09 November 2008

Robin: A Logo to Be Reborn?

Confirming rumors discussed back here, DC Comics has announced that the issues of Robin and Nightwing to ship in February 2009 will be the last. For a while. Most fans are sure that those magazines will be relaunched at some point in the future, perhaps with new #1 (collectible!) issues.

As I noted earlier, those magazines' sales fall in the middle of the pack for DC superheroes--perhaps disappointing given that "Robin" and "Dick Grayson" are household names. Newsarama reported that sales were 32,000 for Robin and a bit over 50,000 copies for Nightwing in September--but that was during a highly hyped crossover called "Batman RIP."

To shake up the Batman stories, it appears that in 2009 Dick Grayson and Tim Drake may give up their Nightwing and Robin roles, possibly taking on others (even that of Batman?). But eventually Bruce Wayne will return, and the DC universe will be whole once more.

A more likely casualty than any of the Robin characters is the Robin logo. Originally developed for the first Robin miniseries published back in 1991 (and collected in Robin: A Hero Reborn), it's remained basically unchanged. In 2007, DC dropped the oval behind the R on some issues, but the letters are the same.

That's quite unusual, as master letterer and logo-designer Todd Klein acknowledged on his blog last year:

Having the same R on the logo and the [Robin] costume makes it a good “brand” logo, useful for character recognition and marketing, so that’s one reason why it’s still around, though I don’t know if it’s still on the costume. [The R on Robin's chest changed when Tim changed to a mostly red costume, as shown to the right, but the logo's spiky R stayed the same.]

It’s a logo that continues to look contemporary to me, not dated at all. One reason logos change is to bring in a more modern style. Another common reason these days is to herald a new direction for the character, a new creative team, a new number one issue. This logo really seems a good fit for the character, some characters never find one. (Aquaman comes to mind.)

Robin’s logo meets the four basic criteria I think are crucial for a good comics logo: READABILITY, STRENGTH, APPROPRIATENESS and ORIGINALITY.
Klein's study of the Batman logo through the decades came in five parts to cover all the changes. In fact, there have been at least five variations for Batman since the Robin logo appeared. Klein's comments on those changes and his other logo studies go into great detail; after all, he wrote the book on comics lettering and logo design (well, he wrote the half of the DC book that covers those topics).

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