This is a brief overview of our year and what you can expect to see from us.
I’ll start with the photo. It was taken during a visit to the Al Williamson studio a few years back. Being able to see the “Savage World!” original art was a special moment. Especially while the pages were resting on Al’s drawing table.
Here’s a shipping update on the Williamson and Mark Schultz books.
If all goes well, we will have Al Williamson: Strange World Adventures, Carbon 4 by Mark Schultz, Xenozoic by Mark Schultz and the Al Williamson and Mark Schultz Astounding Sketchbook next week. The books are still at the port waiting to be offloaded from the shipping vessel. We will begin shipping our Kickstarter pledges and Flesk online pre-orders just as soon as they arrive.
As for our next wave of Flesk books, we have five other books at the printer. These include The Drawings of Edwin Austin Abbey, Covenant: The Art of Allen Williams, new books with Frank Cho and Gary Gianni, and a new printing of the Bruce Timm Naughty and Nice collection. Once the books have been printed and are being shipped to us I’ll reveal more and open them all up for pre-orders. We would like to see how the shipping transit times are looking before we announce the release dates.
In the meantime, we are working on the new Franklin Booth book, two new Arthur Adams books, three new William Stout books, plus we are wrapping up two books by a pair of new artists. Then we have the J.A.W. Cooper book to start in June, plus two other new artists who we will start working with in the summer. Then we will have more books featuring Mark Schultz and Al Williamson to work on for 2022. There’s more, but this is what we can share to date.
For the rest of 2021 we do not have any plans to exhibit at any shows. This includes the San Diego November show that we will skip. We will start fresh with events in 2022. Until that time we will continue to make the best books that we can.
With the summer winding-down I am turning my focus toward our latest batch of books. There are five titles that form our next wave of art collections. These will be released between this fall and into the spring of 2020. Each of these books has been in some stage of development from anywhere between 1 to 13 years. They include monograms on Frank Cho, Bruce Timm, Brad Kunkle, Edwin Austin Abbey, and Jeffrey Alan Love. Some of the details for each project is outlined here. I’m including Al Williamson and Mark Schultz as supporting guests as I share some behind the scenes stories.
The Art of Frank Cho
The first book that I
will share the details about is a big Art of Frank Cho collection. Frank has
brought up the idea of a large book for years. During a quiet period about a
year ago I began to assemble this book. Over the course of a few weeks I worked
with Frank to map out a book that spans his entire career that runs over 300
pages. During my visit to Maryland during the 2018 Baltimore Comic-Con I spent
some extra time with Frank and scanned original art from his archives. Then, in
February 2019 I visited Frank again when we fleshed out the book some more and
I scanned a bunch of more material for the book. It was common to work on the
book for 2-3 days, then to take a few months off before another window opened
where we could align and do some more work on it together. I’m looking at the
book now and realizing how close it is to being done. It’s amazing how a few
days here and there over the course of a year or two can result in a book.
Since we haven’t looked at the book over the summer, we have two fresh pairs of eyes on it. We have tweaked one of the sections by cutting back on the Liberty Meadows section and inserting some of his latest works. At the moment Frank is working full time on his upcoming Fight Girls comic for AWA, his regular Harley Quinn covers for DC Comics, and the occasional comic cover for other publishers. This makes his time available to focus on this book limited. We are squeezing in an hour here and there to wrap it up. I never want to stress Frank out by being pushy, so we are working at his pace to get this done. The only thing that Frank has left to do is the cover and to provide the remaining captions. We’re in a good groove and hope to have it done very soon.
The way I work with
every artist is different, yet the same factor of it being very personal is
consistent. With Frank we do everything over the phone. We talk for anywhere
between 1-3 hours at a time, usually chit-chatting about random things as we
both work while keeping each other company. What I’ll do is send Frank a PDF of
the book which he will look over, usually while he is drawing a Harley Quinn cover.
Based on his feedback and our discussion I’ll tweak and adjust things as we
talk about totally random things. I’ll send him a new PDF once I’ve made a
series of fresh improvements. Frank gives it a look, we talk about it, then I
tweak it some more. We go back and forth like this for hours. It’s easy, very
organic, and we are always in sync with one another. It’s a pretty smooth and
enjoyable process. When I work with Mark Schultz and Gary Gianni, it is very
similar to this, with the exception that they are not working on comic covers at
the same time. Frank is always backed up with so many projects, he usually has
to continue working.
