Logos are cool.
But why? Why are logos so cool?
I have written about logos many times so far in the history of this blog. One of my best descriptions of this idea set comes with the Flash Logo and T-shirt #20. In entry #20, I listed many of my favorite logos and their appeal. Few logos are as iconic as the X-Men logo. And yet the X-Men were named by default. Originally, Stan Lee wanted to call the comic The Mutants, but this title was rejected by the publisher as being too arcane ("no one will know what the Hell a mutant is"), and so The Uncanny X-Men resulted not as a tribute to Professor Xavier, the team's leader and teacher, but for the X-Gene that gives the mutants their powers.
UNIFORM COOL: I AM AN X-MAN: Part of the appeal of logo shirts is the uniform aspect. It's costume play. When I wear a logo shirt that matches or resembles the costumed hero's uniform, I am engaging in a form of "dress up," what role players now call "cos play" because these days everything people do must be defined with a label and a sub-culture.
The X-Men have all gone through many uniform changes. The movies and animated series programs also affected uniform changes in the comics. Unlike many superhero groups, the X-Men had a uniformity from the earliest days of the team in regards to their wardrobe. Whereas groups like the Avengers, Justice League, and Teen Titans are all collections of individuals with their already established costumes, groups like the X-Men and the Fantastic Four have more of a homogeneous relationship and often have matching uniforms. The original X-Men all wore matching uniforms with iconic X logos. Later incarnations got away from that model, though the character of Cyclops has consistently worn some version of the classic blue X-Men uniform that he began wearing in the late 1960s during the re-invention period by Roy Thomas and Neal Adams (more forthcoming on this subject). This shirt most closely matches Cyclops' uniform.
LOGOS ARE VIRAL
Logos assume iconic status and spread like viruses. The most powerful logos are simple yet stunning. They tap into something primal and deeply rooted in the human psyche. They correspond with a reptilian, seminal core located in the locus coeruleus or basal ganglia of our human brains, what some feel is the first step of our pre-mammalian, evolutionary development.
I am extrapolating. But the power of a logo derives from instincts, and our instincts trace back to our reptilian and bird, pre-mammalian origins. Because we all share this feature of the brain stem, the reaction should be universal. One can argue that these logos are archetypal. I am arguing that our connections and attraction to them is not only hard-wired into our anatomy, and possibly coded at the genetic level, but also tied to a spiritual, energy connection through the Collective Unconscious. The most iconic logos are archetypes because they are ancient, archaic paradigms matching our repeated experience not just as a species but as living and evolving beings. The simple X logo is one of the best examples of this kind of iconic archetype.
PATTERN RECOGNITION: This blog will always mention good books. One such book is Pattern Recognition by William Gibson. I often recommend this book, especially for people with a tentative interest in science fiction because, really, this book does not qualify as science fiction at all. One of the reviews that I include below suggests that this is not the book to start reading William Gibson in order to tap into what makes him a great writer. I disagree. Neuromancer is a dense book that many fans without an ardent interest in that particular brand of science fiction will find inscrutable. I love it, and I have to read it every couple of years to keep it fresh in my mind. However, Pattern Recognition is a much more accessible book. Set in the present, it does not qualify as futuristic or overly scientific. The book fits today's subject because the main character, Cayce Pollard, works as a freelance consultant who brand tests logos for marketing firms because of her phobia for trademarks and logos. The stronger Cayce's allergic reaction to a logo, the more powerful it is, the greater power it will have to spread virally throughout the culture, bore into our brains like a digging parasite, and nest. Gibson mixes Cayce's logo validating work with her trauma over losing her father in the 9/11 attack in New York and her hobby regarding "the footage," an Internet cult following anonymously and randomly posted small video clips. Every time my wife asks me to recommend a book, I recommend Pattern Recognition. The reviews on Amazon are actually quite insightful and articulate. But I also like the links I am sharing here.
THE ORIGINAL UNCANNY X-MEN: KIRBY TO NEAL ADAMS: I read many of the early X-Men comics in reprint in the years following the run by Neal Adams and Roy Thomas. I was also a huge fan of Neal Adams' work on Deadman, Green Lantern and Green Arrow, The Avengers and Batman. In my entry for T-shirt #43: Deadman, I refined my list of favorite artists. As I have written many times, part of this blog's function is to catalogue with lists the popular culture elements that had the greatest impact on me as a child, a teenager, and an adult.
In fairness to these artists, I surely need to group them by era. I had dropped Alex Ross from my initial list for this reason to make room for Neal Adams. Probably, I should make a separate list for the 1970s or even the 1980s that would feature George Perez and John Byrne.
If I listed the original 1960s artists with greatest impact on me in a top five, they would be:
This is a difficult occupation because I am leaving out some artists that I dearly love like Steve Ditko and Nick Cardy. But lists are exclusive by nature. Go ahead. Try to make a top five and not leave out someone beloved or important.
The cover featured here for Uncanny X-men #59 (though the word "Uncanny" does not appear on the cover) may be my first X-Men issue. It was published in August of 1969, right around the time my sister was born and might have been part of the week of gifts and special fun to which I was treated so that I would not feel neglected once my baby sister arrived and received the more majority of my mother's time and attention.
KIRBY SCREWED: I just read the first issue of a new magazine called Comic Book Creator. The issue can be read for free online. There is also a great blog article on Comic Book Justice: Taking Credit (Part One) about Jack Kirby. Though not directly related, but in keeping with my trend for recommending books, another book that I frequently recommend to my wife along with Pattern Recognition as "one of the best books on the shelves of this house" is Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which explores the ways in which comic book creators of yesteryear were not fairly compensated for all their creations. There may be no comic book creator as prolific and as poorly compensated as Jack "The King" Kirby.
Just for some quick perspective on this issue: Kirby created Captain America, the Fantastic Four, The Avengers, Spider-Man, Thor, Iron Man, the Hulk, Doctor Doom, the Silver Surfer, and The X-Men among many, many more. The total movie revenue (just movies, not the merchandising or other related revenues) earned so far from just those creations listed is SEVEN BILLION DOLLARS ($7,310,655, 909). This figure does not include revenue from Iron Man 3 or any movie thereafter.
Jack Kirby died in 1994. The Marvel/Disney empire is reaping astronomical profits based on Kirby's creations. Kirby's family has received exactly zero compensation in profit sharing from the movies featuring these creations.
THE NEW X-MEN: WEIN & CLAREMONT & COCKRUM & BYRNE & JIM LEE & OTHERS: I really fully became an X-Men fan, like so many others, with the introduction of the new X-Men in the Giant-Size X-Men comic in 1975 by Len Wein and Dave Cockrum and the issues that followed in Uncanny written by Chris Claremont and drawn by Dave Cockrum and eventually John Byrne. I also loved the Jim Lee (as I love Jim Lee the most of all the "Image" founder artists/creators) issues circa 1991. I have many other X-Men shirts, so this is a subject I can return to later, especially since I want to refine my list of artists by era. Still, forced to make a top five of all-time favorites both Jack Kirby and George Perez would make that list.
As for logos, I just like thinking about them. I like to get other people thinking about logos. I am interested in branding and logo identification as a viral, info-pathogen spreading through our culture and our Collective Unconscious.
Still, I stand by the first statement: Logos are cool.
PS: As a journal of my life, I would like to note here for the record that my mother is on her way to the ER with chest pains. Prayers, please. - cbt