Frank Cho has built a reputation over the last several decades as one of the top writers and illustrators in the world of comic books. He began with his own independently produced titles and is now sought out by many publishers to provide the cover art for their books. It is two of his most recent covers that I am spotlighting here. Over the last several months he provided variant covers for Batman #48 and Harley Quinn #47, using the same technique for both. In each instance all shading and sense of depth was accomplished via incredibly detailed and intricate line work of varying direction, weight and closeness. If you look closely, there are no areas of pure black. The Batman cover is suitably Gothic in nature, which is appropriate for the character, yet Cho adds a sense of playfulness with the inclusion of Catwoman and her feline friends. The Harley Quinn cover shows off her carefree personality. Also, where the Batman cover stays strictly black and white, this one adds a dash of color to the ponytails in her trademark multi-colored hair.
Teaser posters for movies are supposed to do just that, give the audience a minimal amount of information...an image, a recognizable name, or even just a title, along with a tagline line...just enough to catch the viewer attention and pique their curiosity. Here are a few of my favorites. First, from 1982, is this gorgeous illustration by John Alvin of the spaceship peaking through the clouds. Next is Dune, by Tom Jung, from 1984. The double moons, over the desert landscape, together with the tagline hint at the epic story being told. Last is Dances with Wolves, from 1990. It omits the name of the film, relying instead on the star power of Kevin Costner's name and an image of buffalo stampeding through the mist and fog, with a tagline that gives a glimpse into his character's journey.
The concept of the Triptych in art has been around for centuries, but it only found its way into the world of movie posters a few decades ago. Since then it has been used quite a few times. The idea is simple - one image split into three equal sections, each one telling a part of a larger story. Here are a few of my favorites. First, from 1997, the Star Wars Trilogy Special Editions, illustrated by Drew Struzan. Everything radiates out from the center, with each section focusing on specific characters with their own highlight color. Next is Cars 2 from 2011. This installment takes the characters around the world and each section highlights the different international settings from the film. After that is Tron Legacy, also from 2011. The main center image is reminiscent of the poster for the first film, with both of Jeff Bridges characters on each side. The last two are Alice in Wonderland from 2010 and Oz, the Great and Powerful from 2013. Both of these triptychs demonstrate a different way to be able to feature all of the characters, without squeezing them all onto one poster.
Last week was San Diego Comic-Con and in addition to all of the news, celebrity appearances and merchandise, the studios and publishers also flood the convention with promotional freebies to generate interest in their upcoming releases. One of the most common items given out to attendees are promotional posters of varying sizes. Here are a few that I feel stand out from the pack this year. First is a poster for the sequel to the recent Godzilla movie. Like something out of Dante's Inferno, we are given just a glimpse of several of the monsters as they clash in the smoke and haze. Epic is the first word that comes to mind when I look at this. Next is a painting by Bill Sienkiewicz for the upcoming chapter in the Halloween movie saga. The specks of red splashed in front of Michael Myers is a nice subtle touch to an otherwise simple, yet frightening image. Next is a nice promo image for the Bumblebee solo movie this Christmas. A simple color scheme with an almost hand-drawn look to it, it's impossible to not look into his eyes. Last is a promo poster for the sequel to Fantastic Beasts. Slightly more conventional, in that it uses photos of the actors, I really like the overall Art Deco design and layout.
Tomorrow is the anniversary of Apollo 11, more specifically the Eagle lunar module, landing on the Moon. In honor of this landmark event of human history, let's look at some nice one-sheets from movies that took us to the Moon. First is one of the one-sheet's from The Right Stuff, from 1984, which told the story of America's spaceflight program. The astronauts in their spacesuits, with a red, white and blue color scheme behind them is all that is needed. Next is a one-sheet for the movie First Man, coming out this summer, it's a retelling the Apollo 11 mission from the point of view of Neil Armstrong. I really like the mostly monochromatic design, with the only color coming from the engines after the rocket has disappeared into the clouds. I've also included here a few one-sheets I really like from movies where the Moon plays an internal part of the story. The first one is 2001: A Space Odyssey and while it is not the first movie to travel to the moon it is definitely the most famous. Robert McCall's illustration of a spacecraft leaving a space station high above earth, with the moon in the distance is one of the most recognizable posters. Next is a one-sheet from the 2009 movie Moon. The optical illusion created by the circles plays up the psychological drama of the story. I also like the artistic, non-traditional style of the credits at the bottom. Last is the teaser one-sheet from Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Love or hate the movie, this is a great poster. The lunar landscape inside the Decepticon logo, with the stars shooting out around it makes for a super cool image.
