Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Jack Kirby Mister Miracle Artist's Edition

 Mister Miracle cover

 Mister Miracle cover variant

 Title Page

 Credits / Indicia Spread

Chapter Divider

Well, this is book number two from Jack Kirby. It's really quite amazing the imagination of Mr. Kirby. Who would think of creating a character who's greatest asset was his ability to escape from tortuous devices? Not only that, but how do you create a whole universe where he would continually be put in situations to challenge his abilities? But, that's the mind of Jack Kirby, kind of odd and quirky at times, but he made it work. I also love the costume he designed for Scott Free (get it?). Any time someone is wearing a mask and their nose suddenly disappears when it's on... that's brilliant and amazing. His stories and art, are also both brilliant and amazing.

When designing this collection of stories, I thought using the style of posters of Harry Houdini, would be a good influence. As with almost all of the artist's editions, I chose to use a limited palette. I think if there are too many full color pages in the book, it would appear too jarring, and perhaps take away from the impact of the original art pages. Of course, the designed "posters" had to look as if they were battered and torn from being exposed to the elements. It was kind of like creating a "what if" scenario. Like, what if Mister Miracle actually did perform in a circus, what would the advertising for that look like? Again it's such a delight and privilege to design books dedicated to such influential artists and creators.

Now that I think about it, why are there only two artist's edition books on Jack Kirby's art? It sure seems to me like there could possibly be more.... Hmmmm!

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Cave Girl


 Title Page Spread

 Bob Powell Biography Spread

Table of Contents Spread

I love the look and feel (even the smell) of old comics. The aged paper warms up everything on the page. The colors seem to meld into the paper better, and everything feels comfortable. I can't really explain the soothing nature of looking through vintage paper goods. I'm sure there is some sort of medical research that's been done on the subject, but for me, I'm sure it has helped lower my blood pressure.

I wanted to bring that experience to the book design of Bob Powell's Cave Girl. This is the first book I've had the opportunity to design with the Kitchen Sink imprint for Dark Horse comics. I think in most cases when companies are reproducing old stories, they do a great dis-service by trying to clean them up and then reprint them on shiny snow white paper. It causes the art, to lose all of it's character and reveal flaws that weren't present when originally printed. I wanted to use the brownish paper tones from the original comics and introduce them into this book's design. I wanted the experience of reading this book to be similar to owning the original comic from the early 1950s.

The cover was intended to be an homage to old chapter serials or jungle movie posters. Throughout the book, I used examples of single colored comic images to again give it a look and feeling of vintage printing. The overlapping collages gave an added energy which mimicked the jungle action within the stories. This is a perfect book for enjoying on a cold winter evening, looking at the steamy jungles and the hyperactivity of Cave Girl, is sure to heat up any room.

Joe Kubert Enemy Ace Artist's Edition


 Title Page

 Credits Spread

About This Edition/Table of Contents Spread

When Scott Dunbier, my editor at IDW, told me we were going to be doing Joe Kubert's Enemy Ace as an artist's edition, I was extremely pleased. There were so many levels to this story and art, and I enjoyed all of them. First, this being a series that had a somewhat plausible place in history was great. This gave me context for the direction for the design. The idea of men flying around in wooden and canvas airplanes engaged in air battles also really intrigued me. Somehow war seemed more honorable, with rules that everyone adhered to. Almost like a sporting event. I'm certainly not making light of war or the horrors and deaths involved, but it seemed more gentlemanly. Like medieval jousting. Kubert knew how to draw those flying machines, and bring along the reader into the cockpit with the pilots. It was a bit of an adrenaline rush!

This particular period was also one of my favorites when it came to the history of design. I got to use the influence of my library of european designers. The graphics were strong, bold and a little avant garde. The dynamics of the graphic icons fit with the imagery of the air battles. This book was an absolute treat to work on, and as always the source material was very inspirational!  

Will Eisner's The Spirit volume 2

 Variant Cover

 Title Page

 Contents Spread

Chapter Break

It was nice to be able to revisit Will Eisner's Spirit. After the template was established for the first volume, it was requested, and made perfect sense, to use it again for the second volume. It really wasn't too difficult to pick strong graphic images from the stories. Will had created such cinematic staging and lighting that he made my job very easy. I chose again to had flat color and sharp contrast lighting to enhace the drama that was already there. I was basically hanging the curtins in the house he had designed and built!

