Friday, September 7, 2012

Joe Kubert's Tarzan Artist's Edition

Cover for the regular edition

Cover for the variant version of the book

Contents page spread

I know a lot of people have eulogized Joe Kubert so much more eloquently than I could ever do. I never met the man, but I certainly respected and appreciated his art. I admit when I was much younger, his art didn't really appeal to me. I always thought his lines were too "hairy." That is the ignorance of youth. Actually, his work on Enemy Ace, is some of my favorite stuff of all time.

When I got the opportunity to work on the Tarzan book, I was thrilled. When I first receive the pages to the book, it gives me the chance to indulge and immerse myself in the art. It feels kind of like discovering something for the first time. There is a certain smugness that goes along with being one of the privileged few to see this art before it gets published in book form. I admit that is one of the perks of the job. Joe draws well. That is really an understatement. When I started looking at the way he could render animals I was intrigued. There is a real naturalistic approach to what he does. Check out his apes and then look at his lions, then see how he portrays elephants. It's really wonderful stuff. Living and breathing illustrations really apply to Joe's ability. I wish there were more "illustrators" working in the comic book industry. We have plenty of talented cartoonists, but illustration is a different thing. Joe had a talent that was instinctual, he just knew how to draw, it never looked laborious.

The other thing I appreciated about Joe, was even in his later years, his talent didn't seem to drop off. Most artists peak at a certain age and then there is a time of decline. I never felt that about Joe's stuff.

I feel a sense of pride and gratitude to have been able to work on a book, that Joe had at one time, said was his favorite stuff. He paid me a huge compliment when he said of this book..."You make me look good." No Joe, it's the other way around, your great art makes my design look good!

Curdtown Cowballs Cheese Curds

Original logo

Rough concept sketch

Refined option #1

Refined option #2

Final logo

In late March, of this year, I got involved with a start-up company. 2 businessmen had formed a partnership and a company. Their goal was to conquer the world in the name of deep-fried cheese curds. Wow, what could be more fun than that? Originally they had contacted me to do a T-shirt design for them. When I met them and listened to their vision for the future, I wanted to be more involved with the company. At the time, they were just getting started, they were working on a visual identity for the company and hadn't made any definitive decisions at that point. When I saw the logo they had been working on, I asked if I could give it it a shot. One of the owners told me of the things he would like to see incorporated in the logo, but a lot of those things seemed to be have left out of their first draft.

I rather hastily but together a rough version of a logo for them. After sitting down again and talking about it, it was further refined. I added colors at this point, to help them visualize better what I was thinking. The decision on the final logo was unanimous. Since doing the logo, I have continued as their promo/advertising/graphics guy. I'm writing copy, creating in-store promo pieces. doing t-shirts, designing sellsheets, doing artwork for banners, doing all of the packaging, dealing with vendors, and brainstorming and designing their booth for trade-shows. It's a blast! Look for Curdtown Cowballs in your hometown...they are more than just a pretty name!

Dead Dog Party

Art work for the top of the box

Finished wooden box

T-shirt design

Every year at the San Diego Comic-Con, the owner of Graphitti T-shirt designs, Bob Chapman, hosts a convention wrap-up party. He puts a lot of money and energy into the party. It's a way of kicking back after the convention has ended, and spending some time relaxing with your friends. I'm not sure how many people are allowed into his exclusive party, but I'd guess somewhere over 100. Bob pays for the rental of the space, which is usually a very nice bar, and the appetizers.

This past year was the 30th year that Bob has been hosting this event. To show their appreciation, Denis Kitchen and a small group of friends decided to give Bob a gift. Denis had contacted 30 artists in the industry, and asked each of them to create an original piece of art to present to Bob at the party. The list was a virtual who's who, some of the people involved were, Mike Mignola, Frank Miller, Dave Gibbons, Terry Moore, Mike Kaluta, Sergio Aragones, Steve Rude, Neal Adams, Art Adams, Jim Lee, Jill Thompson, Paul Pope, Eric Shanower, Jeff Smith, Walt Simonson, and Mark Schultz. Denis then contacted me, because he wanted a special "container" to hold all of the artwork. We decided a wooden box would be a good solution.

After the box was made, I added graphics to the top and sides. I wanted a fun/retro packaging look. I also wanted it to look like it was an old heirloom. I sanded the graphics after they were applied and added a shellac to seal it. I painted the inside of the box, the reddish/orange color from the top and then sanded that. I took brass corners that were attached to the bottom of the box and soaked them in vinegar to give them an aged appearance. The final thing, was to create some way of lifting the art from inside the box. I attached a leather cord to the bottom of the box, and drilled a hole through the back about 2" higher. On the end of the cord I glued a wooden bead. When you pulled the cord, it would become tight inside the box, and raise up the artwork.

After the box was complete, I liked the design so much, I thought it would look good on T-shirts. Denis agreed and I had 55 T-shirts silk-screened and sent to San Diego for the party. I hope the irony translated. Of course, the T-shirt was printed off register, which would normally make a silk-screener pull his hair out. I thought it was the perfect touch!