With Frank, we usually work and talk late at night. Between 8:00pm to midnight my time, which is 11:00pm to 3:00am his time. We both work best with creative stuff at night—especially since we can focus uninterrupted. For me, the daytime is reserved for running the business and while being on daddy duty. Since we are the same age and in similar family situations, we can relate to one another easily.
Working with Frank is a
good experience. Since neither of us likes drama, and we like to keep things
mellow and easy, it’s always worked out smoothly.
The details and release date for The Art of Frank Cho will be revealed soon. I like to have Frank’s books done, or nearly done, before we announce it. Since he is always slammed with work, I don’t want to make an announcement and then have the book delivered late. But, we are very close to being done!
At the same time I am working with Bruce Timm on his new book. This will be a collection of his three sold-out show Teasers, then Surrender My Sweet, and will also include a lot of new material. At 208 pages and 9 x 12 inches, there will be a paperback and a hardcover edition available. Bruce is another artist who is very easy to work with. We started on this collection last year. Like with Frank Cho, Bruce can get very busy with his day job. We tend to work a little at a time in-between other projects. Sometimes when he has the time, I may be fully engrossed in my Spectrum duties. Then, when I’m free, he may be tied-up in a new film. Eventually though, we align and get it done. By not setting a deadline it takes the pressure and stress off of us, while allowing for a book that we are proud of.
Bruce and I work
exclusively through email. Like with Cho, Schultz, and Gianni, he is easy and
professional, with the process being very organic. The way we work typically
goes like this. I’ll shoot him an email with a book idea that includes a full
outline to get the brainstorming sessions started. Bruce replies after each of
my paragraphs with notes and thoughts of his own. We go back and forth like this
as the book begins to take form. This is a very enjoyable part of the process.
I’ve written this before, but Bruce has been very impactful on me in terms of
how I design a book. I’ve never worked with him at Warner Bros., or seen him in
action there, but based upon my experience while working with him on his books,
he is very good at bringing out the best in me, while allowing me to be
creative and to try new things.
If you are wondering
how I started working with Bruce, it was as simple as my meeting him at a
Comic-Con in San Diego and giving him a 2-minute pitch. Since I didn’t know him,
I forced myself to keep my book idea with him to just a few minutes. I knew he
was a big name, and I was well aware of his stature in the industry and all
that he has accomplished. I don’t get nervous or feel intimated when I meet
people, so I didn’t practice, or prepare (since both rob me of feeling
comfortable—I’m best when I don’t rehearse in advance), but I simply had a
general idea of making a book on his personal “after-hours” art. I let him know
that I wanted to make a “Bruce Timm” book and never mentioned any of his
superhero or daytime work. A handful of follow-up emails over the next 6-8
months resulted in about 200 originals showing up at my house one day. Suffice
it to say, I feel very fortunate that he continues to work with me.
Back to this new
collection, it is about 95% complete. As soon as Bruce is wrapped up with his
latest film we can wrap it up. I’ll make an announcement once we have a release
A third book that I am
working on is with Brad Kunkle. Working on three books at a time serves a few
purposes. The first is that it is practical. Many of the artists that I work
with stay very busy. Between commercial assignments, private commissions, event
appearances, exhibits—we all share passion for our dreams and work hard to
achieve our vision. When Frank Cho has a Harley Quinn cover deadline or he is
attending a show, I may jump over to the Bruce Timm book. Then when I am caught
up on Bruce’s book, I’ll send him an email with some notes. Rather than wait
for his reply, especially since it may be a week or two since he is involved in
a new film, I jump over to Brad’s book. The three books keep me moving and I’m
not sitting idle.
Another reason why three
books is the magic number is because it keeps me creatively excited. Each book
has a different tone; each one features different subject matter; and, each is
handled differently. By jumping back and forth between the three, I feel that I
can have continually fresh eyes. Rather than serving as a distraction or
impeding my flow, the variations help with my flow. My goal is to have
contrasting books with different designs so that there are no templates being
Getting back to Brad, I
first met him in 2006 or 2007 (I have to check my notes to confirm the year) during
my first trip to Pennsylvania to visit with Mark Schultz. Mark had invited me
out to visit Al and Cori Williamson. Having the chance to see Al at his home
was a special moment for me. I’m a huge fan of the EC comics line that came out
in the 1950s. Al did a lot of artwork for the Weird Fantasy, Weird
Science, and Weird Science-Fantasy titles. He collaborated with Roy
Krenkel and Frank Frazetta at times, but it was Al’s work that excited me the
most. (This all ties into Brad, I promise.)
