Mondo’s CEO Justin Ishmael Talks Future Gallery Shows, Drew Struzan’s DARK TOWER, HBO, Alex Ross, Olly Moss’ SPIRITED AWAY, Future Projects, and More

     April 9, 2013


As most of you know, everyone at Collider are huge fans of Mondo.  It seems like every time they put out a limited screenprint that blows us away, a short time later, they do it again.  This probably explains their ever growing fan base, and why their posters sell out in minutes.  For more on Mondo, here’s our previous coverage.  You can also check out everything they’ve released on their website.  Be warned: some of their older posters are rare and expensive.

A few days ago, I got on the phone with Mondo CEO Justin Ishmael.  During our hour long conversation, we talked about a wide variety of subjects.  Hit the jump if you’re curious about upcoming gallery shows, if they’re going to be at Comic-Con, the status of Drew Struzan‘s Dark Tower print, Olly MossSpirited Away, future Mondo Mystery Movies, new licenses, if they’ll being doing more HBO prints, how they decide on the size of a print run, if Aaron Horkey will do more Lord of the Rings prints, and so much more.

Before going any further, a HUGE thank you to Justin for giving me so much of his time.  Also, a big thank you to everyone on Facebook and the people that emailed me with specific questions.  I tried to work in everything that people sent in.

army-of-darkness-mondo-posterAnd while I strongly recommend reading the full interview, I also know a lot of you just want to know the highlights.  Here’s a few of them followed by the full conversation

  • Mondo does not have confirmation for this year’s Comic-Con.  They definitely want to attend, but they haven’t been told if they’ll have a booth.
  • The recent Randy Ortiz Army of Darkness print is not a screening exclusive.  Copies will eventually be released online.
  • For fans of Evil Dead, Justin says, “We have some other Evil Dead-esque stuff coming, and one of them is not a poster.”
  • They’re aiming to eventually release a new soundtrack on vinyl once a month.  The reason for the gap between recent releases was “to kind of slow down and get some records in front of us so we could actually have more of a steady stream of records coming out.  That’s why there was the big gap between The Beyond and Deadly Spawn so we could actually work on it and do it right since we decided after the first two were successes that we were going to actually go for it.”
  • They have a “Mondo vault” where they have a copy of everything since early 2009.
  • Some of the reasons why Mondo hasn’t done video games is Japanese companies are very strict with licensing, and they want their artists to be able to do their own thing.
  • Martin Ansin’s recent Taxi Driver print came really close to not happening.
  • Mondo-Martin-Ansin-Taxi-DriverThe Taxi Driver print was originally going to be part of a Mystery Movie in NYC, but that changed after construction was pushed back.
  • They’re like to do more with Bryan Lee O’Malley.
  • Justin admits they’ve talked to Alex Ross about doing a poster (I would love for this to happen.  Please make this happen).
  • Says if everything goes right, we’ll finally be getting the Drew Struzan’s Dark Tower print this year.  If they can make it work, they would release it at Comic-Con this summer and have Struzan there to sign the posters.
  • He also says we could see the Olly Moss Spirited Away at Comic-Con (if they get in).
  • They met with Eon Productions about doing James Bond but since the company rarely licenses Bond, we shouldn’t expect it anytime soon.  However, Justin says, “I would love to do a James Bond series.”
  • Don’t expect more Pixar or Disney prints in the near future.
  • They aren’t in talks with HBO right now about doing any other shows like The Sopranos or The Wire.
  • They’d love to do an international Mondo Mystery Movie, but right now they’re slowing it down.
  • They’re aiming to do a gallery show every month.
  • Mondo-Lord-of-the-Rings-Aaron-Horkey-variantThey’d love for Aaron Horkey to do more Lord of the Rings prints.
  • While they did metal and wood Tyler Stout prints at the recent gallery show, don’t expect to see many other artists use those materials.
  • He wouldn’t reveal what big summer movies they were working on.
  • While many asked me if Mondo might hold back some prints from a gallery show to make sure some made it online, it doesn’t sound like they’re going to make any changes to the way they do things right now.  This means if it sells out at the gallery, nothing will be saved for an online drop.
  • Regarding future events, Justin says after the Mike Mitchell show they’ve got two more shows.  He also said:

“We’re going to have some more themed group shows that are going to be fun later this year.  We’re going to have more licenses coming up.  We signed some larger deals.  I have an idea for a larger scale Mystery Movie that I’ve been talking about for well over a year with people.  We’re trying to figure out what we can do with it.  If everything goes right, we’ll be at Comic-Con.  We’ll have the Mystery Movie.  We’ll have more or less a show mark at the gallery.  It’s solo shows, group shows, and then, maybe some more comic book covers and stuff this year too.”

