J. Gonzo 0:20
All right, Episode 77. We’re back and we’re back with Gonzo.
Hey, how’s it going?
Don Mock 0:23
Welcome back, brother.
J. Gonzo 0:24
Yep. Good. Good to be back. Been too long.
Don Mock 0:25
Yeah, absolutely. It’s amazing how that happens. So much fun. So much fun. All right. As we did last time, I said, “Hey, you come up with ideas of what you want to talk about.” I’m just happy you’re on the podcast, right? So tell the people what we’re gonna be talking about today.
J. Gonzo 0:39
We’re gonna talk about graphic design and comic books, man. I think an area only only you and I can talk about.
Don Mock 0:44
Yeah, maybe this is an audience of two.
J. Gonzo 0:47
Yeah, it might be. Listen, I want to think that people who know you probably know some comic stuff, some of them. Everyone who’s a graphic designer here, nowadays, you can’t escape comic books. So I think, let’s talk about the source material here. If you like the Jane Austen movies, let’s talk about the books.
Don Mock 1:03
Yeah. Well, I’ve loved comics ever since I was a little kid. I think I told the story. I got sick when I was a little guy, back in the day, when we had no remote controls.
J. Gonzo 1:13
Don Mock 1:13
And we had three channels on the TV- CLUNK CLUNK CLUNK. Or you had the UHF.
J. Gonzo 1:18
Yeah, you had like 56 channels.
Don Mock 1:19
Yeah. And my grandfather- Grandpa Bing- well, they had a flower shop for 50 years out in California. Right across the street was a store called Comics and Comics. Second comics with an X because they were crazy. Oh man, Comics and Comix.
J. Gonzo 1:31
Because they were extreme.
Don Mock 1:32
Yeah. So he ran over and got a gigantic stack of comic books and brought it and that was that. Hooked. Done. For the rest of my life. What got you into comics?
J. Gonzo 1:40
Spider Man. I liked the cartoon and then my grandparents-
Don Mock 1:44
We both share a love of spider Man.
J. Gonzo 1:45
Yeah, definitely. Yeah, I’m gonna have Flip and then the Spiderweb tattooed on my fingers.
Don Mock 1:49
J. Gonzo 1:51
Yeah, my family, my parents and I we lived in Orange County, the very ass end of Orange County. Yeah. But all of my grandparents lived in LA County. So they got the LA Times, we got the Orange County Register. The LA Times carried the SpiderMan newspapers. The Orange County Register did not, so it was daily strip. So my-
Don Mock 2:11
Larry Lieber strip.
J. Gonzo 2:11
Yeah, I think so. Yeah. And Stan wrote it, or ostensively “wrote,” air quote, big quotation marks. But my grandfather, my dad’s dad knew my love of Spiderman, and he was a guy who read the paper every day.
Don Mock 2:23
Did he save all the papers for you?
J. Gonzo 2:24
Yeah, he would clip them out.
Don Mock 2:25
J. Gonzo 2:25
So I had basically a comic book. And he knew I was into- and honestly, I was watching the old Ralph Bakshi produced, 1960s Spider Man cartoon, with the weird psychedelic stuff and I dug that.
Don Mock 2:36
Great theme song.
J. Gonzo 2:37
But when I saw the graphic style of black and white in this Spiderman strip in the newspaper and I was-
Don Mock 2:44
Blew your mind?
J. Gonzo 2:44
That blew my mind. Then my same set of grandparents bought me the 1977, maybe 76, Marvel rubber stamp set. It has at Kirby art in it.
Don Mock 2:55
J. Gonzo 2:55
And it’s like Kirby Thor, Silver surfers. First time I saw the Silver Surfer, Captain America. And they were stamps.
Don Mock 3:01
So you could stamp whatever you wanted.
J. Gonzo 3:02
Black or white. You know what I mean? It was hard contrast. I remember inking it up and stamping down the Silver Surfer the first time and seeing that it looked like a Metallica dude. It was just lines, with no shading.
Don Mock 3:15
That’s awesome. I love about your face is lighting up when you’re telling me the story, too.
J. Gonzo 3:18
Oh, Man. Well, you know my art style.
Don Mock 3:19
J. Gonzo 3:20
I’m a very bold kind of artist. I like big bold, I like graphic art, obviously. When I saw that Silver Surfer hit the paper, I was like, oh, man, I gotta figure out how this guy does that. Not knowing who Jack Kirby was or anything.
Don Mock 3:33
J. Gonzo 3:33
Then I think in about 77 as well, I got a power record, a Spiderman Power Record with the dragon men and the werewolf.
Don Mock 3:43
J. Gonzo 3:43
Which was Dick Giordano doing the illustration and the dragon men and- I forget who does the werewolf one.
Don Mock 3:49
He was doing Marvel stuff. Giordana was so famous for being a DC. It’s fascinating.
J. Gonzo 3:53
Total funny aside here. I actually talked to Neil Adams about This because it was years. I’d known Neil for probably a decade at this point. Or been friendly with. He always knew he knew me and he knew he liked me, because we talked about weird stuff every time we talk. We’re talking about Megalith and Samory. I wasn’t asking him about Batman or-
Don Mock 4:10
All the obvious stuff he’s answering 10,000 times.
J. Gonzo 4:12
Dude. Let’s talk about Megalith, man. Let’s talk about some continuity garbage. But this is probably five years ago, so just a little bit before he passes. I had just found out that he was the guy who had packaged all of the stuff for Power Records to do those comics.
