Tag Archive: retro


X-Men: Fail Class

If you’re a fan of the X-Men or comic book flicks in general, you will undoubtedly have seen at least some of the horrifically shit promotional material produced for the upcoming foray into the universe, X-Men: First Class. As a designer, I find a bad movie poster will have more sway over whether I want to see a film than your average movie-goer, and X4 is so far the best example I have experienced. My personal gripes with aspects of the film aside (beast looks like a gay version of Benecio del Toro’s Wolfman, teen angst forced in to appeal to the Twilight crowd etc.) I was still up for paying £8 to see it come June, but then images like the cast shot above began making their way around the internet and my plans of spending hard-earned money gradually changed.

I see great graphic design all the time, and it makes my brain hurt to think that 20th Century Fox has spent thousands – if not millions – of dollars on terrible Photoshop comps like that. Seriously, what the fuck happened there? Was it really too much to ask the cast for a quick photoshoot? Or if that wasn’t an option, how about assigning the job of making the composite to someone who’s actually good with the software? Still, it was early days when that line-up etched itself onto the eyes of fans the world over, I was sure the real posters wouldn’t be half as bad…

  

Alas, no. What the fucking hell was going on at the studio when these were being made? Did some crazy lunatic bust into the office shouting incoherent bollocks about floating heads and silhouettes and force a trainee designer to produce these two teaser posters in 15 minutes at gunpoint? In fact, considering how epically awful these are it was probably the janitor or tea lady that was forced to churn out these two doozies, because if the man or woman behind these calls themselves a “designer” they are a liar. I can maybe even understand some hack who blagged his way onto a Mac bashing these out, but then he must have had to show them to his peers, his superiors, the people fucking paying him. “Hey Bill, I finished those two X-Men teasers, you want to have a look?” “Yeah sure… Is this some kind of joke?”  But I guess nobody saw a problem, AT ALL.

Something is clearly wrong when work this dire can go through a string of supposedly creative and professional people and not one of them calls bullshit. This has somehow done the unthinkable and out-crapped the poster for Bangkok Dangerous. Say what you like about invisible guns and inexplicable lava, at least Nic Cage’s head isn’t floating in a black illustrator live-traced cut-out.

From what I gather there was quite alot of internet uproar when these were seen by pretty much everyone, and I’m sure that’s the reason for this secondary duo of teaser posters, which to be honest, are pretty good actually:

  

Not bad at all, the whole ‘dark reflection’ thing is hardly original, but it works given the nature of the film. Sadly though, at least for me, the damage had been done. The insanely bad promo material combined with the fact I didn’t think it looked that great to begin with has stopped me wanting to pay decent money to see it. I’d maybe folk out a couple of quid if we still had cinemas at that price (because, ya’ know, it’s X-Men), but we don’t, going to the cinema is expensive, and while I’m more than happy to folk out £10 to see Thor in IMAX, I’m now going to either download X-Men: First Class illegally, or wait until I can catch it on TV. And that is almost solely the fault of the bellends in charge of its marketing.

Getting back to the posters though, it’s almost like the knuckleheads on the board of directors weren’t satisfied with two reasonable teasers and when the time came for the official one-sheet they sent that gun-toting lunatic back into the studio, but this time I’m betting he gave the designer an hour maybe? And the brief probably went something as follows: “We gotta show all the cast, looking cool and walking toward the camera, but don’t do anything that references the source material at all, because we don’t care about the fans, they’re in the theatre already, we need to attract as broad an audience as possible.”

And look what happened…

  

So the film’s about a group of superhero-looking people with broken necks, walking around a blue aircraft hangar with no discernible floor. I’ll admit the second one is slightly better, at least it shows something happening, but movie posters don’t get much more generic than this. They say nothing about the tone of the flick, the characters themselves or really anything useful at all, certainly nothing that would convince me to see the damn thing, and isn’t that what the purpose of a movie poster is? All you’ve succeeded in doing is paying some moron alot of money for something completely and utterly gash.