(I’m very intrigued about the comic book covers…)

Here’s the full interview.  Let me know how I did in the comments.

justin-ishmael-mondoSteve: How are you doing today?

JUSTIN ISHMAEL: Doing good, actually fishing right now, kind of.  I was just on a four-wheeler, riding around on the street.  My parents live in the country, so we’ve just been relaxing after working on the Army of Darkness show here in Kansas City. 

How did that end up going?

ISHMAEL: Great.  The tickets sold out super, super fast and then the actual show itself – I had asked them to do it in 35mm and it’s like an old movie palace so they have huge theaters, but a lot of them are digital so I asked them if we could do it in a 35mm theater.  It was about 150 seats or so, so we had to go smaller but it was for a reason.  So we programmed trailers and snipes and stuff on it.  A lot of stuff obviously you can’t do with digital.  Everyone was loving it.  I saw on Twitter, people were like, “I haven’t seen it on 35mm before, it was so cool.”  So yeah, everything went great. 

I’m super looking forward to coming back and doing it, maybe in May.  I’m coming back out for the Spectrum convention, and every time I come out I like to do something at the theater, Mondo-wise.  We’ll see if we have anything that’s worthy of having a screening for.  Like I said, I like coming out here.  My parents live like 15 minutes away in the middle of nowhere.  It’s almost like a vacation for work. 

From what I understand, the Army of Darkness print by Randy Ortiz is not a screening exclusive.  So for fans, will there be like an online drop at some point?

ISHMAEL: Yeah, we have some other Evil Dead-esque stuff coming, so we’ll be releasing all of it.  We’re trying to do like one big Evil Dead type of release thing.  So that will be coming probably in April sometime.  It’s nothing with the new movie so I don’t want to get people’s hopes up, but we’re going to do that later in April.  You’re right, it wasn’t a screening-exclusive thing.  We did this with The Goonies and we do it with lots of screenings in Austin and L.A., too, where it’s just like a fun thing to watch a movie and celebrate.  The extras we’ll have online.  We’ll do our normal thing: we’ll let everybody know when it’s coming.  There won’t be any surprises or anything like that. 

army-of-darkness-mondo-posterDo you want to tease any of the artists you have coming for your Evil Dead prints?

ISHMAEL: It’s not Evil Dead, there’s two things, not counting the Army of Darkness poster, that will be coming out in the release and one of them is not a poster. 


ISHMAEL: Yeah, I had an idea for something quite a while back and we’ve been working on it, coming up with – Rob would have an idea and Richard would have a new idea for it, and they just kind of added onto it.  I would say what artist helped us on it, but then the fans would probably be emailing and bugging, asking what it was.  So I’m just not going to bring it up, I’ll just leave it at that: we have three things coming, two a poster and one is not. 

Obviously the Ken Taylor/Tyler Stout show was a huge success.  You know, people basically buying posters at 3:00 in the morning.  What was it like for you guys on the inside and what surprised you the most about the show?

ISHMAEL: It was very exciting for us, just trying to think, everybody kind of had a different look at it, because Tyler and Ken were obviously talking to everybody.  I was there, I was rolling posters or whatever, but I know the guys were exhausted afterwards because they basically did it from 5:00 or 6:00pm until they got out at 4:00am, after they got done closing out of everything and cleaning up.  But yeah, it was nuts.  I couldn’t believe that we were there that long and we actually had conversations about cutting the line off at a certain point and saying like, “Okay, we’re going to cap it at 300 and then just call it good.”  But I kind of told those guys that if we had people waiting out since the Wednesday before, so we should just stick it out and do it and get everybody through.  We didn’t cap the line, but I think we had the gallery show set for like 7:00 to 11:00 – and then when 11:00 hit, there were still people trying to line up in line and that’s when we said, “Technically we’re closed, we can’t take anymore.”  And then we were there until 4:00am, so we were there for, like, another 5 hours after we “cut the line off”. 

