On Black Friday, Mondo, the Alamo Drafthouse’s collectable art boutique, has a special present for DC Comics fans: an iconic, panoramic poster depicting Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, illustrated in glorious detail by artist JC Richard. Exclusively available through Mondo via a partnership with Sideshow Collectibles, the print is limited to 390 pieces priced at $50 apiece — and for Mondo Creative Director Justin Ishmael, this inaugural piece in their partnership with DC Comics marks a huge achievement. “We’re really excited and happy,” Ishmael told CBR News. “This isn’t our first time doing comic book stuff, but it’s the first time with DC Comics.”
As a part of the popular Texas independent theater the Alamo Drafthouse, Mondo has created new and quirky takes on a number of different properties. Whether it’s old horror films like “Dawn of the Dead,” Disney images from movies like “Dumbo” and “Monsters, Inc.,” posters from “Star Wars” featuring obscure droids, or episode posters for “Star Trek,” Mondo’s limited edition images are highly sought-after and never available for long once they go on sale. Now, Mondo is tackling the comic book world, kicking things off with the Fortress of Solitude, and it’s only the beginning.
“I sat down and I made a list of 100 things I wanted to do, and a lot of it was weird stuff that wouldn’t be good first projects. I wanted to do a lot of the Kirby Fourth World stuff and Bat-Mite — just weirder stuff,” Ishmael told CBR News. “It’s like when we did ‘Star Wars.’ The first poster was the Gonk droid. We didn’t want to start off with something like Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker; we wanted to do something strange. A lot of people probably won’t connect as much with Bat-Mite like they did with the Gonk droid. One of the things on my list was the actual location posters for superheroes. I had Star City, Metropolis, Gotham, the Batcave and the Fortress of Solitude, and I had Oa on there, too. I thought we could do these big, panoramic views with no text, nothing on it, almost like nature posters. The Fortress of Solitude is the most ‘naturey’ of any of them. That was the one we chose to start off with because it was just something that not a lot of people had seen.”
Ishmael continued, citing the way in which Mondo’s style came into play when settling on a design for the Fortress of Solitude image. “When you do a poster, or when dudes do comic books, it’s always Superman punching someone. You never get a serene Superman. I kind of love a relaxing Superman thing. We decided to go for that one first, to do something different with the character. Superman’s very tiny in it. He’s like a red and blue blur, flying off. We wanted to really focus on the Fortress. We thought that was a really interesting design.”
Bringing life to the iconic DC locale is artist JC Richard, who had previously done a “Jurassic Park” poster for Mondo. “He is very, very good at doing landscape stuff,” Ishmael said of Richard. “He’s got a firm grasp of how to make stuff. It’s weird, because we do screen prints. He’s got a really good way of making stuff look photorealistic. Last year, we did a Hoth thing where it was just Hoth with just a tiny Probe Droid in it, so we’ve done stuff like this before, but the Jurassic Park thing, it was just such a huge hit with people and they really, really liked him. So, we brought him on to kick the DC series off. We’re going to have him on a ton more stuff. It’s going to be really cool.”
Typically, the design process for posters involves a fair amount of back-and-forth, but Ishmael noted that Richard hit the mark right out of the gate. “JC’s sketches are almost like his final posters,” he said. “On this one, we wanted a wide shot of the Fortress of Solitude and he did it. It was perfect the first round. When we work with other guys, if it’s a movie or something, we might say, ‘We love this specific scene. Do something with this scene in mind.” A lot of times, we’ll leave it up to the artist to figure it out. If they’re having trouble, we’ll art direct. We like them to have fun with it. We don’t like to force stuff on people if they’re not into it. JC is a comic book dude, he likes this stuff and he did a good job with it. I was really impressed with it. Fingers crossed, I hope people are into it.”
