When an "old friend," in this case a book publisher, changes its business identity, you have to wonder: Why? So I asked Jacob Covey, art director of Fantagraphics Books and proprietor of his own studio, the following:
Fantagaphics Books has been such a recognizable brand for so long. Its logo fit its product. Now that comics and graphic novels, as well as comic histories, have become bonafide disciplines, is the concept to take Fantagaphics to the next level of publishing? While I don't mean this as an insult, your "torch of freedom" reminds me of the way Google has elevated its brand from a hipster data platform to a major communications company.
You're exactly right about the intention behind the new logo. Fantagraphics has always prided itself on an unbranded fluidity where the only voice that matters is that of our artists, but that also creates an invisibility in the contemporary brand-driven landscape. After four decades of elevating the artform, we've earned the gravitas to put our seal of approval on every book we publish by way of this new logomark.
While publisher Gary Groth is proud to be "Fantagraphics Books," that full name is a little dusty sounding and limiting—it feels like the fanboy origins we come from but belies our status as pioneering curators of the comics medium. The new logo owns this weird, unwieldy word "Fantagraphics" (sans "Books") and leaves the door open to whatever else Fantagraphics may become in the ever-changing multimedia world, free of preconceptions. Single, strong words carry a power that doesn't need to be qualified.
The classic horizontal bar logo was familiar but wildly impractical and dated. The new logo focuses on a rallying icon—the Legacy Torch. We are the torchbearers of art and literary comics, the guiding light through vapid commercialism, and we want to own that so others can look at our books, see the flaming nib and know this is a book that's been labored over from inception through production. The mark is a signifier of pure craft, plus it's something a next-generation cartoonist might actually want tattooed on the inside of their eyelids to stay motivated.