instead of the curved one merely on a whim of fate. (Although I have to
concede that, with it's distinctive "U", maybe the editor - or Ira himself -
just preferred that version.) Just think 'though - comics history could
so easily have been different.
Ira's logo lasted for over 40 years, until 1983, when it was relettered by MARSHALL ARISMAN to more closely resemble the earliest regular
incarnations of the title. I actually think it's excellent, although I have
reservations about the top curve of the "S" overlapping the top of the
"U". Maybe one day I'll have a go at doing it.
(Note: An "Ashcan Edition" is an in-house, non-distributed publication
used for the purpose of securing copyright on a title.)
Now, be honest - did you ever wonder.....?
Superman #386, the 1st appearance of Marshall
Arisman's logo. (Art by Gil Kane)