After I arrived at
Mark’s house, and after we visited with Al and Cori, Mark and I drove back to
his house. The next day Mark asked me if he minded if a guest joined us for
lunch. Sure, I didn’t mind. This guy pulls up the driveway and Mark introduces
Brad Kunkle to me. It turns out that Brad is related to Mark’s wife, Denise. Brad,
at the time, was in a band and was doing dog portrait paintings on the side. I
recall that he was still deciding which direction to go in.
Brad pulled out a
painting from his trunk. It was of a recent portrait that he did of his
girlfriend at the time. It was stunning! I looked at his dog portraits online
and was amazed at how he captured the personalities of the dogs. We even
discussed possibly doing a dog calendar at the time. But, basically, from that
fortuitous lunch during a time when I was starting to get my publishing career
off the ground, and Brad was beginning to become a painter, we developed a
friendship. Over the years we would meet up in various locations during our
travels when our lives would intersect such as in Santa Barbara, New York City,
and in various cities in Pennsylvania, but never in the same place twice. I was
able to congratulate him as he had his first sold-out exhibit, followed by his
second, and watched how his notoriety and fame grew, while he always remaining
a humble and good guy. Each time we saw one another, we would discuss working
together on a book project when the time was right. Well, 13 plus years later
after our first meeting, we finally decided that the time is right.
At the moment we are
working on his first art book collection. Our main emphasis is for the book to
be an art object. There may be more discussion going into this book than any
other project that I have worked on before. I want this to be something very
special, and unlike anything we have published before. Like all of the books
that we do, there is no rush on this. It will get done when it is done. But, I
can guarantee that it will be beautiful.
Edwin Austin Abbey
A fourth book that is nearly done is an Edwin Austin Abbey pen-and-ink book that is reproduced from old magazines. I recently pulled it off a hard drive and dusted it off. I had done the majority of work on this book 10 years ago. It is in a similar format and style to the Franklin Booth and Joseph Clement Coll books that I did from 2002-2004. I had lost interest in the Abbey book when I was working with living artists and direct from original art full time. The chance to work with Al Williamson was more exciting! After looking over the Abbey book I realized that it was about 80% done and I liked it a bunch. I asked Kathy to finish cleaning up the remaining art that I hadn’t got to yet, and she put the final polish on the book. All that’s needed is for me to write an introduction or essay. I just need to find the time to write a brief piece to open the book. I’ll leave a detailed essay on Abbey to a future historian. Taking the time to research and write extended essays is not available to me at this stage in my life.
Jeffrey Alan Love
A fifth book in development is a Jeffrey Alan Love sketchbook. Jeff ran this idea by me last year, which I liked and agreed to publish. The concept is simple in that Jeff would paint a piece in his sketchbook of whatever idea came to his mind that day. Once the sketchbook was full, he passed it along to me. Rather than scanning the pages I took it to my friend Greg Preston to get photographed. When scanning art, it projects a bright flat light against the art surface. This works fine in most cases, however I wanted to have more control over the lighting for this object, rather than treating it as a flat surface. There are textures and variations in the way Jeff applies his paint and I didn’t want these nuances to be lost in the scanning process. Jeff was the one who initially suggested that the sketchbook be photographed. My mind immediately began spinning with ideas and techniques for a unique approach to reproducing his sketchbook. With the photography done, I’ve been playing around with two very different approaches to the book and will make a final decision soon. There’s not too much work left to do on this book. I simply need the time to focus on it. My goal is to have it done in the next few months, then I’ll plan a release date.
Making a Book
Publishers typically make new book announcements 10-12 months in advance, then work hard to hit their target dates. I prefer to work in a different way. I like to either finish or have a book 95% done before I advertise and offer a release date. This allows me to take my time and to let the book dictate its own schedule. I can pull this off since I am a small publisher. Once a publisher gets to a certain size and has a larger staff–mapping out schedules is imperative to making sure the business runs smoothly. I can work in both environments, however, lately I’ve been focusing on the book first, followed by advertising it once it is complete.
The high majority of
the book work is done by me, although Kathy is quickly growing as a fine
bookmaker and will be running her own projects as soon as we can find a new
office manager to free up her time. Currently, Kathy runs the office and
assists me throughout the week. Some books, like Spectrum, she plays a major
role in and does most of the heavy work, and other books, like the Bruce Timm
collection where she has a very small hand in. Then, there are other books
where we work side-by-side like this new Frank Cho book. The new Tran Nguyen
book Kathy did not see until I asked her to give it a final review before I
sent it to the printer. We work very organically and fall into a smooth groove
based on what is going on in the office and what book work needs to be done.
