Some time ago I wrote a quick column about the importance of brand recognition, playing with a Family Guy joke and superhero costumes. At the moment I am thinking about logos leading to mysterious purchases.
Sure logo design is an integral component of selling a book and creating a brand recognition. Logos change on occasion, especially as creative teams take over books or when the cover art needs to move the logo around playfully. Many different books could be sited for changing their logos over the years and I’m sure that many of the big property titles like the Spider, Bat, and Super titles over the decades. Instead my mind is on a more specific example: Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D (1989).
Personal Connection/Back Story:
The late 80s run of Nick Fury Agent o S.H.I.E.L.D. drew my attention for several reasons. The first is crass but true is that I found the first ten issues in a back issue bin. Five dollars worth of comics that provide a ten part run is hard to pass up in a back issue bin. Because of the Avengers movies and the recent Sam L. Jackson take on the Ultimate universe Nick Fury has made me curious about previous incarnations that I know only from the periphery of my superhero reading. I’m also bored with super books at the moment in favor of military, spy, and other hero stories. All of those converged to find 10 issues of Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. (starting in 1989) on my night stand.
The series started off penned by Bob Harras. Harras was returning to Nick Fury’s world fresh off of Nick Fury vs. S.H.I.E.L.D.. In the earlier story Fury had severed ties with the espionage unit. The series starts with Fury in seclusion supposedly in retirement but secretly training. The disbanded agency recollects itself to solve a decade old mystery that involves ghosts from Fury’s past. The story jumps back and forth between the undefined modern day and WWII with Fury’s Howling Commandos.
The series was slated to be a non-superhero comic that returned to earlier roots of the Fury character. The letters pages referenced a print history that I had not read either. I slowly fell in love with the charm of this series in the first ten issues. Hungrily I returned to the back issue bins to look for more of the 37 remaining issues from the series. I had three of the later 90s issues when I was younger–starring Wolverine—and had not been impressed. Now armed with the beginning of the story I wanted to read it all. I still do. I’ve found more but still not all of it yet.
Now Fury’s 80s and 90s run is on my seek and find list since I prefer hunting books rather than just turning to online resellsers when possible.
The logo on the 80s-90s Nick Fury Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. was not consistent, although it only changed once in the 47 issue run. The series changed creative teams more often.
Bob Harras’s plot seems to be the basis of the first 10 issues. The stated intent to keep the book from becoming a spandex hero book seems to hold true for at least those 10 issues. Unfortunately, Harras did not stick with the run through the entire 10 issues. The second writer, Daniel G. Chichester took over in issue 7, did a nice job keeping the series consistent. Only watching the letters pages and credits revealed the change up. Although I knew that eventually Wolverine and Luke Cage would become involved as the book became heavily committed to the spandex side of the Marvel Universe. Daniel G. Chichester under the original log. Alan Grant came on board as writer in issue 11 but still under the original logo. Bob Harras returned with issue 12-14. Chichester returned with issue 15 again following Harras and bringing more spandex into the story and then steering the super spy into space and beyond. Chichester was still penning the story in issue 20 when the logo changed. Daniel G. Chichester wrote 20 of the 47 issues in all.
Herb Trimpe popped in as artist briefly during this run. The art teams changed as often as the writers on this series.
Armed with the knowledge that the logo had changed, but without memorizing the covers and not carrying an electronically archived cover image to the store with me, I couldn’t remember how many variations of logos were present in the run.
So, when I spotted the following cover I mistook it for the 80s-90s run. Flipping through the back issue bin what I noticed was the familiar title and little else. I was working quickly as my wife shopped somewhere else in the strip mall. Quick flipping I immediately judged that I did not remember buying issue 13, so I snagged this one and threw it into my growing stack. This issue wound up in the stack with other Fury books.
When I picked this book up to read, late at night, the interior art looked peculiar for what I had been reading. The creator names were listed across the top of the page: Gary Friedrich and Herb Trimpe.
Upon inspection I should have known better. Looking at the cover more than a moment reveals a 12 cent price point which does not fit the run I need. It also has a slightly different style. Late 60s is what this cover screams. It should. Gary Friedrich–most likely the creator of Ghost Rider– penned this issue. Herb Trimpe drew it. The story in this issue follows Fury on the run, suspected of an offense that should result in court martial, he is trying fruitlessly to gather evidence and evade S.H.I.E.L.D. Super-Patriot and his followers get in the way but it also reveals that Fury has a few friends left behind the badge. It is a fun read.
Confusion: Knowing that the logo had changed I didn’t think about finding a differentiation of the logo. The cover designers were trying to tip me off with effective logo differentiation, but I was blind to it. In this case, it isn’t a fault in the industry building brand recognition, but instead my own blindness to it that made me purchase something I might not have otherwise.
More of My Money:
Besides being a fun read, it also made me curious about the earlier run of comics that I have yet to read. Every comic I read seems to be pointing me backward in time and comic history. I’m getting a nice education as I read back. I’ll probably end up grabbing Secret Warriors and Battle Scars in trade eventually. I did just order a trade or two of history.
When I read comics as a young man I was occasionally excited when one comic would lead to another. More often I was annoyed because it meant my allowance money was being stretched thin. Recently I’ve been bothered by these big events that try to pry open my still barren adult wallet. Although, when I read a story that makes me want to read more, and leaves me hungry for more, it is exciting.
I don’t mind buying comics when I feel that it is my fandom that is causing me to do so.
When picking up one more comic makes me buy trades and look for more back issues that is successful comic writing.
I prefer Fury as a secret agent fighting against secret powers. Occasionally that fight needs to be taken public and big, but I like Fury in the shadows.
Fury has woven in and out of the periphery of Marvel’s spandex set for generations. I’ll probably avoid trying to track him down completely. This is a character that has changed over the years. He is still the man of action through it all.
Marvel has done a nice job handling the duality of the character by merchandising and pushing the Ultimate Universe version in film and keeping the original design more or less around Earth 616 and other realities. Overall he’s successful Brand Recognition despite it all.