Don Mock 4:28
J. Gonzo 4:29
It was Peter Pan Comics- I’m sorry, Peter Pan Records had established, they had storybook records. It had established Power Records to do all this comic book stuff. Marvel and DC, some Star Treks, Sherlock Holmes stuff, it was all… but Adams, having that studio, packaged it all together.
Don Mock 4:45
J. Gonzo 4:47
So I’m like, I gotta go talk to Neil about this. And so I walk up like, Neil, man I just found out you were the guy who put together all the Power Records stuff. And dude, his face lit up.
Don Mock 4:55
Yeah, cuz no one’s ever asked me about this. What a great- yeah. So that’s how Dick Giorgano got in.
J. Gonzo 5:00
This is why. This is why he lit up when he said that. He goes, “Man,” he goes, “those people that no idea what it cost to make a comic book, and they had a ton of money. So I hired everyone who was good to me. I got them overpaid for work, to make, to draw the same characters that they were getting underpaid to work at the big studios for.” So Giordano had been, I think, the guy who hired him first.
Don Mock 5:21
Wow, okay. Makes sense.
J. Gonzo 5:22
So he hired Giordano.
Don Mock 5:23
He was an art director at DC, I feel like, for a long time.
J. Gonzo 5:25
Yeah, but this didn’t violate- he wasn’t going to Marvel to do work.
Don Mock 5:28
J. Gonzo 5:29
He was going to Power Records to do work. And Power Records was doing DC stuff as well. They did some great Batman records, some Superman stuff.
Don Mock 5:34
J. Gonzo 5:36
So yeah, he just hooked all his buddies up. Because-
Don Mock 5:39
The network, man.
J. Gonzo 5:39
Because he could. At the time, it probably cost, maybe two grand, to make a comic back then. He told Power Records it cost 10 grand to make a comic, and they said, “Sure.”
Don Mock 5:48
They said, let’s do it.
J. Gonzo 5:48
Let’s do it. And he said, Awesome. I’m gonna get all of my friends paid. So yeah, it was great. Talked to Adams about that. And apparently- I might be talking out of turn, but he is gone- apparently why he ended up not doing that anymore, is that the owner of Power Records wife was sweet on Neil.
Don Mock 6:02
J. Gonzo 6:02
And that’s part of why he was getting such a sweetheart deal. Yeah. And eventually, the guy who ran it found out-
Don Mock 6:08
Found out the finances.
J. Gonzo 6:09
And then put an end to… well, he just put an end to the- I think it was more that she was sweet on him, and less about the money. Cause they were making their money back.
Don Mock 6:16
J. Gonzo 6:16
So the cover of that also has that John Romita Spiderman. Okay. That genre, which is that license. You’ve seen it on backpacks.
Don Mock 6:24
J. Gonzo 6:24
Don Mock 6:24
Would you say John Romita is the definitive Spiderman artist for non- if you take the entire populace of non-comic book people, I would say Romita is the definitive. I think that’s what people see when they think of Spiderman.
J. Gonzo 6:37
If you were born between like 65 and maybe 90- 95, maybe, maybe 92. I think kind of the only spider Man that you saw until maybe Todd took over as the guy-
Don Mock 6:48
Was John Romita.
J. Gonzo 6:49
Was John Romita.
Don Mock 6:50
But even still today, that Romita Spider Man is still pretty much the one used for a lot of licensing and a lot of that stuff.
J. Gonzo 6:56
I mean, that’s what it was. The Power Record is that, Marvel was like, Oh, here’s your license version. Then you find an artist and they did that not knowing he was gonna find legit comic artists. Cuz you see those Marvel coloring books, and some of those Marvel’s paperbacks.
Don Mock 7:08
It’s like clipart, to a certain extent.
J. Gonzo 7:09
Exactly. So um, yeah, so okay-
Don Mock 7:12
So that’s what got you into comics.
J. Gonzo 7:12
That’s what go me into comics, yeah.
Don Mock 7:13
J. Gonzo 7:13
Then, yeah, man. I wanted to draw comics forever. I went to the Orange County High School of the Arts, where they kind of poo- pooed the idea of comic books.
Don Mock 7:14
Really? That’s interesting.
J. Gonzo 7:16
Because this was like, 1988, when I was in high school.
Don Mock 7:24
Shout out to Sandra Reid. I had a life-drawing professor that tried her hardest to break me of the hard outline. A hard line from, the Inkin style of whatever. She basically spent an entire semester just hammering me on, don’t draw it like comic. You know what, go tone it down. I’m like, man, I love it. This is what I love.
J. Gonzo 7:42
Yeah, it’s like pull out some to lose the track. That’s the thing that really kind of pushed me back into it. I did end up being a classically trained artist at High School of the Arts. But then, eventually, you discover someone like Lautrec. He’s doing hard outlines. He’s doing comics. Japanese, look at Hukosai. That’s comics.
Don Mock 8:01
J. Gonzo 8:01
Then Van Gogh was ripping off Hukosai and stuff. So yeah. I did the High School of the Arts. I mean, it didn’t really- they just didn’t see any value in it. It was still trash culture at that point.
Don Mock 8:13
Well, it’s a weird commercial art. I mean, to a certain extent, advertising a design, we do a tremendous amount of commercial art. That’s what we do. But it was kind of this weird, lower form of commercial art. A lot of artists and even writers use pen names and things like that. So it wouldn’t sully their storyboard career or their advertising career.
J. Gonzo 8:32
Or their fine art gallery career.
Don Mock 8:33
Yeah, exactly. They would do comics under a different name. It’s kind of interesting.
J. Gonzo 8:36
It’s all I ever, ever wanted to do. But-
Don Mock 8:38
I love comics, sequential storytelling. I love the whole thing.
