Thursday, April 30, 2009


Here's a timely one: 2008 Oscar-nominee Revanche.

If you're in New York, Seattle, or Boston, you can catch this really excellent film in it's premiere American theatrical run starting tomorrow, and from there it moves on to more cities across the country; check here for more details.

Janus Films hasn't released a first-run film in 30 years (well, depending on how you classify the never-screened-in-the-U.S.-but-nonetheless-40-year-old Army of Shadows), so we wanted to be sure to do right by Revanche. There was an existing poster from the original European release:

It's definitely graphically compelling but, to our eyes, didn't present a complete enough picture of the film to an American audience that wouldn't immediately get the resonance of the title ("revanche" being a word that means simultaneously "revenge" and "second chance"). Plus, we wanted the opportunity to put our own stamp on it, to differentiate our release from the European run. But, not too much, which mean we wanted to keep the (excellent) title treatment intact. So, it was basically a question of finding the right image to match with the type.

I was immediately drawn to this image, which asks all the right questions (Who is that guy? Why does he want to kill that other guy? Will he or won't he?), and gives a great sense of the kind of serene landscape that defines the second half of the film. But in these first attempts I was having trouble fitting it into the correct size for the poster in an interesting way. (The white bars on the side of the second version are a misguided attempt to create a smaller artificial "canvas" for the image, but really they just end up looking like big white bars for no reason.)

This next one I actually quite like--it's got a lot of resonance for those who've already seen the film. But, since this is, after all, a first-run release, no one has seen the film yet! Someone described this at some point as "the Criterion edition of this film, if it was a well-known classic that had been released 20 years ago," which I think is dead on. It's not doing enough to introduce the film to a brand new audience.

This one gets at more wood-chopping action ("axplay"?), but puts much too much focus on her rather than him--it really is his film.

And this one doesn't have a whole lot going for it, honestly. Again, too much emphasis on her.

Popular opinion leaned pretty strongly toward the first image, I just had to find a new crop for it. So, a little photoshop work to extend the trees and lake over to the right a bit, and I came up with this crop, which I think works pretty well! This became the final poster, which you can hopefully see hanging at an art house movie theater near you very soon!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Spy Who Came In From The Cold

Martin Ritt's film of The Spy Who Came in from the Cold sticks so closely to the John le Carre novel it's based on that if you read the novel after watching the film (which I did), it gives an intense sensation of deja vu. Both are great, though, and well worth your time!

Anyway, here's my comps for the DVD cover. They're generally pretty straightforward--Berlin wall, Richard Burton, cold war spy stuff. Luckily, with a title that evocative, you don't have to do much to get the point of the story across. This was an occasion where my first instinct was actually the direction we wound up going in, pretty much un-altered, so I'll save that one for last.

The second cover I worked up I had a strange fondness for because there's basically no logic to why that inset photo of Richard Burton should work at all--but for some reason it does, and that kind of inexplicable thing is always kind of fun. But of course, at the end of the day it's a big movie star head in the inset, which is maybe a little tacky.

This next was my (misguided) attempt to bring a little color into the mix, give the whole thing kind of a '60s spy novel flavor... it winds up being a little too "pop," though. The composition wouldn't be bad if rejiggered into black and white (maybe leaving "SPY" in some color), but is kind of a plot spoiler anyway, and the focus is a bit too much on the girl rather than the spy in question. (I do like the way she's looking at "SPY" though.)

This one's pretty simple, just Richard Burton sitting on the Berlin wall. There's nothing wrong with it, but nothing groundbreaking either.

And finally, the winner, a really simple shot of the Berlin wall with some strong type overtop. It's a little bookish, but in a good way, I think. Not using Richard Burton was an initially controversial choice (we don't get many movies starring well-known American movie stars around here, so generally we like to spotlight them at least a little), but ultimately I think leaving him out focuses your attention on the themes of the film, which is for the best. Plus, I just think it's pretty striking, frankly!

Anyway, all of those were sent around at the same time, and that last was the consensus choice. For contractual reasons, Martin Ritt's name had to be removed from the cover, which was a shame (both for design and content reasons), but not the end of the world. And thus you have the final cover:

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Another review

I promise I'm going to do another design post soon. Really.

In the meantime, since I'm trying to archive all this kind of stuff here, here's another review, this time of the short story by Connor Willumsen and myself featured in POPGUN vol 3, "These Kids Today" (also reprinted in EGG #1, of course!). The fine folks at a website called "Comic Addiction" are reviewing each POPGUN story individually, and had some very nice things to say about our story; here's that short review by Aziz Bawany, in full:

Whether it was intentional or not, the beginning and end of These Kids Today has this cyclical nature of darkness that makes this story go from a one-night-stand to one incredible cool noir story. We don’t know who the main character is, but if you pay attention to the art you can see this rich transformation that is captured so perfectly. It’s a great read and it hits some great beats in such a limited amount of pages. One of the better stories of Popgun, this team shouldn’t be missed.

Rating: 8 out of 10 (On its Way to Greatness!)


Monday, April 13, 2009

Another EGG review

Another generally positive review for EGG #1, this time from Brian Cronin over at Comics Should Be Good! :

Skillman is a very strong writer, and these five stories are really pretty remarkable, in the sense that Skillman is able to tell five interesting stories in 24 pages.

For the record, I think he underpraises the art--for example, Jorge did much more for that story than "not get in [my] way"!! As far as I'm concerned, each of the five artists did amazing work! But it is of course the critic's prerogative to have their own opinion on these matters, and I can't be too mad considering what nice things he has to say about my writing... Anyway, thanks for taking the time to review the book, Brian!

In other news, we seem to have inspired the world's lonliest forum. Anyone with a Rotten Tomatoes account want to drop Mr. Danny Zuko a note to let him know he can pick up a copy at Indyplanet?

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Popgun hits stores tomorrow

I just got my copy of POPGUN vol. 3 in the mail today--and if you make the trek out to your local comics store, you can pick up your very own copy tomorrow, I believe. I haven't had a chance to read through the whole thing yet, but I did make a point to check out Connor Willumsen's other story, "Crow Rooster," which is, naturally, pretty great.

Anyway--my and Connor's story in here is my first published comics work, (i.e. published by someone other than myself), so I'm pretty psyched about it! I'm still working my way up to getting my name on the actual front cover of a book (every designer's secret dream), but the back cover is a pretty good step:

I was also psyched to see that they took my favorite panel from "These Kids Today" for their back cover montage (top circle, lower middle).

And hey, if $29.99 is too steep for you, don't forget that EGG is still available for sale online at for only four measly dollars.... I'm just sayin'...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

MoCCA, anyone?

Hey, anyone out there have some space on a MoCCA table they might be willing to part with? Connor Willumsen and I were going to go halvsies on a table, but they sold out almost immediately, apparently. (I think we got our application in a day after registration opened!)

Anyway, other avenues we were trying seem to have dried up, so if you've got some space on your table you might be interested in selling to one or both of us, drop me a line at design [at] ericskillman [dot] com.