Friday, February 4, 2011

The Many Covers of Badass, Part 5

The inclusion of Godzilla and Skeletor into the painting was the cause of most of my headaches.  This was the reason I needed the contract changed, and the reason for most of the delays.  Still, I don't often get to work with established characters, and it was a really great opportunity.  That the extra effort and frustration caused by said opportunity was for naught, was a great lesson.

Sometimes these things happen.  Sometimes simple jobs turn out to be among the most complicated.  Sometimes, you find yourself banging your head against a wall and not knowing why.  I cannot begin to understand the things that took place behind the scenes at the publisher's offices.  While the art director tried to keep me in the loop, there were many things that I was understandably not privy to.  I imagine that there were battles fought and noses bloodied, my art director wielding an emergency fire ax to chop through the line of red tape baring foes.  Or perhaps the conflict took place in a series of increasingly passive-aggressive memos.  It's even possible that the massive delays the I experienced were the result of a spontaneous outbreak of the bubonic plague that resulted in the CDC secreting away those affected and allowing no contact with the outside world until the threat was contained.  In all reality, however, it could simply have come down to folks at the publisher waiting to hear from other folks who were waiting to hear from completely different folks, causing me to wait in turn.

Alterations to pieces are part of the game.  While rarely at this scale, it's something that we illustrators must all learn to cope with.  In retrospect, I might have gotten a little precious in this case.  It might not have been so bad to have painted over Skeletor.  In fact, I'm pretty darned happy with Professor Moriarty, who currently stands as the fastest figure I've ever painted.  Still, finding a way around the problem allowed for a totally different set of lessons I might otherwise not have learned.

All the cool kids flip their collars.  You should too!

To say that I have two fully realized paintings isn't quite accurate.  I have one fully realized painting that was the original version of the cover, and a second piece that is half paint and half exposed giclee.  In my spare time, I am trying to finish off the rest of that second piece and cover the remaining surface with paint.  I'm not sure if it's worth it, but it's an interesting exercise.  While I'm not trying to recreate the first piece brushstroke for brushstroke, I'm certainly trying to make it look pretty much the same, save for improvements here or there.  When it's finished, I'll have it shot just as I did the first one, and it will likely become the master image for my records and replace the image on my site.

To be frank, I doubt that the either piece will sell.  The first Badass cover certainly hasn't, and in both cases I'll be happy no matter what should occur.  Sure it's nice to sell paintings, but it's not the end of the world to me should I get stuck with them.  After all, I destroy the really awful ones and save only what's worth saving.  Both of these are safe and one will likely be displayed.  The nice thing is that I will only need to buy one frame for both pieces and will be able to rotate the two as tastes dictate.  So I have that going for me, which is nice.

At the end of the day, I offer some advice.  First off, when dealing with copyrighted characters, always make sure you're covered legally.  If the product you're working on is a licensed product, you should be good to go.  But, sometimes you're not covered, and it's important to get that ironed out.  Many companies include clauses in their contracts that indemnify them against something the illustrator might have done, but not the other way around, so be careful what you sign.

In this case, I protected myself from the start.  I always save important emails for each job so that I can document the client's requests.  While I wouldn't necessarily have been covered without the clause I added to the contract, I would have at least had evidence in my own defense.  At the end of the day, the change in the contract was rendered moot by the final change.  So it all worked out, I guess.

A second thing I want to point out is that you should always pay attention to any part of the contract that talks about changes and alterations.  Most of the time, contracts are written so that changes resulting from the client's actions pay (often a fee to be negotiated), while changes resulting from the illustrator's actions are done at no additional cost to the client.  However, some clients I've worked with allowed themselves multiple rounds of changes in the contract — both to the sketches and finishes.  These changes paid no additional fee.  So, again, read your contract.

At the end of the day, I'm not complaining.  The author is cool, the art director is cool, the job itself is cool, it's just the situation that wasn't cool.  But every job is a gamble on some level.

Finally, a shameless plug.  The book is called Badass: The Birth of a Legend.  At least, that's what I heard it called most recently.  The author is called Ben Thompson and his website can be found here.  The paintings are called The Legend of Badass (v1) and (v2), after the book's original title.  The book is released this March 15th, and can be purchased wherever books are sold.


  1. how and where did you get a fast turnaround giclee? And did it cost you a pantload?

