DC and LCA Entertainment Style Guide (August 1990)
This beautiful, original style guide arrived in the mail yesterday and I’m extremely excited to share this rare gem with you. For those unfamiliar, a style guide exists to assist in maintaining a consist aesthetic within a brand. It usually comes in the form of a multi-page booklet, filled with dos and don’ts relating to logo usage, color palette, how a character should be portrayed, tone, etc. Basically, it’s a rule book to help you stay within the lines while branding and producing merchandise.
This style guide is housed within the Swamp Thing binder that you may have seen me write about or up for auction on ebay. The binder is filled with marketing/promotional/branded material and examples. Many of the illustrations within the style guide have been featured on the various collectibles that spawned from the animated TV series. You’ll probably recognize a lot of the illustrations from the Swamp Thing action figure packaging, board game, slippers, chalk, and various other Swamp Thing collectibles from the early 1990’s. There is so much to see, so I’m going to dive right in. I’ve included every page within the style guide so you won’t miss out on all its glory.
Binder front cover:
Section One – Introduction
Each section divider features a pattern of Swamp Thing icons; below.
the little icon within the divider page pattern can be found on the packaging of a few Swamp Thing collectibles and can be found as a puffy sticker.
The Introduction kicks off with a Swamp Thing origin comic. I can’t say I’d ever seen this abridged origin until the binder arrived in the mail yesterday. It’s a departure from the origin we are accustomed to in comics, but very entertaining.
Dr. Holland has just perfected his bio-restorative formula in his secret, government lab, deep in the Swamps of Louisiana. It seems safe to assume, this strip helps fill-in the origin story gaps of the Swamp Thing animated series. This strip would be fun to see, played-out, prior to the notable animated series intro/theme song. Here, Arcane is the one who plants the bomb in Holland’s lab and he’s come for the formula.
After the explosion, Arcane salvages what little formula remains after the blast and turns his devoted, unruly henchmen into Un-Men. In typical fashion, Dr Holland’s fiery body crashes into the nearby swamp.
In this strip, Arcane and the Un-Men are hot on Swamp Thing’s trail to obtain every drop of formula they can from Dr. Holland’s remains. They didn’t bargain on finding something much greater! …Swamp Thing
Naturally, Swamp Thing isn’t going to put up with Arcane’s mischief. With his newfound powers and his ability to make instant, fast-friends (who are oddly armed to the teeth from the get go), Swamp Thing jumps into action, saving the earth from Arcane and his Un-Men.
I love the dialogue. Bayou Jack is ready to “search and destroy” and Tomahawk wants “justice for all”. This team is ready for some killer rock albums.
When all is said and done, Arcane wants Swamp Thing for his body, filled with the biorestorative formula.
The style guide departs from the whimsical animated series origin story and plunges right into business; Swamp Thing’s history and viability within the entertainment industry.
“The History of Swamp Thing” provides a Cliff’s Notes version of the character, skimming over Swampy’s creation by Len and Bernie, as well as Alan Moore’s contributions, Hellblazer, the ST films, and the characters popularity/acclaim.
Page 6 begins to break into the dos and don’ts of the brand standards. In creating advertisements and branded materials, it’s important to maintain a standard of quality and a visual consistency. The following pages provide insight into the Swamp Thing brand/campaign.
I find the notes within the page above to be very entertaining. Here’s a quick guide when working with Swamp Thing’s “unusual… essence”
Section Two – Swamp Thing
The page below provides a recap of the animated series origin story, as well as the general scope/tone of the character within the animated world. The pages to follow, within section two, feature various Swamp Thing illustrations intended to be used on products/collectibles.
The talented artists who created the illustrations and visuals within the style guide and upon all the merchandise, sadly (and routinely) go unmentioned. But, I wanted to be sure those talented folks get some credit. So with the help of my friend and fellow Swamp Thing fanatic, Thom, here are some of the fine artists who crafted the look/aesthetic of the Swamp Thing animated series/merchandise. I know this isn’t everyone who worked on it, and if you know of more please let me know and I’ll added their names to the list.
The illustration below, was the featured illustration on the Swamp Thing poster pen set packaging.
Section Three – Swamp Thing and the Environment
a major theme in the animated series and its related collectibles focus on environmental awareness and accountability. The positive message within the campaign went off the rails a little and a number of related illustrations were never used.
Components within the following illustrations were used on various Swampy merchandise. Below, the top right image was used for the brand tag on the Swamp Thing slippers. The illustration at the bottom of the page was used in the puffy stickers, as well as on one of the a jigsaw puzzles.
The visuals below look as if they were intended to be stickers or patches.
Section Four – Swamp Thing and Heroes
all you need to know about Swamp Thing’s pals, Bayou Jack and Tomahawk is within the fourth section.
Section Five – Swamp Thing vs The Un-Men
Section five is your premiere destination for all things Un-Men!
Section Six – Logo, Size and Color Guides
The sixth and final section of the style guide is dedicated to color and logo usage.
The image below acts as a model sheet, for artists to reference when placing/drawing imagery of Swamp Thing.
The size/proportion guide caries over into the next few pages, giving artists an idea of how big Swampy is compared to his team and foes.
It’s fun to see how thorough and well thought-out the Swamp Thing merchandise campaign was treated. The campaign was driven by the success (and speculation) of the animated series, which sadly, only lasted five episodes.
The Un-Men logo wasn’t used as widely as the Swamp Thing logo but can readily be found within the action figure line packaging.
Binder back cover: