/Film Interview: Mondo’s Justin Ishmael Talks Comic-Con Releases, Teases Future Events, Studio Ghibli and Back To The Future
Posted on Friday, August 2nd, 2013 by Germain Lussier
Every poster has a story. But in the case of Mondo, sometimes they release so many posters, we never really get to hear much about them.
Mondo was out in force at San Diego Comic-Con, releasing almost two dozen brand-new posters (including variants) over the course of four days. So when I got a chance to sat down with creative director Justin Ishmael, I decided to learn a bit more about the creation of some of those posters such as Martin Ansin‘s Conan the Barbarian, Ash Thorpe‘s Pacific Rim and William Stout‘s King Kong. Then, of course, we got around to talking about how the poster game itself is changing, their exciting relationship with Studio Ghibli, the likely location of the next Mondo Mystery Movie (along with a tease of the film), Back to the Future, Jurassic Park, new records…and toy prints?
Check out the full interview below.
/Film: Here at Comic-Con we see you have Aliens, Terminator, do you have a new license you’d like to tell us about?
Justin Ishmael: I mean yeah, clearly we have the Fox license. We will have Predator here too. I would like to talk about Ash Thorpe. Are you recording?
Ash Thorpe is great. I have not met him in person. I’ll meet him at the signing, but he does unbelievable work. I think he’s… He’s never done a screen print before. Like the Pacific Rims ones were his second, because he did Predator first, but I mean…
He does titles and stuff, right?
Yeah, he does visual stuff for movies. If that’s his second poster… you know what I mean? “That’s his second one?” Just think about the progression of some artists… Look at Kevin Tong. His Pacific Rim poster is masterful. The way he illustrated the Kajiu is unreal and how far he’s come. Kevin’s amazing, because he can mix colors so well. That poster is probably like four colors and it looks like a full colored thing. So I think Ash, especially with being friends with Olly [Moss], knowing all of these guys and getting tips, he’s going to become something really, really special. I think it could be… I don’t know if people are necessarily going to sleep on this one, but in five years or whatever they are going to look back and be like “I wish I would have gotten that one” or “It’s really hard to get.” It’s like [Martin] Ansin’s stuff, like getting Phantom of the Opera or Metropolis. For instance, Martin, look at his stuff now compared to when he started, it’s like he’s evolved and I think that this is just the beginning for Ash and he’s going to evolve into something completely different. It’s going to be completely fun to watch him.
There are a couple of new artists from Comic Con, right? Killian Eng and William Stout?
Killian Eng has done stuff for us. He did Oblivion.
Oh yeah, that’s right.
William Stout, this would be the first time we’ve used him. Have you see the King Kong poster?
It was online this morning.
Oh it was? What’s everybody saying about it? Did they like it?
I don’t know, I just saw the image.
So I went by Stout’s booth yesterday and that’s like the centerpiece of his booth, where he has the original, and I was after him. I was like “Let me know when it goes on sale.” He sold it before the Con opened yesterday at 3:00PM for eighteen thousand dollars.
Yes. It’s the original, but it’s like a full painting. It’s bigger than the poster. It’s huge, which it usually doesn’t work like that. Usually it’s tinier and we blow it up or whatever, but we scaled it down to make the poster. I can’t wait… I’ve been a fan of his for a super long time and he knows Drew [Struzan] and a lot of these guys and so when we asked him, he was like “Yeah, of course.”
One thing that’s funny, we didn’t even know this, we get emails through the website and I don’t look at those… our employees handle all of those, and I guess it slipped through because I looked on my email and a year ago he had emailed the site saying like “Hey, I’m a big fan. I would love to work with you.” So when I emailed him, he was like “I emailed you!” I was like “Oh shit, I didn’t even know.” So that was funny, but I’m super glad to be working with him. I want to say that’s the last new guy that we work with, but I love debuting guys at bigger things like this and to have Ash there where people can come by and see him… I think a lot of people too with Martin, like they haven’t met him. If they weren’t at the Phone Booth Gallery show, they haven’t met him before and so many people travel to Comic Con for that…
[Ken] Taylor’s piece, when I heard that was coming, I was like “Oh, it’s going to be a companion piece to his other Alien posters,” but it’s totally different. When you guys were talking to him about it, did he want to do something similar..then again, I guess he has also evolved a lot since then.
His detail… He’s so fast. For what it is, it seems like that would take several months and he’s doing like a beer label for this company and a band poster and stuff for us. I don’t know how he functions and stays sane, but he really wanted to focus on the queen, which is obviously amazing. He had an idea and sent in the sketch and we were like “Yeah, absolutely. Let’s go for it.”
For the first movie he did Egg, which is very simple and…
He has almost the lobby card with the insets and the jockey thing.
Right. So onto Ansin’s Conan the Barbarian. Finally! It was two years ago when you guys were here and you first had the sticker that was like “Hey, Conan is coming from Martin Ansin” and two years later, here it is. What was the hold up there?