  2. Same question as Scott.

    Also, the original painting will definitely, definitely sell. Skeletor? Godzilla? How could it not? The final illustration has a good shot at selling too, since it's the one that appears on the cover.

    But seriously, He-Man fans are reaching the age where they have money to spend. Ka-Ching!

  3. I got the giclee from the same folks who shot the piece. Gamma One Conversions. They keep things on file, so I ordered the print one day and picked it up before noon the next. I'm not sure if it was just a slow day, or if they're consistently that quick. I'm just happy it was as fast as it was.

    Mind you, it's not a perfect match to the original. If you want it to be exact, they charge quite a bit more than I paid. It wasn't cheap but it was less expensive than having the piece shot. The expense was worth it for the time it saved.

    Obviously, if I had my own large format printer, I'd have just printed my own out, but until recently I didn't have that kind of room, and even now the cost and the frequency I'd use it make such a purchase seem senseless.

    As for the sale, I'll definitely show it and float it out there for all to see. If someone should take interest, so be it. I'm just not anticipating that they will, but then I'm always wrong when it comes to what pieces of mine people are interested in.


  4. Hey Steve,

    Thanks so much again for busting your ass on these covers, and for all the work you've done for both BADASS books. I'm really sorry that you ended up getting jerked around in the process, but ultimately the end piece looks awesome, and I'm really excited about having your work on the cover.

    From my end (i.e. seeing a sketch every couple months and telling my editor "that looks awesome"), I have to admit that I was really disappointed when they told me that the cover with Godzilla and Skeletor wasn't going to work out. I thought the mix of mythology and obviously-out-of-place-yet-somehow-still-badass-looking pop culture creations was the perfect cover to go along with the tone of the book, but on the other hand I'm of course glad that you (and, by extension, me) covered your ass on this and didn't wind up getting completely screwed over by some b.s. legal case. I'm just not sure at this point in my life that I'm up for having my name cursed for all eternity.

    When I finally saw the the final cover (something that just happened last Friday) I was of course blown away. I think that not only did the cover not lose anything, but that it was probably even more impressive than the first. I love the way Moriarty came out (it's tough to make a top hat look badass), and a gigantic dragon is of course is the sort of thing that will sell a book by itself. Plus overall the characters seem to gel together a little better. The first time around all anybody saw was Skeletor - which was great, sure, and something that is bound to happen any time you feature an 80s cartoon character on a book cover (no matter how hardcore he looks), but v.2 feels like it has a little better overall flow to it. I'm also glad you didn't have to go back and re-paint the entire thing from scratch. That would have sucked. Though I guess I don't need to tell you that.

    Anyways, sorry if I'm hijacking your post here, but I did want to say thanks again for everything, and hopefully having a rough go of it this time around won't preclude you from wanting to work on any future BADASS projects that might come down the pipeline!


    P.S. are the original cover paintings for sale? I have a feeling it's probably outside my budget, but for the love of god don't destroy those canvases until you talk to me first!

    P.P.S. I also loved the first sketch for the cover (the Star Wars one). If I'd had the choice between the two, I would have probably voted the same way you did.

  5. Ben,

    Wow, that'll probably hold the title for longest comment for a long time to come.

    I'm really glad to hear that you're happy with the cover. The loss of Skeletor and Godzilla sucked, but it really did save us all from potential major headaches later on (as you pointed out). But, at least I found a way to keep them alive all the same. The final version flows better for a couple reasons, but I think the diagonal of Godzilla's back is stronger compositionally-speaking. But that's just me.

    I agree, though, that Skeletor is a little distracting, and I think a lot of that's to do with Skeletor's color. Moriarty sits better in the space color-wise.

    The changes ended up working out pretty well, I think. Like I said, everyone involved seemed rather pleased. I really can't ask for more. Should any more Badass projects arise, I will be there to meet the call, if everyone will have me. I enjoy working on this stuff. It's a nice break from the Magic work visually, and thematically.

    To answer your question, the paintings are for sale (though I'm still attempting to finish the second version and fully paint it, so I guess it's not for sale quite yet). I may actually go back into the first one and fix one or two things that bother me, as well. I have absolutely no intention of destroying them, though would likely reconsider in 15 years should I have gotten significantly better and should they still be lying around the house.

    Finally, regarding the other sketch, I'll definitely paint something with that composition. Not sure what, but I like it enough to keep it in the pipeline and try and make it work with another project. We'll see!



I welcome all comments, questions, and discussion so long as you keep it civil.