J. Gonzo 8:41
I mean, I think it’s a uniquely American art form. I mean, I know the Europeans have their take on it. They’re kind of getting closer together. But I think that monthly periodical, disposable comics, that have a way to be great, that only kind of trash culture can have, was really perfected by America. Those Jewish artists in the 30s really- because all the real artists were doing strips. Then the guys who couldn’t quite do that… I love amateur enthusiasm, more than technical acumen any day of the week.
Don Mock 9:14
Well, there was a- I don’t disagree with that. There was an interesting inflection point, too, of being a newspaper. You said strips, to be clear. Being a newspaper, daily comic artist, like writing like Prince Valiant, or Jim Davis with Garfield, Beetle Bailey, all the classic stuff, that was looked more favorably upon than like oh-
J. Gonzo 9:39
You had elbow patches and a pipe if you did that sort of thing.
Don Mock 9:42
So yeah, exactly. You were like a legit, commercial, fine artist. And all was good in the world, versus comic books, which was like, oh, no, no, no, that’s like kiddie little stuff.
J. Gonzo 9:51
I mean, even back then, if you were in comics, you were still you know, dealing with the boys. You know what I mean? So it was a it was a dirtier world. But as I got out of high school. As I started pushing toward the end of high school, I actually started… well, A. I had an art teacher. I went to a regular high school for most of the day. And High School of the Arts was the last part of my day.
Don Mock 10:10
J. Gonzo 10:11
Then I, for whatever reason, I needed credits. I actually took an art class at my regular high school, regular art teacher. That guy was very encouraging about comic books.
Don Mock 10:18
J. Gonzo 10:19
Saw that I had a knack for it.
Don Mock 10:19
Okay. So where does design mix in on this?
J. Gonzo 10:22
This is where we’re getting there. So as I start pushing towards graduation, I’m seeing more and more of my artist friends, graduate and then have to try to find careers. Or try to go to school or what have you. I just saw class after class, and then all most of my class of my friends as artists, just become starving artists in Los Angeles. Living in these squats in downtown LA and all this stuff.
Don Mock 10:43
J. Gonzo 10:44
It looked real hard.
Don Mock 10:45
J. Gonzo 10:47
And I’ve never been great at the politics of any business I’ve ever been in. Design, comics, tattooing- any of that. I’m a guy who likes to do good work. I’m not real great at sussing out, how to navigate people. I’m also a guy who speaks his mind. So it’s hard for me to be kind of political in anything. I just-
Don Mock 11:06
I don’t think you give yourself enough credit. But keep going.
J. Gonzo 11:08
Okay. I saw the politics of the gallery world, at least in Los Angeles.
Don Mock 11:13
Oh, yeah, for sure.
J. Gonzo 11:14
The kind of people that you do have to navigate. I’m complete proletariat, protest-ey, kind of guy. I’m just the punkest of punk dudes. When I graduate high school, I am the punkest of punks. So the idea of maintaining my punk, anarchic lifestyle by kissing the butt of debutantes.
Don Mock 11:37
Those two, they don’t go well together.
J. Gonzo 11:39
I was like, Nah, I’m not doing that. I did spend like a year kind of trying to figure out some way to maintain my principles and still be a creative. I ended up, I stayed in LA for like a year on my own. My parents had moved to Arizona. Yeah. LA is a bad town to be broke in. After two months of living in a motel, slash my car. I finally was like, I’m moving in with my parents. When I got there, they’re like, “what’s your plan?” I’m like, “I don’t know. I think I’m just gonna go into commercial art,” which is what we used to call graphic design. They’re like, “Oh, that sounds cool.” So my mom had knew a girl who had gone to this terrible, terrible trade school. I’m going to drop its name. Called Al Collins Graphic Designs School. It’s like a step below DeVry.
Don Mock 12:22
J. Gonzo 12:23
But it’s graphic design. However, when I was there, Al Collins had just passed, his son was running it. His curriculum was still there. And Al was a legit ad guy, and had been for years. So I just got into graphic design. As I got into utilizing the principles and elements of design in a way that was abstracted and was these elements that weren’t as illustrative as comic books. I really just took to it and like, Oh, This is kind of like… This sensibility- that kind of Swiss design sensibility that everybody loves- that speaks to what I liked about that Jack Kirby stamp back in the day. So I just took to it, and then I subsequently… I got my degree and then I just did nothing with it for five years. That’s when I learned how to tattoo. Like I literally got my degree and offered an apprenticeship in the same month.
Don Mock 13:08
J. Gonzo 13:09
So I was like, Oh, I’m gonna tattoo and I did that for a while. But I did do freelance graphic design to finance my apprenticeship.
Don Mock 13:15
J. Gonzo 13:15
Then once I started. Then once I had a kid I’m like, I should dust off that portfolio so I have things like benefits and steady paychecks.
Don Mock 13:22
Absolutely. That’s helpful sometimes.
J. Gonzo 13:24
Worked in graphic design for years and years.
Don Mock 13:26
So when you think about the confluence of graphic design and comic books, and comics in general, what spurs to your mind? I mean, I have my immediate thoughts. I’m curious to hear your thoughts.
J. Gonzo 13:38
I think like logo design, trade dress- all of the things that aren’t the art that really go into like the feel of a comic. Because if you look at, maybe less so now-
Don Mock 13:45
The mast head design.