A quick Google search revealed something I was sure of before even typing the words, that there would be several fan-made posters that shit all over the stuff churned out by the ‘pros’. This is true of pretty much every high profile film (e.g Thor, Source Code, Iron Man 2, Inception), but it’s overly appropriate here as the real ones are just so amazingly bad. These guys (aside from possessing actual talent) probably would let Fox use their work for free if they asked them nicely, and prove that there is original, engaging and excellent material waiting to be mined from your big-budget abortion of an X-Men film. If I saw any one of these presented as an official poster I would be in the theatre with bells on.

  

by Dane Frost

 

by Jeffrey Zang

My favourite ones all reflect the film’s period setting with lovely, retro style. It fits really well and offers so much great imagery. Also after watching the trailers this X-Film seems to be a more serious, almost sophisticated comic book flick, something not conveyed in the official posters at all. Jeffrey Zang’s versions on the other hand make First Class look like The Third Man and Vertigo. These next two are also wonderfully 60s, and give the movie some serious credibility, conveying comic-book sensibilities as well as tension and action:

   

by Bryan Lenning & Michael Dee

Now as much as I dig the retro style posters, I do understand that from a mass marketing standpoint they don’t connect to the kind of audience Fox wants to attract. The basic principle of movie-making is – sadly – to make as much money as possible, and your run-of-the-mill Twi-hard probably won’t see one of the above posters and think “Gee, what a great throwback to the work of Saul Bass.” But the below piece, by Barry Villegas is much more mainstream, even using the same idea as the second teasers, but executed with more of a restrained flare, definitely reflecting the tone of the trailers, and I think it looks really good.

by Barry Villegas

Finally, if seriousness and brooding undertones isn’t your thing you have these two frankly awesome comic-book themed efforts by Erik Johnson and Rory Phillips. These are just crazy cool to me, again channelling a 1960s style and going in a slightly different direction from the others by portraying a more light-hearted comic feel. After all, it is a comic book movie, to ignore that fact is like slapping us fans in the face. Not to mention Johnson’s young Charles Xavier looks way better than James McAvoy’s real version.

by Erik Johnson

by Rory Phillips

These ones remind me of classic spy thrillers, like From Russia With Love or The Ipcress File. A suave, Mad Men-style, which again fits the film really well. Now compare the above to the latest piece of official artwork released:


See what I mean? I really hope this film tanks, people need to learn from this that you can’t be so incredibly lazy with your ad campaign simply because you’ve got a famous name. If anything this should have been the opportunity for Fox to go balls to the wall in rejuvenating the X-series (after one disappointing sequel and one truly awful prequel), to remind us that there’s life in the property yet. But it’s just another million-dollar blunder.

Do yourselves a favour and go see Thor a second time, if you pay to see First Class you’ll be proving these idiots right, and they’ll be laughing at you all the way to the bank.

Post Script – I got all the fan made posters from a competition run by the good folks at Super Punch, check it out here.

It’s Showtime!

Like any decent bloke, my Dad raised me on awesome action and sci-fi movies. In particular, the films of Mr. Arnold Schwarzenegger. One of my favourites was his 1987 dystopian future game show flick ‘The Running Man‘. I really loved (and still love) that film, God knows how many times I watched it when I was younger, but because I never got round to picking it up on DVD I went roughly 5 years before seeing it again a few days ago. Aside from the fact it’s still the cheesy as hell, massively fun, violent fun-fest I remember it being, I happened to notice the opening credits are actually pretty damn cool. As a kid I didn’t notice such things, but the retro-obsessed designer I’ve grown into was struck right away with the old school 80’s titles.

They’re nothing spectacular, but I thought I’d show them some love as nobody else seems to have on this world-wide web of ours. They begin with a simple yet typically sci-fi typeface, then we get the video-game, Commodore64-style lettering spelling the name of quite possibly the greatest man in the world (at least, that’s what I thought when I was 10) and the films very memorable title. I think it suits the movie really well, as the format (which has been re-hashed a number of times) is very video game-like in nature, and the cold black background is very apt for the bleak future the film is set in. The animated running men look pretty dodgy when they get 3D-ified, but the shot of Schwarzenegger – or more specifically, The Butcher of Bakersfield Ben Richards – running behind the title is too damn cool not to like.

