Sunday, June 6, 2010

Midget Racers Quarterly

Here's a cover to Midget Racers Quarterly, featuring Johnny Comet. So, you say you've never seen or heard of this magazine? That's because this is the only issue in existence. I thought it would be fun to put some promotional material for the book together for San Diego Comic-Con. I thought by creating this faux magazine, it would put some smiles on people's faces. I printed out four of these covers, trimmed them out, and then mounted them to 1950s era Hot Rod magazine guts. I added a little more aging to the cover and I think it looks pretty convincing. It sure smells convincing. Of course to preserve the whole illusion, I quickly made sure to insert the magazines into mylar sleeves. These will be on display at the Vanguard booth, along with Johnny Comet pit crew T's and packaged balloon racing cars. It's all for fun!!

Johnny Comet spreads

The spread intoducing the Sunday strips

The spread introducing the daily strips

A page dividing one of the sections of the book

The title spread to the book

Can I be honest? I'm so loving working on this Johnny Comet book. What a great opportunity to be able to design a book dedicated to one of Frank Frazetta's comic strips. I really love everything about this strip. I'm a big fan of the 50s era. I think the best designed cars came from that period, along with furniture design, and graphic design. It's been a joy, to try to take existing Frazetta art, and give it a whole fresh new approach.

One of the design approaches was to collage his illustrations with actual photographs from that era. It kind of gives the illusion that the situations and cast of Johnny Comet were part of history. I also wanted to throw in car ads and other images to give reference to that time. These represent just a few examples of the design work going into the book.

The Strand Book Store NYC

A couple of months ago, I came across a contest to design canvas tote bags for the Strand bookstore in New York City. They had hired several different comic books artists (including Seth and Adrian Tomine) to do a new bag each year in the past. However, this year they had a contest to determine who would provide the art for their new bag. I thought the prizes were pretty cool, (hundreds of dollars worth of books from Fantagraphics, and Drawn and Quarterly, plus the exposure of your artwork on the bag) so I decided to enter. I noticed that Francoise Mouly, who is the art editor for the New Yorker, was one of the judges. I was hoping, to maybe get some opportunity, through some fluke, to possibly do work for her. Anyway, with all these possibilities, I decided to enter the contest.

These things are always a little tricky, because you don't know the personal taste or what might appeal to the judges in a contest like this. It could have something to do with what they ate that day or what kind of mood they were in. I tried to spread out my design style as much as possible, to give me the best chances.

The first design was an attempt to be clever around the idea of a bookworm. I pushed the whole retro feel with colors and iconic images. I thought it would look good as a strong graphic image and advertisement on the side of the bag.

The second one was more of a bouncy, cartoony, contemporary approach. Again I wanted this to be a strong, graphic, highly visible image when printed on the bag. I thought the idea of "What's your story?" was kind of funny with its double meaning.

The third design was meant to be more childlike in its execution. It's big, bold, and simple in it's shapes and form. I wanted it to be cute and heartwarming. I thought it was the most sentimental of all of the designs. I felt it kind of had a European feel to it.

So here's the good/bad news, there were over 800 entries into the contest. Out of that many participants, 2 of my designs were placed in the top 20. The first and second design made the cut. When I was informed that I had "won" they requested I provide them with hi-res versions of the art so they could use it in a slide show sponsored by the School of Visual Arts. They were also going to post the winners on line and some other stuff, which I don't remember. I told them I was going to pass, when I was asked why, I told them I entered the contest to win first place, which I hadn't, so why continue to be part of this. I don't want to sound like a sore loser, but really, what would the point have been? Who remembers runner-ups?

After looking over the designs, I don't think I would have done anything differently. You can never predict what is going to appeal to anyone. I think ultimately, you have to stay true to your own vision, and feel content that you did the best job you could. I'm actually okay with that.

Maybe next year...