Wednesday, March 25, 2009

AX: Alternative Manga

So, for a "design process" blog, I haven't posted much design process in a while, huh? Sorry about that! How about this: over at the Top Shelf blog, Brett Warnock recently posted a link (along with some very flattering comments that I probably don't deserve) to the page of comps I sent them for their upcoming AX anthology of "alternative manga"--basically, manga for people who like to think. If you've read any of those great Yoshihiro Tatsumi anthologies Drawn & Quarterly has been putting out for the past few years, you'll have an idea of what to expect. (Useless trivia: Good Bye was the Yankee Swap gift I (happily) went home with from last year's Criterion Holiday party.) You can also see some sample pages (and relevant links) at editor Sean Michael Wilson's blog.

Anyway, the anthology collects material from a Japanese anthology magazine of the same name, so the editors had already decided on the cover art they wanted for the first volume (of what will hopefully be a continuing series), and we knew we had a wealth of great cover art to choose from going forward. (You can browse some of that cover art at this (official, I think?) Japanese AX site.)My job, then, was to create a series design template that could be used for this and future volumes.

If you're curious to see the comps in exactly the same format that the editors and publisher did, then click here, but in the interest of archiving it (since I'll probably take that page down sooner or later), here are those concepts in their entirety:

Okay, here's four options for the AX series. Because this is something that will want to continue on through future volumes, I've mocked up each idea using both the first volume cover and also with the other illustration you gave me that might wind up on a future volume, to give you an idea of how it might evolve.


This is pretty straightforward, but effective, I think... a good, simple option. Colors can change from series to series but placement, etc, should remain consistant. The top left corner placement mirrors the original japanese covers, so we can be confident that that space will be available on any future illustrations you might want to use.


A slightly more dynamic treatment, still using that original top left corner placement, but spreading the information out a bit as well. [Bonus fact for blog readers: if you're wondering, that somewhat odd colored shape behind the text? It's actually an enlargement of the negative space between the "A" and "X" in "AX." Plus, it kind of looks like an ax blade? Maybe? Probably too clever by half, but I thought it was pure genius for at least a couple of hours.]


This one is the most intrusive on the art, and for that reason I'm least fond of it, but I wanted to send one option that felt more "magazine-y."


And on the other end of the spectrum, this one is the least intrusive on the art, and therefore my favorite. The cover would contain only the "ax" logo (taken from the original japanese editions) and the minimal type, which can be placed wherever is most attractive on the art. Then the spine becomes much more important for conveying the information that would otherwise have been on the cover, but that's okay because this is going to be such a thick book (400 pages, right?), so we'll have lots of spine real estate to play with. I've mocked up some 3D versions to show how this could work, with the spine picking up on the color from the logo on the cover. The white border around the image on the cover will also help to be a consistent element to maintain harmony through the series.

This last one is definitely my favorite... when you've got such a great image as that girl in flowers image, the more you can let that speak for itself, the better, in my opinion.

The Top Shelf folks all agreed on concept #1 as the winner. There was one last round of changes--Mitsuhiro Asakawa decided he didn't feel it was appropriate to have his name on the cover without the book's artists, so we removed that at his request, and I adjusted the font a bit to accommodate the change (which also allowed me to potentially use my spine design from concept #4, which I'm happy about). And here's the final cover:

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Our first review!

EGG #1 just got a very nice write-up from Jamie S. Rich (a fine writer himself) over at his Criterion Confessions blog. A snippet:

The book contains five crime stories, somewhat in an EC Comics/Alfred Hitchcock Presents vein: short pieces with a swift kick in the end. All the tales are drawn by different artists, all with different yet complementary styles tied together by the matching coloring approach. Artistically, there are shades of Paul Pope, Phil Noto, Mike Oeming, and the comics series Criminal, and yet every story is drawn with its own unique spin. If you like any of those other guys, you oughta like Egg, as well.

Thanks, Jamie!

And, hey, while we're on the subject, don't forget that EGG #1 is now available for only $4 at (Yes, I'm shameless.)

Monday, March 23, 2009

EGG on sale online!

As promised, the first issue of EGG, written by me and drawn by Connor Willumsen, Jhomar Soriano, Dan Duncan, Joe Dellagatta, and Jorge Coehlo, is now available for sale online! You can still read all the stories on my site, of course, but I still like to think there's something to the experience of reading them on paper. They're $4 each, for 25 story pages--how's that for value?

Click here to order from

(And if you're like me and you prefer to order multiple items to convince yourself you're saving money on shipping, I can recommend a few other items from the Indyplanet catalog: EGG's own Joe Dellagatta has a great story, "The Fisherman's Wife," in an anthology called Mysterious Adventure Magazine. Or, Evan Bryce's Roman Thug Life sketchbook is full of great stuff. And I also liked Jon Sukarangsan's Hurricane Season quite a bit.)

Friday, March 6, 2009


Robert has just posted the other drawing I did for his great Covered blog, another '90s Superman cover, this time by the underrated Jon Bodganove--for my money, one of the great iconic Superman artists. Check it out.

And if you haven't been keeping up with Covered, well, you've really been missing out.

Thursday, March 5, 2009


Hey! I almost forgot!! The POPGUN website is live, and you can go there to pre-order POPGUN vol. 3!

Why should you do this? Well, apart from the general fact that it's sure to be a fun book, it's also the home of my first officially published comic story! It's a little 3-page thing drawn by the great Connor Willumsen, which also appears in EGG #1,* and which you can read in it's entirety here. But still: now it'll be available in a big honkin' book with a snazzy Tara McPhearson cover and dozens of other (presumably) great stories!

As you can probably tell, I'm very excited about this.

*Speaking of EGG, there have been some slight delays in getting it set up for online sales, but soon, I promise!!

Also coming soon(ish): new comics!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Hey, thanks!

Wow! One little blog calls you brilliant, and suddenly everyone's sending you their portfolios! I've gotten dozens of emails from designers and illustrators of all stripes in a past few days, a lot of which are really great! I haven't had a chance to get back to everyone yet, but I will absolutely try to do so soon. In the meantime, consider this a blanket Thank You to all concerned, and keep 'em coming--I always love seeing new work!

(And thanks also to everyone who just wrote to say nice things about the blog--that's always nice to hear, too!)

P.S. A word of advice to a couple of you: you might want to reconsider the autoplay music on your portfolio sites. Your work might be brilliant, but I'll never know if I have to immediately close the window to keep it from clashing with my iTunes and/or annoying my coworkers. Just a little pet peeve of mine...