If you want to talk heroic history, no one can touch DC and its iconic troika of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, but these days, in the DC offices in Manhattan and Burbank, there’s never been less glowing talk about tradition — this is a company that believes its very survival depends on finding the future, finding it fast and taking the risks needed to do so.
The new logo will be hard to miss in the coming months. All the issues of DC Comics that hit shelves in March will have the publishing arm’s version of the new-look symbol and, that same month, DC Entertainment will unveil its massive new website, which one executive described as the “one-stop, be-all online location for everything DC Entertainment.” And, presumably, this is the logo that will flash on the screen this summer right before the biggest film of the year, “The Dark Knight Rises,” takes movie-goers back to Gotham City.
The logo was designed by Landor Associates, whose client list includes FedEx, Volkswagen, Old Spice, Juicy Couture and, believe it or not, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Nicolas Aparicio, the executive director at Landor’s San Francisco office, says “the new identity is built for the digital age, and can easily be animated and customized to take full advantage of the interactivity offered across all media platforms.” The logo is also a public manifestation of the internal churn at DC; it’s a fresh new flag following a internal revolution of corporate culture.
In early 2010, there was a a sense in the company that publishing trends, audience tastes and Hollywood momentum were all working against it. It was rival Marvel that had the aura of innovation in publishing (where it was No. 1 in market share) and in Hollywood (where nimble Marvel Studios showed a flair for getting a wider array of characters on the screen in bankable franchises that could interlock). Certainly, Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” was a colossal reminder of what DC properties could do in the right hands, but “The Losers” and ”Jonah Hex” were reminders that Warners couldn’t deliver a DC blockbuster without Nolan’s name on it.
Warner Bros., DC’s corporate parent, made a yearlong reorganization of DC Entertainment, putting a new team in charge of the brand’s Hollywood projects and making a shift toward the West Coast. Then came the boldest move of all with The New 52, a seismic jolt to the DC comic book line that restarted every title with a new No. 1. When the new logo was announced, John Rood, the executive vice president of sales, marketing and business development for DC Entertainment, connected some of the dots.
“It’s a new era at DC Entertainment and the new look reflects a dynamic, bold approach while at the same time celebrates the company’s rich heritage and robust portfolio of characters,” he said. “It was just a few months ago that Superman, Batman and many of our other superheroes were updated when we launched DC Comics – the New 52 — and now it’s time to do the same for the company’s identity while remaining true to the power of storytelling which is still at the heart of DC Entertainment.”
Symbols and identity have a lot of mojo in the world of superheroes — who could imagine Superman without his red “S” or his Clark Kent day job? — but DC has to also prove it has special powers.
In a revealing survey of comics retailers, Vaneta Rogers of Newsarama found that The New 52 created the obvious (and massive) two-month spike in sales but also seems to have earned a readership foothold for some of the top titles. For many observers, meanwhile, the jury is still out on digital comics and their future upside, but DC has high hopes in that arena. Trickiest of all, though, is Hollywood, where Nolan is leaving Batman behind. Despite all of Warner Bros.’ willpower (and their galaxy-class commitment to toy-shelf tie-ins and licensing), “Green Lantern” was a bitter disappointment for the new DC team. Now they are focusing on next year’s “Man of Steel” and a slate of television ventures.
And, yes, only time will tell if they can make it all fly…
– Geoff Boucher
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