Monday, July 9, 2012

Graphic Design: DC Archive Editions

Several weeks back, designer Dylan Todd mocked up some visual updates for Marvel Comics’ line of Marvel Essentials reprint collections. Seeing Dylan’s clean, concise and appealing redesigns reminded me of my feelings about competitor company DC Comic’s hardcover reprint collection, the DC Archive Editions.

I loved the Archives for reprinting and restoring stories which had – in most cases – never been reprinted since their debut in the golden age of comics. What I hated about the Archives was just about everything else; the garish re-coloring, the occasional editing of content, the loss of line quality endemic to what was called the “Theakstonization” process of reproduction, and some cultural and editorial issues which are better delved into elsewhere.

Mostly, however, I’ve always hated the cover design for these volumes – at the very least, the Archive Editions are the only books I’ve ever owned with pinstripes. Gross.

So, inspired by Dylan, I tried to address some of my design issues with the series by mocking up my own take on the DC Archive Edition (See the Flickr set with higher-res images here)

(Mockups behind the cut...)

First off, I gave the series logo and typeface a general update – there’s no reason for the logo to take up as much real estate as it currently does, given that the entire cover is branded in the Archive style. I gave the series its own logo – retro-themed, to reflect the content – and switched the font to a simple and elegant Futura.


DC Archive Edition Redesign: The Spectre Vol 1

The Spectre Archives, volume 1, the first cover I mocked up. This solves my biggest pet peeves about the series:
  • Number one, the dustjacket is gone – because of the binding on these books, it was always almost impossible to read them with the dustjacket on. Dustjackets are pretty hoary anyway, I like hardcover books without them better than with. 
  • Number two, the pinstripes and triangle background are gone, replaced with an art-forward design – images from the volumes (ideally with a more realistic coloring job reminiscent of the source material, but that’s a whole other steez) occupy the cover, giving them the attention they deserve. No one’s buying this series because of the pinstripes, y’know…
  • Creator credits! Obviously, there would have to be a story-by-story extension of the creator credits inside the book, and something would have to be done about books with more than, say, three creators, but I approach those on subsequent covers.

And the Spectre volume mocked up as a turnaround:


DC Archive Edition Redesign: Superman Vol 1

Superman Volumes 1 & 2 are presented to give an idea what multiple volumes in the same series may look like.

And the Superman Vol.1 turnaround



DC Archive Edition Redesign: The Flash Vol 1

The Silver Age Flash Archives are mocked up to solve the problem of titles which require sub- or super-headings, in this case to distinguish the Silver Age Flash Archives from the Golden Age Flash Archives

And the turnarounds


DC Archive Edition Redesign: Title Treatments

Assorted front cover title badges to show different lineweights and placements of text for longer or more complicated titles.
One of the cover elements I wanted to correct on these books was the difficulty in figuring out what exactly was contained in what volume - online shopping doesn't always include the back cover as a high-res image, so I moved the book contents to the cover to make them more obvious.


DC Archive Edition Redesign: Charlton Action Heroes

The Charlton Action Heroes Archive presents the challenge of having to represent the names of half a dozen creators in a space which only fits three - in this case, the most prodigious creator gets top billing, then down until there's no more room.


DC Archive Edition Redesign: Golden Age Classics

What to do in regards to creator credits in the case of this anthology title of Golden Age reprints?
Well, no creator credits on the cover - there are dozens involved in this book, none really moreso than the other - so the only equal solution is to omit creator details on the cover and take care of it inside the book.


DC Archive Edition Redesign: Star Spangled Kid

There's nothing special about this cover, I've just always wanted an SSK volume...


DC Archive Edition Redesign: Virtual Bookshelf

What a complete bookshelf might resemble. Notice the distinctions between how Superman and Superman Starring in Action Comics might be sorted, compared to how Wonder Woman's various titles are arranged...

You can see the whole set (with high res images) here.

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