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.