Axel-In-Charge: "Secret Wars" Jam Session Talking "A-Force," "Ultimate End" and More
Comic books aren’t the only publications who dabble in variant covers. Novels often find an entirely new audience by repackaging and reformatting the covers and sometimes even the content (e.g. the Harry Potter books are a good example of this, by creating fun covers with large type which appealed to children, and more elegant covers and smaller type for a more mature audience). A few weeks ago I stumbled on an instance of prose fiction dipping a proverbial toe into the world of sequential art and the results are pretty spectacular. Continue Reading »
Regular readers might have noticed I haven’t written a column in a few weeks. I’ve had issues with a long term illness which is causing me more pain than usual and while I am trying a new treatment, it hasn’t yet begun to help. This means that I’m probably not going to be able to return to writing a weekly column right away, an annoying hindrance but for now I’ll try to write as often as possible.
The frustrating part of being unable to write every week is that I’ve had lots of things I wanted to tell you about and I’ve probably forgotten half of them by now… Pain makes me a bit slower to communicate, and I’m having to focus all the energy that I do have on visual design work (which is oddly easier for me than writing, more of a distraction from pain for some reason). Here’s a little rundown and some peeks of the comic book design work that I’ve been able to work on during this unplanned writing sabbatical. Continue Reading »
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 »
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 »
If you live in America (or the world) perhaps you were as enthralled by the election as I was. It was fascinating to watch unfold online, as the results were reported, extrapolated, and opined upon. If you’re at all interested in visual communication and the use of imagery to convey information (as so many comic book readers are) then this was a banner year to find interesting and new ways to look at the election beyond giant maps plastered onto ice rinks and such gimmicky tricks.
There are comic books I have bought for their cover and only for their cover. While the interior hasn’t displeased me, this meat of the comic book is not what drew me to it, nor (more importantly) what made the purchase a satisfying one. These are comic books I won’t sell or give away, even though I probably won’t read them again. While the interior are strongly echoed by the covers, it is the comic book as a container which interests me. Like most people, I try not to be a superficial person, to judge for the beauty inside, but for me, in these instances, the covers lend so much more weight to the stories which inspired them, that they become substance in their own right.
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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