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Cool Infographic – Evolution of Superman’s “S” Shield

Given the high politics/technology/comic-book fan crossover rate, I thought folks would enjoy this infographic series that Kate Willaert created for HalloweenCostumes.com:


Couple things jump out. I knew that the design went through some initial iteration, but I was a bit surprised that there were at least nine separate “major” designs (10 if you count the Fleischer Cartoon symbol below) used in the first six years. I was also surprised by how stable the design was from 1944 to the early 90’s  (though I think that the shield moved to a straight sided design well before 1986).

Of course, that might be because I only got into comics in the 90’s. So I’ve been conditioned to expect a rebranding every few years (see above). I wonder how much of the recent churn is due to the explosion of action figures and other forms of character licensing.

Kate also did a chart of the shield in popular culture (which, while still cool, missed discussing both The Super Friends and Superman: The Animated Series):


For extra fun, here’s a picture from Kate’s tumbler that seems to be screaming to be used in the caption contest (paging Rodney Dill).

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About Matt Bernius
Matthew is a PhD student in Cultural Anthropology at Cornell University, researching the intersection of technology and culture. Prior to Cornell, he earned a Masters in the Social Sciences from the University of Chicago and was a visiting professor at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Matt started his career at Eastman Kodak, spending eight years in a variety of web development, community and content strategy roles. In his spare time (off OTB) Matt slogs (slow-blogs) on the future of reading/media, studies martial arts and self defense, and volunteers, along with his wife, at the Rochester Animal Shelter. Follow him on twitter @mattbernius.


  1. Sam Malone says:

    A former girlfriend has a Superman emblem tattoo’ed on one of her buttocks.
    Now it’s killing me to know what vintage it is!!!
    Damn you, OTB

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  2. Matt Bernius says:

    @Sam Malone:

    ’nuff said

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  3. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    John Byrne said that he always saw the logo as two fish swimming in opposite directions, and drew it that way. It’s an interesting way to look at it — focusing on the yellow, not the red.

    But it’s really annoying when they try to spin it as something other than an “S”…

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  4. Matt Bernius says:

    @Jenos Idanian #13:

    But it’s really annoying when they try to spin it as something other than an “S”…

    Never had a real problem with that. I think the idea that the “S” is actually the crest of the El family and just happens to look like an “S” is a great Sci-Fi nod (similiar to the way that the Doctor just happens to sound British).

    To that point, I think the current movie crest pulls both pretty well. I like how the bottom of the “S” goes directly into the edge of the shield. Though there’s also something rather dragon like about it — which might tie into the critters they’re shown riding in the trailer.

    I also like the nu-52 shield, but hate the armor around it.

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