Classic movie theater marquees and neon signs are always fun to look at and when viewed from the right perspective can be even more impressive. In 1994, the Lion King received premiere engagements at Radio City Music Hall in New York and the El Capitan in Los Angeles. Special one-sheets were produced for both engagements and the designs prominently utilized each marquee. Byzantium and Enter the Void are both more recent releases and use a similar design approach with the title of each film a marquee sign.
In honor of the 4th of July, I'm posting this week's entry a day early. This week we are celebrating the day our country declared its independence. This year the 4th also falls on a Wednesday, which is the day new comic books are released each week. Marvel Comics is taking advantage of this timely coincidence to release the first issue of a new Captain America comic book. In the world of comic books, there is nothing more patriotic than Captain America. As is the trend nowadays, there are a multitude of variant covers, each by a different artist, for this first issue. Before we get to the new covers, let's look at the covers for the two most important comics from the past to feature Cap. First is the cover to the comic that introduced him to the world. First published in 1941, with art by Jack Kirby, Captain America Comics #1 features the iconic image of Cap punching Hitler. The second cover is from the comic that re-introduced Cap to the comics world in 1963, Avengers #4, also with art by Jack Kirby. For the new series launching this week, there are over twenty different covers and I've selected a few that I feel stand out from the pack. First is one by Adam Hughes, featuring Cap in a dynamic pose with his shield in one hand and the American flag swirling around him in the other. Next we have a very minimalist approach by David Mack featuring Cap standing at attention beside the reflecting pool in Washington D.C.. The next cover, by Frank Miller, takes the iconic image of Cap with the American flag and adds an American Bald Eagle. I also like the negative space created by the stars around the bottom half of the image. Lastly, we have the cover by Alex Ross, who takes his setting back to World War II. Here we have a larger than life Cap, leading the troops to victory.
The World's fair began in the mid-19th century as a way to showcase the latest advances in technology and give the public a glimpse into what the world may look like for future generations. The location of the fair has moved each year to a different host city and has now been held in cities all over the world. Each fair has had its own poster to promote the event and the artistic style and imagery has evolved to be representative of the era and location of the fair. My favorite time period for World's Fair posters spans the early to mid-20th century and I've selected four of my favorites to showcase here.
Not only is Coca-Cola one of the most enduring products, but its logo is just as enduring, having changed very little over the course of its 130-plus year history. Over that time it has become ingrained in American pop culture and art. The logo is such a popular design element, it can be found in kitchens and homes, as well as bars and restaurants. The first mascot Coke introduced into its advertising was the "Sprite Boy", a nickname given to him due to his elf-like features. Advertising and posters featuring him began appearing in 1941. Santa Claus has been another popular salesman for the brand over the years. In the 1930's, American painter N.C. Wyeth was commissioned to produce several paintings to be used in conjunction with Coke's 50th anniversary. Today the distinctive bottle and logo can be found in art produced in every style and medium.
The illusion of movement can be a powerful element in any design. It can add an extra level of emotion, making an image more dynamic and, in the end, it simply feels natural. We live in a world where everything moves, so when we look at a static image that includes the appearance of something moving, our brain fills in the blanks and completes the act. I've selected three one-sheets that are all outstanding examples of using the illusion of movement in their designs. The advance one-sheet for Batman Returns, from 1992, has snow blowing across Batman's logo. This also ties into the movie as the story takes place during the winter season. The one-sheet for Seabiscuit, from 2003, has the title character galloping towards us at full speed, dirt flying in the air as he races around a track. The advance one-sheet for Fast Five, from 2011, shows the two main characters whipping by at top speed, moving so fast they are almost a blur. In the background we get a glimpse of the tropical setting of the story.
This week I'm going to throw the spotlight on a particular artist - Bob Peak, who is one of the most influential artist's of the twentieth century. He began his career in print advertising, though over the course of his forty year career his work spanned all aspects of commercial illustration. He is most well-known for his movie posters and has even been referred to as "the father of the modern movie poster." Covering nearly every genre, he has created some of the most well-known posters, for many of the most well-known movies from the 1960’s to the 80’s. Included here are a variety of pieces he has done for print advertising, unused concept art, movie posters and magazine covers.