Friday, September 26, 2014

John Buscema's Silver Surfer Artist's Edition

Book Cover

 Title Page

 Credits Spread

 Table of Contents

Back Endpapers

John Buscema became the artist who defined Marvel Comics "house style." His figures didn't have as much exaggeration as Jack Kirby's, nor did they appear to be as highly stylized. Buscema's figures and story-telling seemed to be more grounded in "heroic realism." There seemed to be a more controlled sense of interaction and activity. Let's say, more cool and sophisticated!

The work Buscema did on the Silver Surfer touched a certain nerve within readers. It almost instantly became a classic. To this day people look at it as being a high water mark for the work Busecema did for Marvel. It's not very often that an illustrator and the subject matter seem to be so harmonious.

When designing this book, I wanted to portray the idea of "space." Both as in, "outer space" but also as in "open design space." The character of Silver Surfer always seemed to me, to be both melancholy and lonely. I wanted to re-enforce that idea, by showing great expanses of monochromatic atmosphere. Like being swallowed up into the darkness.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Walter Simonson Manhunter Artist's Edition


Title Page

Credits Spread

About This Edition Spread

Here was another opportunity to work with some of the work of Walter Simonson. It was during Manhunter when Walter really hit his stride. A lot of fans look back on this story as being one of their favorites. I'm sure the writing of Archie Goodwin contributed to those fond memories. Since the time of this story, Walter has become not only a highly stylized illustrator, but a well-respected storyteller also. It's great to watch the maturation process of Walter's work as he works from one chapter to the next. He seemed to gain confidence in his abilities, as he moves through the story to it's conclusion.

Walter also shared ideas about the design of the book. It was enjoyable to be able to engage in dialog with him about the little nuances of the way the book looked. Walter has such a respect for his wife, Louise's (Weezie) instinct, that he makes sure to include her in the process. The passion and enthusiasm for this project certainly came through when talking with Walter. It made for a little extra bonus when working on this book! When the artists are happy... I'm happy!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Wally Wood Torrid Romance

Here's 3 different cover "sketches" for a collection of Wally Wood romance comics. It's always a bit of a challenge to create a cover design when you are limited by the amount of cover imagery available. All of the artwork provided was from panels or pages from the actual stories. I think only one of the cover designs made the "cut" to actually be included on the book cover. Guess which one...

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Fossil Watch Tin Contest

 Tin Top

 Tin Side 1

 Tin Side 2

 Tin Side 3

Tin Side 3

A few months ago, to celebrate their 30th anniversary, the Fossil Watch Company sponsored a contest. The contest's theme was based on travel, and the assignment was to design one of their tin containers that their watches are packaged in. Because I'm competitive, and there was nice prize money involved, I entered the contest.

Contests are tough, not just because you want to stand out from everyone else, but you have to try and figure what will be appealing to the judges. I decided to try to create an illustrative cartoon image. I wanted to use a cross between Hanna-Barbera cartoons and the styles of 60s children's magazines. I thought most people would go the route of using road signs, travel stickers and gasoline memorabilia for inspiration, so I chose a different path. I wanted each side of the tin to show what represented a different geographic part of the country. I actually was most proud of the tag line I wrote for the top of the tin, "It's About Time!" Do you get it? Anyway, I thought it was clever.

Well, I didn't win...but I was notified that I had made it to the second round. Out of 800 entrants, mine was one of the top 30. What won? Well, it was tins showing road signs, travel stickers, and gasoline memorabilia...

Mike Mignola's Hellboy Artist's Edition


Variant Cover

Title Page

Credits Page

About This Edition Page

Chapter Divider Page

I think Mike Mignola is one of the strongest graphic illustrators. He has a highly defined illustrative style. There is bold blocky graphic presence to what he does. Each page is broken down to make the most and best usage of blacks. He simplifies shapes without making it look simple. I'm sure at this stage in his career some things are intuitive, but he didn't get there without a lot of hard work. Some of the toughest decisions as an illustrator, is what to leave out. This not only makes each panel stand out, but helps the story to move in a progressively pleasing manner. Looking at these pages without the customary word balloons (Mike places them on an acetate overlay), each page looks as if it's a poster from the WPA period.

This book is almost a polar opposite to the design style of the PEANUTS book (see previous entry). Where the PEANUTS book was open spatially and bright and playful, the Hellboy book is dense, layered, textured and somewhat imposing. I used aged victorian wallpapers and medical engravings to give it that vintage look. I wanted the design pages to have an atmosphere that was somehow connected to the stories. It's always intimidating to design a book for someone who has established such a strong distinct look to his work. Thanks to Mike for his support and allowing me to create complimentary design pages to accompany his stunning artwork.