Either way, check ’em out, and if you’re anything like me this should bring back some fond memories, because as they say, they don’t make ’em like this anymore.


Literature Art Music

“The publication of Perspectives and its sale at a low price that will make it readily available to students has been made possible through a grant from The Ford Foundation, established by the family of Henry Ford. The Foundation is dedicated to works of philanthropy, social welfare and education throughout the world. It is one of the objectives of The Ford Foundation to further friendship and understanding among the peoples of all countries through the exchange of cultural materials. Perspectives will be devoted chiefly to art, letters, and thought of the United States, but its sponsors are also preparing plans for activities aimed at presenting the cultural achievements of many other lands to American audiences.”

It was a couple of months ago now that I picked up two copies of Perspectives from Tombland Books in Norwich. Being a huge design geek when it comes to anything forgotten and retro, two magazines from the 50s was hardly something I was going to not buy. It’s also an added bonus that one of them, is the first ever issue. Now I’ve never heard of Perspectives, or any other design publications pre-1980 for the matter, but by the looks of things this was pretty groundbreaking stuff. I mean, the copyright year is 1952, so I’d be willing to be that a tri-monthly publication focusing on the arts was quite rare to say the least. They’re not even really magazines per say, at least not by todays standards, as they’re bound and of the same quality stock as your average paperback book. Along with issue 1 I picked up number 13 for it’s Bass-ian style cover:


Their content too, is structured and presented much more like a book, which gives these a pretty intellectual feel. And though the emphasis is firmly on ‘the arts’, they’re very well designed typographically. It may have been the 50s, but decent layout is pretty much timeless. This page below is a good example, retro yet intelligent and articulate.


When it comes to the actual articles, alot of it goes over my head, at times sounding more like a textbook with stuff like an essay by Jacques Barzun titled ‘America’s Romance with Practicality’, but there’s some really cool stuff from then new and exciting artists in America. Here’s a couple of the ones I really dug…


Like so much of the stuff I put on Coffee Stained Papers, these are relics of a part of the creative industry’s past that really shouldn’t be sitting outside a second-hand bookshop for £1 each. They should be preserved, cherished and most importantly appreciated. I think it’s weird that these things appear to have been pretty much forgotten about, as several Google searches only yielded a smattering of info and a couple of designers like myself who randomly came across a copy and dug the covers (like this dude here). Which is a shame, as the combined effort and progressive thinking that went into getting something like this published worldwide in the 1950s is a truly wonderful thing. Which I think is a nice note to sign off on, and I’ll leave you with a double page spread of the people responsible for bringing Perspectives to life (I particularly like the look of Lionel Trilling, what a fantastically 50s looking bloke, cut from the same cloth as the great Rod Serling, cigarette on the go, eat your heart out Don Draper).


Roid Rage

A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article on my recent foray into the wonderful world of Polaroid photography for design and art culture blog, ‘Hard Up, Hungover & the Bastard Landlord‘. Here’s an excerpt from the introduction:

“This was the idea of my friend and fellow Norwich College alumni, Joey Dean, who asked me to write an article for this fine blog. I dug the idea primarily because back in college, the guy was a couple of years ahead of me in terms of cool stuff. See, being an immature, Photoshop filter reliant 16 year-old, I couldn’t quite understand what he saw in stuff like film photography. I mean, why would you want off-colours, not-quite-in-focus images and the inconvenience of not being able to see your shot right away? That shit is the past, it’s out-dated.

It wasn’t until my second year of university that the humble beauty of the stuff he had shown me really sunk in. It took quite a while for me to really ‘see’ what he, and the other millions of designers and photographers had been seeing for ages. It ain’t just photographs either, pretty much anything in our industry from times-gone-by excites me now like faux metal tutorials did back in college. Old book covers especially, which I have featured on my own blog quite heavily, have such a fantastic charm, a soul even, that I feel like I started seeing them with a different set of eyes.”

If you like, check out the whole article here.