Summer doesn't officially arrive for a few more weeks, but tomorrow is June 1st and that means summer to me. Let's look at a some awesome poster designs from a few summer themed movies. First up is the poster for the movie that scared everyone out of the water. Illustrated by Roger Kastel, the one-sheet for Jaws, from 1975, boils down the story to one simple, effective and terrifying image. At the other end of the summertime spectrum is the one-sheet for American Graffiti, from 1973. Illustrated by Mort Drucker, it features caricatures of the actors centered between memorable moments from the film. The title has been done in the style of a neon sign from a drive-in diner. At first glance the image appears crowded and busy, but the three sets of musical notes are subtle cues that draw your eyes around the image in a clockwise direction, allowing you to take in each part of the image. The white space and blue border also nicely contain the image and keeps your gaze from wandering off the poster. Last up is the one-sheet for The Endless Summer II, from 1994. A documentary that follows two surfers as they follow the sun and surf around the world, searching for the perfect wave. With a color scheme limited to the warmest end of the spectrum, you can almost feel the heat from the sun in the image. A great design that captures the spirit and tone of the film in a single, simple image.
In the immortal words of Ricky-Bobby, “I like to go fast!” This weekend are two of the biggest events in automobile racing - the Indianapolis 500 and the Monaco Grand Prix - so let’s take a look at some really nice racing posters from the past and present. First up are two posters from the Indy 500, one from 1909 and one from 2017. Next is the poster from the 1965 Monaco Grand Prix. After that we have the official poster from the 2012 Baltimore Grand Prix, by Randy Owens. Last is the poster for this year's Melbourne Grand Prix, illustrated by Bill Sienkiewicz, which I included simply because it's awesome and I'm a fan of Bill's work. All of these posters do a fantastic job of conveying speed and movement to create a mood of excitement, which is the point, since no one wants to see a slow car race. The Monaco, Baltimore and Melbourne posters also include local landmarks and views of the cities that add a personalized flair to each.
The Preakness is this weekend. Let's celebrate horse racing's Triple Crown by looking at some of the logo's that have been used for each of the races and associated events. First we have this design from the Kentucky Derby. I really like the stylized horse together with the steeples from the roof of the grandstand at Churchill Downs. It also includes a rose inside a horseshoe, which is a recurring element in nearly every Derby logo. Next we have two logo's from the Preakness. I like how both create an illusion of movement, but in completely different ways. It's also nice that every logo for the Preakness utilizes the colors from the Maryland state flag. After the Preakness comes a design from the Belmont Stakes. Another nice design that gives the impression the horses are coming right at you, it also includes the New York skyline underneath. There are also longstanding traditions associated with each race, namely, flowers and ladies wearing big hats. Roses are associated with the Derby, Black-Eyed Susans with the Preakness and both races have special events in addition to the races. Both of these designs utilize stylized hats with large flowing brims and the flower associated with that race. The last design I included is for the Infield Festival at the Preakness, which is basically one giant party in the middle of the track, featuring live music, food and beverages. This is a nice dynamic design, featuring a stylized racetrack surrounding the text and image elements.
his week let's look at something everyone sees on a regular basis, but not many people actually give much thought to - wine labels. For a designer, walking into a liquor store can be like walking into an art gallery. Wine labels offer some of the most diverse and original designs, as they each try to set themselves apart from everyone else. Many now go beyond the traditional, and almost standard, script font and explore a variety of design choices. Some still lean more towards typography, but instead go in bold and abstract directions. Some use illustrations and paintings, whether it's original art or copies of famous works. Some use a combination of typography and art. Labels are also working with well-known contemporary artists, R Wines in Australia commissioned artist James Jean to create a series a labels for one of their wines. His final design was this fantasy-inspired triptych. Many designs don’t stop at just the label, as the packaging created to hold multiple bottles can be just as intricate and interesting as the bottles themselves.
