The Galaxy's Greatest Comic has had a long tradition of both evolving and messing with the logo, much of it on my watch, but also stretching back to the dawn of time when 2000AD first began. The original dummy for the comic had the logo rendered as "AD2000", although there's no evidence to suggest that this was intended to be its final title. Dummies were produced as a matter of course for any new magazine back then as a way of demonstrating to interested parties - management, marketers, distributors - what the final product might look like. In the US comics industry, they called them "ashcans".
The final render of the logo, designed and executed by an un-named "bodger" in the IPC Youth Group art department, bore a slight resemblance to the classic Superman logo of 40 years earlier. I wouldn't suggest this was in any way deliberate, more of an interesting coincidence. The epic, forced perspective style brings an energy to the cover that the earlier version on the dummy lacks.
This first logo managed to survive for more than two years, when it was evolved away from the Superman look. Prog 119 (30 Jun 1979) took a very different approach, though it lacked the power of the original. It was tweaked slightly when Tornado was merged, with Prog 134 (13 Oct 1979). This version only lasted a year or so before it was replaced by the eyesore chrome effect logo that it would sport for the next seven years, or so.
|This logo was okay - not terribly inspired and a bit of an awkward shape. The cover lines at this point in the comic's history hadn't yet taken a turn for the comedic. That would come much later.|
I thought this was the weakest logo in the mag's history. It has a slight echo of its predecessor, with the multiple curved underlines and the same general rainbow shape, but that terrible chrome effect ... it's hard to imagine that this was created by a designer. Consequently, every issue was locked into a logo that used that same chrome-effect pale blue. When the design team did try to vary the colour scheme - by using a darker blue or a red - it just didn't work at all.
The really surprising thing here is that this logo style survived so long. I'd been on the team for a few months when I happened to mention to editor Richard Burton that I thought the logo was incredibly old-fashioned for what was supposed to be the Magazine of the Future. "That chrome effect just shrieks 'early Eighties'", I offered helpfully. I was a little surprised when Richard agreed. He'd been living with it for the preceding seven years, on-and-off, so I'd just assumed he was happy with it. But ... not so much. So we got the wheels in motion to bring some change.
As I recall, it involved a bit of work to get the management enthused, but managing editor Steve MacManus was very supportive. He took the view that an overhaul was overdue and smoothed the path for us. Richard and I anticipated much push-back from the Earthlets, so we kind of pre-empted that - or tried to - by making the change over two consecutive Progs, 554 (26 Dec 1987) and 555 (2 Jan 1988), and trying to build a bit of a story around it.
I recall that Richard gave Prog 554 cover artist Mark Farmer quite a detailed brief. The final art shows the Burt droid chiselling the old logo off the wall, watched by an alarmed robin, and the Mac II droid saying "Out with the old, eh, Mighty One?" Tharg carries a gift-wrapped package under his arm in the shape of the new logo.
The following Prog unveiled Steve Cook's redesigned logo, with the cover art showing Dredd preventing a luddite perp from prising the logo from a wall with a crowbar.
STEVE COOK - SUPER-DESIGNERI had worked with Steve Cook at Marvel Comics a few years earlier and knew he was a smart and creative designer who could come up with something pretty cool. Steve took the tired old Robin Smith design and completely revised it for a new generation of readers. He retained the basic shape, but cleverly elongated it and made the "2000" resemble the badge on the front of Dredd's helmet. Many people didn't spot that until it was pointed out to them. The new shape also gave the cover artists much more room to play with and made positioning cover lines - by this time much more punchy and pun-ny - much, much easier.
The first version of that logo had been rendered by the Fleetway art department, but Steve was never really satisfied with it and re-drew it for Prog 750, to make it bolder than earlier versions.