So yeah, it was nuts.  I was so happy with the turn-out and it’s just one of those things where I think Ken and Tyler got to see it first-hand, how much how much people like this stuff and how much it means to them.  And it means a lot to Mondo to have people trust us and be excited enough for the things we do to wait until 3:00am.  And when you think about it, those people that were waiting and checking out at 3:30 in the morning, or whatever, it’s not like they just walked in, they were there for 6 hours or something.  I know a lot of those people that came at that point were coming out when the gallery opened, and they say the line way down the street and they’re like, “Well, I guess I’m getting in line,” and then they stayed there all day, so it’s crazy.  We were talking about it and trying to figure out, “Hey, have done that before, have we ever camped out?  I’ve waited a long time for stuff in line, but I’ve never brought a sleeping bag and slept out somewhere for something the next day.  So it’s just crazy, it’s so awesome that they would do that for us, and I hope we can continue to do things that matter and are special like that, and keep doing more and more cool things for people.  I love seeing people’s responses and you know we actually in Kansas City, at the show – there were people there that were like, “Yeah man, I flew down for the Kansas City show, totally worth it.”  Or for the Taylor/Tyler show.  So it’s awesome to be able to travel places and there’s people flying in for stuff in Austin that don’t regret it at all. 

What did you possibly hear from the fans, or hear from you guys yourselves, about the gallery shows you’ve done, maybe any changes for the future in terms something you want to implement down the road for a future gallery show that people have brought up during the ones you’ve done thus far.

ISHMAEL: I can’t really think of anything glaring that we were doing that can be changed.  I mean honestly for website drops, people always say stuff like, “get a better server” or “hold it in your cart till”, you know that kind of thing, but with the gallery shows I don’t really think there is a lot of commentary on things we can better.  I honestly don’t think we had one complaint at the Ken Taylor/Tyler Stout show.  You know, like we talked about a second ago: people were there until 3:00 in the morning, 4:00 in the morning, whatever, and no one was complaining.  Not one person was like, “This is bullshit, I have to wait all day.”  I think when you get there and see this line down the street you just kind of know, and you know the people that are there are going to warrant that kind of reaction, that kind of turnout.  And if you’re going, you just kind of get it, you’re like, “Okay, yeah.”  I don’t think there’s anything at shows we can change.  There’s a line going in, and then now that we have the backyard built, you can go outside and just kind of hang out and talk to people and have your stuff.  That show is mostly, you know there is people looking around after they got the posters, and then there was a line.  But before, in the backyard – like when we had the opening at South by Southwest, in 2012 I guess, it was raining and there was cardboard all over the backyard because we were trying anything to not get mud everywhere.  So you really couldn’t really hang out, you just got your stuff and then left.  So at this one we set up tents and stuff just in case it rained and we have it all bricked out, stones on the ground so there’s no mud, so you can actually mingle and experience stuff. 

So there was a lot of stuff from the first show that we did that we tried to implement all through the last year to try and make it better.  And I think as of now – we redid the bathroom and tried to make that a little better, and we added the speaker system so we could listen to records and make it so it’s not like a tomb in there, like totally silent.  I mean it’s not silent because there’s people talking, but we can have music going now.  There’s little things like that that we did that would hopefully make the experience better, but as far as getting people in and out quicker, I don’t think there’s any way to do it.  It’s a limited space and we only have so many people to do it.  And even if we hire more people to go back there and work, there’s only so much room you can do stuff, so you’d just be bumping into each other anyway.  So it wouldn’t necessarily make anything faster. 

Mondo-Justin-Ishmael-Comic-ConSo yeah, I think it went super well.  If anybody has anything that they’re like, “Oh man, I was bummed about that,” I mean I would be happy to hear them out and talk to them about it and try to fix it.  But like I said, Mo and those guys, they’re the ones that receive the customer emails and they would’ve brought something up to me if it was a major issue.  I think it was a pretty solid night. 

Speaking of records, the Stout Drive LP sold out – I know you had some at the gallery show, but when you did the online drop, it sold out in like 30 minutes.  Is this something that you want to have happen in terms of future LP drops where they sell out fast like the posters, or are you okay with it lasting for a day or two…or three, where people have more of a chance, if you will?

ISHMAEL: So we’re going to be having Drive records in record stores and we’re also going to have – I guess I can talk about it now – I can tell you, but we’ll wait to release the art later, but we’re going to have a record store-day version of the Drive exclusive record-store thing as well.  So we had a pretty significant chunk of the records online, and with the stuff that was at the gallery we only had like a couple hundred set in, so it wasn’t like we sold a quarter or half of the run at the gallery show.  We sold a few, and then with that release online, the Friday after, that was incredible.  I think it was like 27 or 28 minutes and we sold our entire allotment that we sell direct online.  When we have Poltergeist that last over the weekend or Deadly Spawn that lasted five days or something, that’s fine with me because – actually Jessica and I were up in Lawrence at a record store and we were looking around for stuff and it’s such a new thing, I mean really and truly we’ve released, what, five records so far?  There’s a lot of people that don’t know about it yet so I think there’s still room for – I mean I don’t think, I definitely know there’s still room for people to learn about it. 

