Friday, November 30, 2007

Random to the Max



Since I last mentioned my son's foray into webcomics he's moved from posting his work via a blog to a more webcomic-friendly format over at smackjeeves.com. It's fascinating watching his successes (such as the strip above), missteps, and -- most especially -- his progress. He's experimenting with fonts and is now using a Wacom Bamboo Fun tablet and pen to create his strip (when I was his age I was making magazines and newspapers using my mom's portable Royal typewriter and carbon paper to make up to three copies of each issue, dadgummit). In fact, I was so taken by this Bamboo Fun thing that I ordered one for myself -- I've always used a mouse previously and this will be a relatively cheap way for me to experiment further with one of these fancy computer pen thingies before -- and if -- I decide to upgrade. My son is very pleased to have introduced me to something new since it usually works the other way around.

Interested parties may view my son's webcomic, Random to the Max, here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

TOON Books

This is beginning to make the blogospheric rounds but it bears passing on: Francoise Mouly has a website promoting her new comics for kids publishing endeavor, TOON Books. My son and I were at the APE earlier this year and got a bit of a sneak preview during a presentation by Ms. Mouly and her husband art spiegelman. I have to admit that I didn't really love what I saw at the time but she is definitely a smart, talented person clearly enthusiastic about this project. Even though I'm not the target audience (nor are my kids) I look forward to giving the books a proper peek next year when they debut. The TOON Books website is simple but lovely and serves as an fine example of how to clearly present useful information. The associated blog about kid comics in general is also a must read (and you may do so here).

Monday, November 19, 2007

Why Every Publisher Should Have a Brain



The cover to J. Marc Schmidt's Eating Steve was designed by SLG's own Supreme Commander, Dan Vado. Dan usually doesn't take such a hands on approach with covers (he says that this one was only his second ever cover design -- I have no idea what was the first). What I like about what he did is that it doesn't look like a typical zombie comic -- a concern of mine given that SLG is publishing 3 separate zombie-themed graphic novels within months of each other. I don't think that that was a concern of Dan's necessarily but he was inspired to try something different and I think it worked pretty well (Dan's version of the cover is seen above, the final print version is at the end of the post).

What amused me about Dan's efforts is that he used items that happened to be lying around the office to create the cover: an elegant plate, a plastic fork, salt and pepper shakers, what appears to be a dagger or fighting knife, and a human brain replica (see photo below).



After a bit of tweaking in Photoshop Dan got a very striking image for the cover. But to be on the safe side he wanted a second opinion (mine). I made a couple of minor changes. I removed the salt and pepper shakers because they didn't "read" right, altered the fonts and set the credit line off center in keeping with the quirky, off-center nature of the story.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Mystery of the Face in the Cake

The Sneeze (one of my very favorite blogs) reports on the mystery of The Face in the Cake -- how a forgotten How-to-Draw book brought joy to millions (thousands?) and brought a father and son closer together (eh, I got a little over-wrought there -- let's just say that the interaction between father and adult son is enviably good natured). Read this part first and then move on to this part.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Halloween Treat for Me!



A small advance shipment of the Haunted Mansion: Welcome, Foolish Mortals hardcover books with slipcases came into the SLG office several days ago. Appropriately, I got my copy on Halloween. I would have shared this earlier but I was too busy/lazy to whip out the camera (this might be a good time to apologize for the badly cropped photo -- the best of a bad batch). It was a wonderful treat to hold the end product in my hands after so much effort (my design work on the book is chronicled at great, great length starting here). I was at SLG when they did their first book collections a couple of decades ago and they were pretty modest affairs (the first book covers didn't even have UV coating and tended to scuff pretty bad). But this Haunted Mansion thing is, I think, the most elaborate book SLG has published and I hope we get to do more deluxe presentations. It's worth noting, if I haven't already mentioned it, that Dan (Vado, Head Monkeyboy at SLG) really drove this thing. He wanted the slipcase. He wanted the black embossed cover. The deckled edges were his idea. I just jumped in, fussed with the details, and put it together. But this project is Dan's baby.

Friday, November 9, 2007

SLG Broadcasting Logo Is On The Air!



About a week or so ago I was asked to come up with a logo for SLG's new podcast. It was required by the all-too-usual deadline: "yesterday." I opted to go for a modern retro look and had to squeeze the regular SLG logo into the design. Ordinarily, I hate to use a logo within a logo (it tends to look too cluttered) but this one looks okay so far. When doing this kind of design it's helpful to know how and where a logo is to be used. It was likely that this logo was going to appear not just on webpages but potentially on any digital media that would support images. I decided to keep it real simple and bold to allow the logo to be as legible as possible whether it showed up on a YouTube video, on an iPod screen, or a blog. So for now this is the "final" logo for the SLG Broadcasting System but if any weaknesses show up I'll try and tweak it after the fact. Not the best way to do things maybe but the digital world is a fluid and forgiving one. In fact, as I type this it occurs to me that the text "SLG Broadcasting System" should be shorted to just "SLG.BS." It would be a nice SLG-ish way of acknowledging the blatantly (but understandably) promotional nature of the project.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Tiki Thursday

I've mentioned previously how much I enjoyed working on Jeff Berry's Sippin' Safari for SLG. He was recently interviewed for Salon.com and you can read that here. And while we're on the subject, I just found out Sippin' Safari's superlative illustrator, Kevin Kidney, has some spiffy work on display here. Give it a peak, won't you?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Paris



I picked up a copy of Andi Watson and Simon Gane's Paris last week and I think it's just beautiful. Truly, it is a graphic novel as fine and lovely as anything anyone has published this year. I especially like the cover design. Sadly, even though it is an SLG Publication I had absolutely nothing to do with it. The first giveaway is the location of the book title. Simon -- or was it Andi? (I have no idea) -- placed it down around the knees of the cover's two women. But that's okay because it works perfectly. I love seeing solutions that I'd avoid come across so nicely. I think I've mentioned this before, even though I'm usually listed as SLG's "art director" I often have little or nothing to do with most of the company's publications. SLG likes to let the creative folks make their projects look the way they want them to look without imposing any type of "house style" which is what would happen -- despite my best efforts -- if I truly art-directed every book they put out. However, not everyone is a designer and even some really talented cartoonists just don't seem to have a knack for it. With Paris, it's easy to see that Andi and Simon clearly do.