J. Gonzo 13:46
Yeah, if you look at the trade dress of Marvel from the corner box. And the Marvel Comic Group across the top, that banner was genius. There’s something that, you look at a DC comic, with all of its- so DC Comics, for about 20 years, were typically a big color image in the center. A full color image. With a single color hold line work in the background. So it’d be like red on red or green line work or what have you. Then a lot of words and some little inset bubbles. I just think about the overall look and feel of the DC stuff that happened, when Marvel was doing the corner box. Then the big Marvel Comics Group at the top.
Don Mock 14:30
DC had almost… it felt like multiple panels, and one on the cover, selling you what was happening on the inside. Marvel had just one splash image. They did have dialog boxes for quite a long time. Now we don’t even get those anymore.
J. Gonzo 14:30
I put it on there.
Don Mock 14:45
But it was kind of like, hey, the thing- what a revolt in development- or whatever. Something was happening.
J. Gonzo 14:52
One of these will die.
Don Mock 14:53
Yeah, exactly, like a big splashy image and a big call to action. And then that’s it.
J. Gonzo 14:59
Back to what we do. Comic book covers, until about a decade ago, were ads. They were just straight up advertising.
Don Mock 15:06
J. Gonzo 15:07
So you have your branding on there. You got your logo. You gotta get your CTA. You gotta get all of that stuff, was in there. You got to get a little taste, you got to get a feel, you got to get-
Don Mock 15:14
I think about the- you mentioned Spidey. The old Spidey Hobgoblin. Who is this guy? The silhouette.
J. Gonzo 15:20
Yeah, yeah, with the question mark in there.
Don Mock 15:21
Question marks inside silhouettes. Who’s gonna die? You know what I mean? Like is Captain Stacy dying? There was very much was an ad. It’s a teaser ad, that happens to be illustrated, of course. To get you to buy this 60-cent comic book.
J. Gonzo 15:35
Back to I think a little bit of what we talked about- logo flexibility- last time, if someone was anyone listened to that. They got to the point where comic shops, newstands, there were so many of them, that you wouldn’t even see all of the comic, right. Sometimes they’d be overlapping. Marvel does a genius thing and makes the corner box, so you can still see. Then Eerie does a thing where it just says Horror or Terror along the side of it. So even if you just have the tiniest bit of it… again, having the graphic design sense, to know where it’s going to be seen.
Don Mock 16:01
J. Gonzo 16:01
You know, like we were talking about it. When you are in complete control, this is what it looks like. You see the whole cover, and it’s all its glory. When it’s in a shop and it’s living out of your control, and some shop owner stacks one book on the other, but just the eighth of an inch sliver, you still see the word terror. That’s enough to catch a 12-year-old boy’s eye. Go, did that say “terror.” Did that say, “death.” I want to see what’s in that.
Don Mock 16:19
J. Gonzo 16:20
So those are the graphic design elements
Don Mock 16:22
Funny, we’re both smiling ear-to-ear, because we know the little nuances that, as to the reason why those things were created. But most people probably have no idea. You know what I mean? It’s just part of the-
J. Gonzo 16:33
Don Mock 16:35
All those little details really matter.
J. Gonzo 16:39
Absolutely. Yeah. To me, they make a comic book feel like a comic book. Nowadays are just these clean version variants that just have one big image on them, because they’re gonna live on a browser now. So you already have all the information next to it in the hypertext that’s in the your web page. You don’t need to have the title. You don’t need to have the issue number. You don’t need to have any call out, because it’s literally going to live next to the thumbnail. Now comic covers are thumbnails. Before they were ads.
Don Mock 17:02
It’s so funny. I was going to just mention that, basically, everything’s a thumbnail now.
J. Gonzo 17:06
Don Mock 17:06
We even have, we have a music client of ours. They do a lot of music publishing- APM and Universal Music and things like that. So we do a lot of actual album covers, which is super fun.
J. Gonzo 17:19
Don Mock 17:20
But it’s not the big-
J. Gonzo 17:22
Not the 12 by 12.
Yeah, it’s not the 12 by 12 LP. Of the days, you don’t even have any text on there. Like you think about Led Zeppelin album cover. It doesn’t even say… it says nothing.
It doesn’t need to, because it all of that lives in the hypertext that’s going to be set next to it that you have no control over.
Don Mock 17:42
Now, we’re basically taking those 12 by 12s, and we’re making it a tiny, little thumbnail, trying to get get everything. We have to think about it backwards, almost.
J. Gonzo 17:51
Youcan also strip out. Again, it’s like knowing where things live. And the better part of our job is like, how is this going to be engaged with and with whom.
Don Mock 17:58
J. Gonzo 17:59
Yes, absolutely. It’s the only thing that matters, actually, because I can make something that looks great on the dimensional outdoor sign. And it’s backlit and all that, but hey, how does that look when it’s teeny. 120 by 120. Or 90 by 90.
Don Mock 18:15
The social posts or whatever.
J. Gonzo 18:16
Exactly. You gotta consider that. And also, if you do put that information on the cover, now it looks redundant to all the hypertext that links next to it.
Don Mock 18:24
J. Gonzo 18:25
So you look like you don’t know what you’re doing. But anyway, comics had had a really good feel of turning covers into ads, especially when there were tons and tons of them. And telling a bit of the story, it’s a little bit of an appetizer. It’s giving you a feel of what’s going to happen, whether or not that particular scene, tableau on the cover actually is a scene from the book. In fact, so much so that when it actually did happen in the book, that would be on the cover, “This actually happens.” This actual image will be seen in the comic book and you’re like, “Okay, I gotta find out if that’s a dream sequence, or what.”
