Like so many of the rules of being a superhero (cape, secret identity, the whole “tights like a carnival strong-man” thing), it all started with Superman: His S-Shield may have evolved from literal shield to weird inverted pentagon thingy over the years, but it has generally looked really cool and always recognizably been the letter S for Superman.  Not everyone has it so easy, though; Geo-Force’s chest-symbol redesign always felt tacked on and many modern stories only use chest letters to denote that a character is meant to be retro or old-fashioned, leading us to today’s typographical query…

The MS-QOTD (pronounced, as always, “misquoted”) also says, apropos of nothing, that the “On my world, it stands for hope” explanation is cute, but once again over-thinks the matter and answers a question nobody asked, asking: Superhero Chest Letters: Way Cool or Way Too Old-School?

The Author

Matthew Peterson

Matthew Peterson

Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture!

And a nice red uniform.

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4 Comments

  1. April 16, 2017 at 11:41 am — Reply

    It depends. When you have characters like Superman or Daredevil with cool stylized letters, then yeah it is cool. But then you sometimes get awkward chest letters, like Geo-Force as you pointed out.

    In theory, I don’t mind chest letters (or letters in other areas like Captain America’s mask or on a belt buckle or something). But not EVERY hero needs one, nor would it work for all heroes. Even symbols don’t always work if it looks tacked on, and letters follow a similar principle as most are stylized and not just a plain letter. But if well done, it can really make a costume pop.

  2. April 16, 2017 at 1:04 pm — Reply

    It depends on costume to me. Some combinations work better than others. But yeah, usually its the older ones where it works better.

  3. Hannah
    April 16, 2017 at 1:21 pm — Reply

    I think you have to go on a case-by-case basis. Some characters, it totally works for. Others… maybe not so much. Superman, yes. Spider-Man, no. And if you have a symbol, ala Green Lantern, where does that fall on the spectrum?

  4. April 16, 2017 at 6:38 pm — Reply

    Even Galactus had a chest letter at first. (And a purple skirt.) He turned out ok.

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