There are always those things you know, tucked away somewhere deep in your brain’s archives that you can’t immediately retrieve but that just pop out of hiding once you’re reminded of it. Some little factoid that you wouldn’t be able to just blurt out on command – or even at random – but upon someone mentioning it to you, your immediate reaction is “OH, THAT’S RIGHT!” or “I KNEW THAT!”
The death of Milton Glaser, who designed the iconic I ❤ NY logo, reminded me of one of those things I’d known but had forgotten I knew. Namely, that he also designed this:
This logo endured from 1977 until being replaced – by a vastly inferior new logo, in my nostalgia-tinted view – in 2005. (The 2005 replacement was itself replaced in 2012, and the 2012 replacement was replaced in 2016.)
While I encountered some of the earlier DC logos as a kid, given that most of my comics were older comics sold in mystery packs or found at used book shops, the Bullet, which debuted at around the time I started developing an interest in comics, was the most prevalent, and was what I thought of when I thought about DC Comics.
The Bullet typically appeared in one of several spot colors on the covers, with the specific color choice depending on some of the other design elements and background of the cover. Usually, it was either blue, green, red, or black. Blue seemed to be the most common color, and I tend to think of it as the default.
It was definitely the blue version that appeared on envelope and stationery of a letter I got from DC when I was a kid.
I’ve likely talked about this before, but DC used to run a feature in its comics called ASK THE ANSWER MAN! in which DC writer and editor Bob Rozakis would answer reader questions about DC trivia and history.
At some point as a kid I learned about the existence of Metropolis, IL, and I wondered if that was where Metropolis was meant to be in the comics. I couldn’t find an answer in the comics themselves, nor did anyone I spoke to know, so I knew that the, er, answer was to ask the Answer Man.
I wrote my question and included enough change in the envelope to cover the cost of a new comic – I don’t remember if it was fifty cents or sixty cents at that point – with a request that they send me a copy of a comic in which my question and answer appeared. This last part was important, because, as noted, I didn’t often get new comics at that time.
Of course, by that time the feature itself had already been phased out or was in the process of being phased out, so no such comic would have ever appeared, nor would DC have likely sent me a copy of it even if they’d printed the question and answer, but I was a kid, so what did I know?
However, sometime later I did get a letter in response – along with the return of my change – on official DC stationery emblazoned with that beautiful blue Bullet.
The answer itself was your typical “Metropolis is wherever you imagine it to be!” cop-out, but I didn’t even care, because that stationery was so amazing. Getting that was better, to my mind, than having my question answered in a comic could have ever been.
I spent hours and hours just staring at the letter and the envelope, and I showed it off to everyone I encountered, irrespective of whether they had any interest in seeing it.
Sadly, that letter and envelope have been lost to the ages – possibly casualties of the house fire we had in 1986 – but I still cherish the memory of it, and I will likely go to my grave loving the DC Bullet more than any other of the many logos DC has had in the past and will have in the future.
The DC Bullet is the perfect branding, having a simple design that evokes superheroism and comic book aesthetics with a minimalistic flair, and I know there are other works that the late Milton Glaser will be most-remembered for, but this is the one that means the most to me.