It was just timing. A lot of what Martin was doing would be for a gallery show or like with Man of Steel and stuff like that. We had him several posters deep for so long and then when he was coming in we said “Okay, we want you to do a few posters for Comic-Con” and then Man of Steel came up. “Okay, well do Man of Steel, then we can do two posters for Comic Con” and so he got Conan done and there’s another one that’s maybe going to make it in time. I don’t know if it’s going to show up or not, but there will be a surprise second Martin Ansin poster Sunday if everything goes right.
[Editor's note: It was Elysium. Check it out here.]
But with the Conan it was like “Because we did the sticker and because everyone’s asked over the last couple of years when it’s happening,” it was like “Okay, let’s do Conan.” So we did Conan. It wasn’t the sticker image, it was… obviously people have seen the poster, but… we are going to have shirts with that Conan image on the shirt that people can buy too. That will be there.
What can you tell me about the Tyler Stout Studio Ghibli album?
When was it that I started talking to Ghibli about it? It was last… It might have been either super early this year or last year, but it’s definitely been in the works for a long time. I brought it up to them just as a “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool?” not ever expecting it to happen and I think they really respect the limited nature of the things we do. Number one, they like records, because that’s… I don’t think Ghibli is a young company necessarily and they were like “We really respect records. We respect vinyl.” And so we went to Tyler and said, “Hey, are you interested?” He’s like “Yeah, of course” and the idea was since it’s a suite with a bunch of different movies on it, we decided to do covers for each of the individual movies.
The movies are My Neighbor the Yamadas, The Cat Returns, Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle and Princess Mononoke. Those are the movies represented. So we decided to do three different versions of the record…. Then what makes them really different is the vinyl we do inside ties together… the colors… It’s a dual LP thing and one record will be blue, one record will be red in this package and then the next package this one will be yellow and this one will be green and this one blue and that purple or whatever the colors are. That’s happening and then we are doing shirts of those, which Ghibli told me that Disney, I think one of the Disney theme parks are the only other ones that get to sell Ghibli shirts, so it’d be us and whoever else at Disney, but it’s not very many people in the US.
It’s fun to have them trust us and like us enough to do this type of thing. I hope it does well, because the idea is if this one sells, we will be doing more of the straight “Here’s the Totoro soundtrack,” “here’s the Spirited Away soundtrack” instead of the compilation thing. I think this is a great one too, because it’s a great starter place for people that maybe don’t know what the movies are. We’ve been doing it almost a year now with Olly’s posters, to have this come out and maybe people are…
Do you think we will see any of that stuff on posters?
Hopefully. I mean we are talking to them about it. We definitely want to do it, but we were lucky to… It’s amazing that the records are happening, because we just got approval a week ago and to print records like that. I mean we’re not getting the full run in. I think we are going a run of five hundred for Comic-Con, but we’re only going to get 300 of them in, so there will be some online. Obviously we’re not going to throw two hundred records away, because we didn’t make it to Comic Con, but we sent someone to LA yesterday to pick them up and then drive them back, so it’s that close. They almost didn’t show up.
Crazy. Changing gears a bit, this is something I always think when I look at the your posters. “Oh cool, a new Mondo poster. Shit another 24 x 36, where am I going to put that?” Obviously that’s the standard size, but is size usually the artist’s choice? There used to be a lot of 18 x 24s and then now it’s getting progressively bigger.
It is definitely an artist thing. I mean some times we say “This needs to be big,” but I think a lot of the ones we’ve been doing lately, especially the ones at Comic Con need to be bigger, you know? The King Kong? It needs to be bigger and the Aliens needs to be bigger to see all the detail. You don’t want a super tiny Pacific Rim poster. Then the Godzilla thing too, we need that to be big. You went to that, right? The Godzilla thing? I really thought it was awesome.
Back in the day you guys released a poster a month and now we are doing like four posters a week. Do you worry about putting out too much stuff or maybe slowing it down?
I think after Comic-Con… It’s not like for sure every week we are doing something, but we have a lot of responsibilities. This week was Drafthouse Films. We did a poster for Drafthouse Films and then we are doing the Elysium poster, so when that movie is coming out we have to put it out that week with the Pacific Rim. People are releasing movies every week and a lot of times studios are coming to us to work with them on movies, so I think it’s a natural thing that’s starting to happen where we are releasing with the industry, like the industry is doing one a week, we are doing one a week, plus the stuff we like to do. And then records. I think we are just doing more… I think people are still enjoying what we are doing and not everybody… It used to be like everybody was buying everything and now people are getting more choosy about what they are buying, but there’s also the people that are wanting to buy stuff. It’s like “If you don’t like Predator, don’t buy Predator.” That’s a thing I would love to make a fact, like if you don’t like it, don’t buy it. Don’t buy it just to have it or you want to put it on eBay, just buy it if you like it and I think everything will work out fine.
Speaking of a movie every week, there’s a movie that comes out in a couple of weeks called The World’s End. You guys have done a lot of Edgar Wright stuff before and while I was in London I may or may not have been talking to Edgar Wright… Are you going to do some Edgar Wright things?
