“Before Watchmen’s” Muddled Branding

When DC unveiled their new “Peel” logo, my first thought was, “How the hell did they miss the boat on the New 52 relaunch?”  The relaunch was announced in May, and it seems creators began getting approached in February and March (and likely earlier) to pitch for books.  So why was a new logo not planned to go to press in September instead of announcing it 5 months after the relaunch, and debuting it in print a total of 7 months after.

Even more disturbing in my mind, from a corporate identity standpoint, is the release of the “New 52” hardcover, a $150 tome featuring all 52 new #1s from DC’s relaunched universe, with the old DC “Swoosh” logo.  It’s one thing to say this is calculated to keep DC getting buzz in the media, and in that sense I get it.  Press, like everything else, is cyclical, and you have to keep feeding to stay alive.  But… the first major salvo in your “This is what DC Comics is about today” war has your old logo on it and you’ve been planning this initiative for at minimum 8 months, and likely closer to a year out.

But back to the matter at hand. This morning DC made perhaps their biggest, and certainly boldest, announcement since the news of the relaunch.  After years of rumors and speculation, DC will release prequels based on Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ 1986 classic “Watchmen.”  “Before Watchmen” has some seriously amazing talent involved, and I hold out high hopes for the books and their success.

I’m not arguing the merits of this publishing decision.  I never begrudge anyone who wants to print money, and it’s not like they put schlubs on the book with no reverence for the original story and creators.  I’m curious as to who is editing the books, but I trust DC has their top guy[s] on it.  At the end of the day, when “Before Watchmen” has come and gone, I’d wager that the books will be better than most are expecting, and those who take a chance on them will end up enjoying and possibly loving them.  Still others will scream blasphemy and hate them at every turn, despite never turning a page and giving them a shot. That’s what the Internet is for, after all. Remember, just like a movie adaptation, the original “Watchmen” exists much as it has for more than 25 years.  It’s there whenever you want to read it, and DC can never change that.  That story is what it is, these are just new stories for those who want to read them.

What does surprise me is the logo used on the covers released today.  DC Comics unveiled several alterations to their new logo based on various characters or lines of books, and the reaction by many was, “Oh, well those are cooler than the plain logo.” Many graphic designers have been quick to point out that in practice logo variants are seldom used because of deadlines and other factors, but the fact remains that DC was at least considering alternate applications of the “Peel.”

This is the cover released by DC for Brian Azzarello and Lee Bermejo’s “Before Watchmen: Rorschach” book.

The logo in the upper left corner looks an awful lot like… a yellow version of the new DC logo. But wait — didn’t DC already show off a “Watchmen” variant of their new logo? Yes. Shouldn’t DC’s biggest announcement of 2012 showcase their logo and revamped corporate identity in the best possible light?

Much better. It better serves both the new DC Comics brand, and that of “Watchmen.” Hell, including the “Watchmen” variant in your logo mock-ups pretty much confirmed this was happening, so why not go all in. There are a million reasons for this. This isn’t the final cover — where’s the price, issue number, bar code, etc. This is just a promo image. The list goes on and on. But I’m a firm believer in putting your best foot forward.

DC has made a number of great decisions in the last nine months to a year, and they’ll likely keep it up. But I’ll continue to call them out, as well as anyone else that needs it, if I feel they’re not doing everything they can to move themselves and this industry as a whole forward.  If you love comics, you have to put that love in action and do everything you can to make sure the industry not only survives, but thrives.

I’m looking forward to “Before Watchmen.” I just hope that DC uses the right logo so I know they have their heads fully in the game.

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