Charles Schulz PEANUTS Artist's Edition


Title Page

About This Edition Page

Contents Page

Chapter Divider Page

I know it's been awhile since I posted anything, but it wasn't because I had nothing to post, but instead, because I've been very busy. I'll try to get back on track and start posting more images from books I've completed. 

It's been so amazing to me, to be able to work on so many projects that have had special meaning to me. The book above certainly falls into that category. As a youngster growing up, I remember having such strong feelings towards the Peanuts gang. I had collections of the strips, a Snoopy plush, a Snoopy 3-ring binder, a Snoopy toy as an astronaut, all kinds of things. I even owned a book called, "The Gospel According to PEANUTS." I'm not sure what it was about, but I knew PEANUTS was in the title. I actually wrote my first ever fan letter to Mr. Schulz. I received back a pre-printed reply on PEANUTS stationery, along with a printed drawing of Snoopy. I wish I still had those things. About 12 years ago, I was in contact with the cartoonist Seth (Palookaville). He knew I lived in Minnesota, and asked if I could go to the St. Paul Public Library, go into their micro film archives and make photocopies of all of the Lil Folks strips I could find. This consisted of going several Saturday over many months. It was like a treasure hunt. Seeing the early pre-PEANUTS artwork was quite an education. Seth being very fair-minded, because of my efforts, sent me a very large piece of original art that had been originally used for the cover of the Comics Journal. 

The whole idea that Sparky (Charles Schulz) grew up in Minnesota, made me feel more connected to him. The scenes in the comic strip, could have taken place in my neighborhood. I always appreciated his depiction of winter, those felt the most authentic to me. The piles of snow, the big bulky coats, the hats and mittens, yep, no doubt about it, the PEANUTS adventures took place right here in Minnesota! 

The chance to work on this book, helped me to reconnect to my joys of childhood. I got a chance to look back at the strips and remember what it was that pulled me in, in the first place. Like all of the books I work on, I challenge myself to do something unique in the design. How can I do this so it doesn't appear I'm repeating myself. It was a bigger challenge because there have been a lot of new books printed on PEANUTS lately.

This book brought me joy, and makes me smile every time I look at it. You know, I'm very lucky and very blessed to be able to do what I love!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Al Capp Biography Dust Jacket

 My design version #1 dust jacket

 My design version #2 dust jacket

Published version dust jacket

Denis Kitchen and Michael Schumacher researched and wrote a very in-depth biography of Lil' Abner cartoonist, Al Capp. The book has won awards and received great critical praise. It's not a sugar coated version of his life story, but rather a dirty and gritty expose of a man who in spite of his success, remained bitter and resentful. How after achieving fame, he chose to use his celebrity to manipulate and take advantage of people. Let's just say, it ain't pretty.

Denis asked me, if I'd like to take a run at designing the dust jacket to the book. In version #1 of the dust jacket, I placed Al Capp within the setting of his comic strip. I think it's pretty obvious as he leers at Daisy Mae, what's on his mind. Lil' Abner peeks in, and doesn't seem real pleased at what's going on. This visual imagery, is foreshadowing to what can be found inside the pages of the book.  

On version #2, I placed a dirty stained beat-up picture of Al Capp on top of a Sunday newspaper page of the Lil' Abner strip. I liked that the image wasn't a smiling happy glossy pristine photo. The picture has seen better days, and seems to elude to the darkside of Al Capp. I added the cigarette smoke to give it an illusion of dimension.

The bottom image, is a design of the dust jacket, that was done in-house at the publisher. This is the one they ended up going with, and what you will find on the book.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

John Romita's The Amazing Spider-Man Volume 2 Artist's Edition

 Title Page

 Chapter Divider Page

Chapter Ending Page

These are some of the design pages for the second volume of IDW's John Romita's Spider-Man Artist's Edition. Since there was a first volume, I wanted there to be familiar design elements that carried over from the first book. But I also wanted it to be unique enough so it didn't seem like I was being lazy or cheating. Since I enjoy designing so much, sometimes it's hard for me not to want to create something totally different. Part of my inspiration for this design style, were book and poster designs from the early 1970s. There is a boldness in it's simplicity. Going for period accurate design is part of the challenge but also a major part of the fun!