Back in June Fantagraphics Publisher Gary Groth and I were trouble-shooting ideas for packaging "Gahan Wilson: Fifty Years of Playboy Cartoons." Most of the ideas were unfeasible or enough of a gimmick that it felt distracting from the work. (Sure an iron maiden clamshell box is funny but do we really want the case to be that cumbersome?) As we axed ideas, so to speak, I kept returning to this classic gag of a man pressed under glass and was interested in how it echoed the idea that we're capturing the legacy of Gahan Wilson within this boxed set. A little research showed that we could make a slipcase with a plexiglass back so Gary and I agreed on the direction and I called up the legendary cartoonist to pitch him on the idea of drawing a self-portrait version of his old gag.
It turns out Mr. Wilson is a hilarious, engaging man to chat with but there was no convincing him to draw the portrait. He liked the idea just fine but felt that it was somehow impure to use artwork on the case that wasn't from the work inside. As my hopes faded I heard him suggest something I hadn't dared to ask: "If you want to take a picture we could do that." So the next minute I was on the phone to Gary. Would it hurt sales to have the grim visage of a trapped 79-year-old man staring out at the book buyer? Gary didn't care, he loved the idea more than he feared how it would be received. And it certainly wouldn't be ignored. So we had our solution.
The next trick was having no budget (aka Fantagraphics Budget) and the need for a photographer willing to travel out to Gahan's studio to pull off the shoot within a few weeks time. I wasn't optimistic, but remembering the work of Seth Kushner's NYC photos of cartoonists I took a stab at conscripting not just a decent photographer but a truly talented one. Seth generously agreed to our modest arrangement and treked out to Sag Harbor with his camera and a man-sized panel of glass. In no time we had these amazing portraits that nailed the concept. (Plus we ended up with some great unpublished outtakes like this one of Gahan cradling a "baby" skeleton.)
On the production end, Playboy graciously gave us a wide berth on the design-- their only major dictate being the point size and typeface used for the art pages of the book-- so the final piece was just to pull off the tricky production Gary and I were envisioning. Our printer, Imago, worked with me at length on getting everything right and their efforts really completed the book.
In the end, each book has a different Gahan portrait on the back cover so the framed image of the artist can be changed out and displayed on your shelf of honor. The front of the slipcase is pillow embossed (ie: the image is in layered relief, which doesn't photograph well here), the back cover is silkscreened plexiglass, and the book covers are all diecut with morbid icons, with matching tipped-in interior diecut pages.
To top it off, the Special Edition set is shrink-wrapped with a box of miniature reproduction cards sent from Gahan to Hugh Hefner and a glow-in-the-dark letterpress print reminding the owner, day or night, that the end of the world is coming.
Flickr user Moonage Daydreamer has a few photos from the Art of Stan Sakai exhibit (from early 2009) that I hadn't seen before. The anecdote posted with this photo is typical Sakai, one of the truly gracious men of comics.
A dream of mine was dashed last week, when the TMNT property transfered hands (for $60 million) from a flesh-and-blood man, Peter Laird, to a corporate entity, Nickelodeon. What had seemed a plausible book idea that would storm the world whenever I, you know, got around to proposing it (A TMNT book in the vein of "Batman Collected" meets "Bizarro World" by way of Kramer's Mome meets the "Marvel Encyclopedia" and, of course, "BEASTS!"*) is almost surely a lost cause now.
My Argentian "Kalkers", my ceramic French mini-figures, that baby-turtles animation cell up above, and my whole lot of compulsively collected TMNT merchandise* is going back in the closet. Also going in the closet is my hope of convincing Dash Shaw to do a TMNT story that the original series should have made when Eastman/Laird decided to bring on outside artists who got "wacky" instead of exploring the complexity of the characters' personalities (ala the flicker that was the "Return to New York" storyline and more akin to the trend in the Marvel universe that has made such successful films possible).
Sure, Fantagraphics' Eric Reynolds had his fun at my expense: "Yeah, it'll be a shame to see them commercialized." But I'm not the only one here at Comics Cred Central who loves the Turtles. Fantagraphics office manger, Zuniga, is pretty broken up about this sale too. And this is a guy who's serious about comics--a guy who was personally invited out by the Wu Tang Clan at ComicCon but said "No, I've gotta sell comics."* I'm telling you, it's a shame what the property could turn into. Especially when a great book could still be made.
