21 Things We Learned from MONDO TALK: Mondo-Con 2015

The “Mondo Talk” was a panel at this year’s Mondo-Con wherein Mondo’s Creative Directors Mitch Putnam, Rob Jones, Jay Shaw, and Head of Creative Production Eric Garza pulled the curtain back from a normally secretive process, and showed a packed audience of around 300 fans how they collaborate with artists to arrive at the final posters, Blu-rays, and vinyl packages you know and love.

One thing to remember from discussions like these is that studio/license holder interference isn’t really a villainous thing: the content is the studio’s baby and Mondo doesn’t have ownership over these properties, so naturally the studio is going to try and protect their child. Also, every once in a while the changes they request actually help the poster artistically (which you’ll see in number 9). These are just some things to keep in mind while you learn of some Mondo works that could have been – it’s a collaborative process, so there’s no one party to blame for you not getting your mitts on these images.

Here’s what we learned:

1Skyfall: Mondo was going to do the vinyl LP release for Skyfall with artwork by Martin Ansin. All of the artwork was complete, including gatefold and little touches like the labels, but Eon (the production company) only wanted them to use original photographic artwork. Clearly, that didn’t work for Mondo.

(Click pictures to embiggen!)

2Spiderman: JC Richard’s idea was to do the death of Gwen Stacy on a poster, and they went far enough into the process to have rough concepts, but there was no way Marvel would allow it in the end. JC attempted some alternate versions that more subtlety showed the death, but after a lot of back and forth they tired of trying to make a difficult scene work for all parties.

3The Fly: Last year, the Kansas City Alamo hosted a screening of The Fly which included a poster (the first black one you see below). They had two posters approved and printed, but the second one they simply forgot they had it: it was packed away into storage when they were moving into their new office, and there it sat until it was rediscovered recently (and put up for sale at Mondo-Con after the panel). With the amount of Mondo’s output combined with their small staff, stuff occasionally slips through the cracks.

4 & 5The Dark Knight: First, Mitch let it slip that Elvisdead, two dudes from France, have created an Invisible Man poster that has yet to be released (this seemed like a genuine error in revealing, it was casually mentioned to remind us who Elvisdead is). They had worked on a Joker in flames concept, and the back and forth eventually produced the joking Sandwich Batman (hey, maybe we can get it at a future gallery show).

6 & 7Toy Story 2: Back when Mondo had a Disney license alongside Sideshow Collectibles (if you’ll remember, Mondo did the regular version releases and Sideshow did variants), they had an idea for a Heroes of Folk series. They were working on it but right before they were going to finish and print, the license ended. They eventually got the license back for the Disney Gallery Show, then Todd Slater turned in his version for it; however, for unmentioned reasons it also was cancelled before the gallery could open.

8Shovel Knight: This release was going to be for SDCC. Jason Edmiston worked it all the way up to the final color stage. The license holders declined the work for various reasons, citing some examples like wanting it to be more like Frazetta’s work, that it was too cartoony, or asking for more muscular thighs.

9The Goonies: In a case of studio feedback actually helping the poster, you can see some changes requested on Tyler Stout’s Goonies poster in the middle picture: blue markings are changes, such as the two cars in the bottom and the baseball card. The original is on the left, revision markings in middle, and final on right. The changes they requested opened up the poster and let it breathe a little, and really benefited the composition. A non-studio change you can see (via direction from Rob Jones) was to make the title gold because Rob thought it was getting lost in the rest of the poster.

10 & 11Director involvement: JC Richard was working on a Pacific Rim print. Director Guillermo del Toro felt weird about the scale of the Jaegers, and wanted greater emphasis on how gigantic they are. The artist and director kept going back and forth, and eventually on the phone with JC, del Toro said “I need you to make it so it would give you a boner.” I guess it never got to that boner-stage since it wasn’t released, but Mondo eventually released a few Pacific Rim posters, so I suppose those passed the boner-test. On Phantasm, Don Coscarelli wasn’t enthused by the original idea, which was the ball from the movie. The twist was that they would print it on foil so while it would look simple, it would shine and you could see yourself in it. It seems like this was hard to translate by emailing JPG images back and forth, so they took another route with the eventual Phantom City Creative cover.

