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Buying a book before it is has been created is a bit of a gamble. A collaborative art project by comic book artists, painters, writers, and musicians has to be even more of an unquantifiable project, so TOME has been a particularly pleasant surprise.
At this point, I expect that a lot of people reading this have contributed to some sort of crowd-funded project, whether it be a major motion picture, a comic book convention, or a comic book. Whether you have or haven’t got involved directly, you are probably familiar with the concept and aware of all of the potential pitfalls inherent in such an endeavor. Essentially, we pay for a product which doesn’t exist yet, either to purchase said project or some form of physical incentive (i.e. these aren’t charitable donations that we’re making, we’re buying something based on trust).
TOME is a project which, when launched on Kickstarter, wildly exceeded its goals. Unlike many other projects, the organizers used this unprecedented number of supporters to increase the scope, scale, and size of the final deliverable. After so many horror stories within the comic book and art industry, it is incredibly refreshing to see an extremely successful crowd-funded project which managed to over-deliver to such an extent.
From the outset, 44FLOOD promised not only a slew of visual beauty in their elegantly designed graphic art showcase, but a wide range artists working in all manner of styles, mediums. As the funding increased, they were able first to increase the dimensions of the book, the page count (allowing for more artists’ inclusion), a feature length documentary of the making of the book, and a companion music CD. The end result has been an immersive, creative experience of a book.
Working both in print and online design as I do, for decades people have been telling me that “print is dead”. The melodramatic fallacy of this statement aside, as book purchases gradually decline it is important to acknowledge that while basic printed matter might become less desirable, the experiential nature of a premium book is still unique. Now that there is no longer a single way to read, if it is simply the act of communicating a basic idea that we require then a printed book _has_ become superfluous; digital books are often cheaper, they take up less physical space, and they’re often easier to find. However, the very ubiquity of dry printed text makes premium, well-crafted books that much more desirable. As we accept the no-frills delivery of the printed word, we’re increasingly aware of the beauty of reading a lovingly built book, one that cannot be duplicated digitally. When my friends purge their shelves of comic books, they inevitably keep the oversized, absolute editions and the hardcover, cloth-bound indie books. We retain the link to print through the luxurious and special items in our collections.
TOME is a relatively simple idea; an annual anthology of artists using their medium of comic books, painting and music to express a single idea each year. However, the simple act of creating it at this scale, with this level of attention to the actual design of the book and the promotional film (i.e. the framework and structure of TOME) have elevated this and created a uniquely desirable artifact.
The book is being distributed to those early pre-purchasters, but there are a still few copies left for the general public to purchase from their website. My copy arrived yesterday and the book really delivers. The art is lovely, from the previews I was hopeful that it would be of this standard, but hope and expectation are two different things… In this instance I’m lucky that my hopes were fulfilled. Double-pages plastered from top to bottom with inventive, passionate work by painters, photographers, sculptures, and models. There are interviews with all manner of artists, and often they’re being interviewed by even more interesting artists! The graphic design is fantastic too, reminds me a little of early David Carson with the cleanliness of some John Maeda as a nice juxtaposition. Elegant swathes of text bleed almost to the edge of each page imparting a feeling of urgency to the layouts. This is offset by large, white blocks of negative space which act to breath calm between the pages of tumultuous large-scale artwork. After all this bounty I didn’t expect much from the music CD which was subtly pressed into a little pocket at the back of the book. Yet again, my expectations were exceeded as these clever tunes perfectly accompanied the book. I suppose if I had to describe it, I’d say it was a little bit reminiscent of Boards of Canada, Oval, and at times, György Ligeti’s Requiem (which makes perfect sense to accompany this black monolith of a book).
Click on the photos to open larger versions to check out some details, and there are more photos (I got a bit over-excited and took more than I needed for this article) posted here. More information on the nuts and bolts of the project can be found here.