Don Mock 18:56
And it’s funny, and it varies from publisher to publisher, because a lot of times, cover artists were designing things totally agnostic or independent of what was happening with the actual interior pages. Sometimes things lined up. Sometimes it didn’t, and deadlines are deadlines. We hear these funny stories about, in the 60s or 70s. So an editor would have a drawer full of covers and just filler issues, because it really was a disposable periodical. It almost didn’t matter story for story. It’s like, it’s just number 178, Number 179. Number two. They’d get it out the door.
J. Gonzo 19:27
Slap a new cover on an old issue and just give that some new life.
Don Mock 19:31
We had 50 issues of the X-Men that were just reprints. They just recolored the front. Okay, so what do you think about design on the interior? And graphic design, panel design, as you’re navigating through sequential pages of art?
J. Gonzo 19:48
Well, I think where design comes in, as a guy who’s a designer who makes comic books I do think about the- everything is a two page spread in a comic book. So I designed that way. In my thumbnails, page one is independent. But I also know what the IFC- the inside front cover- is gonna be. Then I design everything as a spread. Then I kind of look at- my thumbnails are all 22 pages on a single sheet. So I can see the rhythm of the-
Don Mock 20:10
Flow of the enitre book.
J. Gonzo 20:11
Exactly. I got too many small panels at the beginning. You never see a panel at eighth the size of the page again, until the last page. I mean, that may or may not support the emotional truth of the moment. Because comics are about emotion. This is the same with advertising. Nobody cares about what you write in a comic book. Nobody cares about what you draw in a comic book. They care about how they feel about what you’ve written and drawn. So everything should support the feeling of that. So the same with advertising. No one really cares about the headline or the image, but what they care about is how they feel about it.
Don Mock 20:45
Yes. What’s the takeaway?
J. Gonzo 20:46
Exactly. I’m a firm believer that every two page spread should have some kind of emotional journey. So if it starts sad, it should get happy. There should be some change of emotional state between the upper left and the bottom right. Then how is that supported by the panel layout? If this is a chase scene, it should be a lot of small, little panels, to give the kind of frenetic pace.
Don Mock 21:05
J. Gonzo 21:05
Or if it’s a quiet moment, do I make sure that there’s enough room around. This is just beyond composition within the panels. This is just about, literally, the squares that everything’s gonna go on. Or the rectangles that everything’s gonna go in- or the shapes, I guess. But I mean, there is that and I think a lot of that is-
Don Mock 21:22
It does beg the question, though… nowadays, do you need rectangles? Or do you need shapes? There is that-
J. Gonzo 21:25
Yeah. Again, if you can go panel to panel.
Don Mock 21:28
- Breaking out of panels and things overlapping. The 90s did a whole bunch of crazy wacky stuff, some of it very successful, some of it not very successful.
J. Gonzo 21:35
They were doing that as far back as the 40s. You see panels that have… I’ve seen some old Golden Age artists who did stuff that just had white borders, but no actual hard lines around them. Yeah, some Will Eisner stuff like that, where it’s real soft edging.
Don Mock 21:47
Will Eisner, I would consider, definitely, one of the most advertorial design-ey panel artists.
J. Gonzo 21:58
Don Mock 21:58
I know Steranko gets a lot of credit-
J. Gonzo 22:01
- To design stuff.
Don Mock 22:01
Yeah. Because he was in advertising for years and years. Then, obviously went into comics. But he also worked off a lot of Jack Kirby layout, to begin with, to begin his career. But I think Steranko always had really fantastic covers. He had that principle. You think of the famous Captain America. The pyramid sort of shapes and things like that.
J. Gonzo 22:21
Power shapes like that.
Don Mock 22:21
Yeah. So widely credited with a lot of advertorial graphic design principles.
J. Gonzo 22:25
But also, Darwin Cook worked in advertising for forever. So I think there are these really good guys, who spend a lot of time in advertising. I think, when you understand how to pull emotion out of people, I think that it translates well into comic book storytelling.
Don Mock 22:37
But then the flip side, somebody like, is it Mitch Gerards?
J. Gonzo 22:43
Yeah. Rich Garretts.
Don Mock 22:44
Who, Garrett’s? Didn’t they do their entire Mr. Miracle series in the nine-panel grid?
J. Gonzo 22:50
Don Mock 22:51
And it was I was like, 12 issues in a row of the exact same.
J. Gonzo 22:54
Watchman does it.
Don Mock 22:55
Yeah, exactly. So I mean, there’s fun internal governors that you can put on yourself. I mean, you can still do amazing storytelling,
J. Gonzo 23:02
You can lean into the emotionality of it, or you can do some formal exploration. That’s formal exploration. So part of the impact of the story is the evenness of the beats. That’s kind of how watchmen works. It’s how Mr. Miracle works. There is-
Don Mock 23:17
J. Gonzo 23:18
There is a feeling that, even beats of everything. Then occasionally having stuff that- maybe now it’s two panels instead of one. But again, that is the boundary. I mean, every good designer has a set of boundaries to work within. I think the best designers will impose those on themselves.
Don Mock 23:36
I couldn’t have said it better myself. Because on one hand, you want to say the rules are there are no rules. We’re talking about comics. I mean, I was just looking at…we were talking about the Inky Knuckles, crew at Heroes, and I was just looking through some of Brian Levels pages. He did a, I believe it’s a Darth Vader book or whatever. He’s got panel designs that like it’s a silhouette of a Thai fighter. Very cool. He’s got triangles, he’s doing all sorts of things. But it’s not that the rule is there are no rules. It’s that Hey, as long as you stick and adhere to the guidelines and the principles and the story that you’re telling, and stay within that. It’s not being crazy just to be crazy. It works within that story.
