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

Mondo-GoT-Gallery-Space-2A few people asked me this on some of the boards, do you guys have a “Mondo Vault”, where you have a few copies of every one of the prints?  Do you have a place where you have one copy of everything?  What do you guys have?

ISHMAEL: Yeah, I won’t say where it is but it’s in Austin.  Yeah, it’s not one of everything, before I started, they didn’t keep anything.  So, when I started we kind of made a decision that we were going to keep everything.  We definitely have everything since early 2009.  We have a copy of each thing.  I want to say we have a copy of literally everything, whether it’s the little voucher things for shows, we have every postcard, we have pins and lanyards, anything that we put out like stickers.  I want to say, everything that we’ve ever done since 2009, we have one of each of those.

So some of the older Stouts, you guys don’t even have a copy of one?

ISHMAEL: I mean, personally, we do.  Like, Rob has one of everything, for sure.  And then I get one of everything.  I have a Tyler Stout thing, I have some of his older posters.  As far as the company, that was before me, so I didn’t have any control on what was saved and what wasn’t, you know?

A lot of people asked me about video game licenses and if you think that Mondo will be doing video game stuff?

ISHMAEL: I don’t know if we still have it or not but we had a Capcom license, and we did something for “Mega Man”, but it had to get approved through Japan and it didn’t get approved through Japan.  So we’re kind of questioning whether or not we want to go down that route because a lot of that does have to go through Japanese licensors and they’re very strict.  Normally, they don’t really like any interpretation on what they’ve done in the past.  And of course, that’s what we do.  We kind of do our own thing with it and let the artist work with their style, so I don’t know.  I’m getting into video games.  I don’t play a lot – not for not wanting to, it’s just that I don’t have a lot of time.  If I’m going to do something with my free time it’s watch a movie or read a comic book or something like that. 

Mondo-Richey-Beckett-Game-of-ThronesWe’ve definitely had offers in the past of doing stuff.  It’s mostly like, I don’t want to do something, and I think Mitch and Rob will also agree, because every time we get an offer we talk about it and decide what’s going to happen.  I don’t want to be that guy, and I don’t want to become company, where it’s just kind of “Hey, we’re doing whatever’s popular at the time, we’re doing that.  We’ll just make money on whatever kind of genre property, or nerd thing, or entertainment property is hot at the moment and let’s do that.”  We’ve always kind of been – the understanding was, we’ll do it if we’re a fan of it.  Like with Game of Thrones, if HBO would have came at us and said “Hey, do Game of Thrones” and we wouldn’t have liked the show, we wouldn’t have done the show, but we genuinely like Game of Thrones.  I don’t know, I don’t want to “be a poser” and do something.  I think fans are smart enough to where if we were going to do something for “World of Warcraft” and none of us had ever played “World of Wacraft” and we just do the Cliff Notes version and look online and read Wikipedia, “What’s popular?” and “What do the fans like?”, and then go try to just to make a buck, I think people are going to look at that and be like, “These guys have never played this game before.”  I hate that.  I see that with people all the time when they’re doing stuff that I like and I’m like, “These guys don’t care about this, it’s just a license that they got and they’re doing stuff with it.”  I think that’s one of the things that makes what we do fun and exciting to people, it’s because we are fans and the artists that we work with are fans of it.  What kind of got me excited about Mondo in the beginning, when I was living in Kansas City, was like, you see Tyler Stout’s The Thing poster and it’s just not like drawing Kurt Russell or this or that, it’s got the dog in it and it’s got the little barrel.  It’s actually stuff from the movie.  Some people will think it’s like a throwaway thing but he actually has all the stuff in it.  You can look at any of his posters, like Kill Bill, there’s a little syringe and there’s other tiny things added in where you can tell this is actually stuff he likes, that’s really cool.  But you know, getting off topic, I guess the answer is: We’re not totally against it but we actually have to be into it and know something deeper than just the top layer of it to do something.  I guess, everything we do, we want to make it good. 

I totally get it.  One of the things I think really made fans sad was seeing the concept of Martin Ansin’s Studio Ghibli print.  Obviously there must have been many other things along the way you guys have tried to make that fell apart or couldn’t get made for whatever reason.  Do you have a favorite thing that you guys worked on that came really close to getting made and ended up not getting made?