12The Graduate: For his first concept, Tomer Hanuka went with a “whats on men’s minds?” approach. In the original version the studio said it looks like Hoffman from 1985 – too old. They went back and forth with art direction from Rob as well, trying to make him younger. Eventually Tomer got sick of it and scrapped that concept, instead coming up with a new version that was deemed too “pervy.” Scrapping that, he went with the “vagina pool” concept, which was toned down to the eventual phallic version. Secret message time: look closely on the can in the final poster, it purposefully has “cock” written on it. (Picture number 5 is my personal favorite of the bunch.)

13The Hobbit: They started working with Nico Delort on Hobbit posters, and when Delort sends in his first draft it’s basically a 100% completed version. When he sent this first version, Mondo didn’t like the bottom section. They felt the top was perfect and wanted to just go with that, but Delort scrapped the whole thing and came up with the image we now know.

14Jaws: Of the three concepts, at first Rob thought the first (eventually final) image didn’t fit with the movie. He liked the second but didn’t want the kid’s arm sticking out of the shark’s mouth, so they went with other versions with the hook sticking out, and another with the rope sticking out. The issue was with scale – it’s hard to tell how large the shark is when it’s underwater, so they thought maybe with the shark’s face lit from a flashlight it would help. After going back and forth with Rob saying option one didn’t look enough like a Jaws poster, Mitch convinced him: the world has already seen too many normal Jaws posters, so we need something different. It eventually worked and is a favorite in the company.

15Nightcrawler: The studio asked Mondo to do a Nightcrawler Steelbook. Jay Shaw’s first concept was a road leading to Lou. He quickly moved on from that to look at the question of: what does Lou constantly see? Death, also with the juxtaposition of a smile. Jay wasn’t happy with that one, and moved on to the third, his favorite, which he described as “more me: it’s unsellable.” But he knew it wouldn’t get approved, so he moved on to a callback to the original Blow-Up poster, but the studio didn’t like it (which he anticipated). Both parties settled on the one where you peel up Lou’s face (image 7), and everyone seemed happy with it – it went all the way up to Jake Gyllenhaal and the director, but they both declined. The studio went back to Jay’s catalogue and asked him for something similar to what he’d already done – Repo Man for Criterion. So he turned in one that was like a James Bond homage but with a camera aperture instead of a gun, and eventually settled on the very similar final version with the viewfinder.

16Nightmare on Elm St.: This is a good look at the back and forth art direction process: the first version they liked everything but the face, the second version they liked the face, so they combined the two into the final version.

17 & 18Jurassic Park: Everyone loved Rich Kelly’s initial sketch, but the problem was at the top with the amber and mosquito eye: Olly Moss had an unreleased concept of that from years ago already. Rich had never heard of it, but to avoid comparison he dropped that section and just did the bottom of the poster. A similar thing happened to Francisco Francavilla’s Jurassic Park poster. He sent two sketches in – both looked great and everyone was happy with them, but at the same time Mondo was working with artist duo Stan and Vince on a Jurassic Park poster, and they got their sketch approved before Francavilla. Both concepts were too similar, so Francavilla scrapped his work and ended up going in a different direction with his “reverse Jaws” concept.

19War of the Worlds: Sometimes Mondo receives too many good concepts and can’t make choices on what direction to go. With these Stan and Vince concepts, they loved them all and just asked the artists which one they personally most wanted to do.

20 & 21Jonathan Burton: Rob first faked the audience out with a “create your own adventure” scenario, where the audience was going to decide the art direction for a future poster. They gave us two choices for a Jonathan Burton Frankenstein, but it turned out that the one the audience chose was actually already a completed poster coming out in the next few weeks – the audience made the same choice that Mondo did (final poster in picture 6). They then did a real session of audience art direction, and as a collective whole we couldn’t decide between B and C, so eventually the panel shrugged and decided to go with both.

Personally, I would have definitely picked C. I think both B and C are strong concepts, but we already have a lot of King Kong posters with him in the city and marquee lights underneath. We don’t have much with Kong on the island, and a look into that portion of the story would have felt more fresh.

Photo credit: Jon Partridge

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the author

David works for a huge tech company at the moment, does freelance video editing on the side, tries to make films, and occasionally spends his time helping this website run. He lives in Austin, Texas, and is a co-founder of Cinapse. His film philosophy is that there is no difference between "high" art and "low" art, cerebral art house films and Fast Five both bring things to the table and have merit in their own right. Some favorite directors in no particular order: Paul Thomas Anderson, Kubrick, Spielberg, Tarantino, Edgar Wright, John Carpenter, Ridley Scott. Twitter: @daviddelgadoh

  • Tynan Patrick

    that Frankenstein is pretty cool