The vast majority of films that are released have one, or possibly two, posters issued as part of their marketing campaign. There has been a growing trend over recent years for many of the more high-profile releases to now have mini posters as well. Occasionally they will feature the same image used on the one-sheets, but more often they will feature original illustrations or paintings, that capture specific moments or scenes from the movie. It's for this reason that I am a big fan of many of these, as the artists commissioned to create the images for the mini posters are generally allowed more freedom with their interpretations than what is found on the one-sheets. As opposed to one-sheets, there is no standard size for these, though they are usually in the 11"x17" to 13"x20" range. These mini posters are given away free at theaters, usually to ticket-holders seeing the movie opening night or weekend, or through the mail as an incentive for purchasing tickets online. It started with theaters giving away just one mini poster for a film, but now films, like the new Star Wars releases, have a new mini poster each week for the first four weeks, encouraging fans to come back for multiple viewings. Added to that, each theater chain, online ticket seller and film projection format now have their own mini poster as well. Below are the mini posters for the Justice League movie from Fandango, Regal Theaters, IMAX and Dolby.
With the release of "Avengers: Infinity War" this weekend, let's take a look at some nice posters for a few of the many characters involved. First is a one-sheet from "Captain America: The First Avenger". Fully illustrated in the style of 1940's movie serial posters, it even features a call-back to Captain America Comics #1 , from 1941, with Cap punching Hitler (I included it here for reference). Extremely hard to find, this poster was only given to members of the cast and crew from the film. Next is a one-sheet from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. The soundtrack's to both of the movies in this series are a big part of what made them so popular and this poster plays right into that. With it's layout and black & white tone, it is a straight up homage to Punk and Rock bands from the 70's and 80's. Last is a one-sheet from "Doctor Strange". Too often poster designs rely simply on a large image of the main character's face, this one takes that a step further in a fun and inventive way that shows us there is more to him than meets the eye.
As the saying goes, imitation is the greatest form of flattery. The more famous the artist, the more chances their work will inspire imitations and reinterpretations. Few modern day artists are as influential as Frank Frazetta. In particular, his illustration which was used for the cover of the 1970 edition of "A Princess of Mars" has inspired numerous other works, some of which have become notable in their own right. Take, for example, Tom Jung's design for the Star Wars "A" one-sheet from 1977, which has become one of the most iconic film posters of all time. George Lucas drew a lot of inspiration for Star Wars from the John Carter series, so it’s no surprise the poster would as well. Released in 1982, the poster for Conan the Barbarian, by Renato Casera, also shows a lot of similarities to both Frazetta’s and Jung’s pieces. These two posters also make a significant stylistic change from Frazetta's, in that the "damsel in distress" has ditched the distress part of how they are portrayed. While both of these take a serious approach to their reinterpretation, others take a lighter approach. The direction for Boris Vallejo's poster for National Lampoon's Vacation, from 1983, is very much tongue-in-cheek. Vallejo is an extremely popular fantasy artist in his own right, so having him do a fantasy style image for a film that is the complete opposite like this one is sheer brilliance. Lastly, Alan Davis' cover for issue #16 of Excalibur, from 1989, also takes a humorous approach, with the expressions on several of the characters faces telling the viewer something is not right about this situation. Regular readers of the X-Men titles get a little added enjoyment in seeing Nightcrawler reimagined in the role of John Carter, knowing that his character always fancied himself as a swashbuckling pirate.
Last week we looked to the future with NASA's travel posters, this week we look to the past and there are few travel poster campaigns more memorable than the one produced by Pan American Airlines. Pan Am was founded in 1927 with one route between Key West and Havana and eventually grew to one of the largest airlines in the world, before a variety of circumstances led to their demise in the early 1990's. There were posters advertising flights to just about every city, country and continent. Utilizing bright colors and bold graphics, most of them, such as the Cuba and Far East posters, featured an illustration showcasing the landscape or culture of the destination. A few tried something different - this poster for Europe used postage stamps to represent each country, while the poster for Bermuda is a three-dimensional representation of the island made out of paper, which was then photographed against a blue background.
Over the last several years NASA has run a really fun advertising campaign to promote the space program. Using a retro travel poster theme, they have released a series of posters imagining what it would be like to travel to other planets, but doing it in a way that assumes space travel is just as common as getting on a plane and flying across the country. There have also been posters promoting the achievements of the Voyager and Cassini space probes, some of which draw inspiration from 70's and 80's era music posters. Over twenty posters have been created so far and the best part of this campaign is that NASA has offered high resolution files of all the images for anyone to download, free of charge, and have them printed poster size.
All of the images can be found at the following sites...