But hey, I'm optimistic and somebody at Nickelodeon showed up to work this week with a big pile of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles tasks on their "To-Do" list and I want to make that person's job easier: I'm the graphic designer you need.* Note: I'm marginal at "wacky." Also "testestorone-fueled." But, man, have I got a book idea for you!
...I hope they at least get Chris Duffy involved. He's already in their payroll system and the man's been good to comics.
I always love when we get Jason art in the mail and I really love these sheets of translated text he sends for upcoming books. (Bad iPhone photo blurred so as not to create any spoilers.) A long time ago Jason allowed me to give away a small piece of lettering to the first Flog reader to respond to my posting of it. We should really try to do things like that more often, huh?
There are a dozen things each week that I'm not Flogging due to No Time. I hope to soon do some postings on recent and upcoming books that I've been involved with. Until then, I've made a habit of annually encouraging Flog readers to support artists with their holiday shopping and this year I'm digging into it a little deeper. Some of these notes are aimed at artists who are looking to connect with audiences and some are aimed at audiences looking to support artists.
• Chuck Close as recorded here has some thoughts about Art and its cultural importance. Especially relevant are "Justifying Public Art Expenditures" and "Advice to Artists During a Crisis". (Though, contrary to Close, I think the WPA projects of people like Lester Beall epitomize great art concepts aligning with popular public receptivity, making the 1930s/40s an amazing time for Art to speak to the mainstream. And in that way, we may be in a similar place with this economy. But I digress.)
• Economy tips for artists: Etsy. The only time I've used Etsy was to buy art, starting back when I bought a beautiful and ridiculously-cheap print ("Helpful") from John Hankiewicz on Etsy. And Souther Salazar does it right by offering up doodles and art that he doesn't otherwise have an art show home for. Work sells as quickly as it goes up and I know it means a lot to me to get to buy an affordable, small piece of art from him. I wish established artists would do this more often.
• Turns out Etsy also has a lot of poster artists offering work and Dan Grzeca has found a way to use it for unusual offerings like a tube of misprints for cheap.
• Aspiring cartoonists might be interested in the Kickstarter site and, specifically, Jamie Tanner's model for publishing his next book. By offering special offers to people who preorder the not-yet-made book, he's managing to make it a reality on his own.
• I finally acquiesced to Facebook and, sure enough, within a day I had people I went to high school trying to contact me. Man I hated high school. But I've noticed one thing on Facebook that was interesting: Martin Ontiveros making a request for a ride to the airport, saving himself $30, and offering the ride-giver a small piece of art. That's a great use of Facebook and alternative economy. (Tip to artists: if you use Facebook for getting news out to fans and "the industry," I quickly discovered that I end up hiding anyone who posts more often than a fifteen-year-old girl gone off ritalin.)
• Most of the artists who aren't utterly canonized have some online presence where you can buy original art or at least limited run prints. And a lot of artists like Steven Weissman and Zettwoch/May/Huizenga have affordable commissions available and set up to click-n-buy. Many of the bigger "names" will do commissions but you have to approach them about it... and pay considerably more. (Tony Millionaire told me his commissions start at $1,000 but I happen to know he also wants a radiometer. If you hand-forged him a giant one for his den then, hey, maybe you'd get a break.)
• My biggest holiday tip is obvious: find those links to buying art from your favorite artists and then forward the links to your friends, Santa Claus, and your mom. Especially your mom. (Seriously, I don't know what you get but I got a Tommy Hilfiger coat one year and burlesque-rocket-ship table lamps another and I'm about fed up with surprises.) You'll find tons of original art being sold in one place at the old stand-bys: Comic Art Collective and The Beguiling, among others.
• Lastly, you could just buy some books. Fantagraphics sells those all over this site you're looking at. Artists like their books selling.
The Conrad Groth sketchbook is a mammoth thing: at least 12" square with thick glossy art stock and maybe a couple hundred pages to be filled. Fantagraphics Founder, Gary Groth, gets the best cartoonists in the world to do sketches for his young son and it is AMAZING. I can't imagine the pressure of sketching in it. There's no B-Team in this thing. And nobody who sees it can stop turning the pages to see what's next.
As Gary is preparing to leave for SPX, he brought in the book, bound for the hands of Gahan Wilson so I took these quick and shoddy iPhone pics of the Kane and Crumb pages, which I particularly like because of the personal relationships Gary had/has with these titans.
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