Luke Cage History: From Hero for Hire to Hollywood
TV, Comic Books
While this might be obvious to everyone, I only just realized that Last Gasp don’t have a logo. Or rather they do… they have hundreds of logos, practically one for each book, letter, and business cards… This was such an insane concept in amongst our uniform, mass-produced world that I had to take a moment to look at a few of the logos by old and new authors, and find out the thinking behind such an adventurous approach to branding.
Last Gasp is the one of the largest and oldest underground publishers and the most well-established company not to have a consistent logo. Founded in 1970 by Ron Turner to publish underground comix, the job of adding a Last Gasp logo was given to each individual who published a book with them, from Robert Crumb, to Bill Griffith, to Frank Kozik (see below for examples, click to enlarge). Authors are asked only to make sure that they “incorporate a skull or a skeleton reading a book or with a book. Ideally the skull should have eyeballs and a tongue.”
A few months ago I was commissioned to design a logo for the upcoming comic book Rum Row, by Andrew Maxwell and Michele Bandini. I thought you might be interested in the process of designing a logo, from brief to research, to sketching, through to the final logo (pictured on the right, click to view it enlarged).
It has only recently become obvious to me that designing for comic books has absolutely changed my life in a number of unexpected ways. While I always hoped the work would be enjoyable, I didn’t expect to find out so much about my own taste and style. I’d always thought of myself as a cautious, rule-driven designer, somewhat trapped by my visually obsessive tendencies, in fact I once met a famous graphic designer who admired tremendously, but when I showed him my sketchbook he couldn’t stop laughing. “Everything you do is in a grid, even your rough sketches. You’ve got to loosen up!” he exclaimed. It wasn’t intentional, I just couldn’t bring myself to break the grid back then…
Life is a tricky thing, it is so easy to fall into a certain way of living that we hardly need to make any choices to do so. Even the tiniest action can result in a huge life shift. In tidying up my email recently, I discovered a hidden inbox of messages from a comic book company who had offered me a job 8 years ago. I’d completely forgotten about it, but at the time I nearly took a job doing production design (i.e. I would have been designing titles, ad copy, and sound effect too). At the time I was offered a job earning twice as much in a sports and commerce advertising agency, and I elected to take that one. My logic was that graphic design was graphic design, and it didn’t really matter where I was designing, so I might as well take the job which would make me more money. Now here I am, 8 years later, happily taking on comic book graphic design work because it is infinitely more fun for me. I’ve learned a lot in the intervening years, and for all I know, the job in the comic book company might not have been much fun… Back then I didn’t know what it would be like and how it would impact my own feelings about the world. But 8 years later I can say that for me, personally, I am a much better designer in this field than I was able to be in ad agencies, and when I do create advertising designs for my clients, I am far more excited and driven, because it isn’t what I do all day, ever day. The variety of working with comic book designs has revitalized and renewed my love of design. Continue Reading »
As regular readers will know, I’ve long been a proponent of super heroic fashions. So I was excited to hear that Sina Grace was inviting guest artists Kris Anka, W. Scott Forbes, Fiona Staples, and Ming Doyle to design new costumes for the women of his comic Burn the Orphanage. I jumped on the chance to get a sneak peek at those outfits (appearing in the July 3rd issue) and thought you’d probably like a look too. But before we get to the artwork, Grace opened up about the process behind the restyling. Continue Reading »
As part of my job as a graphic designer, I created a infographic for comiXology based on information gathered in their recent reader survey. Some of the results were quite surprising (and others weren’t), enjoy!
Rian Hughes is arguably one of the most multi-talented men currently working in communication design. His comic books are just the tip of the iceberg, with his current redesign of the Valiant logo making comic shop shelves a little sleeker, and his recent work organizing the Image Duplicator exhibition displaying his passion for original comic book art. When I was in London, I was lucky enough to a get a glimpse at the projects currently cluttering Rian Hughes’ desk and it proved an enlightening afternoon.
A lot of the time, people who work in comic books and design are self-employed, working alone in our offices and communicating with our teams via email, phone, chat, and skype. As a result of this, the camaraderie of colleagues and peers can become a distant, virtual experience. Outside of conventions once or twice a year, we rarely actually manage to see each other in meat space, making do instead with sending files back and forth. That’s why, when I went to London last month I had to make sure to meet up with comic book author and groundbreaking graphic designer; Rian Hughes. Hughes is one of the most interesting and engaging graphic designers working with comic books today and I am always inspired and excited by his take on things. When he invited me to visit him at his studio in Kew Gardens, I leapt at the chance to get a sneak peek at where the design magic happens. Hughes shares his bright and sunny studio with a group of freelance designers and a small graphic design company, which combines to create a quietly bustling creative atmosphere. Initially, my intention was to conduct some sort of interview, but instead we jumped right in to chatting about all of the interesting things lying about on his desk, and it proved to be quite the treasure trove… Continue Reading »
Comic book logo development is a lot of fun for me and I thought you might like to see how one gets made. Like a lot of self-employed people in this industry, I spent part of the holiday season working. Not because I had to, but because I wanted to. Being a graphic designer can be fun, but being a graphic designer for a comic book can be incredibly fun. So I worked on some ads for a new comic book and established some ground rules for the mood and feel that I want to evoke with the logo when it is done. This project is so far in the future that I cannot share the work, but it got me thinking that you might be interested in seeing how a new comic book logo takes shape for me. A logo that I worked on a couple of months ago is now in use on a comic book that will be available to buy in the Spring.
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