J. Gonzo 24:15
It speaks to a curated reality and that, when you adhere to it, garners a lot of trust from your audience. It’s almost like… I always say that comics are a magic trick. What you do when you lean hard into “confessing its artifice,” which is a quote I got from John Updike. “All great art has a need to confess its artifice.” So when you confess it’s artifice with something like a super limited color palette or nine-panel grid on every page.
Don Mock 24:42
I love those books though, that use a limited color palette.
J. Gonzo 24:44
So what you’re saying to the reader is, “I’m going to show you a magic trick. This is made up. This isn’t Real.” You’re not pretending to be a wizard. But there is- when you confess the artifice, when you’re like, “This is made up.” Then you still pull emotion out of it. And you still wow them with the trick? It’s even more impactful, because they know it’s not real. They know it was a trick.
Don Mock 24:44
J. Gonzo 24:45
If I said, I’m going to do a magic trick, and then I do something that you can’t. You know I’m not a wizard. But I do something you can’t explain with how do you understand physics. You’re even more blown away. So if I, at the onset, just by graphic design sense, a lot of that is-
Don Mock 25:19
Shout out David Blaine.
J. Gonzo 25:20
A lot of that is things like color choices and panel selection. If you’ve set your rules, and you adhere to them, you’re repeatedly reinforcing the idea: This is a curated reality. I am telling you a story. This is a story. This is a story. So when you pull some emotion out of that, they’re even more blown away, because they know it’s not real. They know it’s a story, but they’re still emotionally involved in it.
Don Mock 25:41
Well, sometimes creativity isn’t necessarily defined by wide open spaces. You can do anything to everyone with unlimited budget. It’s the proverbial white paper with any… sometimes the best creativity comes from a hard set of rules that are limiting you. Then it’s what can you play with the toys within that sandbox?
J. Gonzo 25:59
It’s why the first Matrix movie is great, and the second two are garbage, or the second three now, are garbage. Cause they had all the money in the world. When you had to be smart about where you spend your money. Now, just like, “hey, I know, we can’t put a lot of money into the shop. But we get a good camera angle, can’t we? We can light it cool, can’t we?” I mean, like those sorts of things. But when you feel like, oh, we can just CGI everything, and you can do anything, it’s kind of nothing.
Don Mock 26:17
Well, yeah, there’s that. But then overlay that with story choice.
J. Gonzo 26:20
Oh, yeah, absolutely that. I mean, it might have helped with the story had been even somewhat compelling.
Don Mock 26:24
Alright, before we wrap it up, any other final thoughts on the blending of design and comics?
J. Gonzo 26:28
Well, I think the mechanics of it too, are, at some point with your comic book, someone has to put it in a page layout program And create a PDF that is principaled. And understanding that aspect of comic creation, even if you’re an artist, even if you never intend to lay your book out, you should understand what pagination is, what imposition.
Don Mock 26:48
I know that for both of us with clients, that’s the ongoing battle of pagination. “I want to delete that page.” Sorry, you can’t do that. Because I need three other pages to go with it.
J. Gonzo 26:57
What other three? Like what?
Don Mock 26:59
It’s like, hold on a second, I can’t tell you- now that post pandemic, we’re in such a zoom, Google Hangout, all the different, is literally making little dummies and holding them up. It’s so much fun.
J. Gonzo 27:11
Here’s the book. And when I take it apart, you can see, here’s one in eight.
Don Mock 27:14
Only when we do perfect bound catalogs, which we’re doing one right now. Mike’s working on that right now.
J. Gonzo 27:18
You still got to do two pages.
Don Mock 27:19
Yeah, exactly. So exactly.
J. Gonzo 27:21
And you’re wasting paper at that. You’re incurring paper cost and that might push you beyond a parent page. So that’s so sorry.
Don Mock 27:27
No, I’m the one that pulled you off topic.
J. Gonzo 27:29
Yeah. So I think that having an understanding of where the ink meets the paper. I think that is huge for comic artists to understand, whether or not they intend to do it.
Don Mock 27:38
J. Gonzo 27:39
Dot gain. Exactly. Is this web press? Is this offset photography?
Don Mock 27:42
We could talk for the next six hours about all of these things.
J. Gonzo 27:44
I mean, there were guys who were unhappy. You showed me that Gene Colan page. I know Colan was super unhappy with the way that his work worked, or those when his work came out when it got actually printed. Cuz they’re doing flexo plates onto newsprint. The dot gain on that. So that’s direct press. Because the plates make contact with the paper. So not only is the ink hitting, the paper, it’s being pushed into the paper.
Don Mock 28:03
J. Gonzo 28:04
And it’s newsprint. So it is just toilet paper.
Don Mock 28:06
J. Gonzo 28:06
Yeah, it’s gonna just soak everything. So any fine line you have. So if that’s your printing process, tell me what is my point size? What’s the maximum point size I can have, or the narrowest point size I can have that won’t bleed out? If I do a half point gap between lines? Is that just gonna choke into black? Or can I actually get space and a half point line?
Don Mock 28:25
We’re both classically trained this way.
J. Gonzo 28:26
Yeah, I used to- I learned how to cut film.
Don Mock 28:29
Yeah, rubylith and everlith.
J. Gonzo 28:31
I can use a stet camera . I’ve been burned on a waxer.
Don Mock 28:33
Yeah, we did hand labelled registration marks. You know, where you have-
J. Gonzo 28:38
You cut the little butch out of them so that they stack on top of each other.
Don Mock 28:41
J. Gonzo 28:41
Absolutely. Again, I have burned myself on a waxer. I think that guys who know what a waxer smells like are few and far between in this business?