Mondo-Martin-Ansin-Taxi-DriverISHMAEL: Let me think, I think that was one of them for sure.  What else?  There was some Planet of the Apes stuff that was going to happen that didn’t end up happening.  What else was there?  Taxi Driver came really close to not happening but it ended up working, so I’m glad.  No joke, that was very closing to being one of the ones we could be talking about right now.  Actually, I think we’ve been super lucky on getting things through.  There’s definitely versions of things that we’ve done that haven’t….because you turn them in and someone doesn’t like the likeness of something, or you turn them in and the studio actually goes, “Oh, we thought we had this and we can’t use this or that” and things have to be changed.  I don’t think there’s anything mind-blowing that we tried to put out that hasn’t gotten approved or hasn’t gotten accepted.  Like I said, in this world it’s so difficult to do anything.  I feel super lucky that we’ve got as much stuff off the ground and out there as we have. 

Talk a little bit about the balance of low number runs versus the output of more prints, higher runs.  Basically, how do you balance what is the number, like say, doing 100 of an edition versus say 600 of an edition?  Where is the balance in your mind, in terms of where you guys want to go, because obviously the collectors want as low as possible but then you have a lot of new fans that obviously want to try to get something and when you put out 100 – sometimes when you put out something that’s an edition of 700 it’s still hard to get.  So can you sort of talk about where you guys are in terms of where do you balance the numbers?

ISHMAEL: There’s no formula.  Honestly, it just totally depends on the project.  For “X poster” the studio says you can’t make more than this, and on “Y poster” the artist doesn’t want to go over this certain amount of numbers, “On this one we can do as many as we want, but we just did this one so we can’t do that many.”  It all just matters on what it is.  Take something like We Buy Your Kids, they’re going to have 15 new posters, you know what I mean?  I don’t think it’s a wise decision to do runs of 500 on 15 posters for a movie like Deep Red or something.  You know what I mean?  It’s just kind of we’ve been doing it long enough to where there’s an infinite amount of factors we can look at.  What do we have coming up?  Did we just come off of a big week?  Did we just put out a poster of the same title not too long ago?  Has this artist worked with us in a long time?  What’s the artist’s fanbase?  There’s all this stuff to kind of look at.  I guess there’s no real answer to that question.  It all depends on, you know, whatever.

You had Bryan Lee O’Malley do Battle Royale, which is his first print with you guys.  Are you thinking about maybe doing any more “comic book guys” as artists?  For example; Alex Ross, Frank Miller, Mike Mignola, anybody like that, or with Bryan?

ISHMAEL: I would love to do more with Bryan, he’s awesome.  We met at New York Comic-Con and kind of stayed in touch and we know a lot of the same people.  We had fun on the trip.  I would love to – I know he’s super busy with stuff right now on his own projects.  Yeah, if something comes up in the future that he wants to do, he’s more than welcome to do it.  I loved working with him, he’s a super funny guy and obviously ultra-talented.  I’m a comic book fan so all of those guys are people that I like.  Obviously, we’re working with Francesco and Paolo Rivera, Jacques, you know there’s all these guys that are comic book guys, quote-on-quote.  So the answer is yes, if there’s someone that comes around in the comic book world that we think would work well then definitely yeah, for sure.  I go to a ton of comic book conventions so I’m always talking to these people.  I’ve never met Alex Ross or anything but you know we have definitely been in talks with him before. 

I would probably freak out if Alex Ross did something with you guys.

ISHMAEL: Yeah, I like his stuff a lot.  So, maybe if the right thing comes up in the future we would definitely do something with him.

A lot of people ask me this question.  Struzan Dark Tower status?

ISHMAEL: If everything goes right, it’s going to be this year. 

Is this one of these things where a lot of people have to approve?

ISHMAEL: No.  It’s honestly just finding time to do it. 

So, have you seen any conceptual stuff from him on it?

Mondo-Laurent-Durieux-JawsISHMAEL: Yeah, the thing that we’ll probably be doing is the thing from The Mist.  I mean, that is a Dark Tower poster.  It would be a very similar thing to what we’re doing with the Frankenstein where we’re taking an image that he’s done and then getting one of our artists on it and working with him to actually make it a poster because right now it’s just an image.  With Drew’s stuff I want to kind of event-ize it, and since we just did the stuff with him at the monsters gallery show we’re holding off.  If we can end up going to Comic-Con again this year I would love to do it at Comic-Con, and have him there, signing and stuff because he lives up in Pasadena – have him come down and do it.  Like I said, for anything of ours to happen, a million things have to fall into place.  It’s basically like the cliché, the stars have to align to make anything happen.  There’s a lot of planning that goes into it so if we can get all the things that need to happen, happen in time, definitely we would love to do it at Comic-Con this year. 