I hope so….I think the thing with me with watching The World’s End was I enjoyed it, but I was thinking in terms of the Marvel universe. I was like “Oh my god, this is going to be really nuts when he gets ahold of Ant-Man.”
I think he’s just so… His movies are… Okay, whatever about the story, his movies are cool. The way he cuts the stuff like with an attitude, it’s really genuinely Quentin Tarantino cool, like he has “it.” He has that thing and I think it’s really going to work well with because Ant-Man kind of a wise ass. I think that movie is going to be something. It’s going to be the movie that [really makes him big.]
And [Edgar] knows it. So more than one poster tied to the movie?
I hope we do a really strong one poster.
[Editor's Note: That one poster has been revealed. Shaun of the Dead by Tyler Stout.]
Okay. Are there any more Back to the Future posters?
We will do some more, yeah. We have some ideas and artists that might do one hopefully this year, but we are hoping to do more. That’s one of our favorite ones and obviously people are crazy about that movie.
There was a rumor going around last year or earlier this year about a Jurassic Park gallery show.
Yeah, there’s no Jurassic Park show. I think the idea got tossed around when they were re-releasing it and we were talking about doing something with the studio, but it just didn’t happen in time.
All right, what about Mystery movies?
Mystery movies. I’m really going to start looking into it now that Comic-Con is over. [Comic-Con] was such a wall that I couldn’t see past and I was so fixated on trying to do the best. It’s going to be really interesting to see what people thing of the out come of Comic-Con, because we really planned and tried to make it like every poster was a hit. Pacific Rim was never planned to be released here, but starting with Aliens out, everything was very much planned and we kind of got everything we wanted in, so I’m really crossing my fingers that people like it and that people like the signings. With Godzilla and all of the new stuff, like the records too, I’m hoping people are like “Oh shit, okay.”
Yeah. People are going to love the records.
We tried to have pretty much every fan favorite artist be represented. So we are hoping there’s something for everybody type of thing, but yeah the mystery movies like now that this will be over I can really start focusing. I want to do it in LA. I want to do it at a larger theater, probably like a seven hundred seat… Between five hundred and seven hundred. We have a really big idea and I want to do it towards the end of the year, like in November or December or something and see if we can make that work. I would like to do it as a fun, not necessarily like a Christmas movie, but it’d be a nice thing to go into Christmas break with. It’d be like that’s your final exam and then you’re going home for Christmas break to your family and then you don’t start till January.
That’s a good tease, I like that. I don’t know how much you’ve been walking around on the floor, but this is the first year we’re seeing Mondo posters sold at other booths marked up. Did you guys see that? It’s inevitable. People buy toys and flip them. Have you noticed that?
We kind of sublease our booth out or we rent our spot from the guys next to us at our booth and I saw that they are selling tubes this year, which is very smart. It’s super smart. I was like “nice.” It’s like five dollars a tube, that’s awesome. Actually when I first walked in this year, my friend came running up and was like “Come here, you’ve got to look at this” and he brought us down. There was a guy selling like Creature from the Black Lagoon and Zero Dark Thirty.
Yeah, I think that’s the booth I saw too.
You know, at least they’re not fake. We have that happen. He was bringing me down and I was like “Man, am I really going to have to talk to this guy and be like “Where did you get these?” But they were real, so I’m like “Yeah, okay.”
Any other cool licenses you can tease or anything you’ve got coming up? Give me like a cool, 2013, rest of the year tease besides the mystery movie.
You know, we’ll have some… I’m not even trying to be coy, I’m trying to think about what we have coming up. The mystery movie, we’re trying to do that. We are going to have some fun gallery shows. I think that we might have a group show and then counting Jason Edmiston solo show we will have three solo shows, one that just got added super late, because something fell through and then we added something else in which I think people should really like. I’m going to love it. I don’t care if anybody else likes it, I’m going to love this one.
I’m hoping October is fun, like the record stuff is so bright, like we are about to sign a pretty big multi-title deal. I’m really hoping that goes through, because that will basically seal up next year too where we will have 2013 down and 2014 record-wise. I’m hoping to have a big release in November of one that I know people will be freaking out about. We are working on getting some stuff that has never been released and it’s super difficult to get done. What else are we doing? We are going back to Leads and Thought Bubble. It’s not really London, but we’re going back to the UK and we will be doing… It’s not going to be a show, but we’re going to have a table there this year. It’s not going to be a table where we are sitting there the entire time, I think it’s almost like a pop up type thing. The idea is to do stuff with the artists that are there and if you go to the Though Bubble site and look at the artists that are there, it’s pretty major. There’s a lot of huge working artists that prefer comic books, so seeing these guys is like “Oh… Put us in touch, we’ll see if we can make something work.” I’m hoping that that actually happens, because that would be awesome.
All right, cool. I guess last thing real quick is videogames. Are we going to get into videogame prints? I thought that was something you were talking about for a while.
I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s going to happen or not. I think I might see some stuff… I’m hoping we start seeing some toy stuff soon with… I’ll just leave it at that. Hopefully there’s that stuff coming, but I don’t know about video game stuff.
Okay, no problem. Thank you, sir.