Don Mock 28:49
I’ve told this story before on the podcast, of what got me into design in the first place. Really it was working in a print shop and cleaning Heidelberg. I had to run four-color jobs on a two-color Heidelberg press.
J. Gonzo 29:01
Don Mock 29:01
And then clean them in between.
J. Gonzo 29:03
Is that direct press or is it offset?
Don Mock 29:05
It was offset.
J. Gonzo 29:05
Okay. Should we explain that to people? Should we let… So any comic artists who maybe stumbled upon this because of me or maybe you. So when offset press, offset lithography, the the plate never hits the paper, it hits a blanket, the blanket hits the paper. So that is the offset and offset lithography. So your plate never actually touches the paper. But there is a little bit of generation loss between the blanket and actually hitting the paper.
Don Mock 29:26
But it’s supposed to overcome the dot gain.
J. Gonzo 29:28
Exactly. I mean, basically.
Don Mock 29:30
When it was created, that was the technological sell, was actually it’s going to be a better printed sheet.
J. Gonzo 29:30
You can also work faster. That’s part of the advantage as well. But know that. Then also know the type of paper- coated versus uncoated. Is this absorption print versus evaporative print? Is it in the paper or on the paper? And then also fulfillment considerations. If it’s evaporative, you can get that pretty quickly, cuz it’s gonna dry. But if it’s absorption, there’s a day to dry before you do any bindary function on it.
Don Mock 29:37
Well, I’ll tell you what, in the summertime down here in Atlanta.
J. Gonzo 29:49
I can imagine.
Don Mock 29:56
I’ll tell you what, we’ve designed some things over the years, full- you know us designers we want the full bleed, the whole everything. It’ll be like, Dude, it’s a week later, we can’t send this to finishing, cause it’s still wet.
J. Gonzo 30:13
It’s still wet, still tacky. You can’t get any bindary function on it.
Don Mock 30:14
Yeah, it’s like there isn’t a humidor big enough for the giant print.
J. Gonzo 30:21
Nowadays… so before it was just about providing the proper mechanical artboards to be shot to film, to be shon and plates. Nowadays, everything’s direct to plate and it comes from digital files. But also understand, there’s a rip between you and that plate. And understand that that rip, whatever color profile you were looking at, whatever color profile you were thinking, the rip is going to override that.
Don Mock 30:41
Absolutely. Unless you set your stuff up-
J. Gonzo 30:43
It behooves you to ask your printer-
Don Mock 30:46
Tell the people, yeah.
J. Gonzo 30:46
Get your color profile. Hey, Man, can I- This is the conversation need to have. You know your printer. Can I get the color profile for your rip so I make sure that my CMYK model is correct. Absolutely. They’ll send you back at US Swap. It’s whatever. They might have something proprietary, they can send you those little executables that you just install automatically.
Don Mock 31:05
9 times out of 10 though, it’s the US swap, right?
J. Gonzo 31:07
Yeah, absolutely. It is and most people operate under US Swap. However, a lot of Image, if you work for Image Comics, used to go to Canada to get printed.
Don Mock 31:15
J. Gonzo 31:15
It was all Quebecor. Yeah, which Quebecor’s not along. They have a new printer. I think they’re also in Canada. Gotta ask.
Don Mock 31:16
Yeah, it’s important.
J. Gonzo 31:22
Even if you’re providing PDFs, if you want to do your own design work like backmatter and what have you… Again, you got to know how to set pagination, make sure your page counts are correctly. You got to know how to set a file up with a spine on it. And have your proper dial in. Image was very particular about the file name extensions and how you named your pages, so that they knew. They had like a 01 dash 0 whatever.
Don Mock 31:44
Yeah, that’s the system.
J. Gonzo 31:45
It had to be 2 digts. Exactly. So you got to ask questions about deliverables before you start creating, because if you gotta go back and retroactively do it, probably going to mess you up.
Don Mock 31:55
Yeah. Plus, if you do a big thick book, right, that’s not perfect bound, but still saddle staple. 36, 64 pages. Whatever the case may be. You’ve also got the face trim. Because the way that paper folds over, and it sort of alligator steps out.
J. Gonzo 32:08
So pages 22 and 25. They’re gonna lose about three eighths of an inch.
Don Mock 32:13
They’re gonna get lopped off. So if you design it, let’s say you do the nine by nine grid, and the same exact margin all the way around for every single page, well, guess what?
J. Gonzo 32:22
It’s getting pushed out.
Don Mock 32:22
You’re not gonna have the same margin. I know, I know.
J. Gonzo 32:25
But there are rip programs before they make the plates, that will actually nudge things in and out. So that’s why you give them sometimes… you provide a little more bleed, so that they have room to play in. They will actually accommodate for the thickness of the paper as it starts coming out. And even with perfect bound stuff, it will sometimes do that. But still, make sure you know the people you’re going to deliver it to before you build it. And then build it accordingly. And then also understand, if you need to set your own dial lines, know how to set an overprinted spot color that comes out on its own plate. There’s a lot of little things that comic artists get baffled by, like I don’t know why this printed. You can see the trim line actually on there. I said it was trim line. Well, did you set it to overprint? Did you set it on its own color swatch?
Don Mock 33:08
Well, I think the next big hurdle everyone’s going to have to- and we don’t have to talk about this-
J. Gonzo 33:12
Don Mock 33:13
Because we’re already at a half hour here.
J. Gonzo 33:14
Don Mock 33:15
Everybody’s going to is Pantone decoupling from Adobe.