With Spielberg loving the recent Jaws print, can that help to get other Spielberg movies being done by you guys?

ISHMAEL: Yeah, most of the stuff is license-able and most of his output has been through Universal, and we have a really good relationship with them.  So, you know it’s not like I have Spielberg’s number and I can call him up and say, “Hey, we want to do something for 1941,” or something like that.  It has to all kind of go through the proper channels.  So, yes and no.  “No” in the fact that I can’t just get a hold of Spielberg, but ask him to do something but “yes” because it has to go through his offices and they have to sign off on everything and they have been into the things we’ve done so far, so I’m hoping they continue to enjoy it. 

Olly Moss might have revealed that he is working on his Spirited Away poster.  Do you get frustrated when artists sort of reveal that this is coming, or is it sort of like, you don’t really mind?

ISHMAEL: I like to keep things secret.  With Olly saying that he’s doing Spirited Away, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal.  It’s not like it was a super secret anyways.  Everyone knows that he was working on a Ghibli series, which is kind of like, “Yeah he was working on a Ghibli series, he was doing Spirited Away.”  That’s not like a “stop the presses” type of thing, but if it we were working on a mystery movie for two years and someone let the cat out of the bag, that would be a bummer.  I told the story about the Taxi Driver poster, it was supposed to be a mystery movie when we opened up at the Manhattan Theater in New York and then it wasn’t necessarily that someone found out we were doing Taxi Driver, it was that someone found out that The Alamo was opening up in Manhattan and then leaked it.  It all started moving so fast, construction got pushed back with them, and we needed to get the poster out.  So, we decided just to do it in Austin. 

Sometimes when people say things – just to make it totally clear, this isn’t directed at Olly, I’m just saying in general terms – if people try to get a scoop and they reveal something that they’ve heard or someone talked to them in confidence about, sometimes it’s not as cool.  It’s a spoiler, it’s the same thing with like a movie.  If you don’t want to know what’s going to happen after a Marvel property stinger after the credits, don’t read the story.  I hate it when people are posting the bootleg images on it and you see what’s going to happen and it’s spoiled for you.  I think it’s a very similar thing to where we try to make these things surprising and basically make people have a good time.  A lot of these things that we do, we have a plan on how to release them, we’re working with the Fons’, our PR team, we’re working with someone else to kind of make it as big and a happy thing for people.  Olly didn’t do anything wrong, but I do like it when we can work clandestinely with someone on something and then kind of just surprise people with it.  We got some stuff that we’ve been working on for well over a year, that’s coming out, fingers crossed, sometime in April.  This is one of those things that I think people are going to be like, “Wow! We can tell you’ve been putting in work on this thing.”  That’s going to be fun, to unveil all of it at once and say, “Here you go! Hope you guys enjoy! We’ve sure been very anxious to release it to show you guys that we’ve been waiting for the right time.”  I’m hoping that in the future we can keep doing such things and making them fun and surprising, which is what we’ve done kind of to get to this point. 

Last summer at Comic-Con you had a Ghibli from Moss.  Do you envision this year’s Comic-Con where we could see Spirited Away?

ISHMAEL: If we get to go to Comic-Con, yeah.  I don’t know what’s going to happen with that yet.  We haven’t gotten the green light that we’re in yet.  I’m crossing my fingers every day that we hear back that we got a booth.

At Comic-Con last year you guys dropped a ton of pints throughout the day, every thee hours you would drop one, New York Comic-Con and WonderCon you would open up first thing in the morning and you would have everything, do you envision future Cons doing stuff like that where you’re dropping everything when doors open or do you prefer to drop one thing, wait a few hours and drop another thing?

ISHMAEL: If it was a perfect world and we could do whatever we want we would do it like we did in San Diego where are releasing things throughout the day and one of the reasons we did that last year was because we had signings a lot.  I would say 75% of the things we did we had the artist thee signing it.  If everything happens correctly we will have more people signing this year as well.  I love Comic-Con, I love San Diego, I want to do things there, I was going before the Mondo stuff.  I think there’s a lot of people where that’s the fun thing at the convention to meet their favorite artist and get something cool.  I think if we get in were going to talk about what we want to do, to where it might be a mixture where in the morning we have some new stuff that gets released and throughout the day well have signings.  I don’t know if it will be at the booth, I don’t know if it’s going to be upstairs in the signing area o something.  I honestly don’t know I think were going to have an internal conversation about the way we release stuff in the future if we get a booth this year.  I don’t know.

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