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Great comics logos: Doom 2099

2011 February 15
by Matt

Continuing my response to Todd Klein’s top ten comics logos, I’d like to nominate the Doom 2099 logo for special recognition, at least as an “honorable mention.”

Marvel comic book villain Doctor Doom is probably somewhat well-known, nowadays, from films and several animated series. The Doom 2099 logo, however, was for the most part exclusively used for the future incarnation of the character in Marvel’s 2099 line of comics; character, series and logo all pretty effectively disappeared nearly fifteen years ago so Doom 2099 can’t be considered a widely-known logo. But from a design standpoint it’s a memorable and clever solution.

Original Doom 2099 logo

Doom means business! (Art by Pat Broderick)

Admittedly I’m biased; I’ve been a fan of the character for nearly 20 years (??!) and also have a considerable fondness for the Doom 2099 series. Nearly all of it was smart and entertaining; I believe Warren Ellis’ iconoclastic story arc is among the most underappreciated works of his career.

But I still think this logo deserves recognition on its own merits. Most of the 2099 series logos were decent enough, but not especially inventive; in general they were just sharp-edged and angular variants of each series’ contemporary counterpart’s logo. Whereas Doctor Doom has never really had a series of his own, or any kind of enduring logo, so his 2099 series invited a greater degree of inventiveness.

I believe the designer responded to that invitation admirably. On the whole, the Doom 2099 logo is adequate, fitting in with the appearance of the other 2099 logos, and looking futuristic and metallic (like the series’ lead character). But, having beaten around the bush long enough, let’s come out and say it: it’s the eyes.

The red, glowering eyes of the 2099 Doom’s mask become the counters of the two “O”s in “Doom.” Simple, and seemingly obvious. Yet wonderfully-effective and memorable, and in fact a solution which exploited some unique visual circumstances.

The effectiveness of the Doom 2099 logo actually depends on its association with that specific, future version of the character, in a couple of ways. First, the letterforms match the angular shape of the eyes; as noted the result fits in perfectly with other 2099 logos, and the line’s futuristic setting. Whereas the contemporary Doctor Doom’s armor has far more round shapes and fewer hard lines and angles than the future Doom’s; what’s more, the futuristic Doom 2099 logo is visually at odds with the trappings of feudalism and dark sorcery which are as much a part of the contemporary Doom as advanced science. The logo, minus “2099,” was associated with the contemporary Doctor Doom once or twice, but basically the pairing doesn’t work and never caught on.

Doom 2099’s logo also fits better with the future Doom than other incarnations of the character because the 2099 version, being new, was not subject to the varying artistic interpretations of Doctor Doom’s mask. Which may be a nerdy point, but the fact remains that only a minority of the contemporary Doom’s appearances actually depict eyes matching those in the Doom 2099 logo. At least as often, the mask is drawn with rectangular eyes. Occasionally the eyes are more diamond-shape. And in the mid-90s, Jim Lee introduced a design with semicircle eyes, which have continued to turn up here and there ever since.

Whereas Pat Broderick consistently drew the logo’s (modified trapezoid?) eye shape on the 2099 Doom in that character’s own series, which appearance was mostly honored in other 2099 comics as well. (At least, until Doom’s 2099 armor was redesigned for a second time, by another artist, late in the series; at that point however the series was only months from cancelation along with the entire 2099 line, so we’ll ignore this inconsistency.)

Overall, the 2099 Doom and his series’ logo fit together hand-in-glove. (Or gauntlet, perhaps.) With maybe one little exception: the original version of the logo’s “rivets” around the eye shapes. These visually strengthened the connection with Doctor Doom’s mask, but there were no such rivets, or screws, or whatever on the 2099 Doom’s armor. Moreover, the tiny circles look a bit out-of-place on the otherwise very angular logo.

The logo itself also, perhaps, always felt a bit “off” somehow, I think. The proportions and details of the letterforms seemed a bit awkward, and the whole thing was sort of flat and rigid. The redesign two years into the series was probably prompted by the Doom-centric “A.D.” storyline, for which all of the 2099 comics got updated logos, but this may also have been seen as an opportunity to address some unresolved issues in the original design.

Redesigned Doom 2099 ("A.D." version) logo

Doom's logo shall loom menacingly above your cover, peasants!

The Doom 2099 A.D. logo is an improvement in some ways, and in other ways I think the original is better. The A.D. logo drops the “rivets,” and the beveling, producing a more streamlined and less fussy appearance. It gets away from the original’s flatness by angling the logo into simulated space and adding a drop shadow.

I like that the A.D. logo is more bold, visually. I think replacing the beveling with a clean, strong outline was a good choice. I suppose that overall I like the “look” of this version a bit more, but (perhaps just as a designer) I feel like it may have gotten too far from the “pure” shape with the angled view. Of course, as noted the point was to create a different look as part of promoting the A.D. event. Were the logo simply being redesigned as an exercise, I wonder whether keeping something like the direct, straightforward perspective of the original but applying the simplified shapes of the A.D. version would capture the best of both.

It hardly matters now, of course, and a Doom 2099 revival seems tremendously unlikely. Looking back at what does exist, neither version is perfect but either version works, ultimately; the concept is the key and it’s present in both. That’s not automatic; a good concept doesn’t always transcend awkward details. In the Doom 2099 logo, however, I think it did, with a result that’s worthy of notice, if only as a future-historical curiosity.

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