J. Gonzo 33:19
Oh, God. Yeah, yeah.
Don Mock 33:20
So I mean, that’s a disaster for us. and we’re a full fledged agency that does all-
J. Gonzo 33:24
I gotta say, I gotta CMYK book and I use that. I have used it for a while, because Pantone has been kind of dead, for about a decade now. Nobody prints Pantone jobs. They’ll do a two color job or three color job. Then also, it used to be like, Oh, we’ll figure out what the client’s Pantone color is. Then we’ll find the CMYK breakdown and hopefully it’s a color that doesn’t shift too much.
Don Mock 33:46
Kind of close? They never are.
J. Gonzo 33:48
You know, the world lives in CMYK or RGB right now. We’re moving more toward RGB.
Don Mock 33:52
We are moving more towards RGB. I can’t tell you how many clients give me their hex reference.
J. Gonzo 33:56
Don Mock 33:57
I’m like, that won’t print right. I don’t know that tell you that. That neon green is not a color.
J. Gonzo 34:02
Yeah. And then you got to navigate some weird approximation to get close.
Don Mock 34:05
Again, that’s a conversation for… I mean, color is exponentially complicated.
J. Gonzo 34:08
There’s a thing right there. If you work in comics, you should understand the difference between additive light theory and subtractive light theory. You should know the difference between a hex color and a CMYK breakdown.
Don Mock 34:16
J. Gonzo 34:17
You know, everyone knows the super black, but why is it super black? What is your saturation levels?
Don Mock 34:20
We call it “rich black” down here.
J. Gonzo 34:21
Oh, I know. Yeah. I gotcha.
Don Mock 34:23
So what’s your favorite rich black?
J. Gonzo 34:25
60, 40, 40, 100.
Don Mock 34:26
Okay. 60, 40, 40, 100.
J. Gonzo 34:29
Don Mock 34:29
Now, I’ll do… you’re not far off. I mean, yeah. 64. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, it’s not bad. I’m trying to think of-
J. Gonzo 34:38
The default rich black used to be that weird 56, 54… I think it was like 62 56 50.
Don Mock 34:44
Yeah, it’s in the 59s or something.
J. Gonzo 34:45
Don Mock 34:46
J. Gonzo 34:47
I’m sorry, you’re young, or you’re old enough to remember this. Do you remember having to manually set your screen angles in Photoshop so you wouldn’t get moire patterns?
Don Mock 34:53
J. Gonzo 34:53
Could you rattle those off the top of your head?
Don Mock 34:55
J. Gonzo 34:55
Probably. I know yellow was 90 and black is zero.
Don Mock 34:58
I couldn’t tell you. I couldn’t tell you, I do know I’m old enough to remember Photoshop without layers.
J. Gonzo 35:02
Yep. Photoshop three.
Don Mock 35:04
Photoshop three. Yes.
J. Gonzo 35:04
That’s where it started.
Don Mock 35:05
J. Gonzo 35:06
That was the first commercially available Photoshop. Layers!
Don Mock 35:09
Yeah, it’s crazy. I’m trying to think, we have one publication for our rich black and it’s a trapping thing. It’s a dot gain thing. It’s how much ink coverage per sheet, because they print on such thin paper.
J. Gonzo 35:18
Oh, yeah, I used to work in those AMS colors for newspapers Did you ever do that?
Don Mock 35:22
No, I want to say one of our rich blacks is like in the 20s. It’s like a 30, 30, 20. You know, one of those things.
J. Gonzo 35:29
Yeah, I got you. But nowadays, again, there’s the things. I can set it to 60, 40, 40, 100. And that’s my rich black and then I’ll do color holds, what have you. I’ll make my PD, or I make my printable document. I drop PD, I’ve dropped PSDs into my InDesign document, and then output that at whatever the color profile is, so that I’m not having to approximate or interpret a color profile. This is from RGB to CMYK. When I flatten my PSD and then make a TIF out of it, then have- there’s a little bit of compression artifacts in that. A tiny bit. Enough, but then you do do it again, when you make your PDF? Then you think it’s gonna happen again when the rip happens.
Don Mock 35:29
I see what happens.
J. Gonzo 36:04
So like I literally-
Don Mock 36:05
J. Gonzo 36:05
With my printer, I will give them InDesign documents with place PSDs in them. And then let them work on the RIP. That way, there’s only one step where it’s being flattened and compressed. There’s only one shift that can hopefully happen, and I tell them what my rich black ideally would look like.
Don Mock 36:09
J. Gonzo 36:20
Yeah. There’s a little bit of graphic design I think every comic artist could benefit from.
Don Mock 36:25
J. Gonzo 36:27
But if you are making TIFs, get your color profile before you send it. It’s a simple email, people.
Don Mock 36:32
All right, this has been- again, we could talk about this for another 12 hours. Alright, where can everybody find you, Gonzo?
J. Gonzo 36:37
I’m making YouTube videos at J. Gonzo. Those are the things that are germane to this where I’m talking about my… This is my 30th year as a graphic designer. So kind of my theory about graphic design.
Don Mock 36:46
J. Gonzo 36:47
If you want to check out my Instagram, I’m on @jgonzoart and I’m Lamono comic on Twitter if dare venture into Twitter’s. But yeah, Instagram is a much better follow. @jgonzoart, all one word, no underscores,
Don Mock 36:57
Perfect. Thanks, bud. All right, everybody can find us at mocktheagency.com. Or you can look us up on the socials @mocktheagency. Thanks, everybody. Thanks, Gonzo.
J. Gonzo 37:05
Don Mock 37:05