Ishmael told CBR that while Mondo plans to release more of the DC Universe’s panoramic location designs in the future, DC fans can also expect a plethora of different poster layouts looking forward. “I want to do Oa, I want to do the Batcave. The Batcave is going to be really cool, with all the trophy stuff, the Tyrannosaurus Rex and the penny and all the different suits and all the stuff that Batman’s collected over the years,” Ishmael said. “But we’re going to straight poster posters. Kind of what we’re doing with movies — a poster, with titles and credit blocks. We’re going to try to do that. If we do a ‘Watchmen’ poster, it’ll be something like that. It’ll kind of resemble a movie poster. We’re not sure if we can do this, but the idea is to do a credit block using the creators [in the credits].”
And the ambitious plans don’t stop there. A comic fan himself, Ishmael’s list contains potential designs that are sure to appeal to comic fandom. “I want to get weird with it,” he said. “If fans get into this and fans like it, I want to do stuff with Darkseid. I’m a huge [Jack] Kirby fan, so I’d love to do all the classic DC stuff. There’s so much to play with over the whole history of it, it’s going to be a crazy series. I would love to even get weird and do a poster with all the incarnations of Jimmy Olsen.”
Although the partnership heralds a new iconic poster series for both Mondo and DC, Ishmael says there are no plans as of yet for tie-ins with DC films at either the Alamo Drafthouse or their Mondo Mystery Movie series. “I don’t know. It’s all just, whenever we have an idea, we’ll just set it up and do it. I would love to show more DC stuff,” he said, noting that the posters would be centered more on comics rather than films. “I think we want to focus more on the comic book side of it, because that’s something we’ve never done before. We want to do more classic stories from the history of DC and characters that don’t often get a good shake. I would love to do an Ambush Bug poster. I like weirder characters. I’m not saying we can’t do something cool for Green Lantern or Batman, which we will, but I would love to do some of the odder characters that don’t get a lot of attention that are really cool. I would love to do a Metal Men poster on a sheet of metal; I think that would be really cool.”
The Creative Director also noted that Mondo wouldn’t stop with DC character-focused posters, having plans to extend to everything from major event books to Vertigo titles and even DC television shows. “I’m looking at the list of things we want to do, and it’s all good stuff,” he said. “‘Crisis on Infinite Earths,’ ‘Sandman,’ Solomon Grundy, we’d like to do a poster of all the Batmobile incarnations, ‘Transmetropolitan,’ ‘Hellblazer.’ We want to do Superman posters and do variants of the different Kryptonite. I would love to do stuff like Metal Men and Challengers of the Unknown and Mxyzptlk and Plastic Man. I think we have the ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ license, too, so I’d love to get Bruce Timm or any of those dudes to do stuff for it. We’re going to try to do all the stuff we want to do on this.”
Despite having an extensive list of potential future posters, Ishmael noted that the release schedule for DC posters will be an unstructured one. “We have the giant list, so we’re just going to go off of there. Everything we do release-wise is a secret until we announce it a day or two before. We’re hoping to have one coming up fairly soon, but it’s not going to be like ‘Star Wars,’ where we’re releasing one every week or every two weeks. It’s going to be more spread out and relaxed.”
As for the future, it’s clear that Mondo and the Alamo Drafthouse have a number of ideas, and Ishmael happily noted that each poster would have Mondo’s signature style of boldly going where other poster companies won’t. “Look forward to us doing what we do normally, because we started doing the movie poster thing and it hadn’t been done before. We’re going to try to take that to comic book stuff,” he said. “I collect comic book posters from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, so I’m pretty up on what’s been done before. We’re going to try to go against that and do stuff that hasn’t been done. With the medium we’re working in, with screen printing, there’s stuff that the bigger companies can’t do as easily, like print on metal, for instance. If we want to do some kind of Metal Men poster or anything metal, we could do that. If we wanted to do some kind of crazy Green Lantern poster with all the rings and the green glow, we could do that.”
“We’re going to try to take everything we’ve learned from the movie posters and apply it to the comic book stuff,” Ismael continued. “Hopefully, comic book fans will realize we exist. There’s always been some crossover between comic books and what we’re doing movie-wise, but I don’t think we’ve ever totally captured the comic book side of it until, hopefully, now. I really hope people are into this whole series because we’re really excited about it and we have a lot of plans for it.”
Mondo’s Fortress of Solitude Poster by JC Richard goes on sale Black Friday, November 25, on the Mondo website.