Mondo had a lot of announcements at Comic-Con International 2014, but none so large as the reveal that it planned to get into the toy business with “Iron Giant” and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” figures. The company has long been known for its unique posters based on popular properties with new takes from some well-known pop culture artists, including Olly Moss, Jock, Francesco Francavilla and more.
To shed some light on Mondo’s current and future plans as it expands into the toy industry, Mondo CEO Justin Ishmael joined CBR executive producer Jonah Weiland on the CBR Yacht, touching on the evolution of Mondo as a company, the sustainability of their business model, the high standards the company has set for itself and much more. Plus, he discusses his love of “Batman: The Animated Series,” which drove him to put together the Mondo 7-inch records.
On Mondo’s evolution through the years: I think the cool thing about the term Mondo is that we started out with posters — we started out with shirts — and we went to posters, we’re doing records, we’re doing toys. Whenever people come up and are like, “You’re the poster guy!” I feel like there’s more than that. I don’t want to say, “No, we’re out of the poster game,” [but] we definitely want to show that we’re not just that and we’re going to go away. We want to be here forever.
On their unique business model of scarcity and its sustainability: I don’t know. There are companies that have made their livelihoods forever off of limited stuff. We did the limited posters a lot of times just out of necessity. You mentioned the Olly Moss “Dark Knight” — that was a timed edition, so we did 9000 of those. It took forever to get them printed because of the method. … Posters, it’s a little more difficult thing, but records — that’s something we can do more of. Toys, especially — that was a big thing that we announced here and people were like, “Oh great! But I can’t get it.” I want to explain to people that it’s not because we enjoy the pain of people not being able to get it. A lot of times, it’s limitations based on contracts and licenses or whatever. Toys, all that’s out. We can do preorder, if you want it you can buy it. Obviously, there’s going to be a time when it’s not available, but it won’t be an hour later. It’ll be months later.
On the process of getting toys to the standard expected from Mondo: No matter what we do — posters, records — we want it to be the best one. I said before, we’re not the best toy company right now because we haven’t released a toy. But that’s the goal. We want to learn to be the best. We have good people working with us on the toy side that have been doing this for a long time. They have experience so they can know the tricks and what things to look for. We met with some people from China yesterday, we were talking to them and actually showing them the Iron Giant [figure]. … And choosing them too, that was a lot of fun. For three or four years, it would be me going to Comic-Con and me being, “Who can do this poster? What artist can do this poster?” Now, it’s “Who can sculpt this? Who can do a cool record packaging?”
On continuing to maintain the Mondo identity through new projects: We have a lot of people working for us that do a lot of things. Mitch Putnam, Rob Jones are kind of the main creative team, and we all have different interests. I think one of the things for me, at least, is that I’m not playing catch-up, if that makes sense. I’m not like, “Oh, Batman’s really hot right now, let me watch all the animated series.” I can sit down and say, “Here’s all these episodes and we’re going to do posters for these, or records for these, or characters we want to do for 7-inch.” Whatever. The first Turtle wasn’t me picking up a drawing for the first time and going, “Oh, that’s a cool-looking drawing.” … I think it comes from me being a fan. I was almost late here because I was getting Bruce Timm’s booth to get on his commission list to get him to sign these. It comes from wanting to be here. I would be here even if we didn’t have a booth. Meeting all the people we meet, working with all the people we want to work with, being able to do this stuff and it’s official and people like it.