When we start a new
book, I’ll take the first step which is to make something which I call a book
map. I do a rough layout with no design in place. It looks as simple as art
placed on pages just to get an idea of the flow and placement of how the tone
and order of the book will look. Actually, before I do this, I visually scroll
through the artwork quickly on the computer to take a mental snapshot and to
memorize all of the imagery. I shuffle and organize the images in my head, then
place them in the order that I want on the pages. Once this is done, I’ll send
a PDF to the artist for them to look at for feedback. This avoids wasting time
and effort by streamlining the book early, before the design stage begins.
Either through email or over the phone we’ll go over the PDF together. Based on
their comments and reactions I’ll tighten up the book further, shift pages and
art around, and I may group things differently, until we have a solid book map
to work with.
At this stage I’ll start inserting text, if any. Again, I’m not paying any attention to design. I’m simply dropping text on pages next to the art that it is associated with. Before the text is dropped into the book it is fully edited and finalized. I don’t write in the design program, or make changes to the text after it is inserted into the book. I want to be efficient and not waste time by repeating unnecessary steps. I’d rather spend time with my kid than do something a second time. Once the text and art for each page is finalized, then I’ll start designing the book. I’ll only design a handful of book spreads first, then send it to the artist for their feedback. That way we can nail the theme and design elements early, before applying it to the full book. After we settle on the design, I’ll go in and apply the master design to the full book. I’ll send PDFs regularly to the artist to give opportunities to make changes and to provide feedback in the early stages. The last thing I want to do is to make big radical changes after I’ve already applied the theme to the book. It’s about doing the heavy lifting early on, really paying attention to the early mapping and design foundation to make sure that the rest of the process is smooth and easy. I actually enjoy the heavy creative lifting in the beginning stages, then fall into cruise control for the middle stage. The final stage includes all double checks on the art and text to look for mistakes. Then I package it up and send it off to the printer.
That brings you up to date on our next five books. Lots more to come! I have a backlog of 10 more that I am pretty excited to move forward with after these. They include the next Arthur Adams, J.A.W. Cooper, Terry Dodson, Mark Schultz, William Stout, and Al Williamson titles—along with Spectrum 27.
I received word from the shipper that the books will arrive at the docks on December 5th. Depending on processing and customs we should have the books about a week later. We’ll start shipping the books as soon as they arrive.
Here’s the link to learn more or to place your pre-order:
Thank you for a successful J.A.W. Cooper Kickstarter campaign!
I’m feeling grateful and appreciate everyone who supported the campaign. I never take your support for granted. What excites me the most is that I have the opportunity to work with Cooper, to package and publish and then share her work, and that we have this chance to mail out packages to 878 backers. Wow! That’s what drives me every day. I absolutely love being a publisher. Having this chance to connect directly with our supporters is incredibly fulfilling.
The J.A.W. Cooper enamel pins for our Kickstarter supporters are in production! We are now eagerly waiting for them to be manufactured and shipped to our warehouse! We’re sure you’re all as excited as we are for their arrival. If you aren’t, that’s udderly ridiculous.
We can’t wait to get these awesome goodies out to you in October!
We will be sending the shipping address surveys out closer to the shipping date, so keep your eyes peeled for those late September/early October.
We have an amazing selection of items that highlight the artwork of J.A.W. Cooper, including:
Three books titled Familiars, Flora & Fauna, and Viscera; A premium 18 x 24 inch signed and numbered print; A postcard set featuring Cooper’s travel gouache works; Plus, three exquisite enamel pins to complement the three books.
Four exclusive bonus Kickstarter prints and an enamel pin “Fig Frog” will be included with any tier selected of $25 or more. Four stretch goals have been unlocked to add value to every book and premium print pre-order.
Over this last week there have been two interviews posted online that feature J.A.W. Cooper. I thought that I would share the details about each with you in case you were interested in learning more about Cooper.
The first one was conducted by Bobby Chiu from Schoolism. A portion of this interview is her philosophy regarding freedom vs. income and maintaining a proper balance in life. This hour-long video can be viewed on the Schoolism website, or on YouTube.
The second interview with Cooper was conducted by Walt Morton and is titled “Drawing the Inner Animal With J.A.W. Cooper. It’s an enjoyable read where you can gain much insight into her influences, working methods, and additional details regarding her philosophies.
We launched our J.A.W. Cooper Kickstarter campaign today! I’ve been working with Cooper over the last year to bring these books and prints to life. We’re delighted to finally be able to make them on offer to you all.