Mondo-Tyler-Stout-Drive-SoundtrackI feel like it’s definitely in its infancy, kind of like when we used to do posters.  Where people are like, “Aw man, I remember when I could – when the Tyler-style, or whatever, poster was on the site for two months and it was $30.”  And now those are $5,000 posters.  I’m crossing my fingers that it’s going to be that type of scenario where it’s going to take a little bit of time for soundtrack collectors and people that are buying records to kind of understand.  Because it’s not like an overnight thing, even though we have a lot of fans, it’s not like we do something and you’re totally into this world and you’re selling and you’re a giant record label.  We’re still super-small, so I’m totally fine with getting the word out and putting stuff in record stores, just kind of doing it slow.  I’m out in L.A.  a lot now and I go to Amoeba and dig through their stuff and buy older records.  Last time, I went out in February, they had six or seven Deadly Spawn records and when I went back two weeks ago they were all gone.  So they’re definitely selling and I think it’s cool for people to go in there and be like, “Oh, what’s this?” and then start to look at our back catalog and see like, “Oh wow, they did The Beyond, they did Maniac” and then kind of follow us from then and try to get the old stuff.  We’re numbering all the records, so we know specifically like “Mondo 001” is Maniac and “Mondo 002” is The Beyond.  It’s kind of like Criterion when they number their discs, you can know which one is which, so there is a record of all of that stuff. 

Well my next question about the records is: you’re very open about the addition sizes on posters, but as far as I know you guys haven’t released edition sizes on records.  Is that something you’re sort of holding back until it becomes a bigger thing and then you might start numbering them?

ISHMAEL: No, I don’t think we’re going to number records. 

I don’t mean number the records, I mean release like an edition size?

THEBEYONDALBUMISHMAEL: Oh yeah, I mean, we’re not going to reprint stuff, but there’s really no reason we haven’t done it.  I don’t know what we did, off the top of my head, but we’ll sit down and kind of say, “Okay, we’re going to do 2,000 records”, or something like that.  Then we’ll kind of slice that up into, “Okay, the record is going to get this many, we’re going to keep this many, we’re going to have this many for our archives or comps” or whatever.  I don’t think it’s a matter of like we’re hiding anything.  I just don’t really think it matters really as much as the poster thing.  It’s not like they’re signed by the artist or – I don’t think it’s we’re trying to super-push “these are super-limited, you got to buy them now” type of thing, which I don’t think we necessarily do with posters either, but it’s…I don’t know.  We’ve talked about it and we don’t think it’s like a super-necessary thing.  But I think like on Maniac it was like 500 or something, we had never done one so we were just kind of seeing what the market was like, and on The Beyond I think it was 800 or something, and Deadly Spawn was 1,000 or so, 1,500.  So yeah, it’s not like we’re doing 50,000 or something, I think it’s very conservative, the numbers we’re putting out there. 

So, yeah, I’m happy with the whole record label thus far and I think it’s going to continue to grow.  Rob Jones is kind of spearheading the art on this and working with whoever the artist is on each release, and they’re all super-awesome.  There’s not one that I’m like, “Oh, really?  This is just okay.”  They all like, “This is great, this is amazing.”  It’s fun working with the composers when applicable, obviously we’re not working with Jerry Goldsmith on Poltergeist, but on some of this stuff we have coming up we’re working directly with the people involved and they’re all pumped.  Everyone is like, “This is the greatest.  I can’t believe it, this is awesome.”   We’ll have something coming in April – we’ll have something for record store-day, a couple things, and then the idea is to get up to a point where we can have something each month coming out.  We’re not going to go on record and say: “Mondo – look for a record every month,” but that’s kind of our in-house goal, to have the schedule on track to where we can have something.  That was actually the problem, that’s why there was a big gap between Deadly Spawn and The Beyond, what that – it’s kind of annoying to us – I read comic books and All Star Batman and Robin or something… was super cool at fist and then they would go six months between issues, and then it just kind of got annoying.  I wasn’t as excited as I could have been, when you have to wait that long you don’t know when it’s coming.  So we decided to kind of slow down and get some records in front of us so we could actually have more of a steady stream of records coming out.  That’s why there was the big gap between The Beyond and Deadly Spawn so we could actually work on it and do it right since we decided after the first two were successes that we were going to actually go for it.



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