The Birth and Evolution of the Iconic Marvel Logo

by PJ Hoogendijk
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The Birth and Evolution of the Iconic Marvel Logo

First founded in 1939, Marvel emerged as the biggest global comic book and entertainment industry brand. Initially named as Timely Comics until 1950, it went on to become Atlas Comics until 1957 and finally, Marvel Comics. Since then, the Marvel logo has metamorphosed a number of times but the brand remained the same. Whether it’s the Marvel Comics logo or the Marvel Studios logo, the big and bold red and white fonts make it worth remembering.

If innovation and creativity define their work, the logo defines their brand. Thanks to its successful rebranding attempts, Marvel created a logo that commemorates the company, their stories, and most importantly, their heroes. The logo design may look apparently simple but it underwent a long and significant change that inspires thousands of other businesses to create branding visuals that are recognizable and easy to relate.

Who Designed the First Marvel Logo?

Before the original Marvel Comics surfaced in 1957, the company started releasing comics in 1939 under a different name – Timely Comics. The original Timely Comics logo was a red-white-and-blue medieval European heater shield, and was designed by Publisher Martin Goodman. It looked like Captain America’s first shield from his first comics, and it was one of the company’s bestsellers.

The Birth and Evolution of the Iconic Marvel Logo

As Timely Comics changed its name to Atlas Comics, it also resulted in a logo switch. Stan Lee started writing numerous comics for Atlas Comics, when it started using this logo which was a black circle on a red background with the word “Marvel Comics” on it. 

The Birth and Evolution of the Iconic Marvel Logo

During the early 1960s, the company released another version of their logo and this time, only the letters “M” and “C” were positioned above each other. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as memorable as its predecessors or even as impactful as the logo of its competitors, such as DC Comics. By 1963, the Age of Golden Comics began as Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, and other comic book writers published big classics like “The Amazing Spider-Man,” “The Fantastic Four” and “The Incredible Hulk.” The company decided to reflect this new era in their logo. The revised Marvel logo featured “Marvel Comics Group” on it, which was one of their few logos that didn’t undergo significant changes for a long time. 

The Birth and Evolution of the Iconic Marvel Logo

Although there were minor changes in fonts and sizes through the 1970s and the 1980s, it still looked pretty much the same. When the brand launched the “Ultimate Marvel” imprint during the early 2000s, it recreated its logo — the word “Marvel” written in bold white with a bright red background. This new design became so popular that the company used it on its books and as the Marvel Studios logo, as well as for the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s earlier movies. The logo ultimately changed into a flipbook-type logo that’s featured at the intro of today’s MCU movies. 

MCU Phase Four

The Birth and Evolution of the Iconic Marvel Logo

Fans are thrilled that MCU is back in form with Phase Four, which suffered a delay because of the novel COVID-19 pandemic. With the recent release of the “Eternals” teaser, people get to see a revised version of the logo and they are loving it.

The new logo variation is in sync with the flavor of the story, making it blend effortlessly with the trailers yet being prominently reminiscent of the brand MARVEL. “The Eternals” is set to go on air this November, along with other Marvel Studios films and series on Disney Plus.

The New Marvel Logo Design Elements

The Birth and Evolution of the Iconic Marvel Logo

1. Shape

We’ve already discussed the different phases of Marvel’s logo evolution, but now we’re going to focus only on the most recent one, where the word “Studios” is of the same size as “Marvel”. The rectangular box around “Marvel” and the parallel lines below and above “Studios” give a clean, defined look to the logo. Another noteworthy feature is the silver, chrome frame featuring “Marvel”, wherein the letters look like they’ve been cut out of the red background. Similarly, the word “Studios” looks like it has been cut out of the silver frame. This is probably meant to show that while the Marvel Cinematic Universe may have originated from Marvel Comics, it has now turned out to be its own, equally important entity.

2. Color

Red and silver are the two prominent colors used in the latest Marvel Studios logo. Apart from the fact that they’re traditional superhero colors, each has its own meaning and purpose, even when featured independently. Firstly, the color red is traditionally used in superhero comics to depict power and passion of the ultimate hero. For example, heroes like Spiderman and Superman who have worked for the betterment of others, have always worn red. 

Since it is also the color of love, action and adventure, it can easily grab the audience’s attention. On the other hand, the silver chrome color in the Marvel logo is often used to portray novelty, glamour, elegance, abundance, miracles, magic and perfection. This means that although the MCU may be something new in comparison to the comics, it’s still a potent and valuable part of the company.  

3. Font

The logo of the marvel studios was updated in 2012 by Tobias Frere-Jones and thereafter was redesigned by Cyrus Highsmith. This typeface comes under the category of regular fonts and is listed in Google fonts and Microsoft Word. It is such a neat and convenient typeface that you can easily use it in a range of branding collaterals, such as App design, product wraps, event and conference hoardings, TV advertisements, email marketing templates and so on. Although used widely in graphic designs, you’ll have to buy it or seek the author’s permission if you intend to use it for commercial reasons.

Inspiration and Trivia

The DC-Marvel rivalry is an old one and while the two of them seem strictly irreconcilable now, they were actually amiable at one point. 

Some of the biggest comic heroes and villains fused together to give rise to epic characters like the Doctor Doomsday (Doctor Doom x Doomsday), Dark Claw (Wolverine x Batman), Spider-Boy (Spiderman x Superboy), Skulk (Hulk x Solomon Grundy), Doctor StrangeFate (Charles Xavier x Doctor Strange x Doctor Fate) and Super-Soldier (Captain America x Superman). Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko and Stan Lee created some of the most iconic Marvel characters like the Hulk, Thor and Iron Man, but some of these characters were stolen and the creators received zero revenue/credit from their success. 

Things to Learn from Today’s Marvel Logo

The first version of today’s Marvel logo appeared in 2002. Since then, it was slightly adjusted to become more harmonious and make the letters smoother. It was plain white writing on a red background.

The most recent adjustment to the Marvel logo was in 2016 when the company acknowledged its fame and became Marvel Studios. The logo had an announced release at the Comic-Con and included new fanfare. Music was composed by Michael Giacchino, who also worked on The Incredibles, Star Trek and TV series Lost. These marketing initiatives carry some branding lessons we could all use:

  • If you didn’t launch your brand and don’t have a logo yet, you might consider making it as simple as possible. Simple also means versatile, easy to remember and appealing. You can create your own logo and make it look professional. Just remember not to add to many elements.
  • When the mainstream audience begins to appreciate you, it’s time to reconsider and adjust some of your business messages, taglines, tone of voice and ad visuals. However, try to remain consistent in all your rebranding ventures.
  • Brand extensions don’t interfere with your main brand, but only if you have the right marketing strategy. For example, The FedEx Corporation created its sub-brands like Express, Ground, Freight, Customer Critical and Trade Networks, and all were given a type and color variant beneath the parent brand logo. 
  • Circumstances matter. By the time the Marvel Studios logo was released, the brand was already taken over by Disney. The transition was announced in 2009. Black Panther is Marvel’s one of the most recent films. It earned a revenue of over $80 million worldwide.
The Birth and Evolution of the Iconic Marvel Logo

From Timely Comics to the modern “flip book” logo of MCU movies, the journey has been long but worthwhile. After several trials and , it went on to become one of the most popular entertainment logos in the world – establishing the significance of showcasing your brand identity in the most creative way possible. 

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