Steve made further tweaks every so often to keep the logo looking fresh, though none of these changes were drastic. With Prog 842 (3 Jul 1991), the corners were rounded off and the Judge Dredd lettering temporarily dropped, but it was back with Prog 844 (17 Jul 1991) floating in its own panel just below the main logo, making it look subliminally like an exclamation mark!
|Prog 888 didn't really need the "Starring Judge Dredd" panel. It's pretty obvious who it is kicking down the door. The revision to the logo on Prog 889 brought a slightly more sophisticated look.|
HERE'S HOW YOU MESS WITH A LOGOOnce we had Steve Cook's new logo to play with, everyone associated with the comic wanted to join in, but as it was Steve's baby, he got to go first. Prog 584 (23 Jul 1988), expanded the new logo to dominate the whole cover, casting a giant shadow across Dredd's helmet and a sinister splattering of blood. Prog 606 (24 Dec 1988) revived the time-honoured tradition of adding snow to the logo of the Christmas issue, though we were doing it ironically. And Prog 615 (25 Feb 1989) featured Rian Hughes' clever design, celebrating 12 years of Thrill-Power - the really bad pun is mine.
The following year, Steve Cook celebrated the comic's 13th birthday with an inspired beatnik design with Prog 667 (24 Feb 1990). He followed this with the special "Low Visibility" issue cover for Prog 772 (16 Mar 1991). We'd noticed we were getting a lot of letters from British soldiers serving on the front line in Iraq and, while the 2000AD editorial team had no political views on the war, we were determined to show support for the troops ordered in to harm's way. Needless to say, the soldiers' response to that issue showed us it had been a good call. Then, for Prog 764 (4 Jan 1992), the in-house Fleetway art studio created a montage of Brigand Doom images from the interior strip, but styled it like a (then-current) Macintosh computer interface.
Master artist Cliff Robinson was also inspired to create many clever visual jokes using Steve Cook's logo. His first was on Prog 584 (15 Oct 1988), where he depicted Dredd holding up the logo, like a referee's red card. His next visual pun embedded the logo in the side of Dredd helmet, for the cover of Prog 619 (25 Mar 1989). And the cover of Prog 738 (4 Jul 1991) had Dredd using the logo for target practice.
|As well as being a superb artist, Cliff Robinson is also a talented graphic designer, and instantly saw the possibilities for incorporating the Robo-Cook design into his cover layouts.|
Then, my own personal favourite distortion of the logo was on the cover we did for Prog 843 (3 Jul 1994), the second of the Summer Offensive and the first to feature "love him or hate him" Big Dave. The Daily Mirror had been running a billboard campaign that summer with the tagline, "It's a newspaper, not a comic!", which was presumably suggesting that The Sun was a comic. I was a little offended by that, as the editorial team felt that our efforts had far more dignity and sophistication than either The Daily Mirror or The Sun. So our "red-top" cover was created in protest. Steve and I sat together at the computer, with a couple of tabloids for reference, and did our own version, with me writing the text as we went. And, of course, we included the tag line on the logo, "It's a comic, not a newspaper".
There was, of course a precedent for designing the cover of a comic like a newspaper. It was the standard format for the great 1960 tabloid comic TV21, and I later discovered that 2000AD's first art editor Kevin O'Neil had also done a newspaper cover for an earlier issue of the comic. So, not startlingly original, but I do think ours was done better.
Of course, the logo lent itself to merchandising too, and we produced teeshirts, mugs and other assorted paraphernalia that used Steve Cook's logo design. I don't think he ever earned any extra money out of it. I still have my 2000AD enamel badge, though I don't wear it so much these days.
|The 2000AD badge, using Steve Cook's logo, was one of the must-have items of the early 1990s. We even did a gold "Contributor" version, of which I think only about 100 were made.|
Tellingly, once David Bishop had left and Andy Diggle took the editor's chair, the logo reverted to an updated version of the classic, specially redrawn by Steve Cook, on Prog 1234 (21 Mar 2001). The cover was an homage to John Higgins' original version on Prog 555 ... and the line Dredd's uttering is an in-joke, as it was the catch-phrase of Fleetway's Managing Director Jon Davidge, who wasn't a great fan of change for change's sake. There was a further revision on Matt Smith's watch, but the exclamation mark style 2000AD branding was retained and is still in use today.
Which sort of goes to show that you can't keep a good logo down.
